World first test on the Ducati 996R
AFTER his first ride on Ducati’s 996R, MCN’s Marc Potter believes it is the firm’s finest sports bike yet.
Potter rode the bike at the Valencia circuit in Spain on Wednesday, March 7, and said: ” Even though I’m having to learn the track, you can feel straightaway, it’s a Ducati only faster. ”
Troy Bayliss and Ben Bostrom seemed to enjoy it too, arriving late in the afternoon for a blast on the road versions of the superbike they will ride this weekend.
Bayliss went out so hot he had to fight the bike around the entire length of the kerb all the way round the first turn.
When Bostrom came in his team boss Davide Tardozzi begged him to slow down, reminding him of the important first WSB meeting this weekend.
Bostrom insisted he was only riding slow, ” it’s Troy that’s riding fast ” , before waiting for Bayliss to come round and hammering out of the pitlane to give chase.
The pair then lapped within inches of the other.
On Valencia’s relatively short main straight our man Potter hit over 150mph before 11am on his first day on the bike.
The bike has a new 998cc Testastretta motor and is claimed to make 135bhp.
” It picks up much faster than previous 996s, particularly out of turns, and really hammers on to about 11,000rpm. That’s where it starts to run out of steam, ” Potter says.
After a first ride, he said: ” The mid-range is stronger and it will wobble, ever-so-slightly, exiting corners. That’s something I don’t normally expect Ducatis to do. It’s probably because it’s more powerful than any previous Ducati. ”
And that’s despite the Ohlins steering damper designed to keep everything in check.
After a second session on the track Potter says the wobbling has reduced, because he’s been able to go in harder to corners and pick the bike up faster coming out of them, having learned a little more about the bike.
Potter says the steering is as sharp as you would expect from Ducati, but fractionally faster.
The V-twin has revised Ohlins suspension front and rear, Marchesini wheels and thicker frame tubes.
It comes equipped with Michelin Pilot Sports tyres but Potter feels that on the track, it would be better off with Michelin Pilot Race tyres.
” Around Valencia I’m only getting the chance to use third and fourth gears. The track swamps bikes, but the Ducati still feels fast. And that has to be a testament to it, ” said Potter.
The £17,000 bike comes with Termignoni pipes as standard and while it sounds a little deeper when you stand alongside it, at full tilt it sounds pretty much like any other Ducati sports bike, he says.
Ducati’s reputation for reliability won’t have been done any good by the fact that two of the bikes have ” gone pop ” .
Potter was riding one of them when the engine gave up at around 8000rpm. He had to pull in the clutch and coast in.
Another British rider experienced the same. Each bike was hurried away by technical staff and all Ducati would say yesterday was that they were ” investigating ” .
Two additional bikes at the launch were put out of action by crashes. One hapless rider wheelied out of the pitlane in a show of bravado, only to end up in the gravel trap when he failed to turn in time.
No one has been hurt.
The bad news is only 500 have been built and they have all been sold. But it seems likely if demand grows, Ducati will bow to it.
There will be more from this test in Motorcycle News, on sale on Wednesday, March 14.