Ducati’s 2002 flagship superbikes may look little changed, but the new 998, 998R and 998S are significantly updated compared to the current 996.
The three machines unveiled at Milan all feature the Testastretta engine first used last year in the limited-edition big money 996R. The motor also provided the power for the Italian factory’s World Superbike racers.
Apart from the change of engine, each 998 has a new frame taken straight from last year’s Testastretta-powered 996R, a host of updates and lots more power at the rear wheel.
When the original 916 was first introduced it made a claimed 100bhp, a figure that many of the top 600s are now making at the rear wheel. Over the years it evolved to make 108bhp then became the 996 with 112bhp but the new standard 998 is putting out a claimed 123bhp at 10,000rpm. That’s the same horsepower as the firm’s Desmoquattro-powered 996S from last year was making. Weight of the standard 998 remains the same as last year’s 996 at 198kg (436lb).
The 998S gets the engine used in last year’s limited edition 996R. It makes 136bhp at 10,000rpm, some 13bhp up on last year’s 996S which used the old Desmoquattro lump, again weight remains the same as last year’s S model at 187kg (412lb).
And the exclusive 998R, being built in very limited numbers, has a sand-cast crankcase and is putting out a serious 139bhp at 10,000rpm . It has a 104mm bore compared to the 996R’s 100mm bore.
Visually the bikes look like yet another version of the 996 with subtle tweaks that only a real Ducati anorak would spot. The decals have changed to reflect the new capacity and their designation. The fairing on all three bikes (carbon-fibre on the 998R with a carbon-fibre bellypan on the S) is slightly wider without side vents as the new engine uses a different radiator set-up with better cooling.
Tailpieces are slightly different across the board with the 998R getting a mostly white single-seat unit. The words Ducati Superbike are written on the tailpieces of all three along with a new tank decal which has an Italian flag and a number 1 inside a laurel wreath.
Underneath the bodywork the new frame taken from the 996R, allows a bigger, more efficient airbox and new injectors with a shower-head type system on a single injector to get more fuel through quicker and improve fuelling. All three bikes also get a new Magneti-Marelli fuel-injection CPU which is lighter and smaller and is said to give better throttle response throughout bike’s power curve.
The 998 also gets bigger 45mm aluminium Termignoni silencers and an aluminium exhaust heat guard and shares the new lighter brake discs with the 998S which improves the bikes’ unsprung weight and quickens steering.
Other features on the 998S over standard include an Ohlins steering damper, colour-matched mirrors, new brake calipers and the carbon-fibre belly pan. Other extras on the 998R include a carbon-fibre tail-piece and complete fairing, 400g lighter Marchesini front wheel, 800g lighter rear wheel than on the standard and S versions, and fully-floating front brake discs.
All the bikes get fully-adjustable front and rear suspension with Titanium Nitride coated front forks, though as you might expect the higher-spec R gets full Ohlins compared to the other two bikes Showa kit. All bikes get metallic dark grey frames and wheels and come in red or yellow, except the 998R which is only available in red.
No prices have yet been set but Ducati expect them to remain close to current equivalent models and will be available early next year which would mean the 998 costing around£11,000, the S at £13,000, and the R at £17,000.
Other 2002 Ducati sports bikes also get some subtle changes with the 748 range getting similar decals to the 998, a lighter frame on the 748R, colour-matched wheels on the 748S and 748R and a new titanium grey paintscheme with red wheels and reflective decals on the 748S.
Ducati’s air-cooled V-twin sports bike range, the SS family, get colour changes including a new metallic dark grey colour and red wheels on the 900SS and 750SS. The 900SS also gets an Ohlins rear shock a new aluminium swingarm which is claimed to be 40 per cent lighter than last year’s swingarm plus a new rear mudguard and chain guard. Click on the links on the bottom right to see pictures of both the 750 and 900SS, and the pictures of the 748.
Follow the links, right, to see what else is new for 2002 or to have your say on these new bikes.