Dirty job, riding the new Ducati Streefighter at the Ascari Race Resort in southern Spain, but okay I’ll suck it up one more time. Named after Alberto Ascari—first double F-1 world champion—the private facility has 26 turns spread over 3.4 miles of magnificent pavement, and is billed as the “ultimate drivers’ club and luxury retreat.” No argument from me (check out the cool video at www.ascari.net). Beautiful venue, fit for testing the 2009 Streetfighter, deemed best-looking bike by attendees of last year’s Milan Show, where it was unveiled.
“Five minutes remain, select your Streetfighter,” boomed the circuit’s PA system. The bikes were lined up on the pit lane outside Ascari’s garages. The Streetfighter looks like a stripped Ducati 1098 Superbike—lose the faring; shorter fuel tank; lower, farther-forward footpegs; tiny digital dash; higher handlebars closer to rider; smaller tailsection; side-mounted pipes.
But changes run deeper. Frame-geometry figures speak of increased stability. The swingarm has been lengthened 1.4 inches, rake relaxed from 24.5 to 25.6 degrees, for a wheelbase that is 1.6 inches longer then the 1098′s. The motor is a mix of (lighter) 1198 cases capped with 1098 cylinders and heads.
I rode the $18,995 Öhlins-equipped Streetfighter S at Ascari, lighter than the standard bike ($14,995) thanks to its Marchesini wheels and carbon-fiber covers. It also gets Ducati Traction Control, which was set on a mandated level 6 (of 8) for the first session. I quickly learned the track, thanks to the strong, confidence-inspiring Brembo monobloccos and the communicative front end running Pirelli Corsa III rubber.
As I pushed harder (after adding a few clicks of both compression and rebound to the fork), the DTC was a bit intrusive, softening power earlier than I wanted, so I backed it off to level 4, then eventually 3, and really began to enjoy the bike. Electronic intervention, when it’s this tunable, is a Very Good Thing. With unwanted wheelspin taken care of, sweet, smooth torque and a light touch on the high, wide bars got the bike through the tight stuff, yet it was stable in the faster sections.
“That’s why we had the launch here, because this track has a lot of variable corners to exercise its potential,” said Ducati Project Manager Giulio Malagoli.
Again, no arguments here. Look for a full U.S. road test of the Streetfighter S in the June issue of Cycle World, on newsstands May 7.