Ducati Streetfighter 848: Track review

Ducati's smaller-engined Streetfighter. What's it like on track?

Charging down the straight at the new Modena circuit with my knees gripping hard to the slim tank, my bum wedged back into the seat and my face pressed into the top-yoke nut. For a few seconds I got to enjoy the engine note at full whack, sounding like a mean solo on a bass guitar.

For those few seconds I was hard pressed to tell the difference between the Streetfighter 848 and the firm's baby superbike, the 848 EVO.

Popping out from behind the clocks and hard on the brakes to scrub off as much speed as possible before the right-hand hairpin, the difference between the 848 EVO and Streetfighter 848 was clear: with my arms splayed out on the Streetfighter's wide bars, my body took the full hit of the air, something I hadn't expected but it probably helped slow me down enough to make the first apex.

Leaning on the wide bars, the Streetfighter 848 is eager to turn in. It's got the same rake as the 848 EVO but trail is up from 97mm to 103mm to give the Streetfighter slightly better road manners but it doesn't diminish the turn in, this Streetfighter's sharp.

On the first flick left the footpeg goes down but only for a millisecond before the flick right. On both sides, the footpegs have spacers which, on the right hand side, keep your foot away from the exhaust guard. Presumably, the ones on the left are just to keep things even but they mean the pegs go down slightly sooner. It’s no cause for concern.

The Streetfighter 848 features the radially mounted brakes from the 848, not the monoblocs from the 848 EVO and that's actually a good thing. They don't have the bite of the monobloc calipers but nor does the bike need them. They haul the bike up from speed but will also accomodate a dab from the lever without shocking the front-end. The Brembo monoblocs fitted to the 848 EVO are savagely powerful and would detract from the Streetfighter’s easy-going nature. The circuit required lots of trail braking and the front-end never protested.

There aren't a whole lot of flowing corners at the Modena circuit infact most are tight peg-scraping flicks from left to right but at the back of the circuit there are a couple of more open corners where the Streetfighter 848’s revised engine is eager to show you what it can do.

Ducati have used the same 11º camshaft as first used in the Multistrada and then Diavel. The switch from the 848 EVO’s 37 º camshaft means the engine produces more torque and slightly less horsepower. I’d be lying if I told you my bum-dyno could tell the difference but what I could feel was a more noticeable step-up when you roll on out of the faster corners. It’s keen to pick up the revs and powers through the short-shift into the final right before heading onto the start/finish straight. I’ve not really mentioned the fuelling and Ducati will probably hate this but it’s Honda-like in terms of smoothness and delivery.

Bar the engine, two of the Streetfighter’s best assets when it comes to cornering are its wide bars and new 180/60 section rear Pirelli. This new profile, only a slight change from a 180/55, gives the tyre a rounder profile but also a larger contact patch. The feel from the tyres, amplified by the bike’s wide bars help make this bike one of the most tractable and predictable I’ve ever ridden. Mid-corner you can adjust your body position or trail the brakes and it doesn’t upset the bike at all. It’s super-stable and feels at home when it’s cranked over.

So how about the traction control? It’s either a performance enhancement or a sponge-filled safety net, depending on which way you look at it.

I only got the traction control to kick in when I pushed for it. Powering out of corners there’s no hint at a loss of traction, the rear just digs in, grips and makes the front go slightly light. In the Streetfighter 848 onboard video, I was getting it to chip in out of the fast right-hander at 1m15s but only because I was provoking it.

Let’s be honest, even though the Streetfighter 848’s engine has plenty of torque, it’s not a savage amount lurking in the engine ready to ping you out of the seat the moment you tap the power on.

The fact is, the feel from the chassis is so vivid, you’ll know exactly where you are and how much you’ve got left, long before the traction control system steps in to give you a little guidance. If you’re going on track when it’s wet, then the traction control might just kick in to help you out, but not before you knew it was coming.

The offshoot of an 848 EVO; you never thought this bike was going to be out of its depth on track, did you?

I didn't realise it would be this good.

You can read my Streetfighter 848 road review here and see my Streetfighter 848 onboard video lap here.