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Road Test: Ducati 999R

The new 999R gets the trickest motor Ducati has ever made. It's also just like Neil's (Hodgson, that is) they say, so we sent our own Niall to ride it.




When I first heard that Neil Hodgson was off to the States to take on Duhamel, Bostrom and co in the AMA Superbike series I never doubted he had the talent and commitment to succeed. However, one concern I did have was that the machinery available wouldn't give him the same chance that previous foreign championship raiders Corser and Mladin had enjoyed in the States. I needn't have worried as Ducati already had a new weapon in their armoury for Neil.

American Superbike regulations allow very little modifications to standard machines, so Ducati pulled out all the stops to homologate a competitive bike for their Stateside campaign.

Neil's US career is now off to a strong start, so with the road going version of his bike now available in the UK I paid a visit to Donington Park to investigate.

The limited edition 999R is the most powerful production bike ever to leave Bologna. Its claimed 150bhp is mainly due to the latest Testastretta engine being redesigned from the crankcases up. A more rigid crankshaft, new conrods and improved lubrication help to cope with the power increase, which comes mainly from shorter-stroked, bigger-bore cylinders and a redesigned cylinder head using larger titanium valves with increased lift. A further 3bhp has come from a new fuelling system that uses 12-hole injectors.

Now that all sounds impressive, but I wouldn't know a Testastretta from a Testarossa (I think one of them has got four wheels), so the proof for me had to be in the riding.

I never build my hopes up before I ride a Ducati as I've sometimes been disappointed in the past, but by the same token I have on occasion been pleasantly surprised - for example, the standard 749 Dark we rode round Scotland last year was an absolute gem.

I find with some bikes I can bond after a few miles, but I have to say in this instance merely riding the 999R down the pit lane induced a grin under my ample nose. Everything immediately felt right, from the race-like but roomy (and adjustable) riding position to the plush Brembo brake and clutch action. And with a sweet, refined feel from the motor I suspected I was in for one of my best Ducati experiences.

I always spend around six laps on a new bike letting the tyres, engine and suspension get up to temperature, and at the same time this also allows me to get to know the character of the bike. Like any other 999, the 'R' felt long and low and, due to quite soft suspension settings, she hopped gently when hard on the brakes and mildly under steered exiting corners. With top quality multi-adjustable fitted …hlins fitted front and rear I dialed this out after just two pit stops. A few clicks of damping all round plus some rear preload firmed things up while reducing excessive weight transfer. Its high speed damping was faultless making the few bumps and ripples around Donington non existent. The titanium nitride coated forks looked superb and the …hlins steering damper is also a nice touch. Like the suspension this bike has the very best brakes on the market. Radially mounted four pad Brembo calipers plus a radial action master cylinder provide some serious stopping power, so it was no wonder the forks were hopping.

Michelin Pilot Powers are fitted as standard and are right up there now with the competition, but I must add after trying Pilot Power Race rubber recently on an R1, everything else feels quite average.

A claimed dry weight of 181kg has been ahieved by fitting magnesium cam covers and headlight module, plus 3.2kg has been saved by with the use of forged aluminium Marchesini wheels. These black beauties are one of my favourite features of this bike.

The engine is the best bit though, and having useable power from 6000rpm makes this bike a real pleasure provider. As with most big four strokes using tall gears is the key. It keeps things safe and reduces gear changes to a minimum, which in turn keeps things smooth on the track. As with any Ducati the throw between gear shifts is greater than Japanese bikes, but this never presents a problem providing you always make positive changes. Changing down the gears I found everything stayed in line with the smooth engine braking eliminating any rear end chatter.

The rev limiter kicks in at 10,800 but I was never near this thanks to the flexibility given by the huge torque at lower rpm.

The Donington National circuit's flowing nature suited the 999R perfectly, particularly from Craner round to the back straight. This is also one of the best road bikes I have ever ridden around the triple right of Coppice. I could enter in third gear, immediately open the throttle and build momentum all the way to the exit. The smooth, linear power would also make wet riding a doddle. Physically the bike is easy on the body - I only realised after I rode and rode until the fuel light came on. This obviously meant two things: I was enjoying myself and not paying for the fuel. Mega!

I'm sure Ducati are sick of hearing this but everyone loved the 916. Not quite so many love the 999 but this one is a cracker. For me, if not beautiful, it's a very good looking bike that truly delivers big time in the riding department. If you have a spare 20 grand then you can have one of the 800 AMA Ducati Superbikes for the road.

Neil Hodgson certainly hasn't been disappointed and you wont be either.

VERDICT

Pricey but very, very good. If you can afford it then please lend the money to us, we really want one.

SPECS

TYPE - Supersports

PRODUCTION DATE - 2005

PRICE NEW - £19,995

ENGINE CAPACITY - 999cc

POWER - 150bhp@9750rpm

TORQUE - 86lb.ft@8000rpm

WEIGHT - 181kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 780mm

FUEL CAPACITY - 17L

TOP SPEED - 175mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - n/a

When I first heard that Neil Hodgson was off to the States to take on Duhamel, Bostrom and co in the AMA Superbike series I never doubted he had the talent and commitment to succeed.

However, one concern I did have was that the machinery available wouldn't give him the same chance that previous foreign championship raiders Corser and Mladin had enjoyed in the States.

I needn't have worried as Ducati already had a new weapon in their armoury for Neil. American Superbike regulations allow very little modifications to standard machines, so Ducati pulled out all the stops to homologate a competitive bike for their Stateside campaign.

Neil's US career is now off to a strong start, so with the road going version of his bike now available in the UK I paid a visit to Donington Park to investigate.

The limited edition 999R is the most powerful production bike ever to leave Bologna. Its claimed 150bhp is mainly due to the latest Testastretta engine being redesigned from the crankcases up.

A more rigid crankshaft, new conrods and improved lubrication help to cope with the power increase, which comes mainly from shorter-stroked, bigger-bore cylinders and a redesigned cylinder head using larger titanium valves with increased lift. A further 3bhp has come from a new fuelling system that uses 12-hole injectors.

Now that all sounds impressive, but I wouldn't know a Testastretta from a Testarossa (I think one of them has got four wheels), so the proof for me had to be in the riding. I never build my hopes up before I ride a Ducati as I've sometimes been disappointed in the past, but by the same token I have on occasion been pleasantly surprised - for example, the standard 749 Dark we rode round Scotland last year was an absolute gem.

Ducati 999R Review

I find with some bikes I can bond after a few miles, but I have to say in this instance merely riding the 999R down the pit lane induced a grin under my ample nose. Everything immediately felt right, from the race-like but roomy (and adjustable) riding position to the plush Brembo brake and clutch action. And with a sweet, refined feel from the motor I suspected I was in for one of my best Ducati experiences.

I always spend around six laps on a new bike letting the tyres, engine and suspension get up to temperature, and at the same time this also allows me to get to know the character of the bike. Like any other 999, the 'R' felt long and low and, due to quite soft suspension settings, she hopped gently when hard on the brakes and mildly under steered exiting corners. With top quality multi-adjustable fitted Öhlins fitted front and rear I dialed this out after just two pit stops.

A few clicks of damping all round plus some rear preload firmed things up while reducing excessive weight transfer. Its high speed damping was faultless making the few bumps and ripples around Donington non existent. The titanium nitride coated forks looked superb and the Öhlins steering damper is also a nice touch. Like the suspension this bike has the very best brakes on the market. Radially mounted four pad Brembo calipers plus a radial action master cylinder provide some serious stopping power, so it was no wonder the forks were hopping.

Michelin Pilot Powers are fitted as standard and are right up there now with the competition, but I must add after trying Pilot Power Race rubber recently on an R1, everything else feels quite average.
A claimed dry weight of 181kg has been ahieved by fitting magnesium cam covers and headlight module, plus 3.2kg has been saved by with the use of forged aluminium Marchesini wheels. These black beauties are one of my favourite features of this bike.

The engine is the best bit though, and having useable power from 6000rpm makes this bike a real pleasure provider. As with most big four strokes using tall gears is the key. It keeps things safe and reduces gear changes to a minimum, which in turn keeps things smooth on the track. As with any Ducati the throw between gear shifts is greater than Japanese bikes, but this never presents a problem providing you always make positive changes. Changing down the gears I found everything stayed in line with the smooth engine braking eliminating any rear end chatter.

The rev limiter kicks in at 10,800 but I was never near this thanks to the flexibility given by the huge torque at lower rpm.

The Donington National circuit's flowing nature suited the 999R perfectly, particularly from Craner round to the back straight. This is also one of the best road bikes I have ever ridden around the triple right of Coppice. I could enter in third gear, immediately open the throttle and build momentum all the way to the exit. The smooth, linear power would also make wet riding a doddle. Physically the bike is easy on the body - I only realised after I rode and rode until the fuel light came on. This obviously meant two things: I was enjoying myself and not paying for the fuel. Mega!

I'm sure Ducati are sick of hearing this but everyone loved the 916. Not quite so many love the 999 but this one is a cracker. For me, if not beautiful, it's a very good looking bike that truly delivers big time in the riding department. If you have a spare 20 grand then you can have one of the 800 AMA Ducati Superbikes for the road. Neil Hodgson certainly hasn't been disappointed and you wont be either.

VERDICT

Pricey but very, very good. If you can afford it then please lend the money to us, we really want one.

Ducati 999R Specs

TYPE - Supersports
PRODUCTION DATE - 2005
PRICE NEW - £19,995
ENGINE CAPACITY - 999cc
POWER - 150bhp@9750rpm
TORQUE - 86lb.ft@8000rpm
WEIGHT - 181kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 780mm
FUEL CAPACITY - 17L
TOP SPEED - 175mph