2001 DUCATI 996R
Ever since owning the yellow 916 in 2005 I've wanted to own another of the Massimo Tamburini designed bikes
and the 996R was at the top of the list. I am 5'11" and 200lbs and the design of this design fits me like a glove
and is perfectly comfortable ...
For its first ride I decided to take it for a 100 mile ride. Half way through the ride I made the decision to make it
300 mile ride. This motorcycle is not at cruising speed and comfortable unless it is going over 80mph and then
it becomes incredible and one of best motorcycles I've ever ridden.
I feel like I could ride this bike long distance, the power is absolutely incredible and the power-band begins at
the release of the clutch and just grows to the point of thinking ... "It must be time to pull another gear".
The only thing that scares me about the bike is the speed in which I expect to get speeding tickets upon it. As
long as it is comfortable at its point in the rev's it is amazing and I feel at one with the bike. The problem comes
from knowing it continues to get better, smoother, comfortable and handle better, the faster it goes.
The Ducati 996R was first offered for sale on September 12th, 2000 and most sold out immediately over the
internet. All US examples, like this one, came without lights but with the wiring intact. The big deal about the
996R was the first ever use of the testastretta (narrow head) engine which went on to power the 998 and the
999 series after it.
The narrower, 25º included valve angle finally freed the combustion chamber from what was still essentially the
851 based Desmo quattro engine. Although not as coveted as the later 998R which offered the short stroke
engine, the 996R still remains a desirable machine. The bike is essentially a 996SPS rolling chassis with the
new engine, although there were some changes such as upgraded brakes and the removal of the side fairing
vent for aerodynamic reasons.
Derived from racing bikes that have been consistently winning WSB championships since WSB began, the first
Ducati Superbike, the 851, was launched in 1987, this bike was followed with the 888, 916, 748 and the 996.
The 916 won several worldwide awards including 4 “Motorcycle of the Year” awards from MCN magazine. The
996 replaced the 916 in 1998. An entry into the legend of Italian motorcycling racing, an aggressive, high
performance and beautifully designed machines, closely derived from Ducati’s currently competing in the WSB.
Aimed at purists who want everything from a bike with its compact design and slim silhouette to provide superior
handling at speeds up to 170 mph. Combines advanced thermodynamics of 4-valve per cylinder with
unsurpassed efficiency of Desmodromic valve system.
Smaller, lighter, sealed-for-life battery
Carbon fiber fairings
Carbon fiber Termignoni exhausts
Öhlins adjustable steering damper
Limited to 500 Units worldwide
It's the most expensive bike currently available in Oz - and one of the fastest. But is Ducati's 996R really worth
$52,000? Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I left work early father, when I should have been behind my
desk tapping on the computer keyboard.
But I had been seduced, father. By a red temptress - Latin, lithe, sexy and with expensive tastes.
For over three hours, father, she had me mesmorised as we continued on our journey of discovery. I'll never be
able to work a full day ever again...
Leaving Horror HQ 'early' for me means 5.30pm, and my ride home doesn't normally involve a 300km detour
through the hills. But with a balmy summer evening beckoning, daylight saving helping the cause, and a Ducati
996R at my disposal, it seemed like the right thing to do.
There aren't many bikes that have that effect on me at the end of the working day. Yeah sure, we're somewhat
spoilt at Horror HQ with a steady flow of the latest and greatest testbikes, and there's always a mad scramble for
the 'best' key come Friday afternoon. And sometimes I'll go via a mate's place to flaunt the latest piece of
But heading off on a long-ish ride at the end of a long-ish day during the working week? Unheard of.
But the 996R is one such bike. In fact when I returned the testbike to Moto One's dealer principal Tony Barton
he sheepishly admitted the same thing had happened to him. Except in Tony's case he found himself still riding
around at two in the morning!
So what's so special. Well, for a start there's the price. You'll need over $50K if you want to own a 996R. Yikes!
Then there's the exclusivity. Only 500 Testastretta-powered 996Rs were built by Ducati at the beginning of
2001, with the sole purpose of meeting homologation requirements for the 2001 Superbike World
All 350 customer versions of the 996R sold out within six hours on launch day via the internet, at a common
worldwide price of 26,000 Euros. On current exchange rates that makes the 996R a heady $A52,000 Down
Under (including Australia's 10 percent GST).
Another 150 bikes in 2001's total production run of 500 were held back by the Italian factory for special
allocation (eg Australian market), competition (eg Troy Bayliss, Ben Bostrom and Ruben Xaus), development
and promotional use.
Amazingly, despite Australia's small market relative to the rest of the motorcycle world, 40 of those 150 996Rs
made it Down Under, with only a handful remaining unsold.
What else is special? Refer to the previous paragraph if you missed the obvious - the name Bayliss should give
you a clue.
The Ducati 996R is in effect a road-legal version of the bike which won the 2001 Superbike World
Championship. It's not just a cosmetic replica, or an up-spec'd base-model 996. It is a factory racer with lights,
and the closest thing to a full-on works racer that money can buy - or that Ducati has yet built.
It comes standard with top-shelf Ohlins race suspension, super-powerful Brembo stoppers and the same
lightweight Marchesini race wheels as on the works racers.
It also comes with Ducati's new short-stroke Testastretta powerplant, complete with sandcast crankcases as
found on the factory racebikes.
Throw in a satin bike cover, rear stand, race-kit carbon-fibre Termignoni mufflers and ECU for trackday use
(valued at approx $5000) and you can see where some of that $50K goes.
My first sampling of the 996R was in peak-hour traffic - not an ideal introduction for the first date, especially
when it was a 35-degree day.
The race clutch, with its sintered plates, was a real on/off affair until I got the hang of just how far to release the
lever for a smooth take-off. And it would occasionally squeal like a startled cat if I didn't get it right.
Likewise the brakes, which nearly had me doing an unintentional stoppie at the first set of traffic lights.
Bordering on vicious, the new Brembos are the most powerful anchors I've ever sampled on a roadbike.
And the heat! Oh, the heat. I wasn't sure whether to grab a couple of steaks for dinner and throw 'em on to the
R's sidepanels - or just take to my inner thighs with a carving knife and toss up a quick side salad.
With the engine temperature up over 100 degrees C, the 996R is not at home in the urban jungle. Pity those
poor sods who have bough an R simply because they want to pose with the cafe latte set. (At least the temp is a
more reasonable 80 degrees on the open road.)
But the 996R was never intended for town use. The seating position and low clip-ons should have sent warning
signals to an intending purchaser on that score.
No siree, the 996R belongs on the racetrack, or a radar-free open road if you can find one. So that's exactly
what I did. Well, in the case of the former at least.
A last-minute 'entry' in the opening round of the Shell Advance Australian Superbike Championship at Phillip
Island saw yours truly take to the track on the 996R during the Saturday lunchbreak for my own private
'qualifying' session. And what a session it was, followed by another one on Sunday.
Now, I've done a fair few laps around the Island in my time. And quite a few on Dukes, including Steve Martin's
championship-winning 996RS of 1999. But the 996R had me confused. You see, I wasn't sure if I was on a
roadbike - or a full-on factory racebike. The line of demarcation became blurred the more I rode it.
It sure as hell sounded like, and went like, a racebike - although it had lights, a sidestand and a rego plate. The
distinctive boom from the carbon cans was unlike any other Duke at the Island that weekend - and that included
Craig McMartin's 996SPS and Roger Wallis's ex-DDT 996RS.
That probably explains why people lined the pit wall and the spectator fences when the 996R was out on the
track - including a very envious McMartin.
"I helped run it in before you guys got it, and it's better out of the box than my sorted SPS racebike," said
McMartin, a top A-grade Superbike privateer.
"I don't suppose I could borrow it for the rest of the weekend..."
The short-stroke Testastretta engine has a note all of its own - shared of course with the bikes of Bayliss,
Bostrom and Xaus. Spinning up through the close-ratio six-speed box to just short of the 10,800 limiter (okay,
so I hit it a couple of times) was just like being in my own private SBK race.
There's plenty of poke from 7500rpm upwards, and that's where I kept the engine spinning for best effect. The
charge out of Southern Loop down the hill and under the bridge towards Honda Corner was particularly
exhilarating, as was the run from Siberia up through the Hayshed to Lukey Heights, something replicated in the
real world when I headed off on my dusk adventure a few days later.
The 996R's peak output in homologated guise is a claimed 135ps at 10,200rpm at the crankshaft - 13ps more
at 200rpm less than the 996SPS.
AMCN got around 130ps at the R's rear wheel on the PTR dyno, which may not seem much compared to some
of the 1000cc Jap fours which have 10ps more and are also some $30K cheaper! Yes, that much.
But ultimate power is not the be-all and end-all. If that was the case, then the Jap 750 fours would have been
stomping on the Dukes in World SBK racing for the past decade. After all, the ZX-7RR and GSX-R750
Superbikes have more horsepower than the Ducati.
And when was the last time you saw a Hayabusa or a ZX-12R lap faster than a R1 or GSX-R1000?
Usable power is what it's all about, and on that score the 996R wins hands down. It may give 10 ponies away to
the GSX-R1000, but that sure doesn't mean it's slower around a racetrack.
Short-shifting at around 7500rpm underlines how excellent the spread of power is. For street use though I'd be
inclined to swap the 15-tooth countershaft sprocket for a 14T item. Standard gearing sees an indicated
3200rpm at 100kmh, meaning the R is geared for well over 320kmh out of the box.
The smaller sprocket would make the bike smoother around town (the R is already substantially smoother than
the longer-stroke SPS) as well as boost acceleration.
In fact, I found it better to leave the R in fifth on the open road, as the lower revs in sixth would creep up to a
licence-losing speed of 140kmh, or around 4500rpm. Whereas if I kept the engine around those revs in fifth I
was less likely to end up talking to Mr Plod.
Although the chassis stats are similar to the SPS, I reckon the R steered better, both around the Island and on
the open road. Whether it was due to a slightly higher rear ride height or the lighter front wheel (less gyroscopic
effect) I'm not sure. Maybe we need to get a SPS and 996R together...
The brakes that had bordered on savage around town were unbelievably effective on the track, and I had to be
careful heading into Turn One that my 'caress' of the front lever didn't cause a sudden dive in the front end.
It was something McMartin had also noticed, and he was itching to get his own 996R on the track.
"I love brakes like that - the sort where as soon as you touch the lever they're on," he said. "It's one of the first
things I noticed when I rode the R."
The all-new Brembo braking system retains four-piston calipers at the front, but now features four separate
pads per caliper rather than two. Ducati reckons this is for improved compensation as the pads wear, and less
roll-back upon release. I'm not going to argue.
The discs are 320mm stainless-steel, but with the bite and feel of the old cast-iron rotors.
There's a 400g weight saving per disc (so, 0.8kg in all) delivered by the 0.5mm thinner rotors used on the 996R
compared to the SPS, and the reduced number of floating fasteners holding them to the Ergal aircraft alloy
flanges. Top stuff.
To create the 996R, Ducati focused most attention on the new engine, and slotted it into the same tubular-steel
spaceframe as the SPS - itself derived from Foggy's racebike.
Fully-adjustable 43mm Ohlins race forks as used on the Ducati Superbikes are fitted, with gold titanium-nitride
coated stanchions to reduce stiction, and a race-quality, multi-adjustable Ohlins shock.
A pair of ultra-lightweight Marchesini five-spoke race wheels are fitted, shod on the testbike with excellent Pirelli
Dragon Evo Corsa rubber. No complaints there - on track or road.
Carbon-fibre bodywork (rather than the injection-moulded plastic of the base model) helps contribute to a
notable weight reduction, plus there's a claimed 5kmh improvement in top speed due solely to better
The major chassis change is the adoption of 2mm-thicker 12mm engine mounts, to create a stiffer
But the 996R is one of those bikes which is much more than just the sum of its parts.
Yeah, I can hear the cries now: "Not another bloody Ducati test"; or "No bike is worth that much"; and so on...
What can't be denied though is that a model that was introduced back in 1994, eight years ago, still sets the
standard for sportsbike design.
It's also worth rembering that three years ago Yamaha's YZF-R7 (of which 500 were built) was priced $10,000
higher than the 996R. And rumour has it that quite a few R7s are still sitting in European warehouses.
And if you want to buy a road-going race-kitted replica of Colin Edwards' VTR SP-2 or Troy Corser's
RSV1000SP or Frankie Chili's GSX-R750, you'd be paying substantially more than the 996R's $52,000 asking
No, I can't justify paying $52K for a 996R - or any motorcycle for that matter. But then, I don't earn big bucks
In the case of the 996R the only accessories you need to add are the Bayliss-replica Dainese leathers and a
Bayliss-replica Suomy lid. And 40 such people will be able to live that dream in Australia.
As for me, I'm knocking off early again. Enough said.
Story Ken Wootton
Photos Arthur Thornton
Next Generation Sporting Ducati
The latest Ducati rocketship has new engine technology that will need to carry it through the next decade. Will it
still cream the ever increasing competition?
Test by Kevin Ash
Ducati’s domination of World Superbike racing – and the hearts of countless road riders – with the 916/996 is
all the more remarkable when you consider the original engine design began in 1985, when senior engineer
Massimo Bordi started work on the 851 Superbike. The capacity’s grown since then of course to the near-one
litre machine of today, but the fundamental architecture of the engine is still based on 16 year-old technology,
yet the might of Japanese technology found only the occasional breaks in the Italians’ armoury.
Finally the opposition has looked like catching up, although even with number one rider Carl Fogarty being
forced out of WSB after the Philip Island crash last season which broke his forearm, and with various stand-ins,
still Ducati won the manufacturers’ championship and put up a strong fight in 2000 with Troy Bayliss in the
The new 996R is the bike Ducati is hoping will give it the edge once again, but there’s more to it than that. While
even a practised eye will find the visual changes over last year’s 996SPS hard to spot, beneath the carbon fibre
fairing is an entirely new power unit. It’s a V-twin of course, and naturally the valve operation is Ducati’s
trademark desmodromic, otherwise, and at last, the technology’s thoroughly contemporary.
The significance of the motor extends further. Rather than being a big step in the evolution of the 996, if
anything it represents the signing off of one of the great motorcycles of the last century – the engine’s ultimate
purpose is to power the bike which will replace the 996, and which we’ll probably see at the Milan Show in
September this year.
The 996R meanwhile is its development bed, and what an entirely rational way to move forward – use a chassis
which is a proven, known quantity so the engine alone can be concentrated on, and after a year’s development
introduce the new rolling chassis with now better developed motor.
But describing the 996R’s chassis as ‘known’ and ‘proven’ is like calling Claudia Schiffer a ‘woman’ – it’s not
exactly the full story… Both in competition and as a road bike the 996 consistently posts higher cornering
speeds than any of the opposition, and at the same time it’s both staggeringly stable and deliciously tactile –
every last nuance of the tyres’ behaviour is transmitted back to the rider, and despite the colossal rear end grip
that has the Ducati driving out of a turn like it’s been fired from a howitzer, bar-flapping instability remains
something other bikes do.
That was the SPS, and no changes here with the 996R, the high end Ohlins suspension (inverted gold coloured
titanium nitride-coated forks at the front) faithfully follows the subtlest changes in surface for maximum grip and
steering accuracy. Yet two apparently trivial changes have enhanced the chassis disproportionately. The front
brake discs have been reduced in thickness by 0.5mm, which has saved 0.4kg per side. The 0.8kg loss is
magnified because it’s cut unsprung weight, improving suspension performance, and most noticeably the
reduced gyroscopic effect has quickened the steering, so much so it took a couple of laps to modulate the
usual heave on the Ducati’s bars to lay it down into a turn – at first the bike was flipping onto too tight a line and
had to be corrected. After acclimatising, you just left the braking even later before flicking the bike over.
The brake calipers are new, too. They’re still Brembos, but completely redesigned and include four pads in
each caliper. The result is far less sponginess than before and no sign of fade (both the Achilles’ heel of the
SPS), and usefully with a more progressive and predictable release – feeding out the brakes on the entry to a
turn while peeling the bike inspires more confidence than before.
So, arguably the best chassis of all the limited edition bikes aimed at homologating their World Superbike
competition equivalents, with even better steering and improved brakes. What about the new motor?
The detail changes are listed separately, but the bottom line is, it’s substantially more powerful, producing
13bhp more than the SPS. This you feel right at the top end, where the bike relishes being revved , although
the limiter cuts in dramatically just beyond 11,000pm, almost enough to have you headbutting the tacho. With
this comes a small increase in torque, up from 73lb.ft to 74.5lb.ft, but it’s not this you notice so much as the
newfound smoothness of the torque curve, almost devoid of the dips and peaks of the SPS, so that the
acceleration has a relentless, unstoppable feel.
Although it revs harder, the engine pulls strongly enough at 7000rpm to be useful even on the race track – use
a higher gear than you might expect in a tight turn and you still have more than enough grunt to threaten the
rear tyre’s traction. Get it right and the power will build with the revs exactly as the bike comes upright and you
can lay more on the road.
The delivery does let you know the bike’s fuel injected as there’s a small amount of the characteristic
suddenness you just don’t get with carburettors, but it’s not as severe as on a Honda SP-1 and doesn’t spoil the
Listen carefully beneath the angry bellow of the carbon-fibre Termignoni silencers and you might notice the
reduction in mechanical clatter compared with the SPS – this will be more obvious when the bike’s fitted with its
road legal silencers (although that won’t be for long...) – and the final improvement over the outgoing engine is
its sheer willingness to rev. The SPS had a crisp, free-spinning throttle with the new engine.
Yet for now, magnificent motor aside, you’ll be hard pressed to tell new from old. The Ducati logo on the fairing
is picked out in carbon fibre (achieved by masking the word ‘Ducati’ in the paint process, then removing the
mask to leave that part of the fairing bare), and there’s a discreet 996R on the tail section. The fairing’s vertical
cooling vents have gone, leaving sleeker, smoother flanks which improve drag and add about 5km/h to the top
speed, while race mechanics and the very sad will spot the new brake calipers.
But you won’t find many 996Rs in showrooms to hone your Ducati-spotting skills: the bike was originally
available only on the Internet at the 2000 Munich motorcycle show, and all 500 examples were sold in one day.
However, Australian dealers do have some – but most have deposits on them already. If you want one, get in
quick, but until they actually land and the exchange rate is known, no final price will be set. Whatever it is, it will
be worth it!