2003 Ducati 999R

Ladies and gentlemen, start your saliva glands.

Ducati has pulled the wraps off its top-of-the-line model for 2003, the
stunning 999R. At $30,000 it's a wee bit pricey, but the finer things in life
always are. It's also a limited-edition bike, as the Bologna firm plans to only
crank out 800 units. Of course, each bike will be delivered like a newborn,
with a (birth) certificate of authenticity and a silver number plate on the triple

For your hard-earned 30 large you also get a smattering of trick bits,
including a full carbon fiber fairing, five-spoke forged aluminum rims, radially
mounted Brembo calipers and a magnesium headlight assembly.

As if that weren't enough, the R version comes with the 139 hp Testastretta
motor (compared with the 124 hp mill in the 999), and a racing kit too. The kit
includes a 102 db exhaust cannister without a catalyzer, a different CPU, rear
wheel stand and a Ducati bike cover.

The 999R will be available exclusively online in December 2002

Read more: http://www.motorcyclistonline


Review by Visordown

      The new motor is the star with more torque through the range and a
power increase of 11bhp.

      Price and very little else! The suspension needs to be firmer as standard
Ducati has been shrouding itself in mystery of late, and the launch of the new
999R US-homologation special at Laguna Seca was no exception.

Development chief Andrea Forni and his team have done a thorough job on
the already oversquare 999R engine. Bigger valves – intake up from 40 to
42mm, exhaust 1mm wider at 33mm – are made from titanium instead of steel,
so are 35% lighter, and have slimmer stems retained by 749R-style cones,
not shims. New cams with more lift mean the valves open further, too.

Reshaped cylinder heads and new pistons boost compression while titanium
conrods bolt to a lighter crankshaft with a revised internal lubing system. The
Marelli fuel-injection is revamped with a more sophisticated ECU and 12-hole
injectors. The result is more torque through the range and a power increase
of 11bhp to 150bhp, delivered 250rpm earlier at 9750rpm.

While they were at it, Ducati made a few cosmetic mods, fitting a slightly wider
screen, and blocking off the fairing slashes above the air intakes for an
aerodynamic benefit. Revised Öhlins forks feature a top-out spring and
reworked damping, and there’s a new Öhlins shock too, with modified internal
valving for more precise damping adjustment.

But that new motor was the star at Laguna, ladling out huge amounts of
midrange with a stunningly quick-revving charge to the 11,000rpm limiter. The
Duke shot along pit straight clocking 150mph-plus before cranking it left over
a crest, then braking like crazy for the hairpin.
Fortunately, the lightweight (181kg dry) Ducati’s radial Brembos were
predictably sharp, as was the rest of its chassis. Set up racy with extra rear
ride height, plus its steering at the steeper, 23.5° angle, the R was deliciously
flickable, even through the gut-churning downhill, left-right flick of the
Corkscrew. The bars shook slightly over a couple of crests until I firmed up
the Öhlins steering damper, but the bike was taut and responsive.

Niall Mckenzie's Opinion

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.

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

TYPE - Supersports
PRICE NEW - £19,995
POWER - 150bhp@9750rpm
TORQUE - 86lb.ft@8000rpm        
WEIGHT - 181kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 780mm        
FUEL CAPACITY - 17L        
TOP SPEED - 175mph        
0-60         - n/a