Nicky Wilson #48 Kick-off 2014, I am pleased to report my first date with ‘the Duchess’ (my pet name for the 899) got off to an excellent start with a back-to-back trackday at Cadwell Park at the weekend.
Day one was spent bedding in the engine and becoming acclimatised to the controls and ergonomics of the bike; messing with bars, peg and seat positioning – the usual stuff. My first impressions of the 899 are that it really is a step change in every sense to the 848. As much as I loved the 848, I must say I think Ducati have done the right thing with the 899. To look at it the bike seems tiny, but for my proportions (6ft) it doesn’t feel at all cramped. However the thing that struck me most on the first couple of laps was the engine – more specifically the power delivery and the noise. – Rather than the lumpy thumpy noise of old, this engine has the smoothest power delivery I have ever experienced. Couple this with the flat-shifter and it feels like the torque never drops off through the gears as the engine purrs beneath you. – I can only liken it to a turbo diesel with a DSG gearbox!
As it was a cold, grey day and with parts of the track freshly resurfaced during the winter, I played it safe in the morning and used the ‘sport mode’ on the DTC system. With little experience of modern TC systems, I was impressed with how well it worked, as it identified a lot of ‘slip’ going on at the rear that I would otherwise not have detected myself. Rather than waiting for a big ‘moment’ to happen the DTC does not let you get to that point making it a much safer way to find the limit and will undoubtedly help manage tyre wear when it is setup correctly.
Despite its small demeanour the 899 is brilliantly stable in every aspect of cornering. The EBC combined with the Sigma slipper clutch (on my machine) means the bike is happy under heavy braking and with its short wheel base and weight distribution it doesn’t hesitate to make the apex. Mid-corner the 899, like its predecessor, is ‘planted’ – setting you up perfectly to wind on the fly-by-wire throttle at the apex.
Our second day of testing was a much more pleasant 16 degrees C and sunny – perfect for getting down to business and building up the pace. All went well in the morning, gradually building confidence. During the lunch break, we fitted a new set of tyres with the aim of making the most of the warm conditions and to begin to work with the k-tech suspension (new to me for this year). Unfortunately, a small technical gremlin was found which forced us to abandon the day. Still, that is the nature of the beast and the very reason why we go testing – to find these problems before race day.
The bike is now with W.M Snells for a check over and a few tweaks before the next outing at the end of the month. Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to W.M Snells for all their assistance with the bike on the build up to the first round, as we could not have done it without them.
Special thanks also to Steve Jordan Motorcycles for working on the base suspension settings before the weekend.
If you would like to join the likes of W.M Snells, Demon Designs UK, Conquest Carbon, NF Moto, Hel Performance, R&G, SJM and Fuchs Silkolene, there are still sponsorship opportunities available for 2014 so please get in touch now to make sure you’re on the grid at round 1 in April!