How does Ducati celebrate winning multiple racing world titles in a year? Build a ludicrously expensive special edition motorcycle for the road! And while most of those machines will be parked up in rich folks man caves, Radical Ducati of France lives up to its name by pulling them to pieces and making something even more wild. Now run by Yann Thomas, he’s taken one ultra desirable Ducati 1198S Corse edition and turned it into a raw styled and razor like performing cafe racer that’ll leave most custom machines in its mirrors.
All of which got me thinking, have we been doing this whole cafe racer revival wrong? Back in the original days of the Ace, the bikes weren’t flash, but they were as fast as a young man could make one go. They were styled on race winning bikes from Norton and the likes of the AJS 7R, often with old or remanufactured race parts picked up from ex-works bikes in an effort to win at all costs. But probably a combination of cost, value for human life and cost again, means we’ve forged a new way of doing things in the 21st century.
But that doesn’t mean that every now and then it isn’t fun to imagine just what a modern race bike for the road in true cafe style would look like. And thankfully Radical Ducati ensures our vivid imagination appears right in front of us. The 1198S Corse was built to celebrate the winning of the World Superbike and Superstock Manufacturers’ titles in 2009 and to mark the introduction of a new Ducati Corse logo. This meant the special edition was nearly twice the price of the stock 1198, but it did come with a host of track derived special fruit.
First on the list for Yann however was to get the bike looking just right and mould the machine into something that truly represents the iconic Radical Ducati lineage. This meant removing all of the red, black and white limited edition fairings that give the 1198 its distinct style and leaving behind just the fuel tank. Speaking of which, the tank was one of the special features of the Corse edition, the race replica unit coming in a factory brushed aluminium that has been retained by Yann, albeit with the stickers removed, an extra sand and a quick fill fuel cap fitted up.
The front and rear subframes were a special bit of kit on the Corse, the forward version made from lightweight magnesium. It has been replaced with a pair of CNC’d ears that support the classically styled headlight with modern LED functionality. But it’s the rear subframe where Radical really show off the incredible work they do, a shortened minimalist version, brilliantly welded together from aluminium. This is topped off with the equally impressive all alloy tailpiece that perfectly integrates with the tank, resulting in aggressive, yet smooth lines.
Speaking of which, that’s exactly how the 1198cc Testastretta Evoluzione L-twin engine behaves, fairly tame down low before breaking into insanity as the revs get towards the redline. Elliptical throttle bodies, lightweight cases, and MotoGP derived piston technology teams up with what was very advanced electronics for the time including data logging. But not content with a factory delivered 180hp, Yann fitted up a flame-spitting SC Project GP full line exhaust system, that has been wrapped to help reduce some of the notorious crotch scorching Ducati temperatures.
With the engine normally hidden behind fairings, the engineers get away with leaving it a little messy. So Radical add their own handmade transparent belt covers and a full set of red Samco hoses to blend in perfectly with the frame. The clutch cover also gets the see through treatment and shows off the brilliant CNC racing dry slipper system. The quicker shift sits in front of new carbon sprocket covers and the swingarm is covered in carbon too.
The suspension is first class, a host of Ohlins goodies including the legendary TTX rear shock have the bike handling like on rails. While the monoblock Brembo calipers now grab a set of Braking Butterfly discs. These assist with reducing unsprung weight that is already low with factory forged alloy Marchesini wheels. A set of mirrors and a side-mounted plate holder by Lussardi racing keeps the police happy, while the gorgeous traditional leather seat makes for the perfect saddle. And you want to be sitting comfortably, with just shy of 200hp and less than 170kg to hold you back, this Radical Ducati will have few rivals in the race from cafe to cafe.