It was getting to be rather tense. It was the Sunday during the Malaysian Grand Prix and the dense clouds had darkened. The Moto3 Grand Prix had just got over to a nail biting finish with an all-KTM dog fight won by half a wheel by champion elect Sandro Cortese from local ace Zulfahmi Khairuddin and I was yet having the woollies in the stomach.
No, it wasn’t about the MotoGP event to follow, mind still fresh from the tragic crash that robbed us of Marco Simoncelli at this very circuit a year ago but for the fact that if the dark clouds persisted, my ride the next day on the very Sepang circuit with Ducati would have all but been taken to the cleaners! It was not about the fact that the bikes lined up for us the next day, as part of a certain arrive and ride event (not to be confused by the DRE or Ducati Riding Experience) included the Panigale and the Diavel but the fact that there was also the 848 Streetfighter, a bike from Borgo Panigale which I hadn’t swung a leg over and ridden in anger.
A Streetfighter 848 over a blue-blooded circuit scratcher like the Panigale on a classic Grand Prix circuit? You would think I must be joking but having ridden the Panigale superbike at the Yas Marina circuit earlier in the year during its global launch, I knew how good it was but life is all about experiencing new stuff and the 848 was a gap in the awareness I wanted to go and fill up.
As it transpired the next day, I knew that I was spot on in my choice of mount for sizzling Sepang! Having been drenched from head to toe thanks to the two-hour long cloud burst after the final race of the day at Sepang (not unusual for a tropical land), I was smiling like an idiot while all else were scurrying for cover!
I know that lightning doesn’t normally strike twice in the same place and felt comfortable that the next day would dawn sunny and clear! And further bolstered by the thought that the next day I would have the chance to ride alongside the riders who I marvelled at and worshipped some years ago as literal demigods, I knew that nature’s pre-event cleansing was apt!
Sepang was bright and fresh when I landed there the day after the Malaysian Grand Prix – bright and sunny with clear blue skies and then a sight to gladden the heart – rows upon rows of Ducatis red, yellow and black, all lined up for us riders to get astride and ride the full GP circuit! Panigales, Diavels (yes, there were a few of these as well for those brave enough to try and chase Loris and Troy astride this rocket cruiser), 795s (yes, the very same which have yet to arrive in India!), a few Multistradas and of course a whole squadron of 848 Streetfighters.
Now one knows that this category of no-nonsense street scratcher is a recent extension of the naked superbike scene which has multiplied manifold in recognition and critical mass all over the world and for it to have been spawn from Ducati’s WSB-winning genes is enough to get the juices flowing. When talking about the Ducati Streetfighter 848, one of the key points to note is that it replaces the base model 1098 Streetfighter, which means now the Ducati Streetfighter line-up is made up of the 848 and the high-spec 1099 Streetfighter S.
This has helped Ducati bring clarity to its naked bike model range while offering a practical offering in the middleweight class of motorcycles and therefore a lot is riding upon the junior Streetfighter.The Streetfighter 848 is bold, brash and beautiful no matter from where you look at her. And helping its sporty demeanour is the sorted frame which it borrows from Ducati’s massive parts bin with much of it coming from the Superbike 848. So the sharp, agile and exciting characteristics of the supersport chassis are infused in the 848 as well.
The only marginal but significant change to the geometry of the 848 is a reduction in the rake to 24.5 degrees from 25.6 degrees of the bigger Streetfighter S and by doing that the chassis engineers at Ducati have managed to improve the overall front-end feel on the 848 leading to a confidence inspiring feel. The first two corners at the Sepang circuit are rather tight and require one to swiftly change direction, which on the 848 was a breeze as she briskly went from the tight right-handed first corner leading into the tightening left-hander in an absolutely composed and smooth fashion. And this sort of razor-sharp handling is attributed to the superbly balanced trellis frame of the 848.
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