TRACK WEAPON: Ducati 1098 by Walt Siegl Motorcycles
Written by Martin Hodgson
A modern sportbike is an amazing thing; 200+hp, ultra-advanced electronics and top of the line suspension and brakes. But apart from the packaging they’re almost all the same and lack so much of the character and charm of their older brethren. So to perfectly meld the best of both, who better to create the ultimate superbike than legendary New Hampshire based builder, Mr Walt Siegl! A race only version of his company’s WSM SBK model, it was commissioned by one very lucky man’s girlfriend, as the Christmas present, we’d all love to have.
Walt Siegl Motorcycles and the man himself need no introduction, for years he’s been crafting some of the best custom bikes in the world and his Ducati’s are in a league of their own. Perhaps his greatest talent is his ability to provide a truly unique motorcycling experience in every manner while still retaining OEM levels of usability and functionality. To test his skills and that of his close-knit team, no project better displays their incredible talents like WSM SBK.
“It was commissioned by the girlfriend of a dear friend of mine that I used to go to the racetrack with many years ago. As a manner of fact I was the one leading him around a track in Michigan for a long weekend and discovered how talented he was so I encouraged him to pick up racing. Many years later he is still extremely quick around any race track and strings together lap times comparable to championship numbers.” Walt tells us.
It all starts with the chromoly frame of a perimeter design but utilising a trellis structure that will keep the Ducati faithful more than happy. But you can’t just bend up some tube, weld it together and hope for the best when you create the chassis for a superbike. Serious design and engineering has gone into the structure not only to give the bike the strength it requires but to form the basis of the WSBK like geometry for incredible handling and performance. The total weight of the chassis is a staggeringly light 14lbs.
Hovering out over the rear tyre, the back end is no less impressive, “To further reduce weight the subframe/seat is designed as a structural unit and weighs only 2 1/2 pounds.” The rest of the bodywork is formed by Taylor Made Racing and fixed to the bike with WSM aluminum stays and a screen by Gustafsson Plastics. The tank and airbox are also carbon with super trick parts like the custom carbon air intakes and clever designs such as the base of the tank serving as the lid for the airbox. All of which keeps the bodywork of this featherweight fighter down to just 9lbs in total.
When it came time to pick the paint, the recipient of the perfect present got involved. “Dave, the owner wanted to keep a visual link to his first Ducati race bike, a 996, so we picked a Panigale red with the familiar white number plates, bordered by gold pinstripes.” The guys at Peach Pit Painting did a stellar job. The visual result is phenomenal, but it’s only a part of the story. Powering the party is a Bruce Meyers Performance 1098 engine with plenty of poke and all the special characteristics of a Ducati race engine, the waves of torque and the rattling sound of the dry clutch.
The wiring loom is a race style harness that runs off of a Ducati ECU that has been specially programmed by WSM and incorporates features like traction control and a quickshifter. With almost infinite mapping possible Walt can make the most of various configurations like exhaust changes, with this race only bike running full stainless headers and thundering out of a titanium SC Project muffler. With a total dry weight of just 320lbs, that’s considerably less than Checa’s WSBK Championship winning 1098 and you begin to appreciate what a special weapon this is.
To take full advantage of that incredible power to weight ratio and brilliant frame design, you need the right supporting cast and WSM have used only the very best. The rear end utilises the gorgeous single sided swingarm of the factory 1098, controlled by an Ohlins TTX rear shock of Walt’s own specification. Upfront a set of Ohlins FGR forks control the show, clamped by a custom set of trees. With the braking handled by the best in the business, Brembo mono-block calipers, 330mm rotors and a radial master cylinder.
To ensure the unsprung weight is low, the wheels are magnesium and wrapped up in a set of Michelin Power Slick’s. But more than just a sum of its parts, the clever engineering ensures the bike turns in on a dime, with lightweight handling that remains stable throughout the arc of the turn. Exit on the gas, dialing in more power as you stand the bike up on the tyre and bang through the gears while still hard on the throttle, before squeezing the brake lever and doing it all again. It is hard to imagine anything more addictive than the adrenaline rush the WSM SBK provides, while still looking exquisite when it’s standing still. It’s a masterpiece Mr Siegl.