Supersport Classic: A Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid from California

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
The Ducati SportClassic is the most beautiful motorcycle that the Italian marque no longer makes. It remains the benchmark for modern factory café racers, and it’s easily one of designer Pierre Terblanche’s biggest hits. But what if Ducati brought the SportClassic back—this time with proper superbike power?

When it hit the scene back in 03, the Ducati SportClassic’s 992 cc Desmo L-twin motor was good for 90.7 hp. And although that was a more than adequate amount of grunt for the SportClassic, Ducati has had more powerful engines in its portfolio. The new 937 cc Ducati Monster makes 111 hp, the 955 cc Panigale V2 makes 155 hp, and the 998 cc Superleggera V4 makes a stonking 234 hp in full race trim.

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
Lucas Worthing’s favorite Ducati motor is the one at the heart of the late-2000s Ducati 1198. The 1,198 cc Desmodromic L-twin cranks out 87 percent more power than the SportClassic, with 170 hp and 132 Nm of torque on tap.

“My first proper superbike was a Ducati 1198 base model in white,” the Los Angeles, California-based architect tells us. “I did a number of mods and enjoyed it immensely until it was stolen. The motor has so much more off-the-line power than anything else I’ve ridden and is beautifully raw.”

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
Luke’s love for the 1198 is matched only by his obsession with the SportClassic and the historic racing motorcycles that inspired it. “I’ve also always had an affinity for all things NCR-related; the New Blue and Hailwood Edition SportClassics are motorcycles I fell in love with. I bought a black Sport 1000S and added some NCR bits when I was younger—and later, I built a full titanium-framed NCR Paul Smart.”

These two passions collided when Luke began imagining a SportClassic that would make 1198 power, but also be light and agile. But his strategy went far beyond just buying a SportClassic and tossing a bigger motor into it. Instead, Luke bought the frame, engine, and swingarm from a 2011-model Ducati 1198 SP, and effectively started from scratch.

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
First, Luke cobbled the parts he had together, propping the bike up on a set of Showa forks, an Öhlins shock, and a pair of carbon fiber wheels from BST. Then he shipped the bike off to StradaFab in Kansas, where Randy Martin fabricated an exotic titanium trellis frame that would marry the 1198 powertrain with SportClassic bodywork.

“The frame came from sketches I did,” Luke tells us, “creating a hybrid between the SportClassic’s trellis frame and the original superbike frame that came with the motor. The original frame has the same mount points as the SportClassic, so that’s how it started. But the trellis work had to be stronger to handle the increase in torque.”

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
The frame is exquisite, but also rather complicated. Accommodations had to be made for the 1198’s bigger motor and central rear shock position, and bits like the footpeg mounts were designed to double up as reinforcement points. “It took time to figure out,” Luke adds.

“I had a number of visits out to Kansas from California to meet with Randy. We worked together to solve certain challenges. Having a background in structural engineering, I could see places where I wanted to add gussets, and cut the designs out of cardboard, showing Randy where I thought they would reinforce the frame.”

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
The bike’s aluminum fuel tank came from a connection within the Ducati SportClassic community, but it needed extensive fettling to fit the bike. The biggest issue was the positioning of the rear shock’s upper mount; the tank’s fuel pump mounting plate had to be moved further inboard to accommodate it. Other key mods were centered around narrowing the airbox and intake housing.

Custom-made side panels flank the front of the fuel tank, helping to keep the area around the frame tidy. A SportClassic Monoposto tail section sits out back, with the bike’s battery hiding in the rear bump.

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
Luke and Randy also went back and forth on the exhaust system. Luke had an Akrapovič titanium racing system on hand, but it didn’t fit the design. In the end, Randy massaged the headers to connect to a pair of SC-Project cans, tucked under the tail.

Moving to the engine, Luke added a Ducati Race ECU and a Dynojet Power Commander V tuner, then booked the bike for a dyno session. The engine also wears a Ducati Performance slipper clutch and a set of carbon fiber covers. Brian Wellman at Motoclub lent a hand on the electrical side, re-wiring the bike to clean up the areas that would otherwise be covered by fairings on a stock 1198.

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
The cockpit features a Zeta Racing top yoke, with a titanium dash mount from Stradafab supporting the Ducati’s digital unit. Driven Racing clip-ons are kitted with Brembo controls, complementing the full Brembo braking system that Luke pieced together for the bike. A Speed Moto Co. light sits up front, with Rizoma mirrors hanging off the ends of the bars.

Titanium goodies are sprinkled all over this gnarly SportClassic-1198 hybrid. The coolant overflow bottle is titanium, as are all the engine bolts, the clutch cover, and the NCR Italy rear-sets. The front fender and rear hugger are carbon fiber parts from Bestem.

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab
Since this isn’t a traditional SportClassic, Luke felt free to pick a non-traditional color. So he turned to his high school friend, Adam Fleiner at Fleiner Automotive, who laid down a stunning Porsche Oak Green Metallic paint job. The only graphics are the subtle stripes that run over the top of the bodywork and the Ducati logo etched into the saddle.

We can’t figure out what we’re more smitten with; the fact that this is a café racer with superbike levels of performance or the way the titanium, carbon fiber, and green bits pop in the Californian sun.

Worthing Classics | Images by Jose Gallina

Ducati 1198 SportClassic hybrid café racer by Worthing Classics and Stradafab

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