Nestled deep into the craggy, mountainous ridges high above Spain's Costa del Sol is Ascari Race Resort, a 3.35-mile racetrack whose luxurious accommodations and immaculate tarmac seem to simultaneously contradict and complement its rugged surroundings. That duality of temperament – the sheer extravagance of a world class circuit amidst the wilds of nature – echoes the character of Ducati's new Hypermotard SP. Ascari was the perfect place for us to experience the latest motard-style offering from Italy's most famous motorcycle manufacturer.
First, some background: Since its introduction six years ago, the Hypermotard was known as the unabashed bad boy of the motorcycle world, a wheelie-prone wild child that traded comfort and stability for zippy maneuverability and dirtbike-like liveliness. Enter 2013, and the re-imagined ride has been dialed in and reconfigured to more equally straddle the line between edginess and utility. A less extreme seating position, a comfier saddle, and a stretched wheelbase make it more accommodating on longer rides, but a new electronically adjustable throttle, traction control, and ABS system also help coax more performance from the also new liquid-cooled, 821cc engine that produces a punchy 110 horsepower.
Swinging a leg over the new Hypermotard SP at Ascari reveals a potent, focused track weapon whose twitchy handling traits have been traded for a more settled, yet maneuverable, dynamic. Rushing past hundred year-old Encinas trees with a knee down and hips hanging off the Ducati's slight saddle, we found the merging of soulful Italian machinery and Spanish landscape to be a perfect analogy for this latest two-wheeled specimen from Bologna. With its eager engine, sharp suspension, and race-ready brakes, the latest Ducati Hypermotard SP proves that there's no reason evolution should sacrifice comfort or dull the senses. [$14,700; ducatiusa.com]