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Ducati's middleweight superbike gets a significant upgrade for 2011, further separating itself from the confines of established sportbike categories.

It's already 17 years since the first small-bore Ducati 4-valve superbike, the 748, broke cover – the same year as the iconic 916, in 1994. The 748 played a background second fiddle to the beloved 916 series until the 749 emerged in 2003. A close relation to the aesthetically challenged 999, the 749 continued to be a relatively low-cost entre into Ducati's superbike family and competed against the Japanese 600s in supersport competition.

Then MY2008 saw a paradigm shift for the sub-liter Ducati superbikes, with the new 848 getting 15 extra horses and a weight loss of nearly 50 lbs! However, its 101cc displacement bump (to 849cc) made it ineligible for supersport competition, leaving it adrift in a class of its own.

Perhaps that's a good thing. Instead of being considered an expensive alternative to the Japanese four-cylinders, the 848 ruled over them with not only more torque, of course, but also more horsepower. Our '08 test bike cranked out 116 ponies at the rear wheel, which is nearly on par with what a 999 or Honda RC51 could do a few years ago when liter-sized superbikes were the hot ticket.

Well, Ducati has upped the ante again with the 848 EVO, bringing along extra horsepower, improved brakes and fitment of a standard steering damper – all for the same price as last year's 848s.

To demonstrate the EVO's newfound prowess, Ducati invited us to the historic Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in the town of Imola, Italy.

More: 2011 Ducati 848 EVO Review on
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