Ducati Evolves into the Premier Italian Motorcycle Manufacturer

Ducati is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer known for sportbikes and street bikes using L-Twin engines. The Ducati company was founded in 1926 in the northern Italian town of Bologna, but motorcycles were not being produced in the Borgo Panigale plant, with the firm producing radio equipment. The company’s Italian holdings were decimated during World War II bombings and like other famous European marques, Ducati rose out of the ashes to its current stature.

Ducati motorcycle production began post-war first as motors attached to bicycles. In the early '50s the firm was producing stand-along motor scooters, but by the end of the decade Ducati was making its name in the racing world.

Much credit for its racing ascension is given by Ducati to engineer Fabio Taglioni, who developed Ducati’s desmodromic valve system. Taglioni’s work included the creation of many successful Ducati Singles as well as the Ducati 250 Twin raced by English legend Mike Hailwood.

The ‘60s and ‘70s saw racing success for Ducati, building the Italian firm’s prestige as a racing marque. Racing highlights include: a 1972 win by Paul Smart in the Imola 200 with a desmodromic 750 Twin and the 1978 Isle of Man TT triumph of Mike Hailwood, who came out of retirement to race the 900cc Supersport Twin.

Ducati was purchased in 1983 by the Castiglioni family and merged with the Cagiva Group. Again the marque found success on the racetrack, with further progression of its Twin-powered sportbike platform in the form of its 851 and 916 Superbikes. Highlights of the Castiglioni years include the introduction of its wildly popular Monster line – a naked street bike designed by Argentine designer Miguel Galluzzi.

Economic woes saw Ducati ownership change hands in the mid-'90s to the American investment firm of Texas Pacific Group. The Superbike and Monster lines continued, with Ducati finding even more racing success in the World Superbike Series at the hands of Carl Fogarty.

Troy Bayliss, Neil Hodgson and James Toseland extended Ducati’s dominance in the World Superbike Series into the new millennium. Ducati also pushed ahead into Grand Prix, with the V-Four Desmosedici leading its MotoGP effort. The 2003 entry paid dividends in 2007, when Australian Casey Stoner claimed the GP title.

Off the track, Ducati expanded its sales line. The Ducati 916 evolved to the controversially-styled 999, then the 1098 and now the current 1198. A high-spec 1098R is Ducati’s Superbike racer, sporting production traction control. Ducati’s middleweight sportbike bumped up from the 749 to the 848. But the most impressive Ducati sportbike remains the Desmosedici RR, a production version of the firm’s GP racer.

The Monster family remains a top seller, with the current generation of air-cooled naked dubbed the 696 and 1100. The Monster was also supplemented in 2009 by the new Streetfighter, a naked version of its 1098 Superbike.

Other Ducati motorcycles are the Multistrada and Sportclassics. The Multistrada is a versatile standard built around the air-cooled 1100 L-Twin. Like many of the Superbike and Monster models, there is an “S” version available which sources Ohlins suspension. Based off classic Ducati models the SportClassic lineup features the Desmo 1000 air-cooled L-Twin inside the traditional styling lines of the GT1000, Sport 1000S and GT1000 Touring.