Exploring the illustrious history of Ducati.
The famed scarlet coloured Italian motorcycle marque that is Ducati celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. With that, we decided to look back into its history to see how it became a brand that’s loved by many worldwide.
From radios to motorcycles
In 1926, a father named Antonio Cavalieri Ducati and his sons Adriano, Marcello, and Bruno, founded Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati in Bologna, Italy. The company actually began as a manufacturer of radio components such as vacuum tubes and condensers in fact before venturing into motorcycle manufacturing later on.
Following its collaboration with Turin-based firm SIATA (Societa Italiana per Applicazioni Tecniche Auto-Aviatorie), Ducati produced a series of motorised bicycles called ‘Ciuccolo’ in the 1950s. Ducati’s first Ciuccolo-based motorcycle was powered by a four-stroke 48cc pull-rod engine.
This rather simplistic contraption weighed in at just 44kg dry and had a claimed top speed of 64km/h. Later rebadged as the Ducati 55M and 65TL, Ducati continued selling these until 1958.
A management change came in 1953 where the brand’s electronics and motorcycle manufacturing divisions were separated. While the latter continued to this day as Ducati Energia SpA, the motorcycling division was renamed as Ducati Meccanica SpA instead and was producing 120 bikes a day by 1954 in its factory located in the town of Borgo Panigale.
The brand’s presence was well and truly felt when it introduced the Mach 1 in 1965. Not only stylish, it was crowned as the fastest 250cc road bike of its time thanks to the 24hp figure thumping out of its 248.5cc single-cylinder heart. Its light claimed dry weight of just 116kg saw it become a highly favoured bike for racing and culminated with an infamous Isle of Man TT class win in the hands of Mike Rogers in 1969.
The turning point perhaps came during the 1970s. This was the decade where Ducati found its calling and began producing its signature range of motorcycles powered by its trademarked Desmodromic V-twin engines. That basic DNA has since stood unchanged to this day.
Like a number of other storied Italian firms, financial crisis led to Ducati changing hands away from its original founders and others several times over. Amongst its previous owners include the Italian government from 1967 to 1985 and the Cagiva Group from 1985 to 1996.
A series of private investment firms came in from 1996 onwards and steered the Ducati brand towards independence until the mighty Volkswagen Group arrived in 2012. The German automotive powerhouse acquired the marque for a reported figure close to US$1 billion at the time, making it one of the group’s biggest and most expensive acquisitions in recent times.
Today, Ducati Motor Holdings S.p.A is owned by Italian performance car marque Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A, which in turn is owned by German automaker Audi AG – a direct subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group.
Ducati has been actively racing in a number of championships worldwide since the 1950s. Notable efforts here include its re-entry into MotoGP in 2003 after a three-decade hiatus, not forgetting its lasting exploits in the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) since 1988 as well.
In MotoGP, the journey had been a long struggle until the arrival of Casey Stoner in 2007. Despite being in his second season in the premier class and his first with the factory team, the Australian rider took ten race wins to clinch the riders championship title with Ducati in the 2007 season. Stoner remains Ducati’s most successful MotoGP rider ever in its history as no other rider has matched his title-winning frolics astride the Italian brand’s GP race machine since.
However, Ducati’s greatest racing successes were charted in the production-based WSBK series instead. Since 1991, Ducati has scored 14 riders championship titles and 17 manufacturers titles in total here. At the end of the 2015 WSBK season, Ducati has charted 318 wins in total, more than any other manufacturer involved in the championship since its inception.
Winners on and off the track
In more ways than one, racing has redefined Ducati as a brand entirely. Many of its production bikes have benefited from the racing successes it charted, thus becoming the most coveted performance machines on the road today as well.
Stay tuned to BikesRepublic all this week as we dwell deeper into this aspect and list down some of the Italian marque’s finest creations ever.