Dream bike Ducati 916

INTERMOT countdown 2016: 8

Ducati 916

There are only a handful of motorcycles that earn the honorary title "milestone" really due. The Ducati 916 belongs to this illustrious group – it came, beguiled and won in series. It also revolutionized the motorcycle world, because it set new standards for super athletes that still apply today.

At Ducati in Bologna you will probably be a little cold. Day in and day out, the engineers and managers in the plant think about how they can bring even better, more exclusive and more beautiful Ducatis to the world, chasing lap records and even building cruisers and enduros – and what do MOTORRAD readers choose as their dream Ducati? A 23 year old mill! Current Bolognese plants such as Panigale, Multistrada, XDiavel or Scrambler are also doing well, but have to lag behind the Ducati 916 tail. Creating such an icon has undreamt-of long-term consequences.

INTERMOT countdown 2016: 8

Ducati 916

Ducati 916 was presented, the most important super athletes were called Ducati 888, Honda CBR 900 RR, Kawasaki ZXR 750, Suzuki GSX-R 750 and Yamaha YZF 750 R. All of them were good and fast motorcycles, but next to the new one from Bologna they suddenly looked like sacked country eggs next to a glamorous top model. Because none of them had what the 916 radiated: real racing spirit and lots of sex appeal.

Ducati 916 seemed like from another planet

Even the journalists who flocked to the presentation at the Milan Salon in October 1993 held their breath for seconds at the unveiling before they burst into spontaneous applause. The trade fair audience was just as enthusiastic. With the aggressively cut fairing, the big cat look from the two headlights and the compact, powerful line, the Ducati 916 seemed like from another planet. There were also technical refinements such as the unusual exhaust system under the seat, the single-sided swing arm, an injection system and the relatively low weight of 208 kilograms – only Honda’s Fireblade could keep up, but not at the promised top speed of 260 km / h. In addition, Ducati initially only presented the 916 as a single-seater, underscoring its claim to the crown of super athletes.

Which she also conquered quickly, because Carl Fogarty and Co. drove with her victories in series. Between 1994 and 2002 the Ducati 916 and its direct successors 996 and 998 won a total of eight constructors ‘and six drivers’ titles in the Superbike World Championship, which underpins the myth of the 916. Hobby racers and country road knights also rave to this day in the highest tones about their razor-sharp steering precision and the enormous stability of the chassis, about the gentle but powerful force of the Desmo four-valve engine, accompanied by the thundering out of the end pots – goose bumps guaranteed.

This highly emotional driving experience was not a gift. The Ducati 916 was an extremely strenuous partner in curve dancing, after all, it was developed for the racetrack and forced its driver to sit in a low, uncomfortable position. But that was also forgotten, as was the not exactly smooth-running clutch, the muddy front brake and the strenuous handling due to the heavy wheels when the rider and motorcycle merged into a unique unit at increasing speed.

Tamburini sawed frames by hand

To this day, its two creators also contribute to the unbreakable radiance of the Ducati 916. The charismatic Claudio Castiglioni, then boss of Ducati, and the ingenious developer Massimo Tamburini had been working on their “Rimini” project since 1988. From there, Tamburini sent seven prototypes to Bologna until he was finally satisfied. With true obsession, he took care of the landing gear specifically; Among other things, he insisted that all test drives, many of which he completed himself on the nearby Viamaggio Pass, should be carried out without a steering damper. The Ducati 916 brought this with it as standard, but the developer feared that it would cover up any weaknesses in the frame.

The much admired cladding, Tamburini later said, was made in the rain: because Ducati couldn’t afford a wind tunnel, he observed the raindrops on the cladding and developed its aerodynamic shape from this. The perfectionist also strictly controlled the start of series production of the Ducati 916: Since the first tubular space frame did not meet his specifications, he cut a small piece out of each one with his own hands, in order to prevent the supplier from merely making improvements instead of rebuilding them.

The fact that the Ducati 916 turned out to be a scarce commodity also reinforced the myth. Even those who were willing to pay a good 28,000 marks for the basic version of the red racer could by no means be sure of getting one, because financial bottlenecks at Ducati led to delivery problems. From the beginning of 1994 to the end of 1997, 15,252 copies came off the production line in the versions Monoposto, Biposto, SP and Senna, which means that despite enormous demand, no 4000 pieces per year. In view of so many legendary ingredients, it is basically no wonder that the Ducati 916 is still considered the dream Ducati today – real milestones are rare.

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