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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > Issue 331 > DUCATI’S V-TWIN DYNASTY


With the Ducati’s V-twin superbike family destined for the history books, we took aworthy walk down memory lane to relive 29 years of booming brilliance.
Sleeker, more stylish and so much more appealing. And that’s just the Panigale’s rider we’re talking about.

Ducati’s liquid-cooled, eight-valve V-twins have been so successful for so long that the end hardly seems possible, but the name printed on the red, white and green fairing confirms it: the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition will be the Bologna factory’s last desmo V-twin flagship. In November at EICMA in Milan, Ducati will unveil a new-generation super-sports V4. And unlike the limited-production Desmosedici RR of a decade ago, this V4 will take over as the firm’s top mass-produced sports bike, ending an era of liquid-cooled, eight-valve desmo V-twin dominance that began way back in 1988 with the original 851.

That format has served Ducati brilliantly for almost three decades. In an everincreasing line of model numbers from 851 to 1299, eight-valve V-twins have built the firm’s reputation, winning 14 World Superbike rider championships and 15 manufacturers’ titles, plus countless races, national-level series and awards for design and Bike of the Year. Sure, there have been other important Ducatis too: Monsters and Multistradas, sports-tourers and even Scramblers. But it was the eight-valve V-twin superbikes that dragged Ducati into the modern world and did most to turn a low-volume, loss-making firm with a reputation for dodgy electrics into a brand famed for glamorous design, cutting-edge technology and racetrack glory.

Massimo Bordi’s prototype Desmo V-twin kicked off something very special.

Internal warfare

Ducati’s status was very different in 1985, when the firm was bought by Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni, whose Cagiva company produced small-capacity bikes at nearby Varese. In the Seventies, Ducati’s reputation had been built on rorty V-twins including the 900SS, and Mike Hailwood’s TT comeback win in 1978. But by ‘85 its air-cooled bikes were outdated, investment by previous owners the VM Group had been minimal, and in the previous year production had declined to a record low of just 1765 bikes. Among Ducati’s remaining assets was young engineer Massimo Bordi, the head of engine R&D. Bordi had joined the firm direct from Bologna University, where the subject of his degree thesis had been a desmodromic four-valve cylinder head. This combined the positive valve closure system, used successfully by Ducati’s legendary former chief engineer Fabio Taglioni, with the multi-valve layout of Cosworth’s allconquering F1 racecar engines.

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In this month's issue: Free DVD 14 videos of hotSboty 2017 action Scrappig with guy at Moto Time attack Ducati's Swansong superbike £35K 1299 Panigale R Emmett's back ''It was a challenge to see how drunk i could get'' £35K challenge Dream bikes at dream prices: Suzuki SV650, CW Bikes pit bike, BMW K1600 GT etc