DUCATI VALENTINO ROSSI 2011 MOTOGP SEASON
Valentino Rossi - 2011 3rd Place Round 4 France (Le Mans)
The worst kept secret in the paddock is finally official, thus completing
what MotoGP fans (especially Italians) have been waiting for: Valentino
Rossi signing with Ducati Corse. The nine-time World Champion and Italian
celebrity is finally paired up with Italy’s most iconic motorcycling
brand for the 2011 season, an action that has been the subject of intrigue
not only for the better part of this season, but for years inside MotoGP.
Ducati Corse Press Release:
Fiat-Yamaha Press Release:
Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, said “On behalf of the Yamaha Motor Group, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for the amazing seven years that we have spent together. Valentino joined Yamaha in 2004 at a moment when Yamaha was struggling in road racing after eleven seasons without a championship victory. Valentino’s victory at his first GP race for Yamaha in South Africa in 2004 was an incredible moment and was just the first of many more race wins that have thrilled MotoGP fans and Yamaha fans around the world. His unsurpassed skills as a racer and a development rider enabled him to win four MotoGP world titles to date with us and helped Yamaha develop the YZR-M1 into the ‘the bike of reference’ for the MotoGP class.
Statement by Valentino Rossi:
Valentino Rossi, (born February 16, 1979 in Urbino), is an Italian professional motorcycle racer and multiple MotoGP World Champion. He is one of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time, with nine Grand Prix World Championships to his name – a record seven of which are in the premier class. Following his father, Graziano Rossi, Rossi started racing in Grand Prix in 1996 for Aprilia in the 125cc category and won his first World Championship the following year. From there, he moved up to the 250cc category with Aprilia and won the 250cc World Championship in 1999. He won the 500cc World Championship with Honda in 2001, the MotoGP World Championships (also with Honda) in 2002 and 2003, and continued his streak of back-to-back championships by winning the 2004 and 2005 titles after leaving Honda to join Yamaha, before regaining the title in 2008 and retaining it in 2009. He will leave Yamaha to join Ducati for the 2011 season. Rossi is first in all time 500 cc/MotoGP race wins standings, with 79 victories, and second in all time overall wins standings with 105 race wins (behind Giacomo Agostini with 122).
By the end of the 19th century, most northern European countries had become industrial powers. Italy, however, with the exception of Milan and Turin, grew at a slower pace. This all began to change toward the end of the 19th Century, when the young Italian state launched a massive modernization campaign, financing the construction of new roads and railways in an effort to better connect its main urban centers. In 1926, the brothers Adriano and Marcello Ducati founded Societa Scientifica Tadiobrevetti Ducati, a company in Bologna specializing in the production of tubes, condensers and other radio components. By 1940, the company had specialized in the manufacture of electronic military equipment, making it a prime target for Allied bombing raids. The Ducati factory at Borgo Panigale was hit badly a number of times, but kept up production in spite of it all. About this time, Aldo Farinelli, a local lawyer, engineer and writer, began thinking about what Italy would be like after the war. He realized that what Italians would need, after life got back to normal, was a viable means of personal transportation. Most Italians either walked, took what little public transportation there was, or better yet, rode bicycles. With this in mind, Farinelli began working with the small Torinese firm SIATA (Societa Italiana per Applicazioni Tecniche Auto-Aviatorie) toward developing a small engine that could be mounted on a bicycle. Gathering sufficient raw materials for the project, however, was risky, since diverting war-related commodities for private use was strictly forbidden by Mussolini and the occupying German forces. Nevertheless, Farinelli managed to put together his first prototype and have it running on the streets of Turin by Autumn 1944. The engine's short stubby exhaust produced a high-pitched yapping noise. This, and Farinelli's understandable affection for his pet project, inspired the name "Cucciolo" - or little puppy - for his new little motor. Weighing in at a little over 17 lbs., the mighty mite added little to the weight of the bike and got an amazing 180 miles per Imperial gallon (100km per liter) There was no way to begin manufacturing the Cucciolo before the cease-fire, as Turin was heavily bombed in the Winter of 1944. But plans were made and, in the early Spring of 1945 when the Fascist Republic of the North fell, SIATA wasted no time. On July 26, barely one month after the official liberation of the country, they announced their intentions to offer the Cucciolo to the public. It was the first new automotive design to appear in postwar Europe. The first Cucciolos were available only as a motor to be attached to a normal bicycle. But some Italian businessmen bought the little engines in quantity and began building their own frames, thus offering for sale the first complete mini-motorcycles. By 1950, with 200,000 Cucciolos already sold, Ducati took the final step. They offered a complete motorcycle based on the successful little pullrod engine. The collaboration resulted in a well designed little 60 cc bike. This first Ducati motorcycle weighed 98 pounds and had a top speed of 40mph. It's 15 mm carburator got just under 200 mpg. In the 1950's, Ducati officially dropped the "Cucciolo" name, replacing it with "55M" or "65TL".
With Italy's post-war economic boom came a significant change in the light motorcycle market. Italians who once could hardly afford a Cucciolo clip-on engine were now flush with lira and looking for something more sophisticated...and expensive. The Cucciolo was so well-established that it managed to retain its market lead, for the time being, even in the midst of the raging price war. But it was becoming increasingly less profitable and Ducati's IRI management felt diversification was the only answer. Ducati came on strong at the early 1952 Milan Show, introducing the Ducati 65 TS cycle - which replaced the 60 Sport - and the Cruiser, the world's first four-stroke scooter. The Cruiser was intended as an answer to the scooter invasion which had steadily cut into the light motorcycle market. Although it was hailed as the most interesting new machine at the 1952 show, the Cruiser turned out to be a commercial disappointment. Only a couple of thousand were made in the two years before the model was withdrawn from production. In 1953, management decided to split the operation into two separate enterprises. Ducati Meccanica SpA, the present-day motorcycle manufacturer, was thus created. Ducati Elettronica SpA went on its own way under separate management. Dr. Guiseppe Montano took over as head of the new bike company and the Borgo Panigale factory was modernized, with the help of government funds. By 1954, Ducati Meccanica SpA was producing 120 bikes a day. In spite of being a government appointed director, Montano was a motorcycle enthusiast and under his direction, Ducati's competitive activities grew. From occasionally lending a hand to worthwhile customers, the company eventually developed a full-fledged racing team. Montano knew that Italians were avid racing fans and would buy in the shops what won on the tracks. In order to acquire the competitive image of houses like Guzzi, Gilera, MV Agusta and Mondial, Ducati needed to race successfully. Montano knew that victory in road racing was what sold bikes in Italy - especially success in the Milan-Taranto and Giro d'Italia marathons which dominated the Italian competition calendar.
Desmodromics, the principle of positive valve control, came into its own in the period when mercedes-benz straight-eight Desmo engines dominated formula I racing. Unfortunately, when the prestigious german auto company retired from racing, it also effectively retired the desmo technology. At least for the moment. Ducati Engineers. However, fished it out of oblivion and, for the first time, applied it successfully to motorcycles. Desmo technology was first used in racing designs and then in a daring commercial venture, in Ducati street machines. Ducati's single overhead-cam 98 cc Gran Sport became the prototype of all future Ducati singles. It had an air-cooled cylinder inclined forward 10 degrees from vertical, gear primary drive, wet-sump lubrication, battery ignition and camshaft drive by vertical shaft and bevals. This revolutionary bike came to dominate its class in Italian national racing. The next generation, a dohc 125 cc version of the Gran Sport, debuted during the 1956 racing season. The high rpm's needed to produce competitive power led to problems with valve float, which Ducati engineers believed could only be overcome with a desmodromic cylinder head. While the 125 Grand Prix generated 16 hp at 11,500 rpm and could not be revved higher without breaking a valve spring or floating the valves, the Desmo yielded 19 hp at 12,500 rpm and could rev to 15,000. Inevitably, bit-end life was very short at these sorts of speeds and new crankshaft bearings had to be put in for every race. The 125 Desmo Ducati won its first race at the 1956 Swedish G.P. at Hedemora, lapping all the other cycles. Unfortunately, its rider, Gianni degli Antoni, died during the practice for the next race, the Italian G.P. of Monza. Degli Antoni's death dealt a severe blow to the Ducati racing program and it was not until 1958 that their team was able to mount a serious challenge to MV Agusta, another Italian motorcycle company, and their star rider, former 125 cc world champion Carlo Ubbiali.
But that year the Ducati Desmo dominated the racing season and its talented team was soon headed straight for the World Championship. Only a mid-season injury to top Ducati rider Bruno Spaggiani knocked them out, letting Ubbiali squeak through to the title once again. Notwithstanding Ubbiali's victory, when the dust cleared the Desmodromic engine had proved its quality and reliability, both in maximizing engine power and as a safeguard when possibly missing gears. Both were characteristics that would prove attractive to motorcycle buyers. In 1967, after eight years of development, Ducati introduced its first production Desmodromic engine, a machine that grew as much from the asphalt track as it did from the drawing board.
The Berliner Brothers, who took on the US Ducati franchise in the late 1950's, brought an american-style flair to the company. The Berliner corporation, because of the brothers' forceful personalities, began playing an increasingly important role in the direction the bologna company would take.Though this ultimately ended up having disastrous consequences for all concerned, in the short run it secured for Ducati a much larger slice of the U.S. market than they would otherwise have had. Ducati stood out from the horde of other small European motorcycle companies trying, in vain, to knock Japan off the mountain. The 125 Sport became the 125 Monza. There was also the Monza Super, a sort of stage-two version with high-compression piston and modified camshaft - which offered great lift and dwell - a slightly larger SS1 Dell'Orto racing carburetor and a straight-through exhaust. The Monza Super was created especially for the British market and was not sold in Italy. Kings of Oxford was publishing Ducati for a 250 cc machine to complete their line and offer effective competition against British and Japanese makers. Ducati engineers designed their first 250 cc for the track knowing that racing once again would provide all the experience they needed to eventually make a great 250 cc street machine. The prototype 250 Ducati won most of its races in America, many of which were run in conjunction with 500 cc events. It then went back to Italy to be transformed into a production roadster. The first street-legal Ducati 250 made its debut at the Milan Fair in April 1961. The 250 was so popular among sport riders that in 1963 Ducati introduced a sizzling updated version to the U.S. known as the Diana Mark 3 Super Sport which turned out to be the fastest 250 street bike in the world. In a carefully monitored Cycle World track test, the Mark 3 did a standing 1/4 mile in 16.5 seconds with a final speed of 79.5 mph. Its top speed was 104 mph. Even a TD-1 Yamaha racer, tested by Cycle World that same year, was unable to match the Ducati's top speed and no other comparably sized street-legal bike could compare with its performance.
Ducati was enjoying success in North America and other export markets such as Britain, Australia and Germany. At the same time her domestic fortunes were also running high and were not limited to motorcycles. By 1965, Ducati Meccanica SpA was the Italian distributor for standard-triumph cars and leyland vans and trucks. One line which hurt Ducati was the 50 cc two stroke. Producing anywhere from 0.92 hp at 4,600 rpm to 4.2 at 8,600 rpm, these Ducati two-strokes were indeed raced with considerable success in Italy. But try as he did, Berliner found the two-stroke next to impossible to sell in America. The market just did not exsist. The mid-1960's for Ducati were characterized by misguided direction and wasted energy. Instead of concentrating on its well-developed line of sporting four-strokes - a machine it built as well as anyone and better than most - the company offered in its catalogue 50 cc and 100 cc versions of the same two-stroke bikes.
This lack of direction was bound to spell disaster. Some Ducati insiders refused to have anything to do with the two-strokes, instead forging ahead with plans for the future. In 1965, the first new concept bike arrived. The 350 Sebring was the largest Ducati ever made. Ducati, as usual, built a racing 350 first. The 350 class was not well supported in the United States, so when Ducati team rider Franco Farne went to America for the Sebring race, he had to race in an event catering to 251-700 cc machines. Notwithstanding the muscular competition, he finished 11th overall and, more importantly, won his class handsomely. Thus, supported by Farne's victory and by the local importer, the new big machine was dubbed the 350 Sebring. By the mid-1960's, production techniques had advanced so that a road Desmo was possible. A look into the future came with Farne's appearance at the April 1966 Modena meeting, riding in the 250 race on a prototype machine fitted with an experimental Desmodromic head. A year later, Roberto Gallina and Gilberto Parlotti raced at Modena aboard 250 and 350 versions of the new Desmo bike.
Nine months later, the dream was realized. In January, 1968, Ducati announced plans to build and market the Mark 3D. . . D for Desmodromic. It was not until a year later, at the beginning of 1969, that the long-awaited Desmo production machine began appearing on the roads of Europe and on the roads of the U.S.A. The Desmodromic design, as applied in the new engine, had all four closing and opening lobes mounted on the same shaft, in a system similar to that found in the old Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 cars. There was the feeling, among many Americans that it just was not a real 500. Thus, it never sold well in the U.S., despite the fact that it out-performed many more powerful bikes, up to 650 cc's. Unlike Vic Camp in Britain, who recognized that Ducati was an aficionado's cycle and therefore concentrated on a relatively narrow performance-oriented line, Berliner seemed to guess wrong on every front in the U.S. market. By 1967, the combination of increasingly fierce Japanese competition and the proliferation of unsaleable models had brought Berliner to the brink of financial ruin - and Ducati with it. The 160 Monza Junior was a predictable flop in the U.S. market. When yet another consignment of unwanted bikes was about to leave Italy, Berliner refused the shipment. The official reason was market saturation. In truth, Berliner simply did not have the money to pay for them. By now Ducati, directly and indirectly due to Berliner, was staggering in the United States and suffering in the previously strong UK market. With the company's balance sheet in tatters and its future uncertain, Montano, who had done so much to build Ducati from scratch, retired. His only mistake, it seems, had been to put too much faith in the potential of one market and to rely too heavily on one distributor for advice on the development of new models. The only recourse was a takeover by EFIM, a government holding company. This meant direct government control over the day-to-day operation of the factory via a government-appointed administrator whose independent powers were a fraction of what Montano's had been.
The 1970's shaped the motorcycle market of today. It was the age of the mass-produced "Universal Japanese motorcycle". Which made its appearance in 1969 with the honda CB 750 Four. This was followed by an almost endless number of derivative competitor products. Meanwhile, the sun was setting on British dominion over the big-displacement sportbike market. British manufacturers began losing their competitive edge due to a lack of overall quality in their products. In this decade, Ducati singles reached their maximum level of performance, sophistication and displacement. They were great looking engines, some of the most beautiful pieces of machinery ever built. But unfortunately, as with the British big boys, it was the Ducati singles' last stand. Ducati's last real off-road, four stroke, competition motorcycles were the 1971 450 R/T and 450 R/S. Ducati re-entered racing in 1971, with the introduction of a high-performance 500 V-twin. It was an unusual-looking powerhouse which set the style for future production. As in the well-known Ducati singles, each cylinder had a single overhead bevel-driven cam and two valves. They looked so much like the cylinders from Ducati singles, that some enthusiasts even suspected that they were cylinders taken from singles and mounted on the new engine. One difference was that the horizontal cylinder was finned differently to improve cooling even further. Americans were not the only ones who liked big bikes. Big displacement racing and production machines were becoming more and more popular in Europe as well. Italian race promoter Francesco Costa of Imola mortgaged his possessions and began organizing an event similar to Daytona, to take place at Imola, Italy in April 1972. Costa wanted this to be the prototype for all future motorcycle races and so planned every detail with the greatest care. He arranged for a full safety and even introduced - for the first time in a European event - the colorful rider leathers so familiar to the American racing world.
It was Ductati's first big chance to prove its new bike's potential on a home circuit track. As the first new 750's were coming off Borgo Panigale's production lines, the racing department began working on an entire batch of racing 750's. The first challenge for Ducati was to secure internationally competitive riders since, at the time, they had no established racing team in this class. They put in a call to Paul Smart, who at the time was racing in the States for Kawasaki. Smart was not at home when the call came but his wife felt the money was so good that she accepted for him, thus assuring her husband a place in cycle-racing history. Ducati's other draftee for Imola was Bruno Spaggiani, who brought with him a long history of both racing and testing for Ducati. Spaggiani knew the Imola circuit like the back of his leather racing glove. Smart and Spaggiani took first and second place in that 1972 Imola meeting, winning not only against Agostini on his MV Agusta and Walter Villa on his Triumph, but against the best of BSA, Laverda, Moto Guzzi, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki. This triumph gave birth to the Ducati big bike racing legend.
The revitalizing effect of the imola victories trasformed Ducati. The 1973 Desmo received a silver metal-flake tank and seat bodywork to identify it with the Imola-winning 750's. Later that year, Vic Camp was replaced as British distributor by Ducati Concessionaires with a new company owned by Coburn & Hughes, one of the largest retail dealers in the country. Since Coburn & Hughes saw no future for the Desmo singles, preferring to import the Mark 3 valve-springers and 750 twins, Camp was given the additional option of importing Desmo singles himself direct from Italy, as he had done in the past. In 1974, the last run of Desmo singles was fitted with a single disc front brake and 38mm Marzocchi forks, which seemed quite out of place on the 250. By now the deadening effect of govermental control had settled over the Borgo Panigale plant. It's first luckless victim was the single-cylinder. Though single-cylinder inventory was sufficient to make the bikes available well into 1975, the line had already been written off by bureaucrats for whom motorcycle-making was a mere numbers game. When the new factory was opened in 1975, the single was already marked for extinction. Typical of bureaucracy, the decision to discontinue the singles came just when the public would have been ready for an economical, sporty four-stroke single with modern switchgear and instruments. Unfortunately, the Ducati directors were too blind to see this. Even though the world oil crisis of 1973-74 should still have been fresh in everyone's mind, they nevertheless allowed teselves to be advised by certain distributors who could only think in terms of bigger and better V-twins. The loss of the singles was made even more unbearable by the fact that they were replaced with the disastrous 350/450 parallel twins. The loss of the singles was made even more unbearable by the fact that they were replaced with the disastrous 350/450 parallel twins. British and German riders were perhaps more committed to the single-cylinder four-stroke than others. After Ducati stopped making their favorite style bike, they satisfied their craving for it with a 239 cc version of the Mark 3, produced in the early 1970's by reducing the engine dimensions to 72.5 x 57.8mm. Meanwhile, production of the 125 sohc engine was reinstated. This time it was fitted in a special Scrambler frame featuring a single front down-tube branching into a double cradle under the engine. This 125 Scrambler - quite different from the bigger street scramblers - was an excellent, ahead-of-its-time enduro mount which would have sold well in the 1980's. Unfortunately it was replaced after only a short time by the ill-fated two-stroke 125 Regolarita. In 1971, Vic Camp's problem with the Bologna factory over prices led to the episode of the 24 Horas - or 24 Horrors - as it became known all over Britain. In order to circumvent what he saw as unreasonable pricing from Borgo Panigale, Camp, in desperation, canceled his order of singles from Ducati and arranged with Spansih Ducati affiliate, Mototrans to ship around two hundred 24 Horas from its factory in Barcelona.
Though Mototrans parts were usually interchangeable with those of Ducati, with the Spanish 250 single, this was definitely not the case. Not only that, but the Spanish bike's workmanship and quality left much to be desired. Though Camp did his best to placate angry customers, his name as well as that of Ducati - since the bikes were sold under that name - was mud among the British motorcycling public for a long time to come. One dissatisfied buyer coined the name "24 Horrors" in an ad he took out in Motor Cycle News. In that ad, he invited one and all to meet in front of Vic Camp's Walthamstow shop the following Saturday morning to witness the stripping down of a motorcycle that had struck terminal trouble before going 1,000 miles. A large crowd showed up. When, in 1973, the question of Vic Camp's continued standing as a Ducati representative came up, the "24 Horrors" episode had the predictable effect.
In the end, though they were by no means perfect bikes, the passing of small-to-medium capacity Ducati singles meant a loss to the spirit of fun motorcycling. Fortunately, a bigger, more powerful brother was waiting just around the corner - for those who could afford it. In a June 1983 deal that saved Ducati Meccanica from extinction, the venerated Bologna company agreed to supply Cagiva, another Italian motorcycle company, with engines. The engines would still bear the Ducati name, but the complete bikes would be marketed as Cagivas. This historic agreement gave birth to the Cagiva Elefant and Alazzurra, in 350 and 650 cc versions. The Alazzurra was a fine-looking sport-touring machine, but looked so much like the original Ducati that many riders considered it simply a budget Ducati. The Elefant, on the other hand, was a more original project, meant to compete with the big displacement Japanese dual purpose machines. The owners of Cagiva wanted to enter a bike in the trend-setting Paris to Dakar Rally. The Elefant was their answer.
It had made a hit at the Milan Show, with its impressive big tank and massive frame and over all it was very much in demand among enthusiasts. The owners of Cagiva wanted to enter a bike in the trend-setting Paris to Dakar Rally. The Elefant was their answer. It had made a hit at the Milan Show, with its impressive big tank and massive frame and over all it was very much in demand among enthusiasts. Its winning personality and winning record has made the Elefant one of the longest lasting Cagiva models. With its Ducati engine, it has been in continuous production for ten years. In May 1985, Cagiva acquired complete control of Ducati following a government dismissal policy of state-owned companies. With the Cagiva take-over, the pace of engine development at Ducati went into light speed, keeping up with, and often setting the pace for, the rapidly changing motorcycle industry. Ducati's ultimate solution to the demand for higher performance was a broadened line of Pantah engines. After the Cagiva take-over, a 750 cc Pantah was developed to power the 750 F1 and the Paso. Starting at 350 and reaching 750, the Pantah engine would represent the basic Ducati line until the introduction of the 851 in 1988.
In 1985, a Ducati styling and chassis research center was created in Rimini. It owed its existence to the big company economic power of Cagiva. Of all the dynamite Ducati's to come out of the center, none caught the public's imagination quite like the Paso. Launched in the Fall of 1986, the sports-touring machine managed to combine the traditional Ducati virtues with innovative departures in styling and ergonomics. The Paso was clearly meant to appeal to a more sophisticated rider. It featured an orderly electrical layout plus original and purposeful positioning of ancillary items such as the twin oil cooler in the fairing flanks. The Paso's frame design was such a radical departure from Ducati tradition that it was hardly recognizable as a company pedigree.
Though shown at the Milan show as a 350 and 650 in pearlescent white livery, it was finally introduced on the market in the red 750 everyone came to know. The braking system on another Ducati bike, the Indiana, featured two unconventional disc brakes; a smaller, 260 mm ventilated rotor in front and a bigger, 280 mm solid one in back. Though the Indiana was undoubtedly one of the best performing and handling cruisers on the market, its originality was overshadowed by a flood of handling cruisers on the market, its originality was overshadowed by a flood of Japanese Harley-Davidson look-alike cruisers. In 1987, Cagiva offered a detuned, more Harleyish 750 cc version of the Ducati Indiana with a two-tone paint job. Ducati devotees around the world were expecting more from the company than simply good motorcycles. Almost as a reaffirmantion of Ducati's unshakable place in performance motorcycling, the 750 F1 was introduced in 1985. To keep up with the performance race going on in the industry, in 1986 Ducati introduced a special, tuned-up edition of the 750 F1 dubbed the "Montjuich." This modified machine celebrated the Ducati racing tradition and was soon joined by the similar "Laguna Seca" and "Santamonica" 750 F1 special editions. In the mid-1980's, Ducati was developing the machine that would revive its racing tradition: the 851. Certain engineering minds had been wanting to try a four-valve configuration on the Desmodromic Ducati heads. This led to the developmnt of a totally new liquied cooled, fuel-injected engine. Though the first configuration was 750 cc, it eventually was brought up to 851 cc. Totally new and effective-looking were the heads, cylinders and crankcase. A completely new fuel injection system was also developed in conjunction with Weber-Marelli, the Ferrari team racing supplier. Wanting racetrack testing for its new machine, Ducati entered it in any suitable competition, from Endurance racing to Twins competitions, usually with 1980 500 cc Grand Prix Champion Marco Lucchinelli on board. With the introduction of the World Superbike Championship, following an experimental edition of the race held in Italy in 1987, Ducati found the perfect format to prove the potential of the 851.
In the tradition of the American AMA Superbike Championship, the World Superbike Championship was intended to bring 750 cc production sportbikes to the racetrack. Ducati entered the championship with Lucchinelli as their only rider. Despite electrical problems, Lucchinelli blew past the checkered flag in fourth position. Following this championship, Ducati introduced its first production 851, still a basically hand crafted machine. The dynamic-looking body was painted red, white and green, like the 750 F1 before it, and featured rearview mirrors combined with its front turnlights, borrowed from the Paso. After 1987, 750 F1 production was finally discontinued and this beauty was replaced in 1988 by the 851, the new Ducati role model for top performing machines. The 1989 Ducati Paso 906 marked a further evolution of this popular machine. Its new 904 cc engine, though still featuring two valves and oil-cooled heads, now had liquid-cooled cylinders and was capable of 88 hp. Ducati engineers added a 6-speed gearshift, hence the "906" designation. In 1990, Ducati introduced the 900 SS, a 904 cc version of the 750 Sport. Its immediate success in foreign markets, such as Japan and Germany, showed the great potential of the classic-sport concept.
Ducati exploded into world superbike racing in 1968 with Marco Lucchinelli taking two fifth places at Donington on a Ducati 851. It was the first meet ever run featuring four stroke street superbikes. These first successes turned out to be a portent of the future, as Ducati two-cylinder superbikes achieved victory after victory, quickly becoming the premier entrants of world superbike racing, in spite of fierce competition from rival manufacturers. Since 1988, Ducati has won an astounding 78 of the 143 events. The scoring includes fifth places for pilot and manufacturer in 1988, third places for pilot and manufacturer in 1989, superbike world championship for pilot Raymond Roche in 1990, plus second place for manufacturer that same year. American Doug Polen has won an additional two world superbike titles for Ducati in 1991 and 1992. Ducati's first winning superbike, the 851, soon evolved into the 888 and then into the greased lightning 916, all legendary machines dear to the hearts of millions of biking enthusiasts. In winning the superbike world championship in 1990, Raymond Roche single-handedly secured Ducati's domination of the superbike world. In 1983, Roche won the most prestigious of endurance races, the Bol d'Or. The following year he took third place in the World Championship for 500 cc motorcycles. In 1985, he took second place in the French Grand Prix, and 1987, he joined Team Ducati. In 1990, Roche won the world superbike championship on a Ducati 851. The following year, American Doug Polen replaced Roche at the helm of the Ducati Team. Polen took the lead having come from winning several amateur AMA titles, and Japanese Formula I and Formula III titles. Polen won back to back world championship titles in 1991 and 1992, further demonstrating the strength and domination of the Ducati Team.
Since its beginning, the design center in Rimini, together with the original Borgo Panigale factory, have gone from strength to strength, with new models that carry on the unique Ducati tradition of innovative styling and technology. One of the Rimini center's first triumphs, the 851 was eventually replaced by the 888, whose racing version, the 888 SPO, became a three-time Superbike World Champion. The 888 marked the renaissance of the company in the second half of the 1980's. It also proved once and for all that Ducati's long-standing motto, "Try It On The Racetrack First" is still the best policy. Devoted Ducati riders have always insisted that they could recognize a Ducati just by the look of it, without seeing any name on the tank or engine. Now more than ever, Ducati motorcycles represent a totally independent vision. Parting from the assumption that it is not enough merely to answer the competition with corresponding models, Ducati interprets each market independently and seeks nothing less than perfection in each new motorcycle it makes.