90 years of Ducati passion
2016 will not be like other years: it will actually coincide with the ninetieth anniversary of Ducati, founded on 5 July 1926 almost as a dream, thanks to the will of the three brothers Adriano, Bruno and Marcello Cavalieri Ducati, supported by their father Antonio.
It is fitting to define Ducati's history as a dream, because the adventure began in a dark laboratory in the centre of Bologna, in Via Collegio di Spagna 7, when the work force consisted of just two workers and a secretary. Probably not even the Ducati brothers could have imagined what that small laboratory would one day become.
The first product, an electric condenser called "Manens", was no bigger than a one Euro coin, and yet it was a new technology, so sophisticated that, in the space of only a couple of years, production was transferred to the villa owned by the Ducati family.
From then on, a whirlwind of discoveries and recognition that would lead Ducati to grow further, until coming to the fateful day of 1 June 1935, the day on which the first brick of the Borgo Panigale factory was laid. Attention to detail, extreme attention to quality, precision and the great reliability of products such as calculators, radios, cameras and film cameras ensured that Ducati was one of Italy's most technologically advanced companies in the 1930s. Those two employees at the small laboratory became almost 1200 in 1936, and the company grew in overwhelming fashion.
Unfortunately, shortly after, Italy would fall into the throes of the Second World War: the conflict, armistice and the war of Resistance would devastate Ducati along with many other companies, before the factory was destroyed in October 1944.
Yet Ducati built itself back up as quickly as it had been destroyed and, in 1946, the first chapter in its two-wheel history was written. Everything started with the Cucciolo, a small 4-stroke auxiliary scooter that would become very popular across Italy and that would represent the birth of a new story.
A few years later, with the advent of the Cucciolo and the end of the Ducati brothers' period of management (1948), Ducati would need to strengthen its motorcycling soul: in 1954 the company was thus divided into two branches, "Ducati Elettrotecnica" and "Ducati Meccanica", and Fabio Taglioni, the true "father" of modern-day Ducati, was employed.
Over thirty years of collaboration with the company, the brilliant engineer, hailing from Lugo di Romagna, was responsible for almost one thousand projects, created the first real racing bikes (1954) and invented what would become the brand's most distinctive features: the desmodromic system (1956), the L-shaped twin-cylinder engine (1971), and the trellis frame (1979).
The impressive series of projects, all avant-garde, were crowned by an equally impressive run of victories across the widest variety of competitions, such as the Motogiro d'Italia (1954 - 1957), the grand prix races of the 125 and 250 classes (1956 - 1961), the 200 Miglia di Imola (1972) won by Paul Smart and the Tourist Trophy victory for Mike Hailwood (1978), right up to the end of Taglioni's career which coincided with Marco Lucchinelli's triumph at the Daytona Battle of the Twins (1986).
The arrival of Cagiva in 1985 brought a wave of innovation to Ducati, in terms of both the product and key personnel. With Taglioni having retired, Massimo Bordi and Gian Luigi Mengoli were put in charge of design and together developed an innovation that would write another important chapter in the history of the Bolognese twins: the 4 valve, water-cooled engine. The new engine was tasked with bringing Ducati to a tougher, but decidedly more prestigious, level of competition, the Superbike world championship. A choice that paid off when, in 1988, Marco Lucchinelli scored the first historic win with the 851, the bike that would go on to win the first rider's title in 1990 with Raymond Roche.
But there was no time to rest: alongside Bordi and Mengoli were a new generation of designers, represented by Claudio Domenicali and Filippo Preziosi, at the very moment in which Ducati was entering the golden age of design with "neoclassics" such as the Monster and the 916, Massimo Tamburini's masterpiece. In Superbike, Ducati consolidated its place as leader with Carl Fogarty, the winner of four world titles, and then with Troy Bayliss, a true hero for the ducatisti and three-times world champion with Ducati bikes.
After Cagiva, TPG and Investindustrial took over the Bolognese brand, bringing it to the top of the world in terms of popularity, product quality and brand uniqueness, while in 2003 Ducati's MotoGP story began, making first Loris Capirossi and then Casey Stoner heroes who, over the course of four years, would bring Ducati to the highest step of the rostrum: the world title win with Stoner.
This was followed by years of great innovation, the arrival of Audi, the birth of new models including the 1199 Panigale and the continuous growth of the Ducati brand across the globe. If we look back, and think of that small condenser built by two workers in 1926, we are amazed and can truly see how compelling and fascinating the story of this company is, a company born almost by chance but always steered by passion and love.