After 1958 Ducati had interrupted its participation in international motorcycling competitions. This is why the launch of the 500 GP in 1971 drove the fans crazy with expectations: finally their favourite brand was back in its natural element.
Taglioni used the “prototype” sand-cast casing which he had designed for early 750 experiments. On it, he added two thermal components from the one-cylinder 250 (with spring, non-Desmo cylinder head) In order to optimize the engine performance, a sixth gear was added to the gearbox.
The gearbox and the electrical system were the most problematic elements of this model, which with a power of 72 hp at 12,000 rpm was quite competitive vis-à-vis the other 500s in the championship. Probably the most outstanding characteristic of this bike is that it took only six months to develop it.
The bike had its debut at Modena. The two riders (Spaggiari and Giuliano) and their Ducatis immediately proved their worth; unfortunately, minor issued forced them to withdraw before the end of the race. In the following race, at Imola, Spaggiari withdrew once again, while Giuliano ended after Agostini and his unparalleled three-cylinder MV.
Though it had not yet deployed its full potential this bike had proved to be competitive since the very start and Ducati started looking for a rider able to make the most of it. The first choice was Hailwood, though the Brit was not available. Finally, the choice was Phil Read, who managed to finish second after Ospitaletti. Read also competed at the Imola world championship, though his issues with the gearbox kept him long in second position. He eventually finished fourth.