The 750 Imola Desmo is among the most popular bikes in the world. It is known mostly for the victory that gave it its name, with Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari at “200 Miglia di Imola” in 1972, remembered as one of the most spectacular races in history.
Pages and pages were written about the incredible final lap, where Smart and Spaggiari went side by side almost across the finish line; little was said, though, about how this race changed the course of Ducati’s history. The victory at Imola marked the future approach of Ducati to racing, which focused almost exclusively on vehicles derived from road production series. A step back is in order before mentioning Smart, Imola and the legendary “number 16”.
In 1972 Checco Costa brought to Italy the 200-mile format and Ducati had prepared eight bikes for Paul Smart, Bruno Spaggiari, Ermanno
Giuliano and Alan Duscombe. The bikes mounted standard engines and frames, though they were prepared, as always, in a very short time. Most of the work, anyway, would still be almost invisible today, since it mostly concerned little details: whenever possible, every part of the bike was accurately reduced and made lighter. In addition, new Dell’Orto 40 mm carburettors with recovery pump were fitted at the last minute, providing the perfect supply to the large 80 hp at 8,500 rpm twin-cylinder engines.
At the last lap Bruno Spaggiari was in the lead but he ran out of fuel, paving the way to Paul Smart, who happened to have his birthday right on that 23 April. The race ended with Smart and Spaggiari in 1st and 2nd place, the true winners of that eventful day.