Today I’m going to talk about some of the things the executive committee at Ducati motorcycles would prefer you didn’t know. There are more to be honest, but these are the 10 stand out facts about the company that they maybe aren’t so proud of. To be clear, I think the Bevel Drive Ducati’s are some of the most brilliantly engineered motorcycle engines ever built. I am not a hater, but even the best companies have some dark corners and the bigger they get, the darker those corners seem to be.
Maybe I just live in a dreamworld where I think passionate specialists should be more important than corporate giants. Maybe you disagree entirely. I am sure there are plenty of Ducatisti out there who will have something to say 🙂
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below when you hear what I have to say. Watch this and all my other videos on my YouTube Channel and if you find any of my videos interesting please share them with your friends and don’t forget to subscribe to the channel. It means the videos will appear in your subscriptions page on YouTube as soon as they are uploaded and it helps to get the information out there to other interested people too.
1-Filled With Italian Passion?
Now this one is hardly a secret, but it might be worse than you think. Ducati plays on it’s heritage, an image of Italian Passion, and the mystique of a historic brand rooted in Italian craftsmanship. However, they lost any real connection to the historic motorcycle industry in 1985 when the Castiglioni brothers from Cagiva sold the company to a US based investment fund called Texas Pacific Group. Then in 2005 it was finally purchased by the huge multinational car manufacturer VW Audi Group. Being a tiny part of a huge multinational industrial corporation is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is NOT small batch Italian Craftsmanship. The company is German owned, and as well as the factory in Italy, it has now opened a factory in Thailand and also works with a third-party manufacturer in Brazil. It isn’t the only manufacturer doing this but it is one of them. I say fine, manufacture them wherever you want to, BUT DON’T PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING YOU AREN’T.
2-The Inventor of Desmodromic Valves?
Ducati, contrary to popular belief did not invent the Desmodromic Valve actuation system. Desmodromic valve systems are first mentioned in patents by Gustav Mees in 1896.
Austin’s marine engine of 1910 was an all-aluminium, twin-overhead-valve engine that had twin magnetos, twin carburettors, Desmodromic valves and produced 300 bhp.
The 1914 Delage and Nagant Grand Prix cars also used a Desmodromic valve system although they were quite different to the present day Ducati system.
Azzariti, a short-lived Italian manufacturer, produced 173cc and 348cc twin-cylinder engines from 1933 to 1934. Some of these had Desmodromic valve gear that used one cam to open and a second separate camshaft to close the valves.
Then in 1954–1955 Mercedes-Benz built the W196 Formula One racing car and the Mercedes-Benz 300SLR sports car, both of which had Desmodromic valve actuation.
It was only in 1956 that Fabio Taglioni, a Ducati engineer, developed a Desmodromic valve system for the Ducati 125 Grand Prix motorcycle, creating the Ducati 125 Desmo.
3-Expensive to Buy, Expensive too Own
Ducati’s are expensive to buy, but that is nothing compared to the cost of actually keeping them running. Yes, they are technologically advanced motorcycles from a famed manufacturer, but some of the prices just don’t make sense. Two thousand dollars for a regular service for one poor guy on Reddit is just one example, and there are plenty more. Sometimes it does seem like the dealerships make up their own rules with pricing.
4-Tarred with a Reputation
Once you become the owner of any particular car or motorcycle brand, you become seen as part of that community and sometimes that community doesn’t have the best reputation. We’ve all heard tales of BMW riders and Audi drivers with self importance issues. Sadly, the stereotype of a Ducati owner is not that different. “More money than sense” is one of the more common statements you will hear. Believe me, Ducati won’t mention that in any sales brochure.
5- Legal Controversy
In 2010, the Gibbs Law Group filed a class-action lawsuit against Ducati for fitting and refusing to acknowledge defective fuel tanks on multiple models. This fault could cause atomised fuel to escape from both the filler cap and fuel delivery hoses. The fuel tanks would degrade, deform and expand due to the unsuitability for modern fuel of the material used.
The lawsuit was approved in court, and Ducati had to issue an extended warranty for a big chunk of its line-up. Now this wasn’t about cheaper Scramblers built in Thailand, this was the range topping Panigale and Multistrada models. Since then, Ducati have made every effort possible to sweep this whole incident under the carpet and keep it out of the media in a way that is only possible when done by a true corporate giant with very deep pockets and friends in high places.
6- Basic Engineering Mistakes
Lets not pretend that Ducati’s engineering mistakes end with the fuel tanks either. One of the latest issues is with various Ducati Scramblers. They suffered from the rear cylinder getting so hot that riders actually suffered thigh burns. Not great for a company that takes pride in its engineering.
One piece of advice from a dealer read, “If you are approaching heavy traffic, shut the motor off and just walk the bike forward as traffic moves. Stay vigilant, and once the cars up ahead are in motion at 10 mph, fire up your Scrambler again and get ready to ride.” I cant really imagine running along at 8mph in leathers and helmet, trying not to get run over by frustrated drivers on a busy city road to be honest, and soon the shortened version of the advice became, “just turn the bike off and leave it to cool for 15 minutes”.
7- More Recalls
Another recall of Scramblers came in 2016, when it was discovered that a 15mm bolt had been used instead of a 17mm bolt in the Scrambler side stands. This could cause the side stand sensor to read the Position of the side stand wrong.
Sometimes it wouldn’t allow the bike to start and other times it would allow you to start and pull away even though the side stand was still down. However, the biggest problem was that the stalling would sometimes happen at riding speed. The engine could just die randomly mid corner with no warning. Hardly a great safety feature.
8- Getting the Rules Changed to Suit Your Needs
In 2014 after poor performances in Moto GP, Instead of sticking to Factory team regulations Ducati decided they would compete using the “Open” regulations. This would allow them more development time as well as tyre and fuel advantages over the other teams in exchange for running a standard ECU. This was a system that had been introduced to help small non factory teams be more competitive.
Although this was eventually agreed by the other teams, the agreement was made under duress, and accompanied by the threat of Ducati walking away from Moto GP completely. The Standard ECU was replaced with a straight copy of the racing ECU so in reality they suffered no penalties. There was a similar situation in 2018. During the off season Ducati had plans for more unapproved testing until Moto GP organisers stepped in to deny any permission to extend pre season testing.
9- More Rule Bending
Before the latest rule changes, and the improvement in Ducati’s performance in MotoGP and WSB, the company’s reputation in Moto GP was tarnished by even more controversy. Ducati added a winglet attached to the side of the bike that was designed by a Formula 1 aerodynamic specialist.
According to Ducati, it was used solely to cool the rear tire. The regulators, however saw it differently. They accused Ducati of using the winglet to generate additional downforce, which was forbidden in MotoGP at the time.
Arguments continued and an appeal was won, but then challenged again by all the other competing teams and gradually it just got airbrushed out of the headlines, AGAIN.
10- Hidden in Plain Sight
Their latest attempt at improving performance is all done in plain sight. They have simply loaded the grid with Ducati Satellite teams who all have independent testing and development time allocations.
They then feed all the other teams development data into the bank of information used by the full factory team. This effectively gives them many more hours of practice and development time than any other team.
It worked, in Moto GP and WSBK. Despite protests from other teams this has not been punished. Maybe this is not breaking the rules completely, but it bends them severely, and in my opinion has detracted from the racing.
I will let you draw your own conclusions.
Well that’s it for this video and thanks for watching, these are my 10 facts you might not have known about the fabled name of Ducati motorcycles. How it has been co-opted by a car manufacturer known to be unscrupulous at best, and whose only real goal is to squeeze every last dollar or pound it can from your pocket.
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Enjoy the ride everyone.
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