Racing Improves the Breed: 1973 Ducati 750 Imola Racer

Alan Cathcart rides the 1973 Ducati 750 Imola, the follow-up to Paul Smart’s 1972 Imola-winning racer.

| September/October 2014

  • 1973 Ducati 750 Imola Racer
    1973 Ducati 750 Imola Racer
    Photo by Kyoichi Nakamura

  • 1973 Ducati 750 Imola Racer

1973 Ducati F750 Imola
Claimed power:
89hp @ 10,000rpm
Top speed:
749cc air-cooled OHC desmodromic 90-degree V-twin, 86mm x 64.5mm bore and stroke, 11.2:1 compression ratio
Weight (w/oil, no fuel):
325lb (148kg)

Ducati has won 14 World Superbike titles in the past 25 years, but there was a time when the Bologna factory had precisely zero big-bike credentials.

Up to the 1970s, Ducati was known for producing small-capacity 4-stroke singles, some with the quirky addition of desmodromic valve gear. But Paul Smart’s 1972 victory at Italy’s Imola 200, with Ducati teammate Bruno Spaggiari a close second, changed all that. Smart not only put Ducati on the map, he also kickstarted the development process leading to today’s Panigale 1199 World Superbike contender.

Although Ducati’s air-cooled 750 Imola racers had a 2-valve desmodue cylinder head design with bevel-driven single overhead camshaft, they were in every way the forerunners of today’s liquid-cooled 8-valve double overhead cam Superbikes. Imola 1972 was the race-winning debut of what would become Ducati’s trademark engine format — the 90-degree desmo V-twin. Rather than building a faster-steering, lightweight race chassis like most competitors in Formula One, Ducati equipped the Smart/Spaggiari racers with a street chassis, using the same heavy Seeley-derived steel frame fitted to its new V-twin road bikes. Smart’s 1972 Imola victory was achieved on a bike not so different from the street-legal Ducati 750SS Imola Replica released in 1974. That was a true production racer, and Smart’s Imola win proved racing really does improve the breed. MC

Order the September/October 2014 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1973 Ducati 750 Imola racer. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.

November December Vintage Motorcycle Events

Blue Moon Cycle Euro Bike Swap Meet and Vintage Ride

Make plans for the 28th Annual Blue Moon Cycle Euro Bike Swap Meet on Saturday, Oct. 27, followed by the Blue Moon Cycle Vintage Ride on Sunday, Oct. 28!