To the Victor Go the Spoils: The Ducati Imola 750

The Ducati Imola 750 and its victory at the 1972 Imola 200 paved the way for its company's success.

| November/December 2015

  • Ducati Imola 750
    Photo by Kevin Wing
  • The Imola Ducati’s 748cc desmodromic V-twin made a claimed 86 horsepower, almost 30 horsepower more than a 750GT.
    Photo by Kevin Wing
  • The Imola Ducati’s 748cc desmodromic V-twin made a claimed 86 horsepower, almost 30 horsepower more than a 750GT.
    Photo by Kevin Wing
  • Ducati Imola 750
    Photo by Kevin Wing
  • Veglia tachometer is marked for an 8,500rpm redline, although the engine would rev safely to 9,200rpm.
    Photo by Kevin Wing
  • Veglia tachometer is marked for an 8,500rpm redline, although the engine would rev safely to 9,200rpm.
    Photo by Kevin Wing
  • The single 9-inch (230mm) rear disc was unique to the Imola racer.
    Photo by Kevin Wing
  • Errol James riding the Imola at the 1973 South African TT, where he took fifth.
    Photo courtesy Ian Falloon
  • The factory Ducati transporter at Imola, April 1972. Six of the seven Imola race bikes are clearly visible behind the truck’s clear plexiglass side panels. Our feature bike is one of the two No. 16 bikes.
    Photo courtesy Ian Falloon
  • Paul Smart (No. 16) leading Bruno Spaggiari during qualifying for the Imola 200.
    Photo courtesy Ian Falloon
  • Paul Smart running John Stein’s Ducati Imola around Willow Springs in 2007.
    Photo by Kevin Wing

1972 Ducati Imola
Top speed:
169mph (est.)
Engine:
748cc air-cooled OHC desmodromic 90-degree V-twin, 80mm x 74.4mm bore and stroke, 10:1 compression ratio, 86hp @ 9,200rpm
Weight (dry):
388lb (176kg)
Fuel capacity:
6.3gal (24ltr)

In Ducati folklore, the 1972 Imola 200-mile race is a defining event. Before Imola, Ducati was a minor Italian motorcycle manufacturer of esoteric 4-stroke singles with strange valve gear, but after Imola they could take on the world’s best and comprehensively beat them. 

As Ducati’s great engineer Fabio Taglioni said in 1974, “When we won at Imola we won the market, too.” It was the Imola victory that ostensibly set the stage for Ducati’s subsequent success.

When the 750 was conceived, Taglioni was 49 years old. He was virtually unknown outside Italy, and Ducati was still a minor motorcycle manufacturer in world terms. Despite new management, economic viability was essential, and Taglioni was instructed to utilize as much carry-over technology from the existing range of singles as possible.



A V-twin made sense, as many features of the existing overhead camshaft singles could be incorporated, and Taglioni liked the idea of an engine that was little wider than a single. Taglioni chose a 90-degree V-twin layout, a carry-over from the V-four Apollo seven years earlier. “The 90-degree L-twin provided perfect primary balance,” Taglioni told me in an interview. “The engine can be very smooth, with only some high frequency secondary imbalance, and with a narrow crankshaft there is virtually no rocking couple. Also the twin can be narrow so the engine can be kept low in the frame while maintaining good ground clearance.”

Taglioni was also working on a 500cc Grand Prix twin. With a special frame by Colin Seeley, Bruno Spaggiari and later Phil Read campaigned this in mainly Italian events during 1970 and 1971. Although the twin struggled against the MV triples, much was learned that would help when it came to the preparation of the Imola machines in 1972.

TONYC
12/3/2015 2:43:41 PM

Great bike. Thanks for documenting it's history.




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