Italian Battle: 1978 Moto Guzzi Le Mans vs. 1980 Ducati 900 SS

The Italian Jobs


| July/August 2008



Italian1

1978 Moto Guzzi Le Mans.

1978 Moto Guzzi Le Mans
Claimed power:
71hp @ 7,300rpm
Top speed: 133.5mph
Engine: 844cc, overhead-valve, air-cooled 90-degree V-twin
Weight (dry): 431lbs (196kg)
MPG: 35-55mpg
Price then: $3,679
Price now: $7,500 - $10,500

1980 Ducati 900 SS
Claimed power:
65hp @ 7,400rpm
Top speed: 143mph
Engine: 863.9cc, bevel gear-driven desmodromic overhead cam, air-cooled 90-degree V-twin
Weight: 396.5lbs (180kg)
MPG: 40mpg (est.)
Price then: $4,200
Price now: $8,000 / $18,000

Somewhere out on the technical Summit Point Motorsports Park circuit there is a blind, downhill left that drops away as you make the turn.

Exiting the previous right-hander, I run Shane Chalke’s immaculate 1980 Ducati 900 SS hard through second gear before rolling off and listening to the twin Conti mufflers work their magic on the over-run.

Lightly dabbing the brakes, I pitch the bike left to begin the descent, when in an instant I wake up in the middle of my worst nightmare. Without warning, both tires let go at exactly the same moment, and in the time it takes to say "Backus will kill me" we are heading for an extremely ugly crash. I can clearly see images of Shane beating the remains of my broken body with a bent fork leg as editor Backus cheers him on.

With the world moving little faster than one frame at a time, from somewhere outside the silent vacuum that has formed around me and the Ducati 900 SS, the sound of scraping snaps me back to reality. Another alarming jolt lifts me out of the seat, and we are immediately into another two-wheel slide. This scraping/sliding pattern occurs three times in total as I realize the center stand is hitting the track. With God rumored to have ridden a Ducati, He must have felt like extending a miracle to a wretched motorcycle scribe this day, as the third bounce puts us firmly on two wheels and rolling toward the fast left-hander. Drenched in sweat, with my heart racing, I continue around the racetrack at a much abbreviated pace, feeling like I am coming around from a mild concussion.





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