Motorcycle Classics

Ducati – The Story on DVD

Reader Contribution by Alan Cathcart

Ducati 125 “Marianna” Gran Sport graces
the DVD’s jacket.

Two years in production and 10 years in research, Ducati — The Story has just been released on DVD. Thanks to its serial success in World Superbike, and defeating the Japanese marques to win a World title as the only European contender in MotoGP, Ducati has taken over the mantle as the two-wheeled Ferrari from MV Agusta. But for many of today’s Ducatisti, Ducati history began with Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi, with a famous prologue back in the mists of time when some bloke called Mike Hailwood switched from racing Formula 1 cars to win the Isle of Man TT on a Ducati. This video brings the depth of Ducati’s rich history into focus.

“We employ 1,900 workers around the world, with an average age of 27,” Ducati’s Luigi Torlai says. “For many of them, Ducati is about Casey Stoner, and before him Troy Bayliss, and maybe for some with long memories, Carl Fogarty. This magnificent film will allow them to understand the history of our company — as well as many of our customers, too, I think.”

Director Angelo Barberi and producer/narrator Livio Lodi, the curator of the Ducati Museum in the Bologna factory, have woven the strands of Ducati history together using rare movie footage (some of which had to be restored by hand for use in the film), archive photos and recent interviews to recount the company’s roller-coaster ride from its 1926 creation up to Stoner’s victory in the 2007 MotoGP World Championship.

“This is a new way to tell the story,” Lodi says. “As if leafing through an old photo album or speaking with a wise old relative; the story becomes a fascinating view not only of Ducati’s, but also of Italy’s, history.”

Ducati began in 1926, thanks to three brothers who took advantage of their Bologna neighbor Guglielmo Marconi’s pioneering work in radio transmission to start building radio components, then complete radios, later branching out into cameras (the 35mm Ducati Sogno half-frame camera that made the Ducati brothers’ fortune is no larger than a pocket digital) and electrical appliances — including an early electric razor. After the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Ducati became a prime asset for the Axis powers, manufacturing gun sights and military optical and electrical equipment. That made Ducati a key target for Allied forces, and the film shows photos taken from one of the USAF aircraft that rained bombs down on Bologna in 1944, destroying the Ducati plant.

Postwar, the rebuilt Ducati factory switched direction to manufacture the 50cc Cucciolo clip-on engine for mounting on bicycles. In 1950, after more than 200,000 Cucciolos had been sold, Ducati produced its first motorcycle, a Cucciolo-based 60cc model, and in 1954 hired Fabio Taglioni to develop a line of proper motorcycles bearing the Ducati name. The movie includes a rare archive interview with “Dr. T,” who passed away in 2001 at the age of 80.

The great Fabio Taglioni, creator of some of the most memorable
Ducatis of all time, starting with Ducati’s first desmodromic engine
in 1956.

The period footage of 1950s public road races like the Milano-Taranto and Motogiro are alone worth the price of the DVD, with a low-flying airplane filming Ducati teammates slipstreaming each other at high speed on their tiny Mariannas to pull away from the opposition, while F1 driver Piero Taruffi struggles manfully to keep up at the wheel of a Lancia Aurelia convertible camera car!

The achievement of Giorgio Monetti and Leopoldo Tartarini — later the founder of Italjet and stylist of many iconic Ducati models including the 750SS Imola — in riding around the world on 175cc Ducatis in 1957-58 is covered, which put Ducati on the map by demonstrating the ruggedness of its products. And the speed records set on the Monza bankings by the 98cc Siluro in 1956 are covered.

Strangely, the 1960s aren’t well covered, although there’s footage of Mike Hailwood making his Ducati debut in 1959/1960, as well as of the abortive 1963 Apollo V4 cruiser. The story picks up with the 1971 debut of the first V-twins, complete with outstanding coverage of Ducati’s 1-2 dominance of the 1972 Imola 200 with Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari. From there to the chosen cutoff point of Casey Stoner’s 2007 MotoGP World Championship, there’s authoritative coverage of Ducati’s twin-cylinder era, with Marco Lucchinelli providing some standout reminiscences as both the rider who won Ducati’s first World Superbike race victory and as team manager when Raymond Roche won the company its first SBK World title. There’s hitherto unseen footage of the 600TT2 that Tony Rutter won four World titles on, and Hailwood’s fairy-tale 1978 comeback victory in the Isle of Man TT is well documented, although there’s inexplicably not a single mention of Steve Wynne, the man who made it all possible by recruiting Hailwood to ride a Ducati in the first place, and preparing and running the bike.

The definitive Ducati icon: Paul Smart’s 1972 Imola-winning
desmodromic 750.

Omissions aside, this is a magnificent production that provides a compelling account of Ducati’s remarkable heritage, told via much exclusive material either specially recorded or released for the very first time. The overriding impression is of the passion and genius that made it all possible, a passion that drove a small, regional manufacturer whose factory was left in ruins 66 years ago to straddle the world stage with a range of motorcycles that have been literally incomparable down the years. Nobody else ever made a desmo single or V-twin, or a desmoquattro, or a desmosedici.

Ducati — The Story is not only a company history, but a human one, too,” says Lodi. “We wanted to explain that Ducati is not just a red motorcycle or a toy for adults, but the product of passion and genius that can play a role in turning a simple mechanical object into a masterpiece, creating a devotion to the brand that is as strong for the customers as it is for the men who created it.” 90 minutes, $45 (est.); buy it at Strike Video or your local Ducati dealer. 

  • Published on Feb 18, 2011
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