29th Sep 2018 7:00 am
Celebrating 90 years of Ducati in Italy, its home, turned out to be an exhilarating experience for us.
We were well and truly lost. With neither a working phone at hand nor expert knowledge of Italy’s roadmap, it was a dismal situation to be in. Still, we had two Ducatis, each tanked-up with petrol, and some leeway from the European summer in the form of a very late sundown. So on second thought, being very lost in gorgeous Italy with two fast motorcycles can’t be such a bad thing, right?
Want to know how to dodge speed cameras and not pay tolls? Ask Marco and Fabrizio.
Oddly upbeat about the situation, we fumbled through Italy’s road network until we found help. The next 140km were spent in the turbulent wake of a luggage-laden Ducati 996 while a Panigale 1299 S led the way at a suitable distance. I’ve dropped my jaw in various corners of the world upon having sighted several descendants of the iconic Ducati 916, but to give one a chase amidst a fast blur of Italian scenery is something straight out of a fantasy – and here I was, living it. Fabrizio and Marco were thanked profusely for saving the day for us; they also taught me an invaluable hack about clearing toll booths on Italian motorways – by not paying at all, that is.
An imitation Superleggera rubs shoulders with a very real Desmosedici RR.
I woke up to a crisp sunrise in Rimini the following day. If you haven’t somehow guessed it already, I was here for World Ducati Week. This is, in essence, a very big birthday bash held every two years at the Misano circuit, attended by Ducatisti – although not mandatorily on Ducatis – from all over the world. In other words, it’s a rather large gathering of people (of 90,000 people this time around, I was informed) who let their hearts rule over their minds. Isn’t that exactly how you get around to buying a Ducati in the first place? Clearly, then, this wasn’t going to be anything short of a bucketload of fun.
Tavullia is a stone’s throw away from Misano, so going there was the decent thing to do, right?
The trek up to Misano was itself a hugely satisfying experience, but it was soon outdone by the distinctive ring of the Ducati dry clutch, and that unmistakable L-twin rumble. Well, unfathomable multiples of this combination, to be honest, and it gave me a glimpse of what tinnitus might feel like. For what felt like an hour, I stood transfixed at Misano’s hallowed gates, watching every poster boy Ducati roll in, each personalised to good effect.
From early Scramblers (the original number) and the impossible-to-resist Sport Classic to the holy 916 and its various iterations, Ducatis extended into the horizon – seemingly all the way to neighbouring Tavullia. The Desmosedici RRs (yes, that MotoGP bike for the roads) seemed to effortlessly part the crowd, while the collective clearing of throats from an assortment of Termignonis never once failed to turn heads, three days in a row. The latest Ducatis blended in comfortably, with the Scrambler Desert Sled drawing as many eyeballs as the V4 and a handful of Final Edition 1299 Panigales. Even the once frowned-upon designs (such as the first Multistrada 1000DS and the 999) sat pretty, looking every bit as desirable.
The Tamburini-designed 916 is simply timeless.
A visit to Ducati’s museum, housed within its Borgo Panigale factory, a day prior to the Misano gathering had proven insightful with some truly stunning exhibits to see, photograph and read about. However, to see some of them come alive and being used on the streets outdid the museum walkaround by a mile. I can’t fathom how practical it must be to live with a classic Ducati, but ‘not very’ is likely to be the standard perspective.
Mike Hailwood’s winning 350 Desmo racer on display at the Ducati Museum.
Ducati threw in a couple of riding sessions for the Indian contingent, which gave me the opportunity to finally experience flat track racing. We were on Scrambler Sixty Twos for this session and what ensued was some impulsive racing (want to guess who won? Ahem!), and a lot of dramatics that had everyone hooked. The Multistrada-only DRE Enduro session that followed was fun as well but relatively less liberating. That’s probably because there wasn’t to be a winner here, I suppose.
Getting out of shape is the easiest thing to do when riding Flat Track. So be it.
As it turned out, the World Ducati Week is also a fantastic place to get up close and personal with Ducati’s motorsport heroes. The Race of Champions, an exhibition race involving twelve Ducati racers astride specially commissioned Panigale V4s (to be auctioned for charity later), was a major draw for most of the crowd and that meant just about everyone returned home with a heap of autographs and selfies. I did hand out a few high-fives and had a hilarious encounter with Pramac Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci – but my loyalties lay about 18km from Misano, in a town called Tavullia. So that’s where I pointed my press fleet Scrambler the moment the opportunity presented itself. While that’s a story for another time, I can let you in on the fact that I did get very lost on the way there, as well. Guess who wasn’t complaining, though?