Du­cati Su­per­mono Su­perb sin­gle

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Jim Scays­brook Pho­tos Phil Ains­ley and Jim Scays­brook

Estab­lished clas­sic big twins like Brough Su­pe­ri­ors and Vin­cent HRDs re­peat­edly bring big money, in fact the list of the top ten mo­tor­cy­cles ever sold con­tains only these two names. But when it comes to the hum­ble sin­gle, one name has rock­eted up the charts in re­cent years, and it’s not even Bri­tish.

With just sixty seven ex­am­ples built be­tween 1993 and 1995, the Du­cati Su­per­mono is su­per rare as well as be­ing su­per ex­pen­sive – most re­cent auc­tion sales have seen prices nudge US$200,000. Each ex­am­ple is num­bered with a plate af­fixed to the mag­ne­sium steer­ing head crown.

It seemed that Du­cati had ruled a line un­der its leg­endary bevel-drive sin­gles in the ‘seven­ties as all ef­fort and fi­nance went to the new gen­er­a­tion of belt-drive twins. But some­thing was hap­pen­ing in the early ‘nineties; a fa­mil­iar sound had re­turned to the race tracks. Big boom­ing four stroke sin­gles were pro­vid­ing an ex­cit­ing new class of com­pe­ti­tion, call it Sound of Sin­gles or sev­eral other terms. It was Manx ver­sus G50 all over again, ex­cept that the pow­er­plants came mainly from Ja­pan or Italy and were usu­ally well over the tra­di­tional 500cc ca­pac­ity.

The Du­cati of the ‘nineties was an en­tirely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal. Gone was the leg­endary en­gi­neer Fabio Taglioni (who had de­signed the Pan­tah in 1979, from where the Su­per­mono’s bot­tom end was largely sourced), and at that desk now sat Mas­simo Bordi. The new own­ers, Ca­giva or the Castiglioni fam­ily, were en­joy­ing a pur­ple patch with the liq­uid-cooled DOHC 8-valve desmo twin, rack­ing up a string of World Su­per­bike ti­tles. But Bordi had a lit­tle pro­ject of his own that had been bench tested as far back as 1990 and was first dis­played at the 1992 IFMA Show in Cologne, Ger­many. It was at that stage a 487cc sin­gle, ef­fec­tively an 888 with the rear cylin­der lopped off, in­cor­po­rat­ing a neat piece of think­ing to over­come the nor­mal bug­bear of the sin­gle; vi­bra­tion. Bordi’s so­lu­tion was to use a se­cond con­rod con­nected to a piv­ot­ing lever which ro­tated on a pin fixed in the crank­case – what Bordi called the “doppia bieletta” or dou­ble con­rod. This gave per­fect pri­mary bal­ance and be­cause it acted straight onto the crankshaft, elim­i­nated sec­ondary in­er­tia, with­out the use of power-sap­ping chains or gears. The sin­gle dif­fered from the 888 in hav­ing plain main bear­ings, with the wa­ter pump driven from the ex­haust camshaft. Like the 888 twin, the new sin­gle used a six-speed gear­box with a dry clutch, and We­ber/Marelli fuel in­jec­tion. The de­sign of the Su­per­mono chas­sis was en­trusted to a young Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate from the Uni­ver­sity of Bologna, Clau­dio Domeni­cali, who now oc­cu­pies the top job as CEO of Du­cati. Built at the Ca­giva fac­tory in Varese, the tubu­lar steel frame was made from a new ALS500 tubu­lar steel, while the swing­ing arm was the work of Ver­lic­chi in Bologna. The tri­an­gu­lar struc­ture piv­oted in the crankcases like the mod­ern gen­er­a­tion twins. South African Pierre Terblanche, for­merly with VW be­fore join­ing Du­cati to work un­der Mas­simo Tam­burini, was re­spon­si­ble for the uni­ver­sally-adored styling, with the fair­ing and seat pro­duced in car­bon fi­bre. The then ex­otic ma­te­rial was also used for the footrest mounts and air­box. Three-spoke mag­ne­sium wheels came from March­esini, with Brembo float­ing discs and calipers. Pro­duc­tion of the first batch of 30 bikes be­gan in early 1993, with a Bri­tish price of £16,000, but it was a slow process. By late 1994 a re­vised ver­sion, usu­ally re­ferred to as the 102, was un­der con­struc­tion, with the ca­pac­ity boosted from 550cc to 572cc. The 102 de­scrip­tion stemmed from the bore size, up 2mm from the orig­i­nal. With other mods in­clud­ing a 60mm throt­tle body and ti­ta­nium con­rod, with a more ef­fi­cient si­lencer and up­dated elec­tron­ics, power was up to 76hp, with an ap­pre­cia­ble in­crease in mid-range power for bet­ter ac­cel­er­a­tion out of cor­ners. The Sound of Sin­gles class had its apogee in the ‘nineties when com­pe­ti­tion was fierce in Europe,

USA and Aus­tralia, when there was vir­tu­ally no limit on ca­pac­ity, nor on chas­sis spec­i­fi­ca­tions. This re­sulted in some highly in­no­va­tive mo­tor­cy­cles with a wide va­ri­ety of pow­er­plants and frame ideas. The class gained distinc­tion when it was in­cluded on the Isle of Man TT pro­gram in 1994 and re­mained there un­til the 2000 event. In the in­au­gu­ral Sin­gles TT, Kiwi Robert Holden brought his 550 Su­per­mono home six sec­onds be­hind Jim Moodie’s 660 Har­ris Yamaha, and the fol­low­ing year went one bet­ter to claim his first and only TT vic­tory at an av­er­age speed of 110.78 mph. That re­mained Du­cati’s sole vic­tory in the seven years of the Sin­gles TT, although Johnny Bar­ton was se­cond in 1997 and third in 2000 on a 572cc Su­per­mono. In Aus­tralia, our reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor Alan Cath­cart won the Sin­gles event at the 1994 Aus­tralian TT at Mount Panorama, Bathurst aboard the Su­per­mono im­ported by dis­trib­u­tor Fraser Mo­tor­cy­cles. Queens­lan­der Brett Whale com­peted suc­cess­fully on his Su­per­mono, #9 of the first pro­duc­tion run, for a num­ber of years. In more re­cent times Su­per­mo­toard seems to have taken the place of the orig­i­nal SoS con­cept, but there is also a class in USA called Su­per Sin­gles which uses 450cc ex-mo­tocross en­gines, of which there are plenty to chose from. Bikes left over from the orig­i­nal SoS days now run in their own cat­e­gory un­der the AHRMA (Amer­i­can His­toric Rac­ing Mo­tor­cy­cle As­so­ci­a­tion) ban­ner. Aus­tralia briefly had a class run­ning YZ450 Yamaha mo­tocrossers, mod­i­fied for road rac­ing. The ac­tion was thick and fast, but these en­gines, built for short squirts, do not overly take to be­ing held on full throt­tle on long straights, so engine main­te­nance is high and ex­pen­sive to avoid blow ups. The Su­per­mono fea­tured here is num­ber #25 from the orig­i­nal 550cc batch and is owned by Kiwi Du­cati afi­cionado Kevin Grant. The bike orig­i­nally went to Du­cati dealer Pe­ter Hegge­man in Ger­many and was raced to 1st place by Aussie Owen Coles in the Sound of Sin­gles race at the first World Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship round to be held at Don­ing­ton Park in UK. It was then shipped to Amer­ica and re­built by Texas Du­cati spe­cial­ist and for­mer Kiwi Jeff Nash of Ad­vanced Mo­tor­sports. Just about ev­ery­thing was re­placed with brand new parts in­clud­ing the crankcases and body­work. It was also con­verted to se­cond se­ries spec­i­fi­ca­tion 572cc. It has been fit­ted with a Bucci slip­per clutch but is oth­er­wise 100% orig­i­nal. Since be­ing in Kevin’s hands, Su­per­mono #25 has not been raced since, although it has been demon­strated at the an­nual Pukekohe Clas­sic Fes­ti­val by Dave Coles.

MAIN Kevin Grant’s Su­per­mono at Pukekohe in 2010. LEFT Dave Cole demon­strates Kevin Grant’s Su­per­mono at the NZ Clas­sic Fes­ti­val at Pukekohe.

Brett Whale crests Reid Park at Mount Panorama in the fi­nal mo­tor­cy­cle meet­ing there in 2000. Photo: Phil Ains­ley

ABOVE Un­clothed, just as gor­geous. TOP RIGHT Bucci slip­per clutch.

190mm rear disc with Brembo 2-pis­ton caliper. Belt drive to DOHC. All pan­els are car­bon fi­bre, in­clud­ing the front mud­guard. ABOVE Rider’s view show­ing the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion plate. Kevin Grant’s is #25. BE­LOW LEFT Öh­lins shock sits hor­i­zon­tally un­der the seat. BE­LOW RIGHT Swing­ing arm piv­ots through the rear of the crankcases. Note car­bon fi­bre footrest bracket.

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