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Classic Bike (UK) - - Ducati Endurance Racers -

The tale of du­cati’ s fa­mous1-2vic­tory at the 1972 Imola 200 has been told count­less times. What isn’t widely known is that sec­ond-placed fac­tory rider Bruno Spag­giari be­came Du­cati’s unof­fi­cial sports man­ager and ta­lent scout. The vet­eran racer gave sev­eral fu­ture world cham­pi­ons a leg up to Grand Prix glory on the big twins, in­clud­ing Franco Uncini and Vir­ginio Fer­rari.

The fac­tory did not com­pete of­fi­cially, al­though race-win­ning mo­tor­cy­cles emerged with light­weight frames and spe­cial en­gines via Spag­giari. Th­ese were de­vel­oped by NCR, the rac­ing out­fit with the fa­mous Coy­ote car­toon logo. Es­tab­lished in 1967, NCR (a com­bi­na­tion of the sur­names of orig­i­nal own­ers Gior­gio Ne­poti, Rino Carac­chi and Luigi Rizzi) was in­volved in the 1972 Imola win and went on to be­come Du­cati’s unof­fi­cial race de­part­ment. In 1973 Span­ish rid­ers Ben­jamin Grau and Sal­vador Canel­las raced at Mon­tjuic on a pro­to­type 864cc ver­sion of the orig­i­nal Imola 200 V-twins. But whereas Paul Smart’s Imola-win­ning 750cc ma­chine had to make do with the stan­dard road frame, the en­durance ver­sion was a ground-up cre­ation and pointed the way for­ward for Du­cati.

Re­tain­ing the 750cc crank­shaft’s 74.4mm stroke, Du­cati had added big­ger cylin­ders with 86mm bores. The in­creased ca­pac­ity al­lowed the en­gine to pull from very low revs – use­ful on a tight cir­cuit like Mon­tjuic, where the bike would even­tu­ally cover nearly 1700 miles on the 2.4-mile track over 24 hours. That’s like trav­el­ling from Lon­don to Barcelona flat-out and still hav­ing over 600 miles to go to fin­ish the jour­ney through the night. The big­bore Duke won on its de­but, fin­ish­ing 16 laps ahead of the op­po­si­tion and set­ting new lap and race records for the cir­cuit.

Typ­i­cal of the prepa­ra­tion were de­tails like care­fully tucked-away ex­haust pipes, crankcases shaved to give more ground clear­ance, a dry clutch and an air-in­take cowl­ing for the rear disc brake’s caliper. The bike also had two sets of ig­ni­tion com­po­nents, just in case a con­denser or coil failed, as well as quick-re­lease con­nec­tions for the bat­tery. The rid­ers had to crouch down be­hind the size­able fi­bre­glass fuel tank and the rudi­men­tary per­spex fly­screen, be­cause a full fair­ing was con­sid­ered to be un­nec­es­sary on such a tight cir­cuit.

The next year, gear­box is­sues ended an­other po­ten­tially win­ning run af­ter 16 hours, but in 1975 the team re­gained its mojo. Grau and Canel­las won by 13 laps and in­creased the race dis­tance record by 11 laps. They also beat the 1974 win­ner, the Kawasaki four-cylin­der of the fa­mous French team Godier and Ge­noud.

Du­cati had raised the bar sub­stan­tially with its 1975 win­ner. En­gine ca­pac­ity was boosted to 905cc and, with other in­ter­nal de­vel­op­ments, was safe to run at 9000rpm to pro­duce 96bhp. Com­pare that with the pro­duc­tion 860GT, which ran con­ven­tional valve springs rather than desmod­romics and only revved to 7500rpm where it pro­duced 65bhp.

With the ben­e­fit of Du­cati’s best brains at work, the Mon­tjuic win­ner had new, nar­rower, sand-cast crankcases and a light­weight chrome-moly frame built by Ital­ian chas­sis ex­perts Daspa.

Take a minute to look at the de­tails on show. The more you ex­am­ine, the more the de­tails shine out. Ven­ti­lated brake discs, hy­draulic steer­ing damper, huge crank­case en­gine breather tower, Mar­zoc­chi’s best light­weight rear sus­pen­sion units, the sim­pli­fied wiring that in­volved a tog­gle switch for the head­lights and the clever way the petrol tank breather ex­its the left-hand clip-on.

‘SAND-CAST CRANKCASES AND A FRAME BY ITAL­IAN CHAS­SIS EX­PERTS DASPA’

Mon­tjuic 1975 win­ner was the re­sult of Du­cati’s best brains at work Ves­ti­gial fly­screen was used for Mon­tjuic Ven­ti­lated brake discs aid cool­ing

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