THE NCR LINK
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