Du­cati 996 his­tory

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - DUCATI 996 -

1979 Du­cati Pan­tah 500SL

This was the start of the pow­er­plant which even­tu­ally be­came the desmo­quat­tro. It was air-cooled with just two-valves per cylin­der. The camshafts were driven by belts in Du­cati’s first move away from the bevel drive V-twins. It was re­vealed in pro­to­type form at the Mi­lan show in 1979 and avail­able in the UK from 1980. Fast, fickle and gor­geous, it re­ally was the 916’s pro­gen­i­tor.

1988-1992 Du­cati 851

The bot­tom-end of the en­gine owed its ori­gins to the orig­i­nal Pan­tah unit but now boasted four-valves per cylin­der and water-cool­ing. The first mod­els were quick but flawed. Odd han­dling and high prices hin­dered sales. Later mod­els were bet­ter. Du­cati claimed 102bhp at 9000rpm from the fu­elin­jected en­gine. In 1990 Ital­ian mag­a­zine Moto Sprint speed tested one at 148mph.

1993 Du­cati 888

Work on the 916 had be­gun in 1998 with a team led by Mas­simo Tam­burini. De­lays in the project caused Du­cati to re­lease the 888 in 1993. Du­cati claimed 104bhp and the tested top speed from Moto Sprint crept up to 153mph with ac­cel­er­a­tion to match – pretty good fig­ures even nowa­days. It got a bit more tim­ber though, with dry weight up to 202kg from the pre­vi­ously claimed 185kg.

1994-1997 Du­cati 916

The first of the breed and a bike that caused dropped jaws ev­ery­where as much for its sheer beauty as for its per­for­mance. It was a ge­nius of com­pact de­sign with the wheel­base down to 1410mm. Du­cati claimed 109bhp for the ba­sic Strada from its 916cc dis­place­ment, and 131bhp for the SPS. Later rac­ing ver­sions were re­puted to kick out 155bhp. At 198kg, the new bike weighed in well against the com­pe­ti­tion, while out on the race­tracks it took five WSB ti­tles be­tween 1994 and 2000.

1999-2001 Du­cati 996

The en­gine was now based on the 916 SPS with stronger crank­case and al­tered stud spac­ing to al­low the use of big­ger pis­tons. A stronger crank­shaft with big­ger bear­ings han­dled the in­creased power. The fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem was changed to pro­vide two in­jec­tors per cylin­der in place of the pre­vi­ous one. Power for the Bi­posto model was 112bhp, the SPS and 2001’s 996S 123bhp, while the 996R (the first Du­cati to be fit­ted with the new Tes­tas­tretta en­gine, also 2001) claimed 135bhp.

2002-2004 Du­cati 998

The 998 was the last of the line. All the 998s fea­tured the Tes­tas­tretta en­gine de­buted on the 996R: shorter-stroke, nar­rower valve an­gles and fu­elin­jec­tion by Marelli in­stead of We­ber pushed the power of the base model to 123bhp with the 998S and 998R claim­ing 135 and 139bhp re­spec­tively. Af­ter two short years, the 998 made way for the 999, it­self a bril­liant mo­tor­cy­cle and more com­fort­able to ride but no match in looks or last­ing ap­peal for the bikes it re­placed. Only 2007’s 1098 would come close...

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