Three decades aftaftfter its launch we re­veal how Ducati’s 851 al­most never hap­pened – and what it’s like to­day

Motorcycle News (UK) - - FRONT PAGE - By Phil West & Jon Urry MCN CON­TRIB­U­TORS

While the iconic 916 is usu­ally cel­e­brated as the ma­chine that re­stored Ducati to a path of race suc­cess and fortune, the truth is more than a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

In­stead, it’s ac­tu­ally the 916’s pre­de­ces­sor, the 851, which truly changed ev­ery­thing.

In­tro­duced 30 years ago, ini­tially as a racing pro­to­type, then of­fi­cially un­veiled as a pro­duc­tion road ma­chine in the au­tumn of that year, the 851 was sim­ply revo­lu­tion­ary – and not just for Ducati but for mo­tor­cy­cling as a whole. The all-new, liq­uid- cooled, four­valve, fuel-in­jected Des­mo­quat­tro V-twin (or L-twin as Ducati call it) at its heart was not just a quan­tum leap from any­thing the Ital­ian firm had pro­duced be­fore, it was also a true moment of change for both Ducati and the whole idea of mod­ern su­per­bikes. In short, with­out the 851 the 916 sim­ply couldn’t have hap­pened.

So, to cel­e­brate that an­niver­sary, we’ve re­vis­ited the 851 to­day, talked to own­ers about the sig­nif­i­cance of their machines and re­veal how it came about in the first place – yet so very nearly didn’t…

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