THE BIKE THAT SAVED DUCATI
Three decades aftaftfter its launch we reveal how Ducati’s 851 almost never happened – and what it’s like today
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…