The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - GARRY SCOTT For fac­tory and mu­seum tours see www. du­cati.com/ducati_­mu­seum/in­dex.do

IT’S not ev­ery day you see a mo­tor­cy­cle be­ing born – its en­gine fir­ing into life for the first time, wheels rolling as it be­gins its journey, the tech­ni­cians stand­ing around like proud mid­wives. I can’t help but wish it well and hope it has a long and happy life. That’s how sad I am.

I’m in the Du­cati fac­tory in Bologna and I had to get up at 6am in the mid­dle of a fam­ily hol­i­day to make it here for 9am, brav­ing the truck-filled tun­nels and bridges that carve through the rugged Apen­nine moun­tains be­tween Florence, the cra­dle of the Re­nais­sance, and in­dus­trial Bologna.

You know what they say about Ital­ian drivers? It’s all true. At one point, I glance in the rear view mir­ror and think a fam­ily that’s def­i­nitely not mine has squeezed into the back seat only to re­alise they are ac­tu­ally glued to my bumper in a Fiat 500.

But the early start is worth it when I drive down Via An­to­nio Cava­lieri Du­cati (now there’s a name for a street), and see the white­washed walls with gi­ant 30ft high paint­ings of sport­ing he­roes such as Troy Bayliss and Carl Fog­a­rty.

Later, when I tour the fac­tory’s mu­seum, and see the price­less ma­chines rid­den by ev­ery­one from Paul Smart to Casey Stoner the cu­ra­tor says I look like a child on Christ­mas Day. That’s very much how I feel.

But let’s go back to the be­gin­ning. Back to Oc­to­ber 12, 1944, when al­lied bombers dropped more than 850 bombs on the fac­tory. The plant, which spe­cialised in ra­dio equip­ment and had been seized by the Ger­mans af­ter the Ital­ians signed an armistice with Al­lies, was de­stroyed. But it was to be not the end, it was a new start.

Af­ter the war the fac­tory was re­built and the Du­cati broth­ers – Bruno, Adri­ano and Mar­cello – patented a small clip-on en­gine for bi­cy­cles. The 48-cc 4-stroke en­gine, called Cuc­ci­olo (puppy) pro­duced 1.5bhp and is the fa­ther of ev­ery Du­cati en­gine since – right up to the ru­moured new 220bhp V4 road bike.

The fac­tory tour be­gins with my guide hand­ing my son and me stick­ers to put over our phone cam­eras. There must be no pho­tog­ra­phy. My hopes of catch­ing a glimpse of the top se­cret V4 are dashed.

The fac­tory is a rev­e­la­tion. It’s noth­ing like those high-tech car plants you see on the news, where shiny ro­bots out­num­ber hu­mans. Here, ev­ery bike is put to­gether by hand in a fac­tory not too dis­sim­i­lar to the one where the Cuc­ci­olo was born in 1946 – ob­vi­ously the tool­ing is bang up to date.

Each bike be­gins on the as­sem­bly line, and the same worker fol­lows it through the build as it moves slowly along through each sta­tion. It all be­gins, fit­tingly for a Du­cati, with the en­gine. Then the ex­haust is fit­ted, af­ter that the frame, then the rear wheel. When the worker com­pletes a task, they cross to a com­puter, which logs and checks their work – for ex­am­ple, en­sur­ing each bolt is tight­ened to the cor­rect torque.

At peak times, the fac­tory – and it is the only Du­cati fac­tory, there is no plant churn­ing out bikes in low-wage Asia or In­dia – pro­duces 350 bikes a day. A Scram­bler can be built in seven hours, a Mul­tistrada takes a lit­tle longer at 10 hours (camshafts and crankshafts have al­ready been through 34 days of milling).

We pass the race de­part­ment but it’s all se­cret squir­rel. No won­der. Du­cati is tiny com­pared to the Ja­panese giants but you wouldn’t know it by their Mo­toGP re­sults this year. They may not yet be back to the glo­ries of 2007 when Stoner won the cham­pi­onship but be­hind that door they’re plot­ting to give this year’s third-placed An­drea Dovizioso a chance at the ti­tle.

I watch a Di­avel be­ing put through its fi­nal test­ing in a noise-proof sta­tion, it’s en­gine run­ning for the first time, as a tech­ni­cian checks it over. From there, the bike is un­dressed – fair­ings and seats re­moved – and it’s ready to ship. Maybe it’ll end up in Scot­land.

I cross to the mu­seum to meet cu­ra­tor Livio Lodi. He’s an en­gag­ing soul, bub­bling over with tales about Du­cati and their place in Ital­ian cul­ture. He says the mu­seum is the sec­ond most vis­ited in Bologna af­ter the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum.

The col­lec­tion tells the Du­cati story with English trans­la­tions on each info board. The key bikes and sto­ries be­hind them are all there: the 500 Pan­tah, the Mon­ster, the 916, even the gen­er­ally un­mourned 750 Paso. I see the bikes rid­den by Mike Hail­wood and Neil Hodg­son, the grips they twisted as they rode to glory in the Isle of Man TT and World Su­per­bikes. You can’t help imag­in­ing your­self stretched out across the tank, du­elling for vic­tory against the best in the world.

There are leathers be­long­ing to Stoner (he’s wee, very wee) and race win­ners’ cups. There is also, touchingly, the late Nicky Hay­den’s Du­cati.

Pos­si­bly though, the most in­ter­est­ing ex­hibit tells the story of Tar­tarini and Gior­gio Monetti who, in 1957, com­pleted a 40,000-mile voy­age around the world, which took the two rid­ers across five con­ti­nents and 36 coun­tries on their 175cc 14bhp sin­gles. Now that puts Ewan McGre­gor and Charley Boor­man’s big trips on big BMWs into per­spec­tive.

As I leave I spot a sign out­side that reads Park­ing For Em­ploy­ees’ Du­catis Only. I think it’s a joke but Livio says no. It seems turn­ing up to work on any­thing else might not be a trea­son­able offence but it comes close in this part of Italy.

We pass the race de­part­ment but it’s all se­cret squir­rel . . . they’re plot­ting to give An­drea Dovizioso a chance at the ti­tle

The Du­cati fac­tory in Bologna not only has ex­hibits of some of the mar­que’s most famous bikes, it also of­fers the chance to wit­ness first-hand the cre­ation of new mod­els, be­low left

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