DIAL 999 FOR CONTROVERSY
Over nearly 10 years the 916 had been king of cool both on the racetrack and on the street. Now well into a new century, Ducati’s big challenge was to redefine a model that was a cornerstone of motorcycling’s culture. The 999 was a brave attempt that failed to ignite the showrooms but blew the world championship to pieces straight out of the box. Neil Hodgson led a Ducati slaughter of the 2003 championship after the major Japanese factories had diverted their efforts to the new Motogp class. Ducati riders filled nine of the top 10 points table, most of them on customer bikes.the factory won the manufacturers’ title by nearly 300 points. James toseland led a similar tidal wave in 2004 but the Japanese factories came back with a vengeance in 2005 and Ducati lost its crown. Troy Bayliss returned in 2006 and wrote a Ducati fairytale by winning the title back. Bayliss had now won titles on two different generations of Ducati’s Superbike. Unfortunately, the salesrooms told a different story. Despite producing the most ergonomic, user-friendly Ducati Superbike, designer Pierre Terblanche was pilloried by diehard fans. They simply hated the slabby, almost Ferrari-car-like styling, the loss of the single-sided swingarm and the stacked headlights. Yet many secretly admitted that this was a much better bike than the 916.