A Visit to the Ducati Factory
Story and Photos
by Jim Gianatsis
Bologna, Italy, 2004 - It was a part of my trip of a lifetime as a Ducati enthusiast, and possibly for any series sportbike fan. My 10-day trip to Italy in May for World Ducati Week 2004 started off when my plane touched down in Milan, Italy, to attend the nearby Monza World Superbike round at the legendary and beautiful 101 year old circuit. Then on Sunday night after theMonza WSB race I drove my rental car some 150 miles down the Autostrada past Ducati's factory in Bologna to the Adriatic seaside town of Rimini to attend the exciting Ducati Racing Experience (DRE) riding school on Monday at the Misano Grand Prix circuit where WDW2004 was taking place all week through the following weekend. But on Tuesday I met up with 2 other American motojournalists, Brain Catterson from Cycle World and Scott Rousseau from Cycle News, together with Ducati USA marketing co ordinator Vince Charo for a special tour I had requested of the Ducati factory and the Ducati Corse Race Shop.
The Ducati factory is located in the city Bolognain the suburb of Borgo Pamigale just off the main A-14 Autostrada (not too far from the Ferrari factory at Modena) and is open to pubic tours throughout the week. There are no set times for factory tours as visitors may vary at different times of the year, so tour guides may be pulled away from their other office duties at the factory as needed. Also know that most European companies like ducati close in August for summer vacation. Visitors do need to check in with the security guard at the front gate of the factory, and it probably is a good idea to phone ahead just to make sure you are coming at a good time. Just inside the main building is a Ducati Gift Shop with Ducati apparel and souvenirs, and just beyond that is the famous Ducati Motorcycle Museum which is well worth the visit in itself.
Our tour this day included a special private tour of the Ducati Corse Race Shop hosted by Superbike Press officer and freind Jullian Thomas. Access to the Race Shop is not a regular part of the Factory Tour, and is off limits to the public, visiting Ducati dealers, and even other Ducati employees. It's not because the Race Shop has many secrets to hide, but more for all the expensive parts and equipment lying around in the open and the mechanics' needing to be able to concentrate on the important prepartion of the race bikes without distraction. The special relationship that FastDates.com shares with Ducati Corse in featuring their bikes in the Calendar, the fact Pit Lane News offers the web's best coverage of motorcycle roadracing, and loaning them our beautiful Calendar girls to be the official Ducati Corse umbrella girls at Laguna Seca each year was what allowed me and my group into the race shop. You can follow our Ducati Corse race shop visit HERE.
Once we got her drunk on root beer, our lovey factory tour guide offered us all the desmo camshafts we wanted to bring back home as souvenirs.
Our tour guide for the factory and museum was a lovey young girl with an easy going personality who loved to answer questions, knew almost everything about everything from engine assembly to production numbers, and loved to joke and kid around with us.
Some of themore facts she plied us with to overwhelm our little brain was the fact Ducati SpA has about 1,000 full time emploees at the factory, 120 of which are part of the Ducati Corse Race Department and not involved in production, design or management. The factory in 2004 was turning out abuot 40,000 motorcycles per year, at a rate of amout 350 bikes per day on a busy day. This day it seemed a lot less than that, and we were told that production rates do vary greatly during different seasons of the year.
Being there in the month of May, possibly with a 2-3 month lead time from production to dealer delivery, we wre looking at the production run for the end of the model year in July / August, start of the slowest selling season for motorcycles. I did see new Testastretta 999 Superbikes being built with the new fabricated sheet aluminum swinagarm from the then current 749R, so I knew I was probably a new 999R model coming off the line, but I couldn't understand why it was being built with the base 999 model's stock street legal Euro 2 compliant asymmetrical exhaust system. It wouldn't be until 2-3 months later we would learn this really was the new 2005 Superbike model Testastretta with a lot more power and no need for a full race exhaust system.
Water cooled 4-valve Testastretta engines share the same assembly line with aircooled 2-valve DS1000s.
The guided walking tour of the factory actually goes right down through the entire production plant. There's no painted pathways to follow or safety guardriails to stand behind. We were actually dodging moving fork lifts with stacks of engine cases and push carts with assembly componets, and ducking assembled motors on a moving overhead track.
At times you feel a little self concous being so close a visitor and watching the assembly people and machinests at work, but it was a slow day and the workers seemed to be just as entertained watching us pass through their work stations as we watched them wrenching down a 4-valve head with an air rachet.
The assembly lines at the factory fall somewhet between low volume hand assembly and automated mass production. On the engine assembly line one operator is responsible, pretty much for assembly of a complete engine from start to finish. Then his name tag is placed on the complete engine as it is sent to the engine dyno for start-up and running, so quality control can be tracked back to the that builder if needed. Just to keep the engine builder awake, one engine might be a 4-vale watercooled Testastretta and the next a 2-valve aircooled DS1000.
The same assembly process applies on the motorcycle assembly lines. There were currently 2 assmebly lines, one shared by Superbikse and Multistardas intermixed side-by-side, and one shored by Monster and ST touring bikes intermixed side by side.
The bike's bare frame is mounted to a stand and one assembly worker completes his portion of the particular bike before it is pushed along to the next worker and work station. Following the bike is a helter skelter box of all the necessary parts to build up the chassis including wiring harness, footpegs, swingarm, shock linkage, instruments. one bike might be a 749 Superbike, the next a Multistrada, the next a base 999 Superbike. What we didn't see, and would have loved to, were the poor people running through the parts warehouses with a list of parts for each particualr model bike, grabbing them off the shelved and having to get them back to the assembly line just in time to meet up with the right frame and engine.
On a high speed automated assembly line the vehicle would pass through the work station with its parts supply. But on a medium speed, multiple model assembly line like at Ducati, the parts and the vehicle come to the worker to stay until completed.
The factory itself has a good mix of men and women workers, close to 50/50%. What really blew me away as a pinup calendar publisher in America where the sexual harrassment laws are so stringent a dressed pinup model calendar can't be put up in the work place. But here at the Ducati factory it was really interesting to see some topless model pinup calendars hanging up at workstations, particularly at one motorcycle diagnositc workbench which was staffed by a beautiful 25-year old girl that certainly could have been featured in that very calendar. of course, over in the Ducati Corse Race Shop the centerpiece pinup calendar was our own Fast Dates Race Bike Pinup Calendar!
Our morning tour of the factory ended just in time to join many of the factory employees and management in the Ducati factory cafeteria for lunch. The cafeteria is a beautiful new modern facility with a hi-tech theme and Ducati racing murals around the ceiling. The menu included fresh cooked pasta dishes, salad, and a beverage choice of just bottled Italian water, wine or beer. Which made us think the best time to plan for our next new Ducati motorcycle to get built is in late spring when production is slower, and in the morning before lunch...
Joining us for lunch at our cafeteria bench table was none other than Ducati company president Carlo Biaggio and chief motorcycle designer Pierre Tremblance. We felt like an important part of the Ducati extended family, a tradition here and thoughout Italy. Later in the week back at Misano, Carlo and Pierre and much of Ducati management would be serving dinner to thousands of enthusiastsfrom around the world at World Ducati Week.
On our way out of the cafeteria after lunch, just across the hallway is the Ducati clearance store where yuou can by close out Ducati apparel at low discount prices. This is where most of the Ducati factory employees shop Ihink, becausealmost all the factory workers wear Ducati ed T-shirts and jeans. Where as all Ducati management and office employs ware plain white dress shirts with black slacks.
Our vist to the Ducati factory and Corse race show wrapped up with press officer Ludovica Benedetti handing fellow motoscribes Brian, Scott and myslf keys to our favorite new Ducati bikes to ride across Italy for the week on through to the end of WDW2004. It was an incredible experience to visit sportbike mecac for a day at the Ducati factory in Bologna, and to feel part of the extended Ducati family. The hospitality was incredible. Graci!
The Events of WDW2004
Italian Air Force
World Ducati Week, the international meeting of the Ducati community, established another record with the recently concluded fourth edition. The event was a fantastic success in every way and attracted, entertained and thrilled tens of thousands of motorcyclists who flocked to the beautiful seaside Misano Adriatico GP Trackin Italy from the four corners of the Earth between Monday 17th and Sunday 23rd of May to prove their passion for the Ducati Legend, its motorcycles, people and lifestyle..
than just a consuming passion, the Ducati passion is one that pulls
in numbers too. Attendance was estimated at over 45,000. 19,000 tickets
were sold, and nearly half of these were weekly passes, purchased by
those (countless) individuals who could not think of missing even one
of the events that Ducati organised for its fans to animate this great
international event that inspires the entire motorcycling community.
Ducati.com also made a major contribution to the success of the event by managing the website dedicated to WDW2004 and providing an incredible amount of information before, during and after the meeting, exponentially increasing the event’s exposure to the many members of the Ducati public who for one reason or another were unable to take part directly. Thanks to Ducati.com these fans were at least able to take part virtually. The figures speak for themselves: during the week from 17th to 23rd of May more than 350.000 visits were made to the WDW2004 website!
Of the many activities organised for participants at WDW 2004, those promoted by the Ducati website proved a particular success. The top scorer was the “I WAS THERE. WERE YOU?” event that attracted hundreds of enthusiasts during the WDW weekend (21st-23rd May). Ducati.com staff took snaps of the people or situations they considered interesting. The resulting photos were published (starting from the 26th May) on the www.wdw2004.com web site. All those immortalised in this way and all others who simply want to keep a memento of this unforgettable experience, can download the shots they want, vote for their favourites, send e-cards with their own photo or even, thanks to sterling cooperation by E-shirt, order a print of their chosen photo on their selected T-shirt design. More than 1,300 images are available. In the first 30 minutes of going online were recorded approximately 35,000 visits.
And let’s not forget the Ducati Garage Challenge, the competition to find the best special that began before WDW with the selection of the 30 best bikes from those entered on the Challenge site. It continued at Misano, leading up to the announcement of the three category winners and their prizes, including awards from the official Ducati team riders.
But what firmly placed this fourth edition of WDW in the annals of history was the announcement made by the CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, Federico Minoli. On Saturday evening Minoli personally announced the official birth of the Desmosedici Racing Replica engine to the Ducati world. The announcement was the official beginning of the road-going Desmosedici development process. This limited edition machine is destined for a lucky few Ducati enthusiasts who will enjoy the maximum expression of Ducati Racing technology as well as the unique professional competence of Borgo Panigale’s R&D department. Another two years will have to pass before the first machine becomes available, so all you can do for the moment is book one and wait for WDW2006 when the very first bikes will be handed over on the very same stage from which the announcement was made this time around.
“This has been the best, most entertaining and most successful WDW in our history,” commented Minoli at the end of the spectacular parade of thousands of motorcycles from Misano to Rimini. “The level of involvement has been tremendous, and the participants have been the event’s real protagonists. The Ducati tribe has again shown its passion for motorcycling and for the legendary Ducati name. We are a great family, united and strengthened by our passion for riding. It’s a pity we’ll have to wait two years before the next WDW, but we’ll start organising it tomorrow! Let’s hope we can put together another week just as great, just as entertaining and just as passionate as this one. I’ll see you all at WDW2006!”
The People of WDW2004