"Stop!" Ducati Corse Press Officier Julain Thomas forbids us to take pictures as he unlocks the entrance to the top secret Corse Race Department secured deep within the confines of the Ducati motorcycle factory. "Sure Julian, whatever you say...." Neither Julian or Cycle World's Brian "Cat Man" Catterson (left) knew about our consealed lipstick camera.

An Exclusive visit to Ducati Corse's Top Secret Race Shop

Story and Photos by Jim Gianatsis
With a little help from the Julain Thomas, Ducati CorsePress Office -
Click on any Photo to Enlarge

Bologna, Italy, May 18th 2004 - It was a trip fo a lifetime. I was off to Italy on a 10 day paid dream vacation for any sportbike enthusiast, hidden behind the guise of "work". We started our weekend off at the nearby Monza World Superbike round on May 16th at the legendary and beautiful 101 year old circuit, then drove our rent-a-racer some 150 miles down the Autostrada to the Adriatic seaside town of Rimini for the Ducati produced World Ducati Week 2004 may 17-24th which proved to be one of the world's biggest manufacturer produced enthusiast events ever (only topped by Harley-Davidson with their anniversary gatherings in Milwaukee), and certainly THE BIGGEST for sportbike enhusiasts!

Our ultimate sportbike trip to Italy for a World Superbike race and World Ducati Week wouldn't be complete without a visit Meca, or in this instance the Ducati Factory and Museum in Bologna, situated on the Autostrada hald way between Monza/ Milan and Rimini. But we couldn't stop there. Could we get a visit to the top secret Ducati Corse racing shop, home of the World Championship winning Superbikes and race winning MotoGP machines? The Corse race shop is normally closed to everyone from regular visitors on the factory tour, to Ducati dealers, Ducati world wide distributors, employees and the press.

But it was time to call in a few favors to our buddies, Ducati Cose Team Manager Paolo Ciabatti and Superbike Press Officier JulianThomas. The fact that FastDates.com is the biggest sportbike website in the world helped us get our foot in the door, but my providing our beautiful SBK World Superbike Fast Dates calendar girls to be the offical Ducati Corse umbrella at Laguna Seca each year probably had more to getting me in than anything else!

Desmosedici engines are scattered everywhere in the engine asembly area inside Ducati Corse. I was probably one of the first outsiders to see inside the exotic V-4 MotoGP engine. I picked up a huge piston from one of the engine s(complete with rings and wrist pin) that was only tall enought to hold the rings -with no real side skirts. It felt like paper, probably weighing about 4 ounces. I asked Julian if the piston wrist pin was make of titatium (because the assembly was so light). He replied, "No. it's aluminum." (!). That's how light a big 250cc displacement piston ßassembly on a titanium connecting rod has to be to turn 16,500 rpm.

Below: This Corse engine technician is suspicious - Is that a camera in our pocket or are we just happy to see him?
He felt better when we told him we were just excited to see so many exposed and naked Desmosedici.

Ducati Corse Superbike Team moving to new facility
On our visit to the Ducati Corse race team shop housed behind locked doors in Ducati's Bologna motorcycle factory we only found the MotoGP team in residence. The expanded growth of the race team into MotoGP, together with increased motorcycle production in the factory, has forced the Corse Superbike team to move to a new building across town. It is expected the MotoGP team will move to the new building as well by the end of the 2004 season as sales of new Ducati motorcycles continues to grow and more production space is needed at the main factory.

On the particular day of our visit to the Corse Race Shop the MotoGP race team mechanics, bikes and the big 80-foot Corse race transporter were on their way back from a Monday test session at LeMans, France, the day after the LeMans MotoGP race weekend. Still, there was a fairly large crew of technicians in the Corse race shop building new and rebuilding used Desmosedici engines and MotoGP bikes.

Later in the week both the Corse factory Superbike and MotoGP race teams and transorters with the rides and bikes would be set up and on display at the Misanotrack for WDW2004 where fans could meet the riders, mechanics and see the race bikes in person. With the riders also firing up the bikes and taking them to the track for demonstartion rides that had the fans cheering in approval.

MotoGP bikes being rebuilt and assembled for both the factory Corse Marlboro team of Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss with the new Generation Two chassis and motor, and the Breil satelite team of Ruben Xaus and Neil Hodgsen with last year's Generation One bike and chassis. In 2 years these will be available for the street....

The Corse Race Shop area which is now devoted exclusively to MotoGP is about the size of 2 large high school auditoriums or basket ball courts, and uses a warehouse style modular steel upper floor level for additional parts storage. There is an engine building area separated by parts shelving, a bike building area, a large enclosed dyno room, and then a warehouse parts area with four levels of additional parts.

What we didn't get to see on this day due to the time constraints of also visiting the Ducati Motorcycle Factory, the Museum, and having lunch in the factory Cafeteria was the Corse Race Design Department which is all CadCam computer design aided. Or the areas in the factory where main components like the engine cases might be sand cast and CNC machined, and frames are fabricated. As is typical in many racing operations, many main components like carbon fibre bodywork, exhaust systems, swingarms and such are farmed out to subcontractors outside the factory.

The dyno room is behind the glass doors to the side of the bike assembly room. You can see a second floor above with riders' leathers, wheels and body parts.

Ducati's Race Team Budget
During our recent exclusive tour of the Ducati Corse Race Shop in Bologna, Ducati Superbike Press Manager Julina Thomas told us the Ducati Corse race team had a budget this year of $32 million dollars shared between MotoGP and Superbike, with some 120 employees working in the Corse deparment. Thats out of a factory with just 1000 employees total who build around 40,000 motorcycle per year.

"Obviously we don't sell enough motorcycles to justify our huge expenditure for racing," explained Julian. "Around 3/4s of our racing budget comes from our major sponsors like Marlboro and Fila.

"Ducati will always be involved in World Superbike because we believe first and foremost in racing the bikes which we sell to the public and that means Superbike. We are involved in MotoGP to elevate the name and image of Ducati in the world motorcycle market as an industry leader. And I believe this is what we are doing very well."

If 3/4s of Ducatis $32 million dollar race budget comes from its sponsors, then the remaining $8 million dollars comes from the 40,000 bikes per year sold to customers which works out to just $200 per bike. A pretty good deal to own a pretty cool bike with the latest technology from a World Championship winning manufacturer.

At the back of the race shop is a receiving area and more warehouse storage. Note the unassembled engines on the middle shelf. The MotoGP bike in the foreground is one of Loris Capirossi's 2003 season bikes now used for shows and exhibitions.

Claudio and Ruben get down to the real nitty gritty
Where else but at World Ducati Week at the Misano race track a few days later could any sportbike enthusiast attend Ducati University and have Team Ducati Corse Director Claudio Domenicali (above left) explain the intimate design details of the Desmosedici MotoGP bike, or have World Championship rider Ruben Xaus (above right) explain the intricaticies of the Misano race track before you got to go out and ride the track. Awesome..

So Claudio, why isn't the Ducati MotoGP bike a front runner this year, like last, we asked.? "We designed an all new chassis and engine this season which is much better then last year's bike. But we really didn't have much time to test the new bike's setup before the racing season began, and what threw everything off was the changes to smaller 16.5 inch tires and wheels. Last week we tested all day with Loris and Troy at LeMans and really got the bike dialed in where it should be. Troy matched the track lap record easily and said 'I wish I had this bike setup for the start of the season'. We expect to see much better results beginning at the next race."

Go To More...
WDW page 1  •  WDW page 2  •  WDW page 3  

Ducati Factory VisitDucati Museum •  Ducati Corse Race ShopDRE Riding School

Ducati Desmosedici Racing Replica
announced for production at World Ducati Week

Misano Adriatico (RN) 22 May 2004:
Just as we predicted here in Pit Lane News 2 weeks ago, Ducati used the showcase of World Ducati Week 2004 (their the giant bi-annual meeting of Ducati fans from around the world), in a fitting culmination of a week of events, sport, entertainment and, above all, motorcycles to announce: Ducati has launched the Desmosedici Racing Replica development project! The red Borgo Panigale, the Italian MotoGP bike which has fascinated fans from around the world, will soon be available!

The announcement gives the official go-ahead for the project, which will make the motorcycle available within two years. This is naturally a limited edition, as is right for a product conceived as the first true MotoGP replica. The new frontier of Ducati's technological evolution, embodies all the fundamental features of the motorcycle competing in the MotoGP World Championship, ridden by Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi. The Desmosedici RR is another confirmation of Ducati's vision, as well as the company's ability to transfer their experience of the world of racing to a bike intended for the road.

Federico Minoli (President and Managing Director, Ducati Motor Holding) called Gianluigi Mengoli (Technical Director, DMH) and Claudio Domenicali (Managing Director, Ducati Race Division) to the stage to represent the two technological centres of the company. Together they are the driving forces behind this exceptional project. Together with Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi the Desmosedici RR engine was presented to the public for the very first time, as the heart of this jewel in the crown of Ducati technology, which was received with unbridled enthusiasm by the public.

"An important occasion, a historical announcement, yet another dream come true. The Desmosedici RR is the maximum that Ducati technology has to offer, in line with the tradition embodied by every motorcycle we produce: from race to road bikes." Federico Minoli said from the stage. " We are pleased to face such a challenge which, even if only in a limited number of bikes, will be the dream of all Ducati fans. An exclusive motorcycle which stands for the passion and ingenuity which are the heart of our company's identity. Naturally the two cylinder engine is, and will always be, the Ducati engine par excellence, destined to be the hallmark of all our products, our past and our future.

"Today we are launching an ambitious, important project: it will be two years before the Desmosedici RR will be available, but we wanted to celebrate this historic occasion with all of you. We look forward then to WDW 2006, where we will deliver the very first Desmosedici RR right here, on this very stage, at another great Ducati festival, an event we can all share and enjoy together."

The engine of the Desmosedici RR will feature Ducati's traditional desmodromic timing ensures rigorous valve lift parameters up to the highest engine speeds, and is the perfect match for the modern architecture of the four cylinders in L-layout, resulting in a masterpiece of precision mechanics; with 989 cc total displacement and four valves per cylinder, the Desmosedici RR engine will certainly be a new benchmark for the international motorcycle industry.

The technology used is at the cutting edge of modern production, a methodology which up to the present time was only available for race bikes. The cam shafts (two per cylinder bank) are driven by gears: a sophisticated, reliable solution which ensures maximally precise timing in all conditions.

The fidelity of the replica does not finish here: the dimensions are exactly the same as those of the MotoGP, as is the six-speed gearbox, which maintains its racing design and can be removed as a single unit.
The lightweight and durability targets have led not only to optimisation of the design of the components, but also to the use of the most prestigious and exclusive materials: sand-cast aluminium alloy crankcase and cylinder heads, titanium con-rods and valves, plus magnesium engine covers.

The engine is the heart of this fantastic motorcycle, but the chassis components are of no less high quality and incorporate the most advanced solutions, with the characteristic steel tubing trellisframe and the most refined componentry, all covered with an exceptional carbon fibre fairing whose aerodynamics were designed by Alan Jenkins, who was also responsible for the design of the Desmosedici MotoGP. The replica bike's final shapes has not yet been decided, but it only natural to assume that it will follow the lines, and technical and aerodynamic solutions of the racing version.

The production of this jewel of a bike will be equally exclusive: Ducati intends to limit production to no more than one bike per day, assembled with the fanatical attention to detail and extraordinary skills of the race division. The project schedule has been defined and the first bikes will be available from Spring 2006. The Ducati Desmosedici RR will have a sale price of around 50,000 Euro ($60,000 US). Owners of the 999R will have priority in reserving the new bike. More information will be available on the official Ducati.com website starting from next July 1, 2004.

Frederico told us the Desmosedici was being put into production because. " Ducati always races what it sells." But production of the Desmosedici would also homologate it for racing in World Superbike in 2006 should Ducati need to counter attack any high horsepower return to the class by the Japanese manufacturers with a production MotoGP based superbike of their own. But for the present Ducati intends to stay with their proven V-Twin Testastretta engined 999 Superbike.

The Story of WDW2004

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..

More 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.
The seven super-intense days reached their peak on Saturday 22nd May, when the largest number of Ducati enthusiasts, estimated at around 13,000, was recorded. This colourful invasion of Misano Adriatico’s Santa Monica race-track provided an unmistakable sound track of Ducatis to complete an exceptional motorcycling event.


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 Italian Air Force
did a fly over of Misano in an F104 fighter jet painted Ducati red with "999" Superbike painted on the side. Now that's national support!