Throughout approximately 25 years of very hard work, passion and love for the brand, Vicki Smith has become a significant living legend of the Italian motorcycling firm and a full-fledged authority in the marque, as well as being a key person in the expansion of Ducati in the United States, with a praiseworthy work with Ducati North America and the development of a number of further skills encompassing a remarkable mechanical knowledge, a deep grasp of the market circumstances and evolution and an indefatigable activity visiting Ducati motorcycle events all over the world.
A woman featuring a tremendous expertise, working capacity, professionalism and enthusiasm for every aspect concerning Ducati bikes, Vicki Smith has performed a fundamental role as a worldwide sales enhancer of Ducati motorcycles of different kinds, power and epochs, through her many years of unwavering devotion and dedication to divulge the unique traits, superb performance and historical milestones of the Borgo Panigale firm models, along with the advantages of its state-of-the-art desmodromic system which goes on being the benchmark when it comes to attaining a flawless behaviour of the bikes engines at amazingly high rpm and the maximum feasible top speeds.
In this regard, her labour as editor of the Ducati specialized Ducati.net and Ductalk sites along with her work as chief photographic consultant for Benzina magazine have been an invaluable source of information for Ducati fans on the whole globe, elaborating on a comprehensive range of subjects: Ducati bike models, Ducati events, technological breakthroughs, new powerplants, MotoGP, SBK World Championships, limited production series models, restoration projects of single cylinder and 90º L V-Twin classic Ducatis, wizard tuners, mechanical subjects, in-depth interviews with riders, designers, managers, top engineers and all kind of people related to the brand, bikes tests, motorcycle gear and apparel, customized Ducatis, World Ducati Weeks editions, Cafe Racers, tires developments, vintage Ducati Festivals and booking info on them, Ducati dealers, bikes electronics, world premiere presentations of Ducati motorcycles, and many others.
THE BEGINNING OF A LIFETIME PASSION
Throughout almost twenty years, between early seventies and late eighties, Vicki Smith was a professional car race driver, acquiring a great know-how in all sides linked to speed, a word that has been the core of her long professional career.
She took part in a number of racetrack competitions like the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers, the World Championship for Drivers and Makes, the IMSA GTU Championship, Lime Rock Track, the IMSA Camel GT Championship, Daytona International Speedway, Sebring International Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Kelly American Challenge Competition, Mosport International Raceway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road Atlanta, Bicentennial Park and others, driving very fast cars like the Porsche 911, Ford Maverick, AMC AMX, Audi 80 Coupé, Pontiac Firebird, Jaguar, Aston Martin Nimrod NRA/C2, etc, including some prototypes, in addition to having been part of the International Motor Sports Association´s GTP prototype era during the 1970s and 1980s.
Her passion for speed was something inherent to her personality and the racetrack world had become her biotope, it all with the added bonus of innate qualities for motor competition, a very strong will and a steady eagerness to learn and increasingly improve, along with the needed stamina to endure the pressure and physical attrition of every race.
Those were the halcyon days of sportscar racing in the U.S and Vicki Smith was part of it.
Years elapsed and in 1987 Marco Lucchinelli attained at great victory at the Battle of the Twins in Daytona with a Ducati 851 prototype bike which made a sensation because of its Italian gorgeous beauty and classic design, along with a top-notch small and light 90º V-Twin desmodromic engine working through valve operation in such a way that the valves are opened and shut mechanically instead of by springs.
Furthermore, the Ducati 851 exhibited in Daytona (United States) incredible smoothness at full speed, unique torque and mid range strength and power to spare, with the added advantage of a perfect computer controlled Weber-Marelli fuel injection delivery without any flat spots.
This amazing performance. unutterable elegance of design and riding capabilities of Lucchinelli´s Ducati 851 in United States hadn´t gone unnoticed for Vicki Smith, and the following year 1988 became a turning point in the history of sports motorcycling when two almost simultaneous events took place:
a) The arrival of the production series Ducati 851 c.c roadster bike featuring a bore x stroke of 92 x 64 mm and a weight of 185 kg (30 kg more than Lucchinelli´s factory´s racer) for customers to buy.
When the first purchasers of the Ducati 851 put this dream machine to its paces in 1988, particularly in United States, England, Germany, France and Italy, a collective thrill arose on realizing that the 851 had roughly the same maximum output as the best four cylinder Japanese 750 cc bikes, but with a much wider range of power spread, which gave it the upper hand in a lot of situations, as well as featuring a very different appearance, sound, riding comfort and feeling.
On the other hand, the Ducati 851 boasted the hallmark of three Italian historical world class pundits of the motorcycles mechanics and powerplants: Massimo Bordi, Gianluigi Mengoli and Franco Farné.
But Ducati didn´t rest on its laurels, improving the Ducati 851 in a lot of aspects during 1989 and 1990, until in 1991 it created the new bore x stroke 94 x 64 mm Ducati 888 factory racer which combined a blazing speed for the time of 152 mph (244,62 km/h), a significantly improved reliability and a wonderful very small and light liquid-cooled four-stroke V-Twin four valves per cylinder desmodromic engine with valve operation and shim adjustment.
b) The introduction of the World Superbike Competition, a scope which would give many days of glory to Ducati from 1990 hitherto, with such foremost SBK World champions as Raymond Roche, Doug Polen, Carl Fogarty, Neil Hodgson, James Toseland, Troy Bayliss and Carlos Checa, making up a total of 15 SBK World Championships for Ducati.
But 1987 with the introduction of the Ducati 851 and 1988 with its launching into market for private buyers were not only the years in which an iconic exceedingly powerful and fast for the time two cylinder bike brought about soaring expectation within the motorcycling sphere.
Developments were going to quickly reach far beyond, because since 1988 Ducati´s new keynote was based on one of the most incredible scientific and technological breakthroughs ever made in the motor sports field and the desired aim with it: the manufacturing of state-of-the-art exceedingly powerful (130 bhp) and fast belt driven desmodromic V-90 twins bikes featuring dual overhead camshafts, two cylinders with a total of eight valves (four per cylinder), rolling chassis and a very advanced programmable fuel injection with which being able to defeat the cream of the crop of Japanese 750 c.c four-cylinder bikes of the time like the Yamahas OWO1 (featuring five-valve technology and 40º inclined cylinders, vast majority of its parts made in titanium and carbon fiber, along with an exceedingly oversquare and short-stroked engine, 119 hp at 14,000 rpm and a top speed of 170 miles per hour, 273,58 km h) and the Hondas RC30 (queen of the 1988 and 1989 Superbike World Championship, boasting a sweet feeling, a 90º V4 engine with 16 valves directly operated by the camshafts, forged titanium connecting rods and a top speed of 280 km/h) with a respective weight of 187 kg and 152 kg (the Ducati 851 factory racer had a weight of 145 kg).
And against all odds, Ducati managed to attain it in 1990, with the unforgettable duo made by Raymond Roche and Giancarlo Falappa.
Roche became Superbike World Champion in 1990 with a Ducati 851, getting 8 victories, 7 second places and 2 third places,
But once more, the Borgo Panigale firm bettered itself and in 1991, after a lot of further improvements and strenuous work. increased the capacity from 851 c.c to 888 c.c, creating the Ducati 888 with which Doug Polen won two more consecutive World SuperBike titles for Ducati in 1991 (with a record of 17 victories, still to be beaten) and 1992.
Powerplant of the Ducati 888 cc SBK from 1992, one of the most significant milestones in the history of motorcycling racing engines. The Ducati 888 won 43 of 52 World Superbike races in 1991 and 1992
Detail of the multidisc dry clutch of the Ducati 888 c.c SBK from 1992.
One of the two timing toothed belts (one for each cylinder) of the Ducati 888 SBK from 1992 in its stretch beside its upper cylinder head (the bike has got two cylinders and four valves per each one). On the higher area can be seen the two overhead toothed camshaft gears and under them the two tensioner/idle wheels
This way, the Italian firm attained its goal, and in early nineties the Ducati 888 became the undisputed queen of the Superbike World Championship, with its state-of-the-art bore x stroke of 94 x 64 mm 4-stroke 90º L-Twin cylinder engine featuring a desmodromic timing system with double camshaft and 4 valves per cylinder, an outstanding power of 134 HP at 12,000 rpm, six speed transmission, tubular trestle frame, multi-plate dry clutch, a very light weight of 145 kg and a top speed of 295 km/h.
On the other hand, the 851 and 888 became the first road Superbikes available to the general public and enthusiasts.
Vicki Smith´s love for Ducati increased more and more and in 1989 she bought a Ducati 851 whose performance, top speed, Italian styling and superb design enraptured her.
But the network of Ducati dealers in United States was small at this time and the Italian brand had been mostly known until then thanks to the victories of Jimmy Adamo in the AMA´s Battles of the Twins Grand Prix races in 1982 and 1983 riding a Ducati bevel-drive bike tuned by Reno Leoni (these two men played an important role in early Ducati racing period in the States), but the Ducatis 851 and 888 had meant a defining moment in the evolution of the Borgo Panigale firm desmodromic technology as to huge incrase in power, reliability and a cutting-edge 115-120 bhp Desmoquattro V-Twin engine with four valves per cylinder, so Vicki Smith and other Ducatisti started an emailing list discussion group to glean as much information as possible, though this wasn´t apparently the best way to attain it.
a highly successful professional site devoted to a myriad of aspects related to the Italian brand and dealt on in depth, which has been a reference-class source of information to Ducati enthusiasts on the whole globe for 23 years, enhanced by the steady contact of Vicki Smith with some world-class Ducati experts like Phil Schilling (a foremost wizard of Ducati bike mechanics, who in 1977 gave the Borgo Panigale firm its first AMA Superbike win in the United States at Daytona, preparing the famous air-cooled bevel-twin "Old Blue" Ducati 750 SS enlarged to 883 cc four-stroke 90º V-Twin with two valves per cylinder desmodromic distribution and five gears, the fabled " California Hot Rod " ridden by Cook Neilson and developed by him into a highly competitive SBK motorcycle, to such an extent that his tuning made it run two seconds per lap faster than the rival factory bikes in Daytona 1977, beating them all, particularly the two Yoshimura R & D Kawasakis taking part in the competition ridden by David Emde and Wes Cooley, while becoming one of the most influential bike photojournalists ever as manager editor of Cycle magazine since 1979, turning it into the best selling motorcycling illustrated publication in the world, and who was always infatuated with Ducati bikes performance. particularly those ones featuring desmodromic V-Twin engines), Pat Slinn from Poynton, England (who was Mike Hailwood´s mechanic for many years and was also the tuner of Tony Rutter´s Ducati 750 TT, winning four TT2 World Championships for Ducati), the Desmodromic Professor Rich Lambrechts (a top-notch engineer, world-class restorator and an authority in single cylinder and V-Twin Ducati powerplants, as well as possessing very deep knowledge on properties of metals applied to bikes manufacturing and their mechanizing) and the tech guru Harlyn Jenkins, also a great lover of Ducati bikes.
That year of 1993 Ducati launched the Monster bike, a revolutionary all-around performer "muscle naked concept" motorcycle showing engine and frame, designed by Miguel Angel Galluzzi and boasting a tubular steel trellis frame (optimizing structural efficiency and being an integral part of the design enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the bodywork, which resulted in a riveting sight of mass and strength), outstanding power and rideability, tiny dimensions and a surprising agility, so it was a tremendous commercial success.
And in 1994, Ducati launched into market the supreme Borgo Panigale historical paradigm of beauty, elegance and design:
© Ducati Corse
the Ducati 916, smaller than the 888 and which also featured last generation cutting-edge technology, with an engine size upped to 916 c.c through a new crankshaft, bore x stroke of 96 x 66 mm, a tiptop symbiosis between a unique slipper clutch (preventing the rear wheel from going sideways) and the engine braking to boot of the bike, a new and highly advanced computer chip, titanium exhaust valves, upgradings in flywheel and camshafts and a top speed of 300 km/h.
Moreover, the Ducati 916 steering was very accurate and stable, which enabled to do instant changes without losing any balance and it was faster, easier to ride and more exotic than any rival bike from other brands, including the excellent Honda RC45 V4.
It was very light and handeable and its motor torque pushed the bike like a shot at mid revs, in the classical Ducati 90º L V-Twin way, as well as boasting a chrome-moly Trellis frame and underseat exhausts improving aerodynamic performance.
This luscious mustering of mid-range torque in synergy with the likewise great performance of the bike at maximum rpm thanks to the desmodromic camshafts use for opening and closing the valves of its liquid-cooled 90º V-Twin fuel injected 4-valve per cylinder engine delivering 114 bhp at 9,000 rpm created by Massimo Bordi, gave the rider an incredible level of control and comfort over the bike in circuits.
Besides, it boasted a unique single-sided swingarm (also present in the Ducati 1098) that made possible quick changes of wheels during the stops at boxes.
Therefore, this jewel of Italian craftsmanship and mechanics produced a bit less outright power than the Japanese competitors of the time, but its V-Twin desmodromic engine delivered a much more even torque spread.
Needless to say that the design of the Ducati 916 made by Massimo Tamburini was exceptional, a real Italian artwork blending impressive beauty of lines, elegance beyond words, leading edge technology and awesome performance.
Vintage advertisement of 1995 on the Ducati 916 and its exceptional performance. This has been one of the most successful racing bikes ever, having won nothing less than four SBK World Championships (three of them ridden by Carl Fogarty in 1994, 1995 and 1998 and a further one by Troy Corser in 1996). Carl Fogarty won his fourth title in 1999 with a Ducati 996 (featuring both the same first-rate single-sided swingarm and the multitubular steel Trellis frame as the Ducati 916), which attained one more triumph in the SBK World Championship in 2001 with Troy Bayliss riding a Ducati 996R.
And in the same way that had happened with the Ducatis 851 and 888, this combination of second to none aesthetics and engineering paid off with a very important increase in sales of the Ducati 916 not only in Europe, but also in United States, Canada and Australia, because this bike set new standards of performance, design, handling, braking and exquisiteness, in addition to becoming a further revolution in the sports motorcycle category at its highest level.
There wasn´t any possible cure for the Ducati passion and Vicki Smith also bought a Ducati 916 in 1995, after having reserved it two years before, and a Ducati 916SPS in 1997.
THE DECISIVE YEARS
The decade of nineties was the key stage for Ducati reaching its current status as one of the strongest and most prestigious motorcycle brands on the market and probably the leading one in terms of innovation, performance, and spectacular designs.
And eleven years after having bought Ducati in 1985 (through a joint venture with the Bologna brand which supplied it four-stroke engines between 350 c.c and 1000 c.c), the Cagiva Group sold the Borgo Panigale firm to the American Investment Fund Texas Pacific group in September of 1996.
The 11 years of Cagiva tenure as owner of Ducati were one of the most fascinating and innovative periods in the history of the Borgo Panigale firm, and Cagiva founder and owner Giovanni Castiglioni (a man with a tremendous passion for motorcycles and a penchant for maximum quality of components, the adoption of exclusive solutions like the steering damper and the designing and manufacturing of dream bikes as the mythical two-stroke Cagiva Freccia C9 125 c.c from 1987 with wraparound fairings and mudguards greatly improving the aerodynamic flow, the Cagiva 125 c.c T2 — which meant a revolution in the category in late eighties — , the Cagiva Mito 125 c.c Series 2 from 1992 — featuring a new cylinder, a different regulation of the exhaust valve making it reach a power of 33 H.P at 11,000 rpm and a top speed of 174 km/h —, the Freccia C12R 125 c.c from 1989 — with s 7 speed gearbox enabling shorter relations between the gear changes, a power of 29 HP and a top speed of 165 km/h— and the Cagiva Mito Evolution Series 3 from 1994, with which Valentino Rossi started his professional career in both regional and national speed competitions in Italy) had the wisdom of giving the Borgo Panigale formidable team of engineers and designers (Massimo Bordi, Gianluigi Mengoli, Franco Farné, Massimo Tamburini, Pierre Terblanche, Miguel Galluzzi, Sergio Robbiano and others) total freedom to unleash their immense talent, creative skills and innovative ideas.
As a matter of fact, Giovanni Castiglioni himself had financed the Ducati 851, 888 and 916 projects, along with the Monster which was really the Ducati bike which greatly saved the firm and mostly allowed the future of the brand from an economical viewpoint, thanks to its huge worldwide sales, without forgetting the awesome impact of the Ducati 916, whose first year´s production run was entirely sold in United States through anticipated reserves.
Castiglioni was a maelstrom of new ideas, passion, creativeness and constant innovation, and from scratch he had perceived the technological far-reaching significance of Massimo Bordi´s 1978 Doctoral Thesis "Desmoquattro Cylinder Head Design" (which he had begun to draw up in 1973) at the University of Bolonia, inspired by the Cosworth DFV 90º V8 internal combustion engine (superior to the Ferrari V12 thanks to its highly narrow angle between the valves, its flat pistons, its very straight inlet manifold and the very accurate location of the spark plug just in the center, optimizing a better combustion and faster performance ) manufactured in 1967 for Colin Chapman´s Team Lotus, featuring four valves per cylinder, 2993 c.c, a power of 408 hp at 9,000 rpm and cylinders angled upwards, as well as leaving wide space under the car to get the adequate underbody profile which largely increased downforce and rendered a more efficient aerodynamic balance.
The real turning point in terms of progress had been the Ducati 851, which arrived when the capacity was increased to 851 c.c with a power of 110 HP. Besides, the chance of enlarging the diameter from 88 to 92 mm in the 851´s desmoquattro engine had enabled to raise the compression ratio with flatter headed pistons, with the added bonus of the bike featuring the same Weber-Marelli electronic fuel injection as the Ferrari F40.
To properly understand what meant Massimo Bordi´s brainstorm of applying some important concepts of the 1966 Cosworth 16-valve 1600 c.c 225 bhp FVA engine for Formula 2 (which would subsequently be the basis for the three litre Cosworth DFV 90º V8 408 bhp Formula 1 racing car engine) to twin-cylinder Ducati bikes — above all the introduction of two cylinder heads with four valves each one, along with the wonderful combustion chambers following the Cosworth concept— and make them synergize with the state-of-the-art desmodromic system (to avoid friction losses and increase the engine output to maximum possible rpm along with top control and rideability) added to them by Bordi (who was able to resolve the technical conundum of attaining a narrow angle of 40º between the valves), suffice it to say that Mario Andretti (1978), Alan Jones (1980), Nelson Piquet (1981) and Keke Rosberg (1983) won the Formula 1 Drivers´ Championship with Cosworth DVF V8 engines.
Castiglioni grasped perfectly the historical milestone of the liquid-cooled Desmoquattro twin cylinder engine with two four-valve desmodromic cylinder heads designed by Massimo Bordi and Gianluigi Mengoli for the Ducati 851 and particularly their most important goal: to beat the tetracylindric 750 mm Japanese factory racing bikes with extraordinary Ducatis V-Twin bikes boasting two cylinders and a total of eight valves (four per cylinder) which pioneered a new combined chain and gear-drive arrangement instead of the original belt-drive concept used since the introduction of the Ducati Pantah in 1979.
And the team made up by Massimo Bordi, Gianluigi Mengoli and Franco Farné managed to do it, working day and night, firstly creating the powerplants of the Ducati 748 prototype from 1986 which disputed the Bol d´Or of that year, the Ducati 851 (between 1987 and 1992, father of all Ducati Superbikes and boasting a steel trellis frame designed by Massimo Bordi) and modified by Massimo Tamburini), the Ducati 888 (between 1991 and 1993) and the Ducati 916 (between 1994 and 1998) bringing for Ducati a lot of victories in SBK World Championships and United States AMA Championships, which were seminal both for augmenting the international prestige of the firm and for boosting the sales, specially in United States.
Moreover, the team labour among these three world-class engineers worked wonders through a spirit of comradeship and tons of experience, talent, ingenuity, love for their trade and an uncommon ability to come to grips with technical hitches of the highest difficulty, with Bordi making the starting sketches and often the chassis structure and engine layout, Mengoli (codesigner of the Demoquattro 851 and 888 with Bordi) developing the drawings and transferring to metal Bordi´s ideas (the genius from Budrio, near Bologna, also featured tremendous technical knowledge on bike engines and mechanics — he is one of the foremost authorities in the world regarding this sphere — , cylinder heads and valve control, awesome discernment on materials properties, combustion chambers, hydraulic steering dampers, ergonomic manual switch arrangements, betterment of the height of exhaust silencers from the ground, motorcycle development, series production of projects which could be really fulfilled and a preeminent figure in the impressive increase in both reliability and performance of Ducati motorcycles since late eighties hitherto), and apart from being the creator of the 851 and 888 engines along with Bordi, he would subsequently be the mastermind spawning the powerplants of the Ducati ST series bikes from 1994 onwards.
But in 2001, because of restructuring needs, Cagiva was forced to sell Ducati to the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) American investment firm.
This way, the arrival of the American Texas Pacific Group in late 2001 with new marketing strategies and a highly experienced economical management board meant a very important financial recovery for Ducati.
The starting and fundamental informative labour on the brand in the United States had already been implemented with the excellent articles by Cook Neilson (Superbike rider and Managing Editor of Cycle magazine between 1969 and 1979, Ducati North America Hall of Fame and AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2006), Phil Schilling (inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 2011, a world-class Ducati tuner and Managing Editor of Cycle magazine between 1979 and 1989, who was able to increase the sales of this illustrated publication up to the incredible figure of 500,000 copies, turning it into the best motorcycle magazine ever), Peter Egan (writer of feature articles and Editor-at-Large of Cycle magazine, and probably the all-time best motorcycle columnist along with Phil Schilling), Vicki Smith with her website Ducati.net, and Bruno de Prato (another international authority on Borgo Panigale firm bikes and highly experienced engineer sporting a lavish knowlede on different technical bike designs, who was Ducati Press Officer, Artistic Director and Translator during seventies, being fluent in several languages and a top level expert in Ducati mechanics, aside from highlighting as a writer of many excellent in-depth articles on motorcycles from different brands) in Cycle World magazine, having also written books like Ducati Power, Moto, and Ducati 916, all of them edited by Fba Moto Italiane) and the mechanic feats accomplished by Reno Leoni (an extraordinary racing bike builder and tuner and another foremost figure in the history of Ducati, who began his career as a frame builder and Sach engine installer for NSU being only 16 years old, building two years later 2-stroke engines for Minarelli, supervising its 2-stroke 125 cc powerplant line, until he became Ducati test rider in 1959, subsequently turning into one of the greatest experts in the world in engines assembly, his international success arriving when he prepared Jimmy Adamo´s bevel-drive Twin engine Ducati TT2 600 cc turning it into a TT1 specs — 750 cc or more — bike , winning the 1985 Battle of the Twins race at Laguna Seca, and also being the creator of the Ducati Mille BOTT Reno Leoni Racer in 1986 in which once more he excelled with his tuning of the Ducati MHR Replica Mille and Ducati 1000 S2 shared air cooled, four stroke, 90°“L”twin cylinder, SOHC, desmodromic 2 valve per cylinder 80 hp at 7500 rpm powerplant, the last bevel-drive V-Twin Ducati bike and its technological apex, making it to deliver a power of 90 hp and a top speed of 146 mph. in addition to boasting crankshafts with plain bearing big-ends anticipating the ones featured by the belt-driven V-Twin and parallel-Twin Ducati bikes from late eighties onwards, and a number of improvements to foster durability, without forgetting the previous great work made by him during second half of seventies with the Moto Guzzi Le Mans boasting a longitudinally mounted four-stroke air cooled 844 cc OHV 2-valve per cylinder V-Twin engine which he tuned for the rider Mike Baldwin with whom he attained historical accomplishments like the victory at the Superbike 1977 race in Harrisburg, N.C, attaining a speed of 250 km/h, a competition in which Kurt Liebman — riding a Ducati, also prepared by Reno Leoni— was the runner-up), and Eraldo Ferracci with its Fast by Ferracci Superbike competition racing team winning the SBK World Championship twice, in 1993 with Doug Polen and in 1994 with Troy Corser, as well as creating his amazing Ducati 916 SPA Corsa 955 c.c for AMA Superbike, along with his mechanical feat in 1997 when he did a top-drawer tuning of a Ducati 748 SP, boring its two cylinders to get 94 mm pistons into them, and managing to get an impressive mid torque of almost 63 foot-pounds at 6.800 rpm.
A GREAT PROMOTER OF THE MOTOGIRO D´ITALIA AND ITS REVIVAL
As well as being an authority in modern gorgeous V-Twin 90º Ducati ottovalvole bikes, Vicki Smith has been a remarkable enthusiast of classic Ducatis with handcrafted details galore for twenty-five years, being the owner among others of two gorgeous machines:
a) A 103 kg, 174.5 c.c Ducati F3 factory racer from 1959 with the vintage Meccanica Bologna logo on it, top speed of 160 km/h, and a power of 19hp at 9700 rpm and boasting a four-stroke twin-cam bevel driven single cylinder engine with a 4-speed gearbox, a sturdy little machine exuding elegance and an outstanding performance, to such an extent that Franco Farné was able to win the 250 c.c class race at Daytona at the beginning of 1959 with a very similar 175 c.c Ducati factory racer delivering 16 horsepower at 9000 rpm.
b) A Ducati 175 SS, a lightweight four-stroke 175 c.c single-cylinder overhead camshaft engined bike from 1958, built on racing lines but delivering the performance of a much larger model, in addition to exhibiting excellent roadholding qualities.
Therefore, from scratch, Vicki Smith has been in contact with both passionate owners (George Betzhold, Alberto Sisso, Cook Neilson, Peter Matthew Calles, Lawrence Auriana, Seth Wolins, Robert and Gale Lawrence, Marty Dickerson, Peter Egan and many others) and restaurators ( Henry Hogben - perhaps the greatest restorator of Ducati singles ever along with Rich Lambrechts and Enea Entati- , Jim Dillard and Guy Martin — a tuning master increasing Ducati bikes performance and building engines, both in the sphere of vintage bevel-driven motorcycles and 2 and 4 valve belt-drive powerplants —) of vintage Ducati motorcycles and has visited a number of worldwide events where these dream machines were the main characters (very often being a highly regarded judge): the Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance, the Monterey Motorcycle Meet, the Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show, the Big Kahuna AMA weekend at Road Atlanta, a comprehensive range of Cafe Racer bike shows, the Quail Motorcycling Gathering in Carmel (California), the Boca Raton Concours d´Elegance, Los Angeles Ducati Week, Ducati World Week at Misano (Italy), Barber Vintage Festival at Leeds (Alabama) and many others.
This legendary competition had started in 1914 and kept on until 1957.
But in 2001, forty-four years after its interruption, it was recovered by Dream Engine and Ducati Motor Holding, with a five day timed rally format instead of the original 6 day staged race from town to town, though preserving the full-fledged excitement and historical glamour of the original one.
This way, through great effort and a painstaking planning previous to each Motogiro d´Italia, this unique motorcycling race disputed by classic bikes from different brands (Ducati, MV Agusta, Guzzi, Morini, Benelli, Motobi, Bartali, Mondial, Mival, Bianchi, Perugina, Bianchi, Piaggio, etc ) has been enhanced by a number of vintage motorcycles enthusiasts like Viki Smith, Bob Coy, Jim Dillard, Remo Venturi, Giuliano Maoggi, Leopoldo Tartarini, Allen Peat, Tullio Masserini, Greg Pullen, Mike Gontesky, John Gumina, Eric and Christian Clark, Frank Smith, Patois DeBlanc, Carl Liebold, Hugh Schink, English Pete, William van Dongen on a Rumi, Alice Coleridge, Gemma Wilson and Marco Rimondi of Ducati Dream engine, Neil Spalding, Denise Talabach, Rick Hammond, Dan Bockmier, Randy Garver, Mike Aquino, Shawn Lamb, Tracy Lamb, Warren Egger, Jeffrey Cinnamon, Duner Tor, Randy Zelany, Brian Brown, Rich Lambrechts, Erin Rose, Alfio Sorgato, Bruce Sherrod, John Gumina, Phil Hitchcock, Dave Knibbs, Nigel Wanlass, Antonio Benelli, Sacha Kripgans, Emilio Tono, Graham Fisher and others.
Advertisement of the Motogiro d´Italia 2015 edition, disputed between May 17 and 23, 2015.
Dream Engine and Ducati have made since 2001 a praiseworthy labour regarding the overall organization, logistics, schedule of the stages, booking of hotels, range of meals, awards bestowed, etc, so enabling the participants on riding, relishing the wonderful Italian landscapes, make friends and tasting the wide assortment of Italian food and wine.
To put it in a nutshell. the Motogiro d´Italia is an unforgettable experience in which the riders follow a route across public roads, with checkpoints in a number of beautiful villages and towns along the way, with a different route each day ending in a new town.
Vicki Smith has taken part in every Motogiro d´Italia since it was revived in 2001 and was inducted into the Motogiro d´Italia Hall of Fame.
864 cc air-cooled four-stroke 90º L Twin Cylinder helical gear driven SOHC desmodromic valve Bevel L-Twin engine of a gorgeous Ducati 900 Desmo SS from 1976, featuring a bore x stroke of 86 x 80 mm, two valves per cylinder, five speed transmission and delivering a maximum power of 80 hp at 7.500 rpm. A great machine embodying the no compromise manufacture traditionally inherent to light and charismatic Ducati racing and sports bikes. Mike Hailwood (the best rider ever along with Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Angel Nieto, Carlo Ubbiali, Mick Doohan, Eddie Lawson, Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Casey Stoner and Troy Bayliss on October 29, 2006 in Valencia) won the unforgettable 1978 Formula 1 TT Race at the Isle of Man riding a Ducati 900 SS prepared by the great British tuner from Sport Motorcycle Ltd Manchester team Steve Wynne (who managed to increase Hailwood´s bike power to 86 hp at 9.000 hp and provided the motorcycle with state-of-the-art American 87 mm Venolia forged racing pistons of great strength and excellent preservation of properties at high temperatures thanks to its very special aluminium alloy used in the production of aircraft engines) during his mythical comeback, beating the four-cylinder Japanese Honda CB750 bikes that delivered 20 horsepower more, proving its mechanical efficiency and an impressive optimization of the usable power, as well as subsequently achieving another extraordinary victory at Mallory Park in June 1978, riding the same bike.
On the other hand, needless to say that this event has as main characters truly vintage masterpiece bikes, authentic works of art on which often vast sums of werewithal have been invested on restauration to have them virtually brand new and what´s even more valuable, in perfect working condition and a relish to watch in action for any lover of utterly mechanical bikes like:
Vintage advertisement as a remembrance of the feat accomplished by the Italian riders Leopoldo Tartarini (Ducati test rider and development engineer, a creative driving force in himself and future founder of Italjet, whose 49 c.c minibikes sold more than 15,000 units of different types in United States, as well as having been design consultor for the begetting of the Ducati 900 Super Sport Darmah and the Ducati 750 Sport V-Twin) and Giorgio Monetti (export manager of Ducati at the time), who made 60.000 km around the world during the year 1957 on their respective Ducati 175 TS Meccanica Bologna single cylinder bikes, crossing 42 countries of the five continents. This motorcycle model has often taken part in the new Motogiro d´Italia since its first edition in 2001.
Ducati 175 TS Meccanica Bologna, Aermacchi Harley-Davidson, the Rumi 125 c.c from 1953, Motobi 125 cc from 1955, the Parilla 175 hicam, the Parilla 175 SS, Parilla 175 MSDS, Morini 175, Puch 175 SGS, Derbi 65 cc, Ducati 125 Sport 0,5 Mach Meccanica Bologna, 3 1/2 Morini, Laverda 100, Honda CB150, Bianchi Cervino 175 c.c, Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans, Morini 175 cc from 1954, Ducati Desmo 200, Ducati 900 Super Sport Darmah, Laverda 750 SF, Mondial 175, Ossa 250, BSA Bantam, Reiju, Ducati 200 TS Mechanica Bologna, Ducati 250 24 Horas (built in Spain under licence by Mototrans), a restored Imola 1974 Paul Smart Ducati, BSA 650, Aermacchi HD SS, Ducati 750 SS, Ducati Bardahi, Ducati 350 Desmo from 1974, Ducati 500 Desmo, Laverda 750 SFC and many others.
Motobi Catria Imperiale Sport 1955. The Motobi 125 c.c with 5 speeds controlled by rocker pedal on the right side is a fascinating bike delivering a lot of power in spite of its relatively small size and slowness. Vicki Smith had a first version original blue Motobi 125 c.c (delivering 5,8 hp at 6,500 rpm, because it belonged to one of the first batches in which after the firm had managed to attain 7 and 8 hp at the test bench, Piero Prampolini decided not to take risks that year) throughout ten seasons and took part in some Motogiros d´Italia riding it, making a sensation and proving her mettle and prowess as a pilot, since this machine doesn´t precisely feature the best suspension, so there´s a lot of vibration in the handlebars, to which must be added a low performance of the brakes. But apart from that, this highly coveted dream bike is a very reliable and sturdy motorcycle whose wonderful design oozes stunning elegance, beauty and class, with breathtaking handling and steering, particularly on cornering, and from a mechanical viewpoint its gear driven working is flawless for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers and perhaps more related to Swiss horology than to the bike scope
The Motogiro d´Italia is a thoroughly organized competition open to bikes authorized for road use of every brand and is divided into three classes:
a) Vintage Racing Class:
Motorcycles up to 175 c.c capacity and manufactured before 1957, greatly inspired by the motorcycles that raced in the original Motogiro d´Italia. This is a par excellence vintage racing class.
b) Taglioni Memorial Class: Street:
Bikes from different firms featuring 350 cc or higher and manufactured between 1968 and 1978, so it includes a number of legendary vintage Ducati twin motorcycles created by engineer Fabio Taglioni.
c) Touring Class:
Newer bikes from all brands wishing to take part on a more relaxed and non competitive basis.
A HIGHLY EXPERIENCED PHOTOGRAPHER OF MOTORCYCLING EVENTS
Another of the manifold talents of Vicki Smith is her remarkable ability as a photojournalist of motorcycling events, a field in which she has excelled for more than twenty -five years (as proved by her images in ducati.net, ductalk.com, Motorcycle Classics magazine, GizMag, Cafe Racer magazine, Motorcycle magazine and Benzina magazine, of which she is chief photographic consultant) getting her own pictures and writing her own texts featuring a wealth of valuable information in every conceivable regard not only for Ducati enthusiasts but generally speaking for all bike bugs.
Vicki Smith´s style of photographing is firmly grounded on her expertise and vast knowledge on all kind of sides related to Ducati bikes (most representative models, famous riders, deft tuners, most defining mechanical components of specific motorcycles, engines, electronics, CEOS of the firm, project managers, technical directors, top-notch engineers, mechanics, bike designers, customized Ducatis, vintage Ducati models, restaurators of bevel driven Ducati motorcycles, tuners, MotoGP riders interviews, SBK World Championship riders interviews, members of Ducati Owners Clubs, etc).
And she will strive after approaching them as much as possible, taking advantage of her immense grasp on Ducati bikes, her acquaintanceship with everybody belonging to the brand scope, whether professional bike industry or racing, and her unutterable ability and intuition to discern where is the epicenter of interest at every moment to immerse into it and get the pictures.
Therefore, the gist of her photography is to be in the adequate place at the suitable moment and to approach as much as possible to her subjects, getting pictures from every angle,whether they´re persons or machines. As to the latter ones, she doesn´t only photographs different Ducati bikes but also legendary vintage motorcycles from other brands like MV Agusta, BSA, Vincent, BMW classics, Harley-Davidson (including the old Knuckleheads with the hand-shift four-speed transmission, wrap-around oil tank and chrome accents turning them into the kings of the road), Indian, Triumph, Matchless, Mondial, Italjet, Capriolo, Guazzioni, Norton, AJS, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Bimota, Cagiva, Motobi, Aprilia, Morini, Laverda, Moto Guzzi and others, along with more modern jewels of innovation and breakthrough technology like the handbuilt Brittens V1000 racing motorcycles manufactured in early 1990 by the visionary genius John Britten and his Britten Motorcycling Company in New Zealand, which are among the most sophisticated bikes ever made until now, with a weight of only 138 kg, exceedingly avant-garde design, a water cooled belt-driven 4 valves per cylinder 999 cc 60º V-Twin quad cam 4-stroke engine delivering 166 hp at 11800 rpm and a maximum speed of 303 km/h, featuring superb aerodynamics, engine data logging, extensive use of carbon fiber, frameless chassis, radiator placed under the seat and double wishbone front suspension, titanium conrods and valves).
© Cafe Racer TV
DESMOPRO, AN UNSWERVING COMMITMENT TO BRING TO FRUITION TOP-NOTCH RESTORATION OF DUCATI VINTAGE BIKES
The symbiosis between Vicki Smith´s exceedingly broad knowledge on Ducati history, the features of every motorcycle of the Italian brand along with her entrepreneurial gifts and long experience in the motorcycle sector and the huge technical skill, pateince, passion, awesome grasp of the different design and manufacturing technologies used to make every model since the very origin of the Borgo Panigale firm and steadfastness developed by the world-class restorator Rich Lambrechts gave rise in February 2003 to DesmoPro, a very high level firm whose aim is begetting the best possible restorations of Ducati bikes from varios periods, doing their best to utterly recover the full performance and traits of their original design and heritage, through a painstaking handcrafted manual work of metals, a witty choice of the best components, materials, composites and alloys (he is an authority in metals physical properties on being applied to motorcycles to bring old Ducati wonderful machines back to life and make them look brand new again), together with an extensive labour of hundreds of hours in the exhausts, thorough welding, and a phenomenal machining work among many other things, also tailoring to the customers individual needs if necessary.
The ingenuity and resources displayed by the topflight engineer, restorer and tuner of Ducati vintage bikes Rich Lambrechts are truly awesome and have paid off so far now in the creation of four dream bikes restored by him:
A) The Deja Blue, one of the most accurate to the original restorations ever made. It is an exact mechanic and cometic replica of the legendary Ducati 750 SS Old Blue with which Cook Neilson as rider and Phil Schilling as tuner (the latter increasing the power of the bike, turning it into a 883 cc Desmo Ducati) won the 1977 Daytona Superbike race, beating the cream of the crop of the four cylinder Japanese (Yoshimura R & D Kawasakis ridden by David Emde and Wes Cooley) and Twin European (1001 cc BMW R90S featuring a a 4-stroke air-cooled pushrod ohv 180 degree Boxer twin cylinder bike delivering 102 bhp at 8600 rpm ridden by Reg Pridmor and the superb Moto Guzzi Le Mans boasting a longitudinally mounted four-stroke air cooled 844 cc OHV 2-valve per cylinder V-Twin engine, ridden by Mike Baldwin and tuned by Reno Leoni), with a difference of 27 seconds over David Emde, who was second.
It is currently exhibited at Barbers Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham (Alabama).
B) A 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport "Green Fame" , owned by Robin Lawrence, who delivered it to Rich Lambrechts for him to provide it with identical cosmetic presence and riding experience of its original time during seventies, something really difficult which was achieved by Mr Desmodromic bike art with high marks, managing to preserve this unique motorcycle´s mechanical performance heritage and its pristine original appearance with a peerless accuracy.
C) The Ducati Cafe 31, born as a homage to Cook Neilson, Phil Schilling, Rino Carrachi and Giorgio Nepoti, four towering figures in the Ducati racing history.
D) The Ducati Santamonica, an exceedingly complex restoration to fulfill, because it was a Ducati 750 from late eighties, so it was more than twenty years old and suffered from both important and minor flaws, and the already lofty challenge became an even more toilsome challenge when the owner pined for the bike being returned to him as it had left the Borgo Panigale factory when he bought it.
And once more, the genius Rich Lambrechts was able to do it at his DesmoPro workshop, wholly rebuilding the frame, painting it according to the Italian factory correct colors (doing the same with the bodywork), as well as reconditioning every internal of the engine, reblacking all engine externals, using top of the line OM materials to give the stock exhaust a new life, replacing all of the bearings, stripping and repainting the wheels (also making a repolishing of them), reconditioning many of the original bolts and even reproducing all graphics to factory original specs, being presently shown at the Vintage Motos Museum in Denver.
By dint of perseverance, tremendous knowledge of every model of Ducati bikes and its mechanic and technical features, a deep cognizance of the history of the brand, steady attendance to the most important motorcycling events all over the world, great experience as an sports car and bike racer grasping the necessary sensory inputs to handle them with accuracy at great speeds, the daily contact with other Ducati experts from United States, Italy and other countries, an incredible working ability, love for her trade, long experience in the automobile and motorcycling sales and dealership administration, parts distributorship and a full commitment in everything she does, Vicki Smith has implemented a stunning gift and nose for all kind of entrepreneural activities and possibilities of businesses in every conceivable sphere of the motorcycling industry, with a proven ability to make them not only highly profitable but also yielding an excellent working environment and unforgettable experiences, thanks to her exceedingly comprehensive insight of the market circumstances and her known qualities of leadership, organization capacity, charisma, kindness and charming personality.
This way, in her impressive entrepreneurial background of almost thirty years stand out:
- Her partnership with Action Sport Cycles (an all-Euro brand dealer in Fort Lauderdale).
- The parts distributorship with North American Gio.Ca.Moto which became the official factory source for Ducati components, the start of Ducati Island at Laguna Seca with Smith´s Action Sports Cycles and Gio. Ca. Moto,
- Her decisive activity with Ducati North America Marketing Department since 1994 hitherto (22 years) enhancing the presence of Ducati brand in the United States, working on the DNA Event Team.
- Work with riders Troy Bayliss (three times SBK World Champion) and Johnny Lewis.
- Media Manager and Publicist for Lloyd Brothers Motorsports AMAPro Flat Track.
- Dealer Principal/Partner of Action Sports Cycles between January 1990 and January 2002 (12 years) with dealership of Ducati, Triumph, Bimota, MotoGuzzi, Aprilia and MZ bukes, as well as developing different projects.
- Steadfast work with Ducati Corse and the Scrambler Unit and Social Media team in Bologna (Italy).
- Work with AMAPro Racing.
- The Ducati Day Daytona party during the Daytona Bike Week.
- The overseeing of some Ducati Owners Clubs in South Florida.
- Her labour as a Ducati North America liaison to help other Ducati clubs.
- Her organization of volunteers of the Team Ducatisti.
- Her activity as a consultant and expert in the finding, valuation and selling of historic and collectible vintage motorcycles.
- Her accomplishments as a contract Ducati historian for North America, sharing endeavours with the also Ducati pundit and great Ducati restaurator Rich Lambrechts, etc.
- Work with the LBM Flat track team as publicist and media manager.
- TV Show-Cafe Racer season 4: "The Challenge": MotoCorse Performance builds and challenges Ben Bostrom to a race. Ben requests the Desmopro Cafe 31 Ducati for the race, with a team made up by Vicki Smith, Rich Lambrechts, Chris Boy and Ben Bostrom.
- Class organizer and judge of the Amelia Island Concour´s d´Elegance Week with fellow judges Dale Walksler and Danny Sullivan since March 2015.
© Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza