Evolution of the Ducati Superbike


A short history of the Ducati Superbike over the last 30 years.

1990 Ducati 851 Superbike at DESMO BBQ
In 1987, Ducati redefined the motorcycling world, releasing a four-valve (Desmo Quattro) superbike, ridden for the first World Superbike Championship by Marco Lucchenelli the following year.
1991 Ducati 851 Raymond Roche Replica
The incredible power of the 851cc engine (about 93hp) launched a massive era of success in the motorcycle racing circuit, and the signature Ducati design ushered in an period of commercial progress for the brand as well.
Ducati 888 Superbike Race Replica 
In 1990, the engine bore was enlarged to 888cc's for the 851 SP2, which eventually became the Ducati 888, on which Doug Polen won the 1991 WSBK championship in 1991, which became publicly available as the Ducati 888 Sport Production Special (SPS) in 1992.
Ducati 916 Evolution into the 996 at the Museo Ducati
Massimo Tamburini released the Ducati 916 in 1994, rocking the motorcycle world with both it's technical prowess and unparalleled physical beauty. 
Ducati 916 at a DESMO event
Arguably (...though not really) the most beautiful motorcycle ever designed, with only about 104hp stock, the 916 wasn't as powerful as other Japanese inline 4 cylinder bikes, but the motorcycle utterly crushed the competition with its low-end torque, size and handling.
My Ducati 996 and a custom 748 (equipped with a 1198 engine)
Ducati maintained the design, but enlarged and tweaked the engine, delivering more power to to the Ducati 996, released in 1999.  Carl Fogarty maintained Ducati's preeminence in the superbike world in 1999, winning yet another World Superbike Championship, which Troy Bayliss did again in 2001, the year my 996 was manufactured (above). 
Ducati 998 and my 996 at New York Safety Track
The 998 launched the new Testastretta engine in 2002, which had even more power derived from the "narrow head," pushing about 123hp to the rear wheel.  The bike was featured in The Matrix, but the last model was produced in 2004.  
2007 Ducati 999s Team USA Edition
The incredibly controversial Pierre Terblanche design of the 999 was produced beginning in 2003, and continued Ducati's dominance in motorcycle racing. Ducatistis either love or hate the myopic design, but nobody argued with the power (about 138hp) and success at the racetrack, with the Ducati 999 taking the World Superbike Championship in 2003 (Neil Hodgson), 2004 (James Toseland) and 2006 (Troy Bayliss), until the bike ceased to be produced.
Carbon Fiber and Yellow Ducati 1098 at Rockwell Cycle
In 2007, Ducati upped the horsepower again to about 160hp with the 1098, with new concessions offered by WSBK to the two-cylinder engine motorcycles, and Troy Bayliss won the WSBK Championship once again in 2008.
Althea Ducati 1198 at EICMA in Milan
With the 1098 carrying over some of the design elements of the 998, Ducati increased the engine size again in 2009, with the 1198, with the base model offering about 170hp with which Carlos Checa won the title during the 2011 Superbike World Championship season.
Davide Giugliano's WSBK Ducati Panigale R
Late in 2011 at EICMA, or the Milan Motorycle show, Ducati announced a drastic overhaul of its Superbike line, announcing the Panigale, named after the town of Borgo Panigale, the location of the Ducati Museum and where the motorcycles are manufactured, announcing the highest power-weight-ratio on the planet at the time (195hp for a 362lb bike).
Ducati 959 release at EICMA
Unfortunately, while the Panigale is probably the prettiest bike out there, Ducati's racetrack dominance has dwindled in both World Superbike and MotoGP.  Whether it's a failure of R&D or investment, commercialization of the brand, lack of concessions for V-Twin engines, Ducati Superbike fans had mixed feelings about the gigantic 1299cc Panigale release in 2015, and then a 959cc "entry-level" Panigale in 2016, hoping that the Ducati Superbike is a motorcycle for the future, not just an impressive relic from the past.
note: all photography is my own, except the lead gif shared on Facebook from the Ducati Users Club of Western Canada
© 2016 Tigh Loughhead

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