A decade ago today, the father of all modern Ducatis, Fabio Taglioni passed away. A genius engineer, Dr T is the creator of all the modern signature elements that define Ducati. From desmodromic valves to the L-twin, trellis frame and belt cam drive Ing. Fabio Taglioni created them all.
Hired away from Mondial by a government appointed Ducati director who just happened to like racing, Dr T lost no time in designing a a new 100cc bevel gear drive, single overhead camshaft valve spring single for a new bike called the Gransport. In its debut race, the 9 day Giro d’Italia, it easily won the 100cc class. The Ducati racing story had begun.
The 100cc Gran Sport quickly became a bored out 125 and the very next year a double overhead camshaft version called the Bialbero was produced. Ducati now wanted to race 125 Grand Prix! In the 1956 season the 125 Bialbero took to the GP circuit but was no match for the MV Augusta’s, Mondial’s and Gilera’s. Enter Dr Taglioni again. He produced a Desmodromic valve gear system that eliminated float and allowed the Desmo single to rev to 14,000rpm. Although Mercedes was successfully using the system in cars, no-one else then or since has mastered it in bikes. In its racing debut, the little Desmo dominated the race, lapping the entire field.
Fabio Taglioni went on to design the Ducati 750GT, the company’s first production twin cylinder. One model introduced two elements that now feature on every Ducati you can buy today. The bike was the Ducati Pantah. After a disastrous foray into parallel twins, Taglioni once again came to the rescue. The Pantah was a 500cc V-twin that was a lot less expensive to manufacture since it dropped the complex bevel gears for toothed belts. It was also the first model to feature a trellis frame (Taglioni designed this too).
Every new Ducati you can buy today features a 90º L-twin with belt cam drive, desmodromic valve operation and a trellis frame. And even if you don’t ride a Superbike, there is racing DNA embedded into every Ducati which exemplifies performance, light weight and handling in every motorcycle segment they compete.
However all this about to change. The 2012 Ducati 1199 Superbike will abandon the L-twin (for a 90º twin rotated slightly to the rear), the trellis frame (for an aluminum monocoque) and belt cam drive (for a combination of gears and chains).
Phil Aynsley took the opening photo of Taglioni at the occasion of his 80th birthday, less than a year before he died and the Gran Sport and 750GT images.
Upgrade your Ducati knowledge by buying a copy of ‘The Ducati Story’ by Ian Falloon.
Listen to the interview with Phil Aynsley, author of Ducati a Photographic Tribute
Check out Phil’s Ducati Gran Sport Wallpaper
Read the Ducati a Photographic Tribute review
Read ‘The Ducati Story’ by Ian Falloon Review