Does Ducati Need Racing Anymore?

Ducati Diavel Carbon

The last couple of years have been abject misery for Ducati racing fans as MotoGP results were pretty much nonexistent and World Superbike glory began to fade.  So Ducati sales must be tanking right?  Not exactly.

You could well argue that if it weren’t for racing, in particular World Superbike Racing, Ducati would probably still be an obscure Italian brand attracting motorcycle contrarians to a pretty yet outdated model range from a bygone era.  Think Moto Guzzi.

1988  851 Tricolore Kit

Instead the development of the liquid cooled 8-valve desmoquattro led to an almost endless string of racing victories for the tiny Bologna Ducati concern against the might of Japan.  Far more people had heard of the Ducati 851 than who had ever seen one, let alone ridden one but it set the scene for the simply gorgeous 916 that followed it and all of a sudden riders were trading their GSX-Rs and Blades in for an exquisite Italian jewel that had the pace to back up its looks.

Ducati Superbikes

So us Ducatisti came to claim the first every MotoGP refugee World Superbike champion (Raymond Roche) as our own and go on to worship at the foot pegs of Doug Polen, the mighty King Carl, the Troys all the way through to the new king, Carlos who in the symmetrical way of these things was also a MotoGP refugee.

For most of this story, Ducati was known almost solely as a maker of hard core crotch rockets as beautiful as they were impractical.  Although the Monster was a sales success starting in 1993, most of the profit came from the higher margin Superbike range.  It was hard to argue that racing wasn’t the best marketing investment the company could make.

Fast forward to now.  That basso profundo that catches your ear is far more likely to be from a Multistrada, Hypermotard, Monster or even a Diavel than a Superbike.  Yes, that’s right.  Ducati is now as much a maker of Adventure Tourers, Supermotos (ok, pseudomotos), Nakeds and even Performance Cruisers as it is a purveyor of fine Superbikes.

Ducati Apparel Urban Look 01

Do you think the guy who pulls up at Starbucks on his Ducati Diesel Edition Monster knows the latest MotoGP race results?  Didn’t think so.  Ducati’s sales are booming at just the time that its race program is falling to pieces.  The company has doubled its marketshare by investing in novel takes on new product that has migrated the brand into new segments and attracted a whole new bunch of riders who could care less about race results.

Carlos Checa Cranks it

Just as well.  After an unexpected championship victory with Carlos Checa in 2011 in a kind of non-factory team, the Ducati World Superbike tilt imploded this year as Carlos tried to override the bike in the turns to compensate for its distinct lack of pace in a straight-line (what’s Marco’s excuse then!).

Valentino Rossi

Naturally the Valentino Rossi Ducati partnership will be written about for decades, analysing every last angle looking for the explanation for such a spectacular failure.  The truth is though that it took a miracle and now retired Casey Stoner to take a title for Ducati and that stunning year in 2007 hid a lot of sins.  Ducati has been racing in MotoGP for 9 years and won the title just once.  Pretty impressive given the firm’s size and lack of premier racing pedigree, but 1 out of 9 means you got beat the 8 other times.


Luckily, racing results are simply not that mission critical anymore.  We, like you, can’t wait to see Ducati winning again (but it will probably take a bunch of time and a bunch of Audi cash).  Still thanks to canny strategic product planning it isn’t that big of a deal either way. While Ducati Corse stumbled, Ducati Motor Holdings did just fine thank-you.

21 Responses to “Does Ducati Need Racing Anymore?”

  1. What a fucked up article. Ducati wont be down for long in racing. Unless they let Audi try to make them a slowsuki company

  2. I agree and disagree about Ducati not needing racing. As you know racing takes a TON of money. But…all the cool gadgets you find on Ducati’s today come from race Research & Development. Everything from the engine, traction control, to chassis geometry is all first tested with Race R&D. However, like you stated the Monster rider heading to Starbucks. Will they know about/use all this technology inside of the Monster? Probably not.

  3. I concur Kent…Ducati not racing is like saying Ferrari not racing. Sure you can sell Hypermotards to the yuppies but it is a fad…they will get onto the next thing that is funky at the cafes…only real riders who appreciate the workmanship will stick with a brand that is worth is salt.

  4. Bad article, its the race heritage that gives Ducati its style. The writer has no idea what they are talking about.

  5. The reason why Ducati has been successful in increasing sales is simple. Each new bike has better performance (speed, agility, stopping, and “fun”) that the others in the segment. The Diavel is a good example. Rather than being a lard bucket, it is really tight, handles well and as demonstrated at WDW goes well. The Multi is the same. In sport mode if fells similar to a sports bike,
    They have built down from racing with the new models rather than up from the road.
    They will forget racing at their peril. Companies, like anything go in cycles. As such if they forget their roots and how they became successful in the first place when times are hard they will not ahve anything to fall back on.
    The fact that Ducati are still in MotoGP with three different formats is testiment to their DNA. 2nd in Superstocks with the Pan also good result in 1st year. The 1198 still competitive after what 4 years.

  6. The answer to your question is yes. It is the life blood of the Brand. I do believe the relationship with Volkswagen will not affect Ducati in the least. The Volkswagen group has a extensive history in racing. So I am looking forward to the future of Ducati, doing great things ahead !

  7. Its in ducati’s blood to race

  8. Yes they should continue racing, but success will come only with a great deal of effort and money.

  9. Is this a press release from Honda and Yamaha?

  10. excuses, excuses….

  11. Anyone remember MV Augusta?

  12. First off, this WSBK season wasn’t that bad. Yes we didn’t win, but Checa won quite a few races, it’s just that he ended up in the kibble in all the others. The MotoGP project has been a joke since about 2008. Now that Preziosi is gone, and we can infuse some German engineering from Audi, things will improve. Second, I agree with above, Ducati cannot stop racing. It would sink them. Yes they have a bunch of yuppies buying interesting novelty bikes, but those guys like talking to racers about racing just as much as anyone else. This article is ridiculous.

  13. Ducati needs racing! They were World Champion in 2011 with Checa. They will be the most successful constructor in WSBK for many, many years. It will be not easy with the 1199 to continue winning races and titles. I don’t think, that this bike is the great revolution and I believe, that the 1098R would be definitly competitive for another year. The problem is the air-restrictor, that stops the V2’s at high speed. And MotoGP? We will see. The main problem for Ducati is, that they set the wrong priority to the wrong rider in the last couple of years. This was an expensive fault and hopefully they will get back to the podium asap. And I just would prefer, that Ducati brings more support to local racing-teams in different national championships. Not just in Italy…

  14. What the most of you not now is that last years bike the 1198 was restricted so Checa had to override the year it wil be the same. Ducati bikes with no restriction destroy the other brands bikes. So lets hope the bike gets a little less restriction so it can be competitive.

  15. Mr. Marton it the nail on the head. Yuppies just like all the people riding Harleys total fake people trying to fit in. I love my 1098 and how uncomfortable it is to cruise but the bike wasn’t made for cruising. When I ride it hard in every turn and straight away it’s a dream come true pure race perfection. Ya and hows this for a losing 2011 the 1098 is totally out dated and still beat the best anyone else had to offer. The only reason they had a hard time this year is they made them add 12 to 14 pounds on the bike. So other manufacturers would have a chance.

  16. Roman your right they should of invested in Nicky and not Rossi. Believe me Ducati doesn’t like failing they will come back without a doubt. I think they should invest in other championships also. A couple years ago Larry Pegram’s 1098 was as fast as the factory bikes in AMA

  17. I think this article, more informed and providing comparison with BMW provides the emphatic answer. Yes.

  18. I am one of those Starbucks-going Monster riders. Quite literally in fact, I own a S2R 1000 and live up the street from a conveniently located Starbucks, a co-worker’s spouse is the shift manager there. So why did a choose a Monster or even a Ducati at all? I can tell you for certain that pitiful MotoGP results have nothing to do with it. For one, I think the bike looks beautiful, but also I like its mechanical simplicity that makes it easy to work on and customize. It’s comfortable to ride and that twin sounds amazing. I like to think that these are things that can be appreciated by all riders despite their creed or ego.

    Do I care about Ducati’s racing? I do, not so much MotoGP, but I do watch WSBK. Checa did great in 2011 and he won a few races in 2012 (unlike certain highly-paid Ducati riders). He didn’t bring home the championship, but I’m not going to egg his house over it. Being a NY Yankee fan, I understand that great entities aren’t always victorious.

    Truth be told, I think that the superbike riders are more prone to have riders who are less knowledgeable and only ride a Ducati just because of the name.

    Now does Ducati need racing? I’d like to think so. Ducati is only famous today because of their racing. But people often forget that Ducati, like the Japanese manufacturers, only started to build motorcycles when they saw that people had need for cheap transportation in a land ravaged by war. Even though they’ve been racing since the ’50s, they didn’t reach international fame until the ’70s — even Paul Smart thought that Ducati was a manufacturer that “built out-dated singles” prior to racing the 750 Imola for them. But Ducati wouldn’t be the household name it is today if it wasn’t for their entry into WSBK in the ’80s/’90s — about 40 years since the Cucciolo.

    The bottom line is that Ducati is a motorcycle manufacturer. They build great bikes. The Multistrada was a great success when the company needed it, the Diavel is a great power-cruiser and a great entry into the cruiser market, the Monster will always be a loved icon. While their superbikes are faithful to a proud legacy of racing, they only represent that aspect of the company. I think it’s great to see what their brightest minds are able to accomplish in different disciplines of design. However, racing is a large part of their reputation. It would be a shame to see those same bright thinkers unable to be put to work in environment where the competition and innovation moves at a visibly fast pace. I’d rather not see Ducati become a shadow of it’s former racing self like MV Agusta or Benelli.

  19. I know the writer and you can bank money on his knowledge of racing and Ducati. He is also spot on about Ducati’s evolution into the marketing brand it is today. The fact that many of the key traits that identify a Ducati to me are going the way of the buggy whip is a bit disconcerting but you can’t argue with the bottom line. Is the desmo the next thing to go? Very interesting.

  20. There is a difference between what Ducati fans want to have happen and what will happen. I would love Ducati to keep on racing and maybe they will. Contrary to popular belief Ducati doesn’t really have that rich a racing history with 2003 marking the first ever premier class win for the marque. Ducati still only have ever won 1 world championship in Gp racing. Compare that to fellow Italians like Aprilia (18) and MV Augusta (37). No the Ducati racing story is really all the World Superbike Championship with a few fairytales like Smart at Imola and Hailwood at the Island and Rutter in the F1 championship. Its far more likely than not that Ducati will end its MotoGP exercise at some point and not return. That is especially true if it continues its winless run for another season or two (which is very likely). The company is no longer mounting a factory effort in Superbike so that would be the end of it.

  21. Ducati is becoming more of a lifestyle accessories than motorsports, at least over in this part of the world where prices ranges from USD25K and above. That’s huge monies.

    As to whether motorsports have anything to do with the successful sale of the superbikes, the answer is Yes.
    Ducati is associated with power and success. That’s basically the elements needed in motorsports.