I’m sure a few of you have noticed that this year has drawn a few Ducatis in the Sound of Thunder series, all but one of the Ducati mounted riders racing this year had attended a Ducati only track day last year at Pembrey organised by Merlin Ducati, Cardiff.
As track days usually get a bit heated in the afternoons, this one was no exception and ended up as a race. A mutual bond had been established between a group of Ducati owners. After 4 track days last year I decided to take the plunge and apply for my race licence and thought that Pembrey Circuit would be a good starter track, all of the lads I had met at the track day Came down to watch and the last meeting of 99 saw four of us on the start line again at Pembrey.
As I come from an Engineering Background and have spent all of my working life fiddling with cars and bikes, it would only be natural to get to know the workings of the bike I like to ride. So during the closed season, the 748 I wheeled out of the showroom four and a half years previous had been turned into what its makers had originally built it to do, that was to be raced.
Because I had owned the machine for a long while I got to know it quite well, almost down to when the stand was going to fall off again or when the belts needed tightening, this knowledge proved useful when you try to get reliability out of an ageing Ducati.
If any one out there has done some serious road miles on a Ducati, you will have experienced a few problems along the way, you know they can be temperamental things, they call it built in character I think.
So what if you thrash the living daylights out of it week after week at the racetrack, do you really think it will last very long? Most of you will say I don’t know, ask a Ducati owner and he will most probably tell you to buy something from Japan. I would say, if you can manage the loan repayments, buying the bike is the easy bit, keeping it running is the hard part and the racing is the fun part.
Now these things are certainly not the fastest bikes on the track, they are very noisy, they vibrate, they grate and rattle, They cut out when it rains, the clutches burn out, the rectifiers blow up and can catch fire, the timing belts snap and the valves smash into the pistons, the rear brake pumps itself up locking the back wheel up, the clutch hub nut vibrates loose, the cush drive rubber breaks up and eats away at the swinging arm, the timing idler gear nut comes loose and breaks up, The alternator nut vibrates loose and destroys the crankshaft, the gearbox can have up to 3 neutrals, clutch slave cylinders would be better suited to a pushbike, front sprocket retainer wears out and the sprocket falls off, the hard chrome on the rocker arms is made of tin foil, the engine creates so much condensation that after a meeting the water in my catch tank can be used to wash the bike down with and nuts and bolts fall off if not locktited on.
This is most probably just a portion of what has gone wrong in the last five years and the only real reason for keeping the bike is to see what is going to go wrong next.
With my experience of ownership and brief history of road racing, I would say to anybody, if you intend to race one of these things, be prepared to spend many hours in the workshop before and after a race meeting, have a regular plan of maintenance and stick to it, also you will definitely experience some, all or more of the problems listed above.
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