Founded in 1926 by Antonio and Adriano Ducati, Ducati Motor Holding was a minor marque known for its eccentric and erratic output until April 23, 1972. On that day, short-circuit racer Paul Smart rode the 750 Super Sport and his teammate Bruno Spaggiari took second. Ducati, which Smart new only for out-of-date singles prior to signing up for the race, was suddenly the brand to beat.
Though it was never the most powerful bike on the road, the Super Sport was also far from bulky and handled exceptionally well, a trait that made it popular with more serious riders – and the editors of Cycle magazine.
The round case was abandoned by Ducati after it released the Super Sport, which is one of the reasons the bike remains so popular with collectors. Smart’s bike, given to him by Taglioni, is enshrined at Ducati headquarters.
From a riders perspective, piloting the Super Sport felt like being in the cockpit of a jet.
The Ducati Smart juiced to the finish line in front of 70,000 screaming Italians produced 86 horsepower at 9,200 rpm. The bikes were bulky and stable, which made them fast on the long curves of the hilly track.
Immediately after the race, Ducati announced that it would produce replica models. The company eventually did, but those bikes – released two years later – were considerably lighter.
Smart led Spaggiari to victory on race day.
Fabio Taglioni, Ducati's chief designer, and Smart after the Imola victory.
Ducati transported the seven desmo racers in this distinctive glass-sided truck.
The Art of Ducati, from Motorbooks, is available now.