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ducati imola

Imola Ducati heads to auction

Historically important V-twin expected to fetch Au$1-1.15 million (US$650-750,000, GB£520-600,000)

(April 25, 2024)

One of just seven surviving Imola Ducati 750 Desmos is hitting the auction circuit with Gooding & Co, in a sale running May 8-17.

ducati imola group

Above: The original group of eight, lined up near the glass-sided transporter used to get the race bikes to the circuit. Image – Cycle World.

The machine is among the top two-wheeled collectibles in the world, given it’s from the same batch that put Ducati on the world racing map, with a win in the 1972 Imola 200. The lead bike was in the hands of Briton Paul Smart, whose team-mate Bruno Spaggiari landed second.


That was against a star-studded field, with the likes of Giacomo Agostini in the mix. High-profile riders Barry Sheene, Jarno Saarinen and Renzo Pasolini had been offered rides on Ducatis for the event, but at that stage didn’t have enough confidence in the then emerging manufacturer to take up the challenge.


See Ian Falloon’s Imola feature.


From the auction house: “As one of the most original of eight Imola racers built, this Ducati is one of the very best of this rare breed,” said Angus Dykman, Specialist for Gooding & Company.

ducarti newsletter imola

Above: A period Ducati newsletter celebrating the Imola win.


“The 1972 Imola 200 was not only a defining moment in motorcycle history, but for Ducati as a company. The technical achievements developed for the eight specially-produced Imola racers propelled Ducati to the forefront of international competition for years to come, and desmodromic valves are still used in the company's highest performance models to this day.


“This incredible example has spent nearly thirty years in the consignor’s loving care and is accompanied by remarkable archival photos, fascinating documentation and a report by marque expert Ian Falloon.”

ducati imola


Although it achieved competition success with its smaller displacement models, it was not until the early 1970s that Ducati decided to take on the dominant pairing of Giacomo Agostini and MV Agusta in motorcycle racing’s premier Formula 750 class. Led by its legendary engineer Fabio Taglioni, the firm prepared eight all-new, highly advanced 750 cc racers for the 1972 Imola 200, known as the “Daytona of Europe”.


Ducati proudly arrived at Imola with seven of the racers in a specially designed glass-sided transporter, causing widespread excitement and anticipation among the motorcycle world at large. Indeed, history was made. In a tremendous upset, Ducati riders Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari took first and second place, ushering in a new era of international success for Ducati.


The Imola race bikes featured notable innovations, including the first use of desmodromic valve actuation on a V-twin engine, allowing extreme high rpm performance. The motorcycles also boasted strong sandcast engine cases, lightweight billet connecting rods and cranks, and an asymmetrical exhaust setup, among countless other features detailed in the accompanying report by marque expert Ian Falloon.

Erroll james ducati

Above: Errol James in action on the bike in South Africain 1973. Image – RK Edwards, Durban. 

After its victory, Ducati sent some of the bikes around the world to promote the brand. The 1972 Ducati 750 Imola Desmo on offer here was sent to South Africa in 1973, where it was campaigned by Errol James at the South African TT at the Roy Hesketh Circuit. It was eventually retired to static storage at Vetsak, the official Ducati Importer in Johannesburg, where it was purchased by motorcycle enthusiast and political correspondent John D’Oliveira in 1976. In 1995, the D’Oliveira family shipped the motorcycle to the USA, where it was purchased by its current owner, a lifelong car and motorcycle journalist for numerous top publications.


Since then, this bike has been carefully maintained by the consignor, and run periodically. It has also been the subject of numerous articles and a beautifully produced short film.


See the film here, via YouTube.


See the accompanying Cycle World story.

imola ducati


This is among the seven purpose-built Imola racers known to survive. Falloon notes that this Ducati retains its original frame and sandcast crankcases along with the majority of its original silver metallic flake gelcoat finish, which is rare for a racing bike from this era.


See Ian Falloon's Imola Ducati feature.


See the Gooding & Co Ducati listing here.

This is part of a larger motorcycle sale - see it here.


Note: the author owns the Norton Commando and Ducati 860 GT featured.


More features here

See the bikes in our shed


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