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Ducati 916 Senna

(by Ian Falloon, Oct 2022)

ducati 916 senna


Tribute with a tragic background


In 1995 we saw the first of the limited edition 916 Senna models. A friend of the Castiglionis, the great Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, was a Ducati enthusiast.

Senna had been Formula One World Champion in 1988, 1990, and 1991, and on March 7, 1994, had visited the Ducati factory in Bologna and approved a variant of the 916 to carry his name. This was originally to be launched at the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix in May, but was delayed due to Senna’s death.

On 8 Ma,y 1994, Senna died at the Formula One race at Imola, only a short distance from Bologna. After persuading Senna’s sister Viviane to proceed with the model as a tribute, the 916 Senna appeared for the 1995 model year.

Production was scheduled for 300 units, with the profits going to the Senna Foundation to support infant charity programs in Brazil and around the world. Distinguished by its black and grey colour scheme accentuated by red wheels, the Senna was an amalgam of the 916 Strada and SP.

The engine specifications were as for the 1994 916 Strada, but updated with the 1.6 M CPU. Thus the Senna engine featured steel Pankl con-rods, and with single injectors produced 109bhp at 9000 rpm. The chassis came from the 916 SP. With only a solo seat there was an aluminium rear subframe, an Öhlins DU 3420 rear shock absorber, and fully floating cast-iron 320mm front brake discs.

Also shared with the SP were adjustable brake and clutch levers, stainless steel brake lines, and several carbon-fibre parts. These included the front mudguard, clutch cover, chainguard, and exhaust pipe insulating panel.

For 1996 another version was proposed, the Senna II. This was to be very similar to the 1995 model but for an aluminium clutch cover and plastic exhaust pipe insulation panel. The main identifying feature was to be yellow wheels but production problems during 1996 meant that there was no Senna II that year.

Senna’s brother-in-law Flavio Lalli died after crashing one of the first 916 Sennas in March 1996, this further curtailing the interest in the series by the Senna Foundation.

It was only after the agreement with the Texas Pacific Group in September 1996 that saw an end to the production problems, and the sanction for another run of 916 Sennas to be produced.

When these eventuated they were a lighter grey than before, with red rather than yellow wheels. The number of Senna IIs produced in 1997 was similar to the first Senna, with 301 units manufactured.

The final version of the Senna appeared for 1998, now black, with the new Vignelli logos. Distinguishing the 1998 Senna as before were a number of carbon-fibre body parts (front mudguard, chainguard and license plate bracket), Öhlins rear suspension unit, and a numbered plaque. Further distinguishing the 1998 model was a carbon-fibre airbox (as with the 916 SPS) and exhaust heat shield. As before, production was 300 for 1998 but they were slow sellers.

The final new Senna was auctioned at the World Ducati Weekend 2000 at Misano.

ducati 916 senna

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