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A tour of the Ducati plant...

Motonews.ru journalists took a trip to Bologna, where they visited a plant owned by the famous Italian Ducati brand and got a chance to talk with the plant’s management and even watch the conveyor belt process…

The trademark’s history isn't quite what you would expect it to be. It wasn't motorcycles or engines that were the first products to enjoy immediate acclaim and gain the trust of consumers. Instead, it was an array of radio components, typewriters and photo cameras that started the plant's history in the beginning of the 20th century. Only later, when the factory’s operation was already in full swing, did the three Ducati brothers introduce motorcycle equipment on the market as an addition to their main products. Who would have thought back then that 50 years later motorcycles would become the legendary trademark’s signature product!

During WWII, a Ducati plant in Borgo Panigale was seized by German soldiers. The German authorities were aware of Ducati’s extensive experience in producing electric equipment, so they forced the factory to make electronic appliances for the German army. Once the U.S. army got wind of this though, its forces bombed the plant and completely destroyed it. That’s when Ducati’s new history started – the history of a new leader in the production of fast, powerful, manageable and strikingly beautiful motorcycles.

Right after the war ended, Ducati set up the production and sale of the simplest “box” sets for those who were bored with pedals. The wooden box contained a 49 cubic centimeter engine (at that time it didn’t have the signature desmodromic poppet valve, of course), a fuel tank and instructions for setting up the engine and the fuel tank on a bicycle.

Today, Ducati assembles 100-160 motorcycles each day. The number depends primarily on demand. In other words, spare parts and motorcycles are manufactured and assembled only when there is a real need for them. The company doesn’t have thousands of bikes waiting to be sold, since nearly every motorcycle that leaves the conveyor belt already has an owner.

Ducati doesn't cast or shave spare parts at the factory in Borgo Panigale. While contractors take care of special technological processes — for instance, pressing in directional valves and placing opening and closing valve mechanisms for Ducati — the motorcycles are assembled from finished modules at the plant.

Before the bikes leave the factory and are shipped off to dealerships, each one is tested on a dyno stand. After all, quality control is yet another key to the Italian company’s success. If the bike’s technical metrics are in line with the standards for this specific model, fuel is put in the tank and the bike is shipped off to the dealer. The dealership then fits the bike out with a plastic fairing and additional accessories, when tuning is involved, for instance. The plant also offers a café for visitors and partners of the company, and a cafeteria for personnel, as well as a museum that, bit by bit, has added to its collection unique motorcycles dating back to the 20th century and that features bike prototypes for MotoGP and WSBK. Among the motorcycles on display at the museum, each one won a championship or at least one race.

Incidentally, when it comes to MotoGP, the factory has a special team responsible for developments in this area, though the team’s work is kept a secret. So, journalists may be able to get access to the conveyor belt, but they will never be allowed to see developments for MotoGP. The most one can hope for in that respect is access to the “office side” of things.

A long time ago, the factory had its own small track to carry out test drives, but once the motorcycles became more powerful and their speed grew, it was no longer possible or efficient to maintain the track. Now, there's a parking lot for the factory’s personnel where the track used to be. The Italian company now uses the Mugello track as its home track, and it holds special events and tests new models there.

To feel like part of the “Italian family,” each Ducati owner should pay a visit to the Borgo Panigale province and take a tour of the Ducati museum. And even if you don’t own a Ducati, you won’t be disappointed if you visit the heart of the Italian stable.

Motonews.ru would like to thank Alexander Mitin, Manuela Montanari, David James, Roberto Righi, Luca Pjerotti, and Livio Lodi for organizing the tour.

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