In 1981, Englishman Tony Rutter won the Formula 2 class at the Isle of Man with a new sort of Ducati. The works racebike used a 583cc version of the belt-driven-cam air-cooled Pantah engine solidly mounted in a now-familiar Verlicchi-built trellis frame made of triangularized chrome-moly tubing.
That bike spawned a long history of Ducati sportbikes using that same formula, from the 750cc F1 models of the mid-’80s to the first and second-generation Supersports in sizes from 600 to 1000cc. As the years passed, niceties like inverted forks, 17-inch wheels and fuel-injection were added, but that basic formula – trellis frame, air-cooled L-Twin motor, sporting riding position and linkage-less monoshock – stayed the same, even as styling and price followed the demands of the marketplace. Those bikes are satisfying and fun to ride, and in the hands of the right rider can keep up a blistering pace on any kind of road. But in the age of the 110-hp middleweight sportbike, demand for a top-shelf chassis with a less-powerful (but torquey) engine isn’t exactly overwhelming, and the last Supersport to roll out of the Ducati factory was the 800SS in 2007. Ducati purists have to be satisfied with the SportClassic lineup, a trio of machines that are great to ride but with their retro styling aren’t the simple, no-compromise roadsters that the Supersports were.
Ducati has been busily introducing new product over the last few years, with world-beating superbikes, standards and even a big supermoto. Sadly, there is no word from the factory or the rumor mill of a new Supersport. But if there were a new SS in the works, it might look like this tasty portrayal by Italian designer Oberdan Bezzi. A bike like this, if it used Ducati’s DS 1100 motor found on the Multistrada and Hypermotard, would weigh in at around 400 pounds and make about 90 hp at the rear wheel. Add top-shelf brakes, chassis and suspension and you’ve got a bike that would be rewarding to experts and novice riders alike; as Bezzi wrote, “light…small and manageable: pure Ducati!”
Illustration courtesy of Oberdan Bezzi.