For many old school Ducatisti, real Ducatis finished with the Cagiva takeover in 1985. Prior to 1985 all Ducatis had the stamp of Ing. Taglioni firmly on them. The best were generally unadulterated sporting motorcycles built not to a price, but within a particular philosophical framework. It didn’t really matter how much it cost to build them or whether they sold well. The Ducati 750 F1 represented the end of this era.
The F1 continued a line of race-replica production bikes that established the Ducati legend. These included the 250 Mach 1, Desmo “Silver Shotgun” singles, 750 Super Sport “Green Frame”, 900 Super Sport and the 900 Mike Hailwood Replica. While the 750 F1 was impressive, more so were the three series of limited editions; the Montjuich, Laguna Seca, and Santamonica.
Each were named after a racetrack where the 750 F1 had won races, and were higher performing than the standard model. Continuing the tradition was a considerable price increase over the standard machine. In 1987 the Laguna Seca cost nearly $15,000, 50 per cent up on the regular F1. You had to be keen to want one and only seven were sold in Australia.
The 750 F1’s roots lay in the magnificent 600cc TT2 racer. The TT2 was ostensibly a 600 Pantah engine housed in a compact trellis frame with a cantilever rear end. It epitomised Taglioni’s philosophy of success through minimalism, and useable, rather than outright horsepower.
Racing versions weighed 130kg and produced around 76 horsepower at 10,750 rpm and Massimo Broccoli rode one to victory in the 1981 Junior Italian TT F2 Championship. The same year veteran British rider Tony Rutter won the TT2 World Championship on a heavily modified Pantah and for 1982 Ducati provided him a factory TT2. Rutter rewarded them with successive TT2 World Championships over the next three years, his string of four consecutive World Championships between 1981 and 1984 Ducati’s most significant until that time.
When World Endurance racing regulations changed for 1984, limiting engine capacity to 750cc, it was an easy job for Taglioni and his racing department to enlarge the TT2 to 748 cc, creating the TT1 endurance racer. While the TT1 wasn’t nearly as successful as the TT2 they were magnificent machines nonetheless. These factory TT1’s featured rising rate rear suspension and most had 16-inch wheels front and rear.
As far back as 1982 there were plans to produce a street version of the TT2, but typically it took a while in coming. Ducati was struggling to survive during this period and was about to be bought by Cagiva. The 750 F1 was released in 1985, followed by an improved version for 1986. Also for 1986 the first limited edition 750 F1 was offered, the Montjuich.
The Barcelona 24 Hour endurance race held at Montjuich Park had long been a successful event for Ducati, and in July 1983 Benjamin Grau, Enrique de Juan and Luis Reyes won on a prototype 750 TT1. Thus the first limited edition F1 was titled the Montjuich.
Ducati subsequently prepared a special 750 F1 for Marco Lucchinelli in the Battle of the Twins racing in America during 1986. Lucchinelli won the Battle of the Twins race at Daytona in March and later that year went on to win the Battle of the Twins race at Laguna Seca in California.
The race win at Laguna Seca prompted Ducati to name the 1987 limited edition 750 F1 the Laguna Seca and provide each with a Marco Lucchinelli decal autograph on the fuel tank. Arguably the 750 F1’s most significant victory was Lucchinelli’s win over Joey Dunlop’s factory Honda RVF750 at the Santamonica circuit in Misano in the 1986 F1 World Championship. This led to the third series for 1988, the Santamonica.
All three series were similar in basic specification. The 750cc engine shared the 88mm bore and 61.5mm of the factory racers, and was more highly tuned than the cooking F1. With longer duration and higher lift camshafts, along with Dell’Orto PMH 40 ND/NS carburettors with open bell mouths the power was a claimed 95 horsepower at 10,000 rpm. Even Luigi in his dreams couldn’t believe such a fanciful figure, but at least it was one way to justify the outrageous price.
In Ducati’s best race replica tradition, they were closely related to the race bikes. The cantilever swingarm was aluminium Verlicchi, the front fork a 40mm Forcelle Italia, with a Marzocchi oleo-pneumatic rear shock absorber. With the Laguna Seca there was some evidence of cost cutting under the new Cagiva regime.
Instead of the expensive, composite Marvic/Akront magnesium/aluminium wheels of the Montjuich and Santamonica, the Laguna Seca took its wheels straight off the 750 Paso. These aluminium Oscam wheels had wider rims, a 3.75×16-inch on the front and 5.00×16-inch on the rear, and allowed the fitting of wider and lower profile Pirelli radial tires.
While the Montjuich and Santamonica featured fully-floating cast-iron disc rotors, the Laguna Seca front discs were non-floating 280mm, bolting directly to the wheel without a disc centre. The Laguna Seca did however retain the best quality brake calipers available in 1987, racing Brembo “Gold series” four-piston calipers. Rolling on a 1,400mm wheelbase, and weighing a scant 155 kilograms, the Laguna Seca was tiny.
Production of all the limited edition F1s was extremely limited. After only 200 Montjuichs built Laguna Seca production totalled 296. This included 146 as dual seat (Biposto) versions. 50 of those were US spec with a quieter muffler. Now nearly forty years on the limited edition 750 F1 is almost forgotten. These were the last Ducati air-cooled race replica twins.
Noisy and uncivilized, they had no place in a new order dictated by governments and regulations and more sanitary models soon replaced them. The Laguna Seca may be flawed, but it has a character that exemplifies the Ducati spirit. One ride is enough to convince that you could be Marco Lucchinelli leading the field through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.
Australia’s go-to-guy for classic motorcycle wisdom. Ian has written nearly 45 books on motorcycles that each offer unparalleled insight on the historical and technical development of particular makes and models.