Thursday, 20 January 2011

Knowing NCR

Phew;three weeks non-stop to get it done, but done it is, and Benzina #4's in proofing and should be ready for the printers next week. Hopefully on sale before Valentine's day...

Issue 4 has a big piece on NCR by Graham Stoppani (Ducati owners' club) and Vicki Smith (whose giro bikes are prepped by Rino Caracchi): NCR were once the quasi-official Ducati raceshop and seem to have more mystery and romance surrounding them than, well, Valentine's day. Nepoti-Caracchi Racing (the R originally stood for Rizzi but he soon left) was established by a couple of Ducati engineers (Giorgio Nepoti and Rino Caracchi) who loved building race bikes and could make the then-new 350 Desmo fly. When Ducati needed yet more government cash around 1968 it was injected on the basis Ducati stopped "wasting" money racing, which might be why then-CEO Montano jumped/was pushed.

Luckily Montano's successors could see the potential of Taglioni's V-twin, which was fortunate because the diesel engines were the only part of Ducati making money and many saw the bikes as a lost cause. Although those who were there point out Ducati retained a race workshop throughout the seventies, NCR were credited with running it. But there's a possibility they might just have been credited with more than they actually did because if the Ducati race shop claimed any credit the Government subsidies would have been turned off.

By the early eighties (the time of the TT2 and Rutter's championships) NCR's official involvement was limited to running Italian race teams and preparing the TT2's engines for return to the factory and Ducati's mini TT2 production line. Official factory racers were taken off by Farne to be prepped in his workshop - by now it was an open secret the Castiglioni's were buying Ducati, and everyone knew they were keen to race (and if they didn't the Italian Government would close Ducati's doors anyway) so there was no need to keep up any pretence that NCR were Ducati Corse. The more you dig the more miraculous it is that Ducati survived.

Yet it could have gone the other way - just imagine if the Pantah had come out as a 750 in 1975 (because Taglioni had finalised the Pantah design by then, and it was only initially a 500 because management wanted the (soon removed) home market tax breaks): we might have seen Mike Hailwood race a TT1 in 1978

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