Never really thought about it before, but when the Castiglionis parked Dr. Taglioni up and put Bordi in charge during 1985 it wasn't just the old two-valve heads and carburettors that went on the scrapheap (or not, as it turned out). The 750F1/TT1 racebikes' trellis frame, developed from the TT2 tubes designed by Dr. T, was also pensioned off. The new frame debuted with the 748ie at the 1986 Bol d'Or, and it’s easy to assume the lower and more open cradle design was simply a development to accommodate the fuel injection and, ultimately, the bigger four-valve heads and liquid cooling gubbins. But who designed the new frame?
The top photo is the "Desmoquattro" design team, with (second on the left) Massimo Bordi , Gianluigi Mengoli (behind the engine with moustache) and far right is Franco Farné. Taken from a Dutch site (Ducati851.com) the guy on the bike is credited as being "Roger Manning, designer of the frame". Does anyone know more? Email me if you do - greg at teambenzina.co.uk
More intriguingly, the photo below was taken by Pat Slinn at the Montjuic Park races in 1985 (shortly before Tony Rutter was hurt) and initially we were both at a loss to explain the frame – Pat probably hadn’t looked at the photo since ’85! It was in Benzina 5 and had been filed as Pat at Daytona in 1983, but he hadn’t even looked at it until I queried it on Wednesday. Apparently there were a lot of Mototrans people milling around it and looks to be an Antonio Cobas framed “TT1” for Joan (aka Juan) Garriga to race in the F1 event. Searching the web a couple of European sites have published a bit on these Spanish Cobas frames based on something I think Alan Cathcart wrote - at least someone admits when they’re scanning books! - although it must be from something not in my library.
Someone (Spanish!) also claims that Taglioni wouldn’t test the Cobas frame because he would never admit someone might be cleverer than him, but it does look like a prototype for the 748ie/851 frame. Garriga crashed on the same oil that brought Tony Rutter down while leading the race (below), and the bike was apparently then spirited away by Ducati. It was certainly later raced by Rino Caracchi’s son at Daytona (where Kenny Roberts tried it (bottom pic)) and still lives in the NCR workshops today. So is this genesis for every post-Pantah Ducati frame until the Panigale and DS16 MotoGP project? Certainly looks like it to me, and Antoni Cobas was a genius: he was the man who invented the twin spar grand prix frame, after all. And if he was the originator of the Ducati 851 through 1198 frame, it would be nice to see his contribution recognised