The triumphs of Ducati as an individual brand in MotoGP is due in no small part to the trademark Desmodromic valve control system which has helped build a thriving legacy in the sport since the Bologna factory’s return to the Grand Prix World Championship scene after a more than 30-year absence in 2003. The foundation for the modern day success began a long time before that, with the birth of the Desmodromic system which revolutionised the Ducati engine and has come to be known as a signature component of the Italian manufacturer since it began to use the fledgling technology in its engines in the mid-1950s.
An engineer named Fabio Taglioni arrived at Ducati in 1954 and began to help the company develop its ambitions of taking part in two-wheeled motorsport, and towards the latter part of the decade he utilised the Desmodromic valve system to develop what the Gran Sport bike, which had already started to become a success in Italian racing, had begun. With ambitions of entering the 125cc World Championship Grand Prix, Taglioni saw the advantages of the Desmodromic system, which dispensed with the need for valve springs and therefore put in place a mechanical valve closure process. The result: efficient, exact valve timing which meant no loss in engine performance. It is a concept that remains true to the present day in all Ducati bikes and one that has stood firm against the introduction of the pneumatic valve system, which has been progressively taken on by other MotoGP manufacturers and is now used by every factory, except of course Ducati.
Simply put, Taglioni recognised the need for high rpm’s to be produced from a small 125 engine, and with that need for more power he began developing the efficient Desmodromic system. It was a process that had been successfully used only by Mercedes-Benz in the mid-1950s, who operated a Desmodromic valve gear on their Grand Prix and Sports racing cars. Taglioni was able to create his 125 Desmodromic racer rapidly – the bike debuted at the non-Championship Swedish Grand Prix in 1956 and won, and the system was developed further across Ducati machines in the coming years.
Desmodromics are used in all Ducati machines, from superbikes to the MotoGP Desmosedici, which made its debut in the MotoGP World Championship in 2003. Riders Troy Bayliss and Italian Loris Capirossi rode the Desmosedici V4 that year, the latter finishing on the podium in the opening race of the season and going on to win the Catalunya GP and placing fourth overall in the Championship. It was clear that the Desmodromics system was still as effective as ever, now with years of development behind it.
After an impressive first season back in the World Championship, the Desmosedici continued its evolvement at a rapid pace and in 2006 the factory enjoyed its first one-two as Bayliss and Capirossi finished first and second at Valencia. Then, in only their fifth season back, Ducati took the 2007 MotoGP World Championship with Casey Stoner riding the Desmosedici GP7.
Capitalising on the rapid progress made by the factory, always incorporating Desmodromics, Stoner led the marque to glory as the evolved system first imposed by Taglioni some 50 years ago played its part in their modern day success.
Many have tried to employ Desmodromics but only Ducati have succeeded, and it is thanks to the work of Taglioni and the continued endeavour of the factory that Ducati is known the world over for the high performance of its motorcycles. This quality is harnessed in MotoGP, with riders Stoner and Nicky Hayden continuing the journey in the 2010 campaign.