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Art of the Part

Fancy a con-rod you can't use? Ducati has a deal for you


It is said that Americans need Mexicans like Germans need Italians; countries heavy on empire-building tend to run light on merry-making. Mexico’s national sauce, mole (mōh-lāy), a fusion of sautéed onions and garlic, with herbs, chilies, and ground nuts simmered (sometimes) in bittersweet chocolate, shames the humdrum American hamburger, and few would challenge the assertion that a little less Wagner and a little more Puccini brightens any room.


The current American administration (with the wall and all, something the Germans know well) are down on Mexicans, but the Germans are bullish on Italians, especially their motorcycle and automotive companies. Mercedes bling-brand AMG owned a piece of MV Agusta, until the tempestuous business practices of MV’s (since deposed) leader Giovanni Castiglioni saw AMG hoofing it back to Affalterbach.


Ducati is owned by Volkswagen, but day-to-day meddling is left to luxury-label Audi. But how well does a German company gel with an Italian company over matters of money, when the balance of power is held by the Germans? Let’s presuppose that deep within Audi, an accountant, in full Teutonic rage, decided to hold Ducati Corse—Ducati’s in-house racing division—accountable for its expenditures.  


Many motorcycles are unattractive, but engine internals, formed solely to fulfill the tasks demanded of them (and without a thought to aesthetics) are always beautiful. The difference between this MotoGP crankshaft and one from a Briggs & Stratton three-horse only vary in magnitude of mechanical virtuosity. 

To the accountant, having had his ears boxed in the decade of austerity after the great crash of ’08, MotoGP racing must appear as corporate suicide. Our accountant would apply his training in financial prudence to formulate a plan to recoup some of Ducati Corse’s expenses by finding efficiencies.      


Finding efficiencies is doublespeak for the elimination of a service or an amenity. Finding efficiencies applied to a swimming pool means its water has been drained and its maintenance staff terminated. And while ergonomically-friendly standup desks in offices are on-trend, often it’s just a case of an accountant having liquidated the chairs from beneath the seats of employees.


In racing, the perpetual quest for heightened performance means development continues apace, and that, in conjunction with the finite lifespan of mechanical components, means Ducati Corse has a surfeit of parts kicking about. Which gives our accountant the idea to initiate a Flohmarkt—a Ducati Corse flea market. And unlike the empty swimming pool or standup office, diverting old parts away from the landfill is all upside.


This month heralds the advent of the “Ducati Memorabilia Project,” an up-cycling exercise that allows you to buy pieces from the motorcycles of Andrea Iannone, Andrea Dovizioso, and “Carl” Crutchlow. (Cal Crutchlow’s time at Ducati was forgettable, and Ducati misspelling his name in promotional materials lends credence to the accusation that Ducati treats underperforming riders with rancor.)

For $1,600 (all funds US dollars) you can buy Dovizioso’s or what’s-his-name’s crankshaft. A connecting rod goes for $550 or $650, depending on provenance (parts used by team riders demand a premium; lower-priced pieces, presumably, were used by test riders). Budget $650 for a piston and a camshaft is just under $1,000. In the words of Ducati, “The items that narrate an adrenergic history of successes and capable of making hearts race are now available to the most demanding collectors.”


(And because your mates will think you’re bullshitting when you tell them the crankshaft beneath your pillow is out of a MotoGP bike, each piece comes in a display case with a certificate of authenticity signed by big boss Claudio Domenicali and race boss Gigi Dall’Igna.)


Lest you misunderstand the term “memorabilia,” Ducati warns that “items may only be used for exhibition purpose,” which is, of course, an unenforceable threat. The moment a Burt Munro-wannabe from the boondocks gets ahold of a crankshaft he’ll be on his way to building a MotoGP engine in the henhouse. In total, Ducati is liquidating 114 parts, for a total revenue to the mother ship of $93,530. Which got me thinking.


Once the snow melts and I can pry the shed door open, in a bin beneath the bench, is a heap of Ducati 851 parts. Camshafts, a deeply-notched clutch basket, some warped clutch plates, and bodywork punched full of holes (read about it here—it’s called establishing provenance). Without too much effort, I could safety-wire a part to a piece of plywood and write a blurb about its history with a Sharpie. All I need are the signatures of messieurs Domenicali and Dall’Igna to lend my boondoggle credence. Or I’ll just fake the signatures. With Germans at the helm, that pair have bigger fish to fry.      

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