Every two years, Ducati hosts a party like no other. If you’re a fan of the brand, the colour red, pretty ladies and partying, you should book a ticket and get over to Misano circuit on July 1-3rd.
We made it out there in 2012 and in 2014, refresh your memory with a look back at some of the highlights from our trips. You’ll find full details on this year at the bottom of the page.
World Ducati Week: a four-day festival in Italy that celebrates everything Ducati. Amazing festival of bikes in the sun, or a shameless PR atom bomb? Either way, we end up seeing red…
A pink Japanese cruiser. A baby pink, wheezing, chrome-laden pseudo-chopper. There are about a hundred bikes sat in a line here, I’ll list some of the model names; 851, 888, 1198, 916, Desmosedici, Monster and sat in the middle of them all, the pink abortion. To any long time Ducati fan, that’s a who’s who list of important Ducati sports bikes. To someone like me, it’s a list of stunning Italian bikes that I could lose hours and hours sat looking at, both in the detail and from a distance. The same cannot be said of the pink humdinger sat spoiling the view. The chrome-laden turd burger did serve a purpose though; it answered my first question about World Ducati Week – no, you don’t need to ride a Ducati to go to a Ducati festival.
So what is it then? Well, despite what the name claims, World Ducati Week (WDW) doesn’t last for a week; it’s more of a long weekend, building up from Thursday to a crescendo on Saturday night, then a mellow Sunday for those who need to recover. The official line touts the festival as a bi-annual celebration of the emotion and passion in the Ducati family, but the reality is far less homo-erotic. Four days of racing, stunt shows, partying, bikini bike wash, drinking, live bands, ice-cream and bikes. Every kind of Ducati imaginable fills the paddock of the Misano World Circuit in Italy; show bikes, tatty bikes, standard bikes and bikes with mods that indicate a surprising amount about the sanity of the owner.
What were we doing there?
Well, I’ve seen old videos and heard old, over told stories of drunken carnage and partying in the sunshine at WDW, all accompanied by a mix of V-twin roar and tyre screech throughout the paddock. Partying with motorcycles in the sun was all the excuse I needed to be stood at Gatwick airport with my boardies, sunnies and flip-flops stashed in my bag.
What made it even better was the chance to race in the Ducati 848 challenge again, on the bike that I won on at Thruxton last year in the pouring rain. Adding leathers and a crash helmet to the list of things to pack, I hopped on a plane and made a beeline for Bologna. That was probably my first mistake; to get the full WDW experience, you really should make the pilgrimage down by bike, taking in a few nice mountain passes on the way down and proudly pulling up at the Adriatic coast with a bug splattered bike and a big grin. Unperturbed, we rocked up in Riccione, chucked our stuff into the hotel and headed out to do some top-notch ice cream eating. I mean journalism.
The Italians really have got the lifestyle sussed out; sit down for a meal at 21:30 pm, eat ‘till 11 and then head for an ice-cream bar. Try that in Germany and they look at you like you’re crazy for wanting food at any time after 7pm. It gets to around 1am, that obligatory point in any night out where someone suggests moving onto drinking spirits, when talk turns to Friday’s timetable. After spraying our host with limoncello and asking for a repeat, it transpires that I’ll be leaving for the track at 06:45am to get signed on and scrutineered – the Ducati 848 challenge is first on circuit for free practice. Best switch to drinking water then.
Friday morning and by 8am the heat is helping me sweat the hangover out as I meet up with my race technicians. My efforts to appear a)sober and b)professional were seen straight through by Neil and Albert who, I suspect, have seen more than one drunk racer in their line of work. I twiddle the suspension adjusters and write down some settings to take my mind off the Peroni and pizza at war in my belly. As I said, bike number 848 in the Ducati 848 challenge is an old friend; it’s the Ducati UK press bike I raced a year ago and have been looking forward to riding again ever since.
Without blowing too much smoke up Ducati’s derriére, the 848 is one of my all-time favourite track bikes and not just because I’ve won pots on one. The chassis and dynamics of the middleweight Ducati sports bike demand to be ridden smoothly, with wide flowing lines and no aggression whatsoever. The 848 motor punches out around 130bhp, but being a twin it allows you more flexibility with the gears than a four-cylinder 600cc bike, without the manic power of a 1000cc superbike.
If you’re a reasonably competent rider, I’d argue that the 848 is one of the easiest and most rewarding bikes to ride on a flowing track. This is a good thing, because in the state I was in for free practice, fighting a flighty 600 or clinging onto a 1000 would have lasted about two laps. Free practice was spent getting used to Misano’s technical curves; last time I raced there the track ran the other way round – that could have been a big mistake if I hadn’t had someone to follow out of pit lane.
Within two laps I was tiring of getting sat up by local riders, clearly much more dialled into the track than the poor Brits wobbling round wondering where all the bus-stop chicanes were. No official times were available, but using a potato, two bits of string and a nearby lamp post we figured that my best lap was under an hour. Perfect.
After practice I had the rest of the day free to explore what delights lay in store at WDW. After trying to sleep in the grandstands for a couple of hours I concluded that, to the attendees, any bike is awesome. For the people in that grandstand watching the public track sessions, every rider was a hero. Each knee down on a Multistrada got a cheer and every wheelie got a standing ovation. Thanks to those over-excitable spectators, I didn’t get a wink of sleep. Bastards. When I eventually climbed down from my shady retreat, I headed for the ice cream stand, bought some shit sunglasses for five Euros and went for a mooch around. It only took me half an hour or so to walk a lap of the paddock, but there were so many different activities crammed in that I couldn’t even remember half of them. The programme of events you get given at the gate is vital to refer to if you want to have any idea what’s going on.
Sat in the middle of the paddock with a fizzy beverage, I’m trying to keep up with everything that’s happening around me. Row upon row of bikes, not all of them red, not all of them Ducatis, surround me. From the red Desmosedici with number 46 Rossi stickers and a big black cross through them to a Streetfighter S with a seat unit kicked up so high that the rear lights were higher than the mirrors.
Around the bikes thousands of people filtered, dodging the occasional wannabe stunter revving his engine and doing burnouts. Strange trumpeting noises catch my attention and I spot a dancing live ska band complete with tuba and comedy outfits pushing through the crowd, obviously. I was certain that I’d sobered up by this point, but reading my notes back on what I was seeing, I’m not so sure I hadn’t swapped my ice cream for LSD.
After a steady day of crowd watching, bike admiring and generally trying to hide from a hangover, it was back to the hotel for a shower before heading back out in town to top up the confidence for Saturday’s qualifying session. Another stunning late evening meal followed by ice cream hammered home the fact that, World Ducati Week or not, you really can’t go wrong eating out on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Stunning food, streets busy enough to be interesting but not so busy it’s a scrum and enough ice-cream to have you bursting your zips in a week.
Thanks to some more metered alcohol consumption, I was feeling fresh and ready for qualifying on Saturday morning. I promised myself a swim in the paddock pool and a massive ice cream if I qualified on pole; a motivation technique that worked for first qualifying and after 15 minutes of deciphering our agreed pit signals I finished the session eagerly waiting to hear what position I was. I knew from the cryptic signals that I was in the top five, but in parc fermé Neil informed me that I’d been dropped to sixth on the last lap, damn. It was only Albert’s sniggering that raised my suspicions and eventually they cracked and admitted that I was on provisional pole by half a second. No time to bask though, because the second qualifying session followed imminently. Lazing in the hot sunshine in pitlane was no way to retain my pole position and by the end of the session I’d been bumped to third. Trouble is, it was hot and sunny and I bloody love ice cream, so I had my treats anyway, what of it? Besides, a front row start is nearly as good as pole anyway.
Saturday at the track held the opportunity for autographs from actual real racers (Valentino Bossi and Troy Rayliss or something like that?) along with more track sessions for those who had remembered to book on online on their own bikes or, if it took your fancy, on a Ducati Panigale. The highlight of Saturday’s track activities was the Ducati Diavel drag races, where Ducati racing stars locked horns on a fleet of Diavels down Misano’s start/finish straight. I won’t spoil the caption surprise, but I’ll give you a hint – it was won by Italy’s favourite Ducati racer…
Saturday night is the big party night for Ducati Weekend, with a live stage down on the Riccione beach front. It all got going with a load of interviews with various racers and Ducati types, some I recognized, some I’d never heard of, but none receiving a bigger cheer from the crowd than retired Aussie racer Troy Bayliss. Bigger than Nicky Hayden and, yes, bigger than even Rossi, whose entrance was marred by a faint but definite boo lurking within the applause.
Shocked? You bet, it seems some Italians haven’t taken the disappointment of the dream Ducati-Rossi package lightly. The streets of Riccione were packed even at two in the morning, long after the band had finished playing classic rock and wheeling out old rock stars to the delight of the crowd. Anyone trying to ride back to the circuit along the beach front road was held up at an impromptu road block where they were only allowed to pass once they’d performed a satisfactory burnout for the crowd. From restaurant to pub to beach rave, any chance of an early night ready for Sunday’s races was lobbed into the sea and dragged to the bottom by my failing self control.
Saturday night and…
Sunday morning, OK afternoon, we rolled back into the track, chauffeured by whoever was judged to be most sober/least hung over and headed for the 848 challenge race paddock. Despite the partying, mechanics Neil and Albert were already there and giving the bike a final check over, with bottles of cold water and cold, wet towels at the ready; look these ingredients up in “how to cure a hangover 101”. Hiding from 35-degree heat in the shade, the pre-race nerves are not helped by a certain retired Ducati World suberbike champion grinning inanely and laughing at me, “I sure as hell don’t miss this bit of racing, ha!”.
When I get to the grid, I look across at the young lass holding my umbrella and notice that she’s wearing the same ridiculous sunnies as me. So is Neil. And Albert and Alan and everyone on the grid around me. Laugh? I nearly went to Ethiopia. I’m not sure what was funnier, the gag itself or the fact that they’d gone to the trouble of finding the glasses and haggling for a bulk-buy discount just to take the piss out of me. Ten laps in the sweltering heat later and I’d duffed up the miserable Italian who shared the front row with Robbie Brown and myself, but Robbie got away and despite a couple of good laps, I couldn’t match his consistency and he took a convincing win. It was a massive relief to get out of the leathers and into a can of ice-cold fizzy pop, before looking for some trouble to cause before the second race. Wandering around, my eyes homed in on a wheelie machine in the Ducati Germany corner. Essentially a bike bolted to a dyno through the rear wheel spindle, it allows you to practice the balance and throttle control of pulling wheelies, with a cable to prevent you ending up upside down.
Conveniently, it also provides a great practice rig for learning all the fancy footwork, sitting on tanks and standing on seats while wheelying, while keeping the gravel rash penalty for falling off to a minimum. In the name of investigative journalism, I jumped on and went for all the tricks I could remember seeing on YouTube, giving the bloke running it a heart attack in the process. Having survived that, I was dragged back to the awning before I did any lasting damage, despite me protesting strongly when I spotted the supermoto pit bikes and the gap in the fence between the arrive and ride track and the freestyle motocross arena.
Race two and a pep talk from some washed-up racer and former BSB champion (“If you don’t win, you’re shit and I’ll never speak to you again”) had me fired up and ready to take it to championship leader Robbie Brown. Besides, I had nothing to lose now; if I crashed it I could just vanish into the crowd and live out the rest of my life on an Italian beach selling shit sunglasses and tacky bracelets. With such a foolproof plan B, winning was the easier option. Robbie wasn’t making it easy though, hounding me for the whole race and stealing the lead from me midway through.
Saturday night and…
After spending last season getting my ass whupped by the fast boys in British Superstock 1000s, I was damned if I was coming out of retirement to get beaten some more. I’d like to say I found the extra effort for Neil and Albert’s hard work and pit-skills over the weekend. I’d love to say the thought of my parents driving a shonky old Transit camper to Italy to support me made me push that bit harder. I’d even quite like to say I did it for the guys I’d spent the last two days partying with and having the time of my life.
In fact, all of these things flittered across my wandering mind mid-race, helping me dig a bit deeper each time, but they were all helped by the over-competitive racing douche-bag lurking at the back of my brain that would race its own shadow, given half a chance. I re-passed Robbie, held him off for a few laps and put the hammer down in the closing stages of the race to open up a three-second gap by the flag.
It was the longest 10 laps I’ve ever done and with the heat, exertion and questionable diet of the last few days I felt physically sick at the end. Nothing another Peroni couldn’t fix though…
Should you go to WDW?
If you’re a Ducati lover, it’s a no brainer – go in 2014 and you’ll love it. In fact, unless you really hate red V-twins, it’s a fantastic bike festival in the sunshine with the kind of gorgeous bikes, gorgeous women, gorgeous food and weather that British show-organizers can only dream of. Around 65,000 people will back me up that it’s a great place to go for a long weekend in the summer. Don’t ride a Ducati? Not a problem, you’ll be just as welcome, although you’ll probably get sucked in by the atmosphere and be heading for a trade-in the moment you get home.
World Ducati Week 2016, advance tickets in high demand
- WDW2016 advance tickets are selling fast worldwide. A record edition is predicted
- New for 2016, the Ducati International Bikers Games, the “bike Olympics” for Ducatisti
- Stuntmen and freestylers on track to entertain the WDW2016 public
- High expectations for the Ducati Garage Contest, dedicated to the world’s Ducati specials
The event will take place from 1 to 3 July 2016 at the “Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli”. A unique occasion in terms of its passion, adrenalin and enjoyment, this year’s WDW also provides the opportunity to celebrate Ducati’s 90th anniversary. Advance tickets for this extraordinary event are already available and, across the globe, “red fever” is fuelling the race to purchase passes and entry tickets, with levels of interest indicating that this may well be a record edition!
The various pass and ticket types for WDW2016 include:
3-day Pass (1/2/3 July)
- Biker pass € 95 and visitor/passenger pass € 65 (full price)
- Biker pass € 70 and visitor/passenger pass € 55 (reduced price for tickets purchased at Ducati Dealers)
- Biker pass € 45 and visitor/passenger pass € 45 for DOC Members (special price for Desmo Owners Club members, tickets can only be purchased via official Ducati clubs)
- Biker pass € 50 and visitor/passenger pass € 40
So many initiatives and activities will make up the great Ducati bike event. These will include the first edition of the “Ducati International Bikers Games”, the first “bike-olympics” dedicated to the countless fans that will take part in WDW2016. A knock-out style tournament, 8 teams of Ducatisti from all over the world will compete in a range of challenges, from a “slow motion” bike race to a precision braking test, as well as assembly/disassembly contests (assembling/disassembling an engine in the shortest possible time), quizzes and other surprises that await participants in the “Ducati International Bikers Games”. Guaranteed fun, with more details about the event coming very soon so… stay tuned!
WDW2016 is also the setting for track exhibitions by the world’s best-known stuntmen, with names including Emilio Zamora, the star of choreographed routines with his Ducatis and a legendary figure for fans of the Borgo Panigale brand. Joining him this year are Victor Chelenkov, Jeremy Vonk and Michael Threin, internationally renowned ‘artists’ in the world of stunt-shows.
Throughout WDW2016, participants can also make use of the “SuMisura” (i.e. custom made) service (www.ducatisumisura.com). This special and exclusive service is dedicated to the most exacting and devoted bikers. Anyone looking to create their own personalised motorcycle suit, can get measured free of charge and then perfect their order at their trusted Ducati dealer. This is made possible thanks to the services of a team of technician from Dainese – world leader in the production of protective apparel for motorcyclists and long-time partner of Ducati – who will be at Misano from 1 to 3 July to take care of participants’ requests and needs.
Further information on World Ducati Week 2016 can be found at wdw.ducati.com and on the main social networks using hashtag #worldducatiweek.