Ducati 916 - the bike, the legend

The evolution of a legend and a motorcycling icon: 916 > 996 > 998 > 999 > 1098

1994 - 2002

Poles: 65
Podiums: 306
Wins: 115
Titles: 6
Champions: Foggy: 4 Bayliss: 1 Corser: 1

No other bike has had quite the impact on the general public as Ducati's 916. It crossed boundaries in a way only Harley-Davidson had before, but where Harley had the bad boy image Ducati had Italian cool. It was sexy, sleek and fast.

Celebrities wanted to be pictured on the 916 because it was the thing to be seen on; bikers wanted to own one because it was beautiful and stunning to ride; racers wanted one because, in the hands of
'King' Carl Fogarty, it destoyed the superbike competition.

In its 10-year life span, from 1994 to 2004, the 916, and then the outwardly near-identical 996 and 998 versions that followed, stamped its mark on the world. Here's why we remember it so fondly.


Folklore has it that 916 designer Massimo Tamburini was so impressed by Honda's NR750 he canned his original design for the 916 and went back to the drawing board using the NR as inspiration. Underseat pipes, single-sided swingarm, a svelte feminine shape (viewed from above) and twin headlights. There are a lot of style pointers that both bikes share.

The 916 that never was...

After designing the 916 Massimo Tamburini switched allegiances and was commissioned by MV Agusta. In 1999 he unveiled the F4 750. Many believe that if he hadn't left Ducati this would have been the next 916, rather than the 999.

Famous 916 owners

The 916 gained its fair share of celebrity owners, including Ewan McGregor, Ayrton Senna - who even got his own offical Senna Replica -and footballers Les Ferdinand and Mark Bright. Celebrities aside, MacLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray owns one, as does Harm Lagaay, the head of design for Porsche, and Julian Thomson, the designer of the Lotus Elise. All men with taste, style and understanding of classic automotive design - Thomson even admits to using the 916 as an inspiration for the Elise.

Key changes

1994: The first model with three-spoke, gold coloured wheels, initially launched as a Strada with no pillion seat, but a Biposto soon followed. Engine is 916cc.
1995: No major changes, Ducati just tried to keep up with supply and demand. A few 955cc Ducatis were made to homologate for US racing.
1996: The 916 Senna limited edition is launched and the 916 is now a 996.
1997: Detail changes, the large logo on the fairing is gone as part of the overhaul when Ducati is taken over by the Texas Pacific Group.
1998: The Fogarty replica is launched with changes to the frame and airbox, basically a homologation special to allow Ducati to alter the WSB bike within the rules.
1999: The 996 range is launched using a 996cc engine in the stock and SPS versions.
2000: The 998R is launched using a 998cc big bore, short stroke, engine for more revs and more power.
2001: Reeling from losing the 2000 WSB title to Honda and their Ducati-aping SP-2 V-twin, Ducati's engineers get to work. Troy Bayliss takes the Superbike crown. Phew.
2002: The 998 now gets the Testastretta engine.
2003: The Ducati 998 Matrix limited edition is launched as a tie-in with the crappy sequel to the quite good first Matrix film. At the end of the year the 998 Final Edition is launched. Only 300 are made as a final farewell to the classic original.


As well the celebrated Matrix replica, which appeared in one of the tedious sequels, the 916 alsostarred in the truly terrible Speed 2 where it got beaten up a hill by a crappy American 4x4, French flick Taxi, numerous rap videos and who could forget Destiny's Child's video Independent Woman, a Five video (see p8) and some Westlife song (according to closet fan John Hogan)


Be a 916 know-all in two-minutes

Massimo Tamburini - Designed the 916. He's also the 'TA' in BimoTA. And designed the MV F4 Testastretta engine - Introduced in late 2001,  'Testastretta' means narrow head. The angle between the valves is narrower to allow gases to flow faster, use bigger valves and create more power
Carl Fogarty - Foggy, King Carl, big-gobbed northern bloke. Foggy won four WSB titles on the 916 in 219 races with 59 race wins. The most successful WSB rider ever
WSB, World Superbikes - basically a one-make Ducati Cup from 1994 to 2004. Rules changed in 2005 to encourage the Japanese manufacturers back into WSB
Bologna - Ducati's home town
Ducatisti - People who will bore you senseless about Ducatis
Homologation special - a bike produced in a limited run so the manufacturer can make the bike win. See Foggy rep
Foggy rep - a limited edition 916 made so Ducati could modify the race bike and keep on winning
Desmodromic - The clever valve-closing system Ducati employ. The valves are closed by mechanical cams and levers, not springs. First seen in a 1907 V-four Ariel!