Friday, May 25, 2007

Ducati PS1000 LE: Paul Smart rides again

The bike that started it all for Ducati back in 1972 - the 750 Imola

British racer Paul Smart created a bit of history in 1972, when he rode his Ducati 750 Imola racebike to victory at the inaugural Imola 200 endurance racing event. Ducati were not known for their v-twin racers back then, and most people thought that Smart riding the Ducati 750 at Imola was a bit of a joke. Of course, they weren’t laughing by the time Smart finished in first place.

To celebrate their win at Imola, Ducati released a road-going version of their Imola 750 racer – the 750 Super Sport – which came out in 1974. This was a proper race replica, with the 750’s desmodromic valve train, big carburetors, disc brakes all around, and the racer’s distinctive green-painted chassis.

The 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport

Then, back in 2005, Ducati released the modern-day equivalent of the 1974 750 Super Sport – the limited edition Paul Smart 1000 – which took its rightful place at the top of Ducati’s SportClassic range. And last month, Motorcyclist magazine pulled off a coup by getting Paul Smart himself to ride all three bikes back to back, at the Willow Springs Raceway in the US. So what did Mr Smart have to say about the three bikes?
Smart, now 63 years old, first rode the 84 horsepower Imola 750, which he reckons was good for around 250km/h back in 1972. He says, ‘It’s incredibly torquey – it has big old carbs and basic ignition, but the thing works so well. And considering its age, it also handles – it behaves itself extremely well, doesn’t require a lot of rider input and the brakes are faultless.’

...and the absolutely gorgeous Ducati Paul Smart 1000LE

Moving on to the 1974 750 Super Sport, Smart says, ‘It’s amazing how well they steer – the chassis does feel very much the same as the racebike, and though the engine probably makes 20 horsepower less than the 750 Imola, it has the same wide torque spread.’ The only thing he wasn’t happy with was the brakes, saying that they felt ‘Leaden, sallow and unresponsive.’

Finally on to the modern PS1000 LE, and Smart says, ‘You get lots of feedback and it feels very planted in fast corners. The engine is not highly tuned, but it does make a lot of torque, so you don’t have to rev it. Overall, the modern tyres, suspension and brakes are what separate it from the old bikes.’

So of the three, which one would he choose to ride today? Says Smart, ‘I have to be honest, it’s the new bike. Everything works, and the machine is far better than the rider in my case now.’ For the Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE, there really can be no better stamp of approval.

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