A Tale of Two Ducati MotoGP Prototypes – Best Birthday Gift Ever?

A Tale of Two Ducati MotoGP Prototypes - Best Birthday Gift Ever?
Kaming Ko next to his two new possessions - two Ducati D16GPs

Ducati MotoGP D16GP Prototypes for Kaming Ko’s Birthday

In my world, it’s good to have friends in high places – but it’s better to have ones who own exotic and rare motorcycles. With this in mind, I had the good fortune Thursday to join Ultimate Motorcycling Consultant-at-Large Kaming Ko and a group of our friends for a celebratory lunch at John Ethell’s Jett Tuning, a well-known race shop in Camarillo, Calif.

This all went down days after Kamings’s 60th birthday bash that included many personalities from the motorcycle world. But his birthday was about to get much better.

Our purpose Thursday was to witness two genuine Ducati MotoGP bikes being removed from their shipping crates and prepared for display. They were just off the plane from Bologna, in crates just like those used to ship production bikes. These Ducatis are true unobtanium unless you are Kaming, an ex-auto and motorcycle racer, and one of the most well-connected moto guys any of us know.

What does it take to buy two operational 2011 Ducati D16GP bikes that have been campaigned and bear the race numbers 46 and 69? Yes, Valentino Rossi’s (s/n D16GP030) and Nicky Hayden’s (s/n D16GPFB2) bikes. One thing’s for sure – you won’t find anything like these on eBay or Craigslist.

I’ve heard the economy has not made a full recovery yet, but you would be hard pressed to tell from the rising prices on rare motorcycles and other vehicles. I can only guess that the number of collectors who would be interested in these, or any, factory race bikes, especially Ducatis, would be in the dozens, or more, yet Kaming made this happen.

During a discussion with Kaming about where to get the bikes insured, he said that it took 51 weeks from his first talk with Ducati until the time the bikes were delivered in Los Angeles, via air freight, and through US Customs. From Customs they were trucked directly to Jett for uncrating. During that year he made a trip from Los Angeles to Ducati headquarters in Italy to inspect the merchandise and cement the deal.

I asked Kaming whether he was invited to buy these bikes or did he instigate the transaction. He told me that the beginning of his relationship with Ducati was when he owned an AMA Superbike team in 2003, and met some of the Ducati principals including World Superbike team manager Paolo Ciabatti.

Ciabatti went on to be Managing Director of World Superbike then returned to Ducati a few years ago as Project Race Director, with control of Ducati’s racing efforts in both World Superbike and MotoGP.

Last year at Indy MotoGP, Kaming visited Paolo in the garage and said, “I know these bikes are not really available but I would like to have an opportunity to buy them.” Kaming said Paolo just stared at him and then said, “All right, my friend, I may be able to get you two.”

Kaming continues, “Three months later I committed to two of them and last March I flew to Italy to look at the first one, the Nicky Hayden bike. At that time the Rossi bike was still hidden away. So I said, yeah, I would take both of them. Now, one week before Indy they finally arrive. It took me a long time between the Ducati legal department releasing those motorcycles and documentation, etcetera. But I got ’em.”

As a friend who knew the game was afoot, since the beginning, and have kept quiet, even if Kaming hasn’t, I respected his privacy and never asked the cost. As a journalist with questioning readers I did pop the question and with a grin he said that Paolo told him that last year they auctioned off another MotoGP bike for charity and it sold for €200,000. He shrugged his shoulders. End of subject.

Once the precious cargo was unveiled – and the 20 or so admirers were deep at work analyzing what they were seeing – I spoke with John Ethel. His first comment was that the two bikes are unusual not only because they are rare and the only genuine MotoGP bikes that he has ever heard of being sold, but that they are in running condition. Most race bikes, he says, are decommissioned for various reasons such as liability. John also feels that without factory support and constant attention that they would probably “grenade” after a few track days.

Interestingly, the 69 bike is fitted with Bridgestone “display only” tires on 16.5 inch rims and 46 is fitted with 190/650R16.5 slicks by the same manufacturer on similar wheels. The Brembo Monobloc calipers and carbon rotors radiate with their potential and the rake on the radial support is considerably different than what we see on production bikes.

The details within the cabin are all custom and upon close inspection there are many differences in layout between the two bikes and the footpegs are considerably higher on Rossi’s bike.

There are no plans to change wheels, or anything else, and Kaming may decide on Bridgestone or Pirelli replacements just to have fresh rubber. It is my understanding that, under the terms of the sale, Kaming may only start the bikes and nothing more. But he is a mischievous fellow and Temptation could be his middle name.

As for the provenance of these bikes, John says that “they are proper, real-deal, legitimate race bikes with full carbon frames and full carbon box swing arms.” Many pieces can be identified by viewing slow-speed playback on MotoGP.com. Kaming will be attending the race a Indy soon and John has spoken to Nicky Hayden about the bike so he is sure Kaming will get all the details when they meet.

John says, “It’s pretty damn cool. I mean, no matter what you think of the bike or how they finished or what happened or any of the back story – I’ve never seen a MotoGP team sell a complete MotoGP bike to anyone outside and say ‘here you go.’ I think that’s just cool that they do it and the bikes are pretty special to look at for sure.”

As for replacement parts, there is one gentlemen over in Italy who buys all of Ducati’s spare parts. Kaming was told that if he needed any to give him a call. Let’s hope that won’t be necessary.

Next week Kaming will be trailering both bikes to Indy at which time he will meet with Nicky, have the bikes serviced and also be tutored by Ducati’s technicians in the starting procedures for the engine and systems. He was warned to not let anyone try this until properly prepped so we did not hear the deafening roar today. More’s the pity.

When I asked him what his plans are Kaming replies, “I don’t think riding the motorcycle is my biggest concern right now. More importantly is having a piece of history and having a unique motorcycle in my possession. It’s like having a unique painting and so it’s not about riding it. I have plenty of motorcycles to ride. And if Rossi couldn’t ride it how can I?”

His plan is to display the bikes at home, albeit inside and not in his air conditioned garage that is crammed sardine-like with bikes. “Most motorcyclists would never get a leg over one. OK, for me to be in a position to have that and be able to start it up and ride it down the street, at least, right, and come back. That would be like, wow!

“When you go to a MotoGP event you can’t get near the garage. If you get in the garage, let’s say you know somebody, they’re going to tell you that you can’t take pictures. Right? I have them in my house. Now that’s pretty cool.”