We are all familiar with the Ducati Desmosedici V4 powerplant. However, many people do not know that Ducati built an inline-4 motor for the 125 GP class (the precursor to today’s Moto3 class), and that is was the Italian manufacturer’s first four-cylinder engine. Now that you know about it, you can bid on this 1965 Ducati 125cc GP racer at Bonhams’ The Summer Sale at Bicester Heritage, running from August 14 through 16.
Ducati did have success in the 1950s 125 GPs with both singles and twins, though they had a difficult time consistently besting the offerings from MV Agusta. Unfortunately, financial constraints caused Ducati to abandon factory GP racing after the 1959 season.
In the wake of the pullback, development of racing motorcycles continued. In 1965, the Ducati 125cc inline-4 GP racer debuted with 16 valves and an eight-speed transmission. However, it only made its way to testing, and never to a GP. Honda had already been successful with an inline-5 125cc GP motorcycle, and that was enough to dissuade Ducati from campaigning its already-dated inline-4. Instead, the four-cylinder Ducati was relegated to being displayed at motorcycle shows in 1966 and 1967—and then it disappeared.
The fate of the Ducati 125 is something of a mystery. Eventually, the motor was found at the Technical Museum in Latvia, while the frame made its way to Yugoslavia. Amazingly, a different engine was put in the frame, and it was used for racing by 50 and 125 GP racer Gilberto Parlotti.
Some detective work ensued, and the frame and motor worked their way to the Morbidelli Museum in Pesaro, Italy. There, the Ducati 125 was reassembled by Giancarlo Morbidelli and his team.
Predictably, not everything on the inline-4 Ducati 125 GP motorcycle is original. Morbidelli personally made the fuel tank, while the brakes, forks, hubs, and other pieces are period correct, though not the parts that Franco Farné used for track testing. On the upside, the inline-4 motor has been run since restoration.
If the 1965 Ducati 125cc GP racebike sounds like something you would want for your garage, bring your fully prepped checkbook to Bonhams’ The Summer Sale at Bicester Heritage. The 227-year-old London auction house is expecting the motorcycle to sell for between £400,000 and £600,000.