“It’s like drinking from a firehose” is the phrase I would use over and over while telling people about my recent trip to this year’s World Ducati Week.
The three-day event attracted 81,000 rabid Ducati fans through the gates of the Misano race track, which is just a stone’s throw from Italy’s Adriatic Coast. One of the best race tracks in the world, along one of Italy’s best beaches…the recipe for success here might seem obvious.
Beyond these factors though, World Ducati Week itself is a magnet event that attracts Ducatisti from the world over by offering them the ultimate Ducati experience.
Strangely enough though, you don’t even have to be a Ducati fan to attend – though it helps – as WDW2016 is something that any motorcyclist can enjoy.
For my part in this, I will admit to having more than one Ducati in my garage (none on press loan, mind you), so consider my glass of Kool-aid aptly filled, but truthful Ducati has put together a motorcycle enthusiast agenda that other brands and venues should take note of .
As such, World Ducati Week is a great example of how to get motorcyclists excited about being…well, motorcyclists.
Ducati does this by having no shortage of events and spectacles for fans to enjoy, and while the venue is a race track, most of what makes World Ducati Week special doesn’t take place on the Misano Circuit itself.
Instead, the key to World Ducati Week’s success is the carnival atmosphere, that immerses attendees in the very best that the Ducati brand has to offer.
It should be noted that one’s trip to World Ducati Week doesn’t usually start near the Adriatic Coast, instead it is more ideal to land in Bologna, and start things at the Ducati mothership. This affords one the ability to take a factory tour at Ducati HQ, and to visit the recently revamped Ducati museum.
Re-opened just in time for WDW2016, the Ducati Museum now holds for the firs time production models from Ducati, in addition to its previous collection of prominent Ducati racing machines. This allows the Ducati Museum to tie Ducati’s current lineup of motorcycles to the company’s rich history as a brand.
The addition of the production bikes also helps sell the brand’s non-road racing lineage with a little bit more honesty – making connections to Ducati’s past in order to benefit the Scrambler and Multistrada 1200 Enduro models by linking them to Ducati’s previous Scrambler line, along with Ducati’s history of powering the 1990s Cagiva entries in the Dakar Rally.
Ducati’s growing motorcycle lineup is built just a stone’s throw from the museum, at Ducati’s factory. The bulk of Ducati’s assembly and production still occurs in Bologna (though readers will remember that non-European Scramblers are made in Thailand now), including all of the engine assembly for Ducati’s motorcycle range.
Once you have gotten your fill of Ducati HQ, it is time to hit the road, and the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy has no shortage of good riding. The motor valley sees Lamborghini’s headquarters just a short drive away (another waypoint of interest, for anyone who has petrol in their blood), and Ferrari isn’t far away either.
The Futa Pass is a must-ride point for motorcyclists, and they are plenty of worthy roads that will help you connect Bologna and Misano, via the long way round, of course. Be sure to bring cash with you though, the smaller towns along the less-traveled road still haven’t seen the miracle that is Visa and MasterCard.
Once you arrive through the gates of the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, and the first thing that strikes you are the rows and rows of parked motorcycles. I guess you could drive to World Ducati Week, but you’d be one of the few who does.
81,000 fans came through the gates of Misano for WDW2016, and while that number is surely double-counting (if not triple-counting) more than a few Ducatisti who attend multiple days of the event, it should be noted that the MotoGP Championship draws the same-sized crowd to Misano (not counting the 2015 San Marino GP, where 120,000 fans came to cheer on local-man Valentino Rossi, who was in the MotoGP title hunt).
This figure astounds me, not only for its sheer volume, but for the fact that it brings a MotoGP-sized crowd to a race track, when the main attraction isn’t centered on the race course itself.
Instead, the Bologna company has created a paddock that gives access to everything that is Ducati. A special Scrambler area promotes the Italian company’s sub-brand, with a Californian beach-like atmosphere that includes a carousel, barbershop, skate park, basketball court, and more.
This sits in stark contrast to the special XDiavel zone, which is far more chic, with its black and white motif. This pop-up lounge could easily be the hottest bar in Misano, if it was open later into the evening.
Stumble into any of Ducati’s several tents, and you can find a lineup of cutaway engines that show the Ducati lineage, or maybe an exhibition match between the Ducati Corse MotoGP and WSBK mechanics, testing which pair of wrench-turners can rebuild a Superquadro engine the fastest (hint: always bet on Team WorldSBK).
Of course, there are ample opportunities for Ducati to part you from your hard-earned dollars, with swag readily available. A dedicated vendors’ area exists as well, so your luggage home isn’t stuffed only with Ducati merchandise.
Other items of interest include the international zone, where Ducati Owners Club members from around the world can meet and interact. Each region’s portion of this mega-booth is slightly different, from sake and tea in the Asian region, to a double-sized foosball in the North American area.
Of Course, There’s Racing
Racing and Ducati go hand-in-hand, with one of the highlights at every World Ducati Week being the drag race amongst Ducati’s top racing talents.
This year, the weapon of choice was the Ducati Diavel Carbon, and while the racing amongst the MotoGP and World Superbike riders (past and current) is meant to be good fun, you should try putting a dozen or so Type-A personalities on drag bikes and see what happens…
Casey Stoner was welcomed to a roar of fan approval for his podium finish, but it was Scott Redding who would take the top-step honors. Redding’s post-race burnout was also best-in-show caliber, as any burnout that ends with a fire extinguisher should be.
That same competitive streak that we saw in the drag races held true for the Scrambler Ducati flat track event, which was a new addition for this year’s World Ducati Week.
Flat track racing is taking off in Italy, so unsurprisingly the Misano World Circuit built its own TT-styled flat track course in the circuit’s infield. Like Valentino Rossi’s “ranch” just a few miles away, Misano’s flat track course is surfaced with sand instead of dirt.
The racing here is head-to-head, using roughly 100 meters for a staggered start between the two riders. After a series of practice races, the event is a simple series of three-lap races that work in an elimination-styled bracket format.
The stadium for the race was well-attended for the sessions, despite the long trek from the paddock that one must undertake in order to get to Misano’s flat track course.
With better transportation at future events, Ducati could easily fill the amphitheater – there is no shortage of enthusiasm from Ducatisti in watching their favorite road-racers slip-and-slide their way around on Scramblers.
Andrea Dovizioso ended up being the man of the hour this inaugural year, but he had to contend with a very fast Troy Bayliss in the finals. Danilo Petrucci finished third, which in itself is an achievement, considering the bout of injuries he’s had to overcome this year in MotoGP.
While much can be said about Audi’s ownership of Ducati, and what that means for the Italian brand, by far one of the best fringe benefits has to be the Lamborghini hot-laps at World Ducati Week.
If you are willing to spend the hour or so in line (or VIP yourself to front of things), you can get a magical lap around Misano in either a Lamborghini Huracan or Lamborghini Aventador. I would recommend the latter.
Believe it or not, it took going to World Ducati Week to get me in my first proper super car. Trading notes about the ride with World Superbike racer Chaz Davies afterwards, we had to agree that our six-foot-plus frames precluded us from adding a Lambo to our stables…a cabriolet version, perhaps.
Once your body comes down from its four-wheeled drifting buzz, it’s time to get your riding gear on, and try out one of Ducati’s several DRE sample courses that are on offer.
For me, this meant getting my boots dirty, riding the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro at the DRE Enduro off-road course. The watered-down teaser to Ducati’s two-day course sees you getting some basic riding tips from former Dakar racer Beppe Gualini, before heading out to a grass field to try things for yourself.
The DRE Enduro instructors guide you through several drills: weaving through flags, balancing along a plank, and summiting a sizable metal mound. Afterwards, you are left to freeride laps around a tight-turning course that’s marked on the field.
Of course, the idea here is to get you to sign-up for the proper DRE Enduro class in Tuscany, which of course worked on me like a moth to a flame. I’d be flying back to Italy just two weeks later to get more instruction from Beppe, and of course more seat time on the Multistrada 1200 Enduro. Look for that article in a couple days’ time.
By far my favorite aspect of World Ducati Week is the fact that, for the past two events, attendees have gotten a sneak peek of Ducati’s future models. In 2014, it was the Ducati Scrambler Icon that debuted at WDW, and for WDW2016 it was the Ducati Supersport.
Of course, in a world where every phone has a camera, it didn’t take long for “Project 1312” to leak onto the internet, with the sport-touring street bike getting an even earlier public debut than was anticipated.
Still, I think the fact that Ducati’s hardcore fans are rewarded with an advance look at an upcoming model does volumes to strengthen the bond between brand and consumer.
I wish more brands would a similarly creative approach to creating buzz about a new bike, beyond staged “spy photos” and epically long teaser videos.
Making the weekend extra special too was the public debut of the Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario, which is likely to be the last iteration of the Panigale platform before Ducati’s new superbike debuts in 2017. If you believe the chatter at Misano, this will indeed be a V4 superbike. Boom goes the dynamite.
Too Much to Mention
The water from the firehose just keeps on coming and coming, as does World Ducati Week. It would be a tall order to list all of events and opportunities continues: autograph sessions with racers, Q&A with Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, parade laps around the circuit, etc.
I could probably recall an awkward story about how Friday’s events ended with the Scrambler Party at Aquafun. The event is one-part party, one-part water park, and too-many-parts European mankini exhibition. Just know, you will never be able to un-see most of what occurred at the foam party station, nor will you ever feel truly clean…ever again.
The point I am trying to drive home here is that there is no shortage of things to do at World Ducati Week, and I think it’s that fact that actually drives the event’s success. I think this is the reason that World Ducati Week can command a MotoGP-level crowd, with minimal on-track action.
I hope race organizers around the world take note of this fact, and realize that filling the grandstands is an entirely attainable goal – for any racing championship – but the value has to be there. Fan interaction is key, which should seem like an obvious statement, since motorcycling is a hands-on endeavor. Yet, it often lacks.
Ducati’s tagline for WDW2016 was “More Than Red” which seems like an obvious nod to the company’s “yellow” Scrambler line and “black” XDiavel offering.
But, there is a double entendre there as well, because World Ducati Week goes beyond just a celebration of being a diehard Ducati fan. It is really more a celebration of being a motorcyclist, with Ducati owners seemingly being the only ones clued into that fact.
If you are bleeding red Ducati fan, I probably don’t have to twist your arm too hard in order to suggest a pilgrimage (it is a free event for non-Europeans, by the way), but even for two-wheel fans who find themselves in Italy during the summer on even-numbered years, I think World Ducati Week is something still to worth making an effort to attend.
You will leave super-saturated on everything Ducati, but you will also be revitalized by the core concept drives all of us who ride a motorcycle: fun.