1987 Ducati Laguna Seca

Marco Lucchinelli's success in the Battle of the Twins at Laguna Seca in 1986
prompted Ducati to name next series of limited edition 750 F1 the Laguna Seca.
Laguna Seca also came with a Marco Lucchinelli decal autograph on the gas tank.

Except for slightly different cylinder heads, the engine the Laguna Seca was
identical to that of the Montjuich.  There was a steel, rather than aluminum, inner
clutch drum, and small changes to the clutch actuation system. There was a new
clutch slave cylinder and bearing, although the vented clutch cover was retained.
In an effort to reduce noise levels, the Laguna Seca featured a new muffler, with
larger canister and riveted aluminum cover. U.S. versions received a different
muffler again; a Conti similar to that of the 1986 750 F1.

It was a classic... Rhys Jones remembers fondly the Ducati Laguna Seca he
owned 15 years ago.

I guess most motorcyclists enjoy reminiscing about bikes they've owned or
ridden. At Pukekohe some time ago I saw a Ducati Laguna Seca. It was the image
of the bike I owned in the late 80s and early 90s. It even, like mine, had Marco
Luccinelli's signature on the tank. The very look of it transported me to halcyon
days of warm afternoons and winding roads, of the friends I rode with in those
days, and how good it would be to ride that bike again.  

I bought the Laguna Seca from a former South Australian racing driver, who
actually went to Italy and picked it up from the factory. He'd owned it for less than
six months when he fell in love with the newly released Honda RC30, I was on his
doorstep with a cheque in the blink of an eye. That same day I rode home on my
own Laguna Seca. I was living in a town house in Adelaide, and I remember
thinking, 'The neighbours won't like this.' The "race track only" muffler barked with
authority ...

… The Laguna Seca was one of three hand-built factory specials produced by
Ducati in the mid-1980s. It was named following Marco Lucchinelli's victory at the
famous American race track on a racing version of the bike. The Montjuich was
named after Ducati victories on the Spanish circuit, and the Santamonica, which
was a hybrid of the two, was named after Lucchinelli's victory at Misano.
According to Mick Walker in his Ducati Buyers Guide, these limited edition
Formula 1 machines were "stylish and speedy" and both "beautiful and rare".
On his one to five star rating of all Ducatis up to the 1988 … the Laguna Seca,
Montjuich, and Santamonica are all unequivocally given five stars. This, he
said, "was the Italian sportsbike of its era". They were the 1980s versions of
the legendary 1973 Ducati 750SS. For the record, the 750SS is the only other
Ducati since 1962 upon which Walker bestows five stars. …

The Laguna Seca, and the other specials, represented the end of an era, and
indeed the beginning of a new dawn for Ducati. The bikes were the ultimate
development of the Pantah engine. … The next stage in Ducati's development
would see the basic Pantah engine design enhanced with liquid cooling and four
valve heads. The beginning of the Desmoquattro era, and Ducati's most
successful to date.

This juncture that marked the introduction of the Desmoquattro family had
historical significance for two other important reasons. Ing Fabio Taglioni, who
joined the company in 1954, retired in 1982, remaining only as a consultant. He
was the father of Desmodromic valve use in Ducati engines, and had a hand in
the design of almost every Ducati for almost 30 years. He was know to prefer two-
valve heads, and with his retirement came the opportunity for his successor Ing
Massimo Bordi to start development of a four-valve head. Interestingly, Bordi
worked on the Paso. Two others joined him, long time Ducati employee Franco
Farne, and the co-founder of Bimota, Massimo Tamburini. The other milestone
was that the Castiglioni Brothers and Cagiva bought Ducati Meccanica in 1985.
This saved Ducati from near bankruptcy and set the company on a course that led
directly to where it stands today.

… The Laguna Seca was a potent package. ... an aluminium swing arm replaced
the tubular steel one, and in the cosmetic department the standard Ducati
instrument panel was replaced with Veglia Borletti dials surrounded by foam. The
Laguna Seca also had camshafts with a sportier profile and bigger valves. The
40mm Dellorto carburettors instead of 36mm carbs on the standard F1 Brembo
Gold Seal brakes were also a feature.
Only 200 Laguna Secas were ever made,
and specifications on the bikes varied. Like the Montjuichs and Santamonicas,
some of them even arrived in the packing case with slick tyres.

The Laguna Seca was effectively outlawed in the US. It was too loud, and had
not a trace of air filtration or emission control. The bikes that did go to the US
all had slick tyres and no indicators, and were designated for track use only.
They were almost politically incorrect when they were made, and by today's
standards totally unacceptable in most countries.
They were raucous and
exciting sports machines with little attention given to anything except going fast,
handling well and stopping. Modern sports bikes will do all those things, in most
cases better, and satisfy the increasing demands of our noise and emission
regulators, but there's something about a bike that is built not to please a bunch of
bureaucrats, but to satisfy the people who are going to ride it.

Another indication of the purposeful nature of the bikes is that the Laguna Seca
and the Montjuich had no pillion accommodation, although the Santamonica and
standard F1 had optional double seats. The F1 had an 18in rear wheel and 16in
front. If this was done to quicken the steering it worked. The others all had 16in
front and rear. The Laguna Seca was at home on the track. I remember spending
an afternoon at Malala, which in those days was a very tight bumpy circuit, with not
a very long straight. I could get to a shade under 200kmh before I ran out of
straight track and into a sharp right-hander. On another occasion the Italian
motorcycle owners' organisation was allowed several laps of the Adelaide
Formula One Grand Prix circuit before the cars got onto the track. That was a very
different experience, and I was able to red line the tacho just about all the way
around the famous street circuit.

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about the Laguna Seca was that it was
possible to use all the bike's power. It was a beautifully balanced combination of
weight, power, and handling. And, compared with modern machinery, it was so
simple. I used to balance the carbs by ear. It was a matter of getting the two slides
to click at precisely the same time as they hit the bottom of the chambers. Tyres
have improved a lot since then, especially for wet weather riding. From memory, I
used Pirellis and always Agip oil. I don't recall ever having serious mechanical
problems with the Laguna Seca. It certainly wasn't a versatile, go everywhere, and
do anything bike, nor was it meant to be. I think the longest time spent in the
saddle would have been a day's ride from Adelaide to Melbourne, which must be
about 700km. I don't remember any ill effects or discomfort.

… I have fond memories of the Laguna Seca, and who knows, maybe someday,
somewhere, I may get the opportunity to own another one.
Motorcyclist - October, 1987