The Ducati V8 F1 Engine that Never Was
Image: Phil Aynsley www.philaphoto.com
We all know Ducati’s beautiful bikes, but the company’s been around since the ’20s, and they’ve dipped their toes into many other designs over the decades. Even (cover your ears) vehicles with four wheels.
Ducati got its start in the late 1920s building on the patents of Adriano Ducati to create equipment for radio. During 1943 the company’s Borgo Panigale factories were taken over by the German army to produce fuses and shells for the war effort. This caused Allied intelligence to identify the area as a munitions depot. They targeted it during Operation PANCAKE bombing raids in 1944, razing it.
After the destruction of those factories the Ducati brothers felt that they would not be able to recover producing their traditional equipment, but they had ideas of where to take the business.
During the war Aldo Farinelli had developed a prototype for the Cucciolo – an auxiliary motor designed to be fitted to a bicycle – it was this motor which changed the direction of the company, allowed it to recover from the destruction it had endured during the war and eventually become the Ducati we know today.
It was also during this time that Ducati was looking at producing an automobile as a way to pull them through post-war economic recovery. To this end they designed a the Ducati DU4, which would use a 90° L-twin cylinder four-speed 250cc motor. This saw a single prototype put together in 1946 in Milan, but the project went no further. At that time the Cucciolo was seeing great success and they saw no need to face the additional risk represented by a completely new product line.
Their next four-wheeled adventure would result in something bigger and badder – the motor you see up the top.
With the deaths of three drivers in 1960; Chris Bristow, Harry Schell and Alan Stacey, major rule changes were afoot in Formula 1 and maximum engine capacity was reduced from 2.5-litres to 1.5-litres. Inspired, Fabio Taglioni designed and built an eight-cylinder desmodromic V-shaped engine for Osca Maserati, who was looking for an engine to use in a racing car.
The resulting motor is this 1.5-litre Ducati V8 F1 engine, which produced a competitive 170bhp. One engine was built, but the project didn’t go any further and it didn’t find its way into a competing race car.
And safety in Formula 1 still had a long way to go, with the sport losing three more drivers in 1961 – Giulio Cabianca, Shane Summers and Wolfgang von Trips.
These early days of motorsport were a dangerous time and came at far too great of a cost, but they were also an exciting and eclectic time which produced wonderful stories of ingenuity and progress. Artefacts like the Ducati V8 F1 engine are examples of this, and we hope the highly-regulated world we live in today still leaves a little room for genius dreamers to come up with something completely left field.