Ducati Mike Hailwood Replica
HAIL AND REIGN
It has been more than 35 years since Mike Hailwood came out of retirement to win the 1978 TT Formula One race at the Isle of Man on an NCR Ducati 900.
To some of us, June 3, 1978 seems like only yesterday and it remains one of Ducati’s greatest race victories. Against the odds the-then 38-year-old Hailwood won the race at an average speed of 174km/h, with a fastest lap of 177km/h. After an 11-year absence, he said it had been “the easiest TT I can remember”.
The Ducati factory was so thrilled by this victory it promised street-legal Mike Hailwood Replicas, just as it had done six years earlier after the Imola 200. In typical Ducati fashion, the road-going bike took some time to appear, but appear it did in 1979.
RACE TO SUCCESS
The first models were for the UK market and had a fibreglass cover over a steel 900 SS fuel tank. The rest of the bike was stock 900 SS. These were not special race replicas like the first 750 Super Sports.
They featured Nippon Denso instruments from the Darmah, and Goldline Brembo brake calipers, but the engines were standard 900 SS. The seat unit left the rear 40mm Dell’Orto carburettor and battery exposed, just like the racer. Wheels on these early bikes were the renowned Speedline or Campagnolo magnesium. The Speedlines are notable for disintegrating before your eyes, and cracking on bumpy roads. These early MHRs also had a one-piece fibreglass fairing that made even a simple task like changing the oil a major event.
It wasn’t long before a steel tank replaced the fibreglass cover and FPS aluminium wheels appeared during 1980.
IMPROVING THE BREED
As the Replica was proving to be exceedingly popular, it was slightly revamped for 1981, the most notable improvement being a two-piece fairing. Side panels now covered the battery and rear carburettor, but the bike underneath was essentially still 900 SS.
Silentium silencers replaced the Contis, but there was no electric start. This would be remedied during 1983. In the meantime – kick-start only or not – the Replica was by far the most popular bevel-drive model in Ducati’s line-up of the early 1980s.
As the Hailwood Replica became larger and heavier, it also became more refined. In the process of developing the new Mille engine, there was an interim 900. While still retaining the 864cc engine and roller bearing crankshaft, new engine sidecases took the style back to the earlier rounded versions. Underneath these new covers was a dry, hydraulically operated multi-plate clutch and a much smaller, neater Nippon Denso starter motor.
Styling wise, the fairing was narrowed considerably from the previous version. New indicators, tail-light and instrument panel, along with slotted sidecovers, also appeared. Internally, the engine was untouched, with the same 9.3:1 compression ratio and the same claimed power of 72 horsepower at 7500rpm.
The final edition of the Mike Hailwood Replica was the Mille of 1984-86.The Mille had many changes that could have made it the best of all the bevel-gear engines.
Displacing 973cc, the bore was up to 88mm with a longer 80mm stroke. The biggest improvement came with a one-piece forged crankshaft with plain main bearings. Elsewhere, there were new primary gears and a completely revised gearbox. The only problem was the small starter motor that was barely up to the job of cranking over those large cylinders.
Unfortunately for the Mille it was well and truly obsolete by 1985. Also, Ducati had been taken over by Cagiva and the new owners considered the bevel-gear engine uneconomical to produce. While the Mike Hailwood Replica was never a true race replica, it had an unmistakable style and presence.
THE VALUE EQUATION
• New (1983) $6499
• Average $20,000
• Perfect $30,000
Ducati Mike Hailwood
• The original Hailwood Isle of Man racer was an NCR 900 Formula One machine, prepared by Steve Wynne at Sports Motorcycles in Manchester. By 2006 Steve Wynne had finally had enough of English weather and emigrated to New Zealand.
• Although the red, white and green colour scheme is often associated with the colours of the Italian flag, they were used on Hailwood’s bike to represent the colours of the team’s sponsor, Castrol oil.
• In 2001 Ducati released Pierre Terblanche’s 900 Mike Hailwood Evoluzione, a tribute to the original 900 NCR.
• Australian racer Jim Scaysbrook also rode an NCR 900 in the 1978 Isle of Man Formula One race. Scaysbrook’s bike was supplied by Frasers and retained the original red and silver colours. Scaysbrook crashed at Governor’ Bridge on lap two.
• A week after the Isle of Man victory Hailwood won the Mallory Park Formula One race, also on the Ducati NCR 900. Mike Hailwood was killed in a road accident in March, 1981.
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Ducati Bevel Twins – Essential Buyer’s Guide
Ducati Bevel Twins 1971 to 1986 – Enthusiasts Restoration Manual
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