Raymond Roche (top, left) on the Ducati 851 and Valentino Rossi with the Panigale. Legends from two different eras. And, amazingly, the 851 is still up for a scrap...
Remember the Ducati 851? It came out in 1987 and blitzed the world of sportsbikes like few other machines have ever managed to. Desmoquattro V-Twin, liquid-cooling, fuel-injection, four-valve cylinder heads, 95bhp and a top speed of about 240km/h made the bike a bit special 25 years ago and that’s the way it remains today, despite the fact that it probably requires motorcycle breakdown cover more than the Panigale does!
The 851 and its various avatars (851 SP, 888 and 888 SP) were produced from 1987 to 1993 and the bike won three World Superbikes championships – with Raymond Roche in 1990 and with Doug Polen in 1991 and 1992. By 1993, the Ducati 888 had twin fuel injectors per cylinder, power was up to 125bhp and the bike had the best bits that companies like Termignoni, Brembo and Ohlins were making back then.
The Ducati 851 was pretty much the top dog of its time, the baddest boy on the block. And that makes you wonder how the bike would stack up against the modern day Ducati 1199 Panigale, a bike that has, in one fell swoop, made every other superbike on the planet look old and slow and outdated. For their August 2012 issue, Motorcycle Sport & Leisure magazine have ridden the 851 and 1199 back to back, and here are some brief excerpts from what they have to say about the two machines: