Sports Motor Cycles Spondon Ducati 888 Race Bike

Steve Wynne and Sports Motor Cycles had a long and glorious history of making race and championship winning Ducati bikes.

This is one of them.

The most well known of Steve's wonders was the fairytale win for Hailwood in 1978 at the TT.

In 1978 Ducati were in a precarious financial state and if Steve and Mike Hailwood had not won the TT - then Ducati may not have survived. The boost to Ducati's reputation and sales of the Hailwood rep etc helped Ducati recover. By the early 80's Ducati were again in financial trouble and again to the rescue came Steve Wynne and Sports MotorCycles - numerous championship wins including 4 TT F2 championships in the early 80's helped Ducati again.

This Bike was Sports's next generation racer - Steve worked with Spondon Engineering to create an alloy frame for the air cooled Ducati's (bevel and belt) and ultimately progressed to creating this.
Work started in 1987 and it obviously went well as they won the BoTT series in 1988 and the European BoTT in 1993.
The bikes started off with a twin spar design, but by mid 1992 they had progressed to a single larger main spar as with this bike.

Alan Cathcart bought one himself and raced it earlier and this bike is Sports Motor Cycles own race bike from the end of the era - the final development.
It is road registered in the UK.

Racing 8 valve Ducatis were (and still are) breaking crankcases and Steve Wynne thought it might be down to the engine being used as a stressed member and having the stresses of the rear fork pivoting in the engine case. In his design the swinging arm does not pivot in the cases or stress the crankcases. Steve also wanted to improve the weight distribution, geometry and lighten the bike. With this design there were no more case failures and the bike started beating the works Ducati race bikes. The engine is also mounted lower and further forward.

This bike was Sports Motor Cycles own race bike and it was campaigned around the world in various championships.

The wheels are magnesium, the bodywork is all factory carbon. The Brakes as period race items. It is very light and quick.

It is deceptively fast - it takes little effort to be travelling at significant speed.

I only take it out on sunny days and it does draw a crowd - have you ever seen a real Sports MotorCycles race bike other than Hailwoods and have you ever seen an alloy framed Ducati?

I bought my first Ducati when I was 17 (over 30 years ago) and have owned this one for 13 years - it is pampered.

It won the 1993 European BoTT championship with Wayne Mitchell aboard and numerous other races and lap records at Macau, Villa Real, Assen, Estoril and Jakata.

Spondon Ducati Sports MotorCycles

So if it was so good, why did they stop making them?

Ducati offered Steve the importer concession, but on condition that he stopped racing and building them!

I think Ducati were embarrassed that their works bikes were being beaten.

Hence the very short life of this Ducati and its great rarity.

In Motor Cycle News July 15th 1998, there is an article on the bikeand in it Steve Wynne is quoted as saying that he gave the Ducati factory feedback on its handling and dimensions and that this was used in the development of the 916. So what we have then is the bike that is the joint father of the iconic 916 and its descendants. This bike has a single sided swing arm and adjustable front geometry - as 916 etc.

It was raced in the early 90's in Battle of the Twins (BoTT) and Sound of Thunder. It was also raced at Macau, VillaReal and Jakata - almost certainly by Wayne Mitchell. In 1993 it won BoTT races at various tracks around the world including Assen and Estoril. It broke down at Macau, came 7th in Indonesia, retired with ignition trouble at another race. If it didn't break down then it usually won. Wayne was Sports's regular pilot.

At Macau Simon Beck was on a works 888 and Wayne was on this - this was quicker - the riders put it down to its handling over the factory frame. It was also probably raced by Robert Holden at Assen in a BoTT race that it almost won. Robert was a real world class rider with numerous Championship wins including TT's. We was killed at the 1996 TT. The original motor "may" have come from a "Lucchinelli " (an early Ducati 4 valve racer) that was totalled in a big crash at Bray Hill at the IoM TT races. It was also run at Carnaby and KnockHill. Originally it was red/white/green then changed to red/white/blue to emphasise the Britishness of it and then to its current paint. I would like to thank Sean Kynnersley for information on the bike he worked at Sports during the Spondon era and Steve Wynne and other members of his team for adding to the bikes history.

In 1995 it was rebuilt by Steve Wynne and sold to its first owner - Chris. He bought it as a race bike with no lights etc  magnesium wheels, carbon bodywork (very trick for 1995). He naturally fitted lights and regisitered it for the road! It had done 3000 miles when I bought it in summer 2004. Compared to my 888SP4 the engine is further forward in the frame to put more weight to the front and the engine is mounted higher to give it more ground clearance. The wheels are magnesium and the rear fork is Spondon with an RC30 hub and Ohlins shock. All the body work is factory carbon and the tank is hand made alloy. Its running a non floating disk on the front as back in 95, cast floating disks were exploding and not a popular fitment! Steve W recons it should be about 125-130bhp at the wheel. It handles better than my SP888, it feels unbelievably planted on the road and resists the urg to sit up in corners if you brake - unlike an SP. It was running unfiltered open inlets, but JHP built a custom carbon airbox and now it breathes filtered air, they also dropped the motor out and gave it a thorough check over. If you think that an 888SP on open pipes is loud, this is another dimension... it sounds awesome although the neighbours may not agree. It feels tiny compared to an 888SP.

It spent over a year with John Hackett and has had a full engine rebuild by John Hackett himself - probably Europes leading 888 engine authority. He was keen to do the work as he remembered racing against it and losing and so was keen to have a look! The suspension, brakes etc. have all been rebuilt by JohnH, but nothing has been changed from period. It has not been raced since.

The founders of modern Norton bought Spondon and hence their race frames are similar.

Sports MC build around 10 851/888 complete bikes and around 10 frame kits were sold for the owners to build themselves. Of the 10 bikes built by Sports about 4 were 888 and two were certainly raced to Steve W's knowledge. One was raced by Alan Cathcart and I believe he still owns it. One was raced by Sports themselves (which is this/my one) and another may have been raced in California by an Art Chambers. Alan Cathcarts bike was an early bike and had/has a twin rear arm/traditional suspension. So this bike is one of only 10 built by Sports, one of only 4 888 versions and their own race bike - the last one built.

A couple of 851/888 (standard motors) went to the Japanese importer - but haven't been seen since and a Mr Suzuki was bought one directly.

When they were new, they were £16,500 for one with a standard 851 engine - so this bike would have been over £20,000 ! a hell of a lot of money in 1995.

Spondon Ducati Sports MotorCycles

Spondon Ducati Sports MotorCycles

Spondon Ducati Sports MotorCycles#

Spondon Ducati Sports MotorCycles

Spondon Ducati Sports MotorCycles

 

 


 

Below, you can see how small it is compared a standard 888 SP4 of 1992.

 

This is an original style twin spar frame that was tested by Alan Cathcart in May 1992 in SuperBike Magazine.

This is the test bike (above) and Alan Cathcarts own Sports Spondon race bike.

In October 1992 MCI tested the Sports Spondon below. At the time the normal one was selling for
£16,444 and with a hot motor this would be £20k plus - this was in 1992!

All of the magazine reviews were very positive.

At the bottom of this page are copies of the in era road tests.

This bike was featured in an article about the UK finest 888 Ducati's - it was featured as No1.

The bike is UK registered with a V5c and is MoT'ed until July 2017.

This is a 4 page review of a twin spar Sport Spondon Special from SuperBike - May 1992.

 

This is a 5 page review of a single spar Sports Spondon Special from MotorCycle International of October 1992.

 

  

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