The Ducati brand has produced countless legends, from small-volume sports bikes of the post-war era to the legendary Bevel Head, Pantah, 916 and Desmosedici.

One of the most relevant designs, but one that is usually forgotten, is the Ducati 8-series. 851 and 888 really shook up the sports motorbike market at the end of the 1980s. It was a sophisticated innovation bomb for the small manufacturer, delivering unrivaled build quality – for Ducati standards. A serious chassis, the four-valve engine with fuel injection, ambitious lightweight construction and, of course, desmodromic valve technology were a smash hit. Just a few years later, the newly founded Superbike World Championship title was won – non-stop between 1990 and 1992.

One of the machines from the last stage of development – the “888 SP5”, limited to 500 homologation units – found its way into my garage. She made my Ducati experience complete, as a very impressive, brutal-looking but razor-sharp race tool, that also paved the way for the striking 916.

Which is why it was only natural for me to compare this forgotten Superbike icon with a very early version of the 851. On track, of course, in its natural habitat.