February 20, 2024

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The Ultimate Driving Machines

A Ducati 996 SPS “Sport Production Special”

Ducati 996 SPS

This is the 14th example of the Ducati 996 SPS “Sport Production Special,” just 150 were made in total. Countries that had an allotment of the 996 SPS typically saw them sell out months before that actually arrived at the dealer.

The 996 was the improved and slightly more powerful version of the Ducati 916 – inarguably one of the most important Ducatis ever made, and undeniably one of the most beautiful (and influential) superbikes in modern history.

Fast Facts – The Ducati 996 SPS

  • The Ducati 996 SPS can trace its lineage back to the Ducati 916 which had arrived on the scene in 1994, creating a shockwave throughout the motorcycle world of the day.
  • The 916 won “Superbike of the Year” from many of the major motorcycle magazines, and the racing version would win four Superbike World Championships thanks to riders Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser.
  • The 996 was an incremental upgrade to the 916 rather than a new blank slate design, it had more power thanks to its larger displacement, and Ducati engineers led by the great Massimo Tamburini had implemented dozens of small improvements.
  • The Ducati 996 SPS “Sport Production Special” was the pinnacle of the 996 family, it produced more power, had uprated Öhlins suspension, and a number of lightweight parts.

The Arrival Of The Ducati 996

The Ducati 996 had one of the most difficult jobs of any new motorcycle in the 1990s, it was tasked with replacing the universally loved Ducati 916 that had just won four Superbike World Championships running from 1994, 1995, and 1996, with another in 1998 for good measure.

Above Video: The famous motorcycle chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded used a black Ducati 996.

When it had been released in 1994 the Ducati 916 set the motorcycle world alight, it won a slew of “Best New Superbike” awards (or similar) from the motoring press and demand was such that the full first year’s allocation for the US market had sold out before a single bike had arrived in the country.

The runaway success of the 916 in both the consumer and competition realms had set a high bar for its eventual replacement. Ducati wisely opted to stick with the same formula, and developed the 996 as an update to the 916 rather than as an all-new motorcycle.

The 996 was fitted with a modified version of the same engine, now with a displacement of 996cc (hence the model name) and twin fuel injectors per cylinder as opposed to the single injectors used in the preceding model.

The new model was also given larger pistons to match the new bores, larger valves, and an uprated camshaft, crankcase, and crankshaft. The chassis received some modifications as did the exhaust system, light wheels were fitted and the front and rear brakes received significant updates.

Ducati 996 SPS 7

Image DescriptionThe styling of the 996 was closely related to the earlier 916, thanks in no small part to the overwhelmingly positive reception the 916 had enjoyed.

The 996 was offered in four major trim levels over the course of its 1998 to 2002 production run – the 996 Biposto, 996S, 996SPS, and the 996R which replaced the SPS from 2001 onwards.

With a dry weight of 198 kilograms (437 lbs) dry and 112 bhp in entry-level Biposto trim the 996 was an exceptionally quick motorcycle, and it remains a favorite today well over 20 years after it left production.

The Ducati 996 SPS

The Ducati 996 SPS was the top-of-the-line version of the new model, and as close as you could get to a road-legal version of the same 996 that was competing in the World Superbike Championship.

Weight was reduced thanks to the use of a number of carbon and titanium parts, the alloy wheels were also lighter than those used on the regular 996 to cut down on both unsprung and rotating mass.

Power was increased to 124 bhp over the 112 bhp offered in the non-SPS model and an Öhlins monoshock replaced the original Showa unit, from 2000 on the front Showa forks were also replaced with Öhlins units.

Ducati 996 SPS 8

Image DescriptionThe 996 SPS was the highest performance version of the original 996, it was essentially a street-legal version of the competition motorcycle.

Last but not least, the 996 SPS used an adjustable steering head that allowed for quick geometry changes, allowing riders to adjust their bikes to suit their riding styles, and to suit different circuits or roads.

Just 150 examples of the 996 SPS were ever made and they’re now the most highly collectible examples of the prized Ducati model.

The 1999 Ducati 996 SPS Shown Here

The bike you see here is a 1999 Ducati 996 SPS, it’s the 14th of the 150 that were made and it’s showing just 154 kilometers on the odometer – approximately 95.6 miles.

The bike is now being offered by RM Sotheby’s as part of the Driver and Rider Collection with a price guide of $20,500 – $31,000 USD.

If you’d like to read more about this unusual Ducati or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

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Images courtesy of Paolo Carlini ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Ducati 996 SPS