(Bologna, Italy) The area surrounding the new NCR Ducati shop is filled with racing personalities and history. Loris Reggianni, Frankie Chili and Val Rossi are all from the area around Cesena, which is half-way between Misano and Bologna. All of the local inhabitants know racing and cheer on their heroes either live or from in front of the television.
NCR was started in the mid 1960s by Misters Napoti and Caracchi (Giorgio Napoti and Rino Caracchi Racing: NCR) and have long been associated with Ducati. They have acted as the factory team and as a supported factory team over the years; and the principles of NCR have helped Ducati win several notable races and championships, including Mike Hailwood's 1978 Isle of Man win and Doug Polen's 1991 World Superbike championship.
The latest incarnation of NCR Ducati is run by Stefano Caracchi, son of Rino Caracchi. Stefano is a former racer, and raced in World Superbike several times and placed second at Daytona twice in the 1980s BOTT class. According to Caracchi, there are about twenty people working at NCR now, and from their perspective, being handed American Ben Bostrom as their rider for the remainder of the season is like winning the lottery.
"It's fantastic," said the 40-ish Caracchi today in his workshop, a large industrial building in a busy park on he outskirts of Cesena. "I don't think Ben was happy with the bike the first time he rode it (at Hockenhiem), it was strange for him to be moved from the Ducati performance team to us, but in the recent laps at Misano, he was just as fast at Troy Bayliss and Juan Borja."
Caracchi said that Bostrom was told officially that he would be moved to the NCR team on the Wednesday prior to Hockenhiem.
"The good thing for Ben is that we are all devoted to him now. We will give him 100% to win. sure, perhaps we are less professional than the Ducati Corse team but if Ben can give a good effort ... who knows?"
Caracchi continued: "From our perspective, Ben's strong point is that he's not worried about the little things. My father said that when Hailwood rode the NCR bike, it wasn't the fastest bike or the best bike but that didn't bother Hailwood, and it doesn't seem to bother Ben either."
According to Caracchi, what Bostrom will ride for the rest of the season is a 1999/2000 machine; predominately a 1999 factory Corse bike with 2000 parts sprinkled on it. "We have 2000 front suspension," Caracchi says. "Forks, brakes and calipers." Will he get a 2000 engine any time soon? According to Carrachi, no.
"I doubt it, because to use the 2000 engine you must have the 2000 chassis and I just don't think it will work out that way. Again, that's okay. We get good support from Ducati Corse, set-up info and other things so we should be okay." In 1991 the Ferracci Ducati World Superbike team beat the official factory Ducati Superbike team. Napoti and Caracchi were among those working on the Ferracci bikes.
The NCR bike, all black, uses FG suspension because FG helps to sponsor the NCR team, and because they will furnish a suspension technician to the team. An Ohlins shock has been on the back of the NCR bike this season as well. "Ohlins are good," says Caracchi, "but FG will give us an engineer and support.
The NCR team was jazzed by Bostrom's attitude after the first test, especially after working with fiery Spaniard Juna Borja for a few rounds. "Ben thanked us more for our work after one test than Borja did in five races," says Caracchi. "He's great, Ben is. It's so ironic that Ben is happy here, because Borja wasn't. I know that our team will work 150% to keep him happy too."
"I'd tear off my right arm if it meant Ben could win on our bike," says Caracchi, "I'd shoot someone to make it happen," he jokes.
Former Vance and Hines Ducati wrench turner and Gary Medley understudy Mark Elder went with Bostrom to Europe this year to drive his motorhome and act as Bostrom's assistant. As Bostrom's situation has changed, now so has Elder's. Elder is now an NCR supervisor for the team and will be paid by Corse to help Bostrom.
"I saw Ben at Laguna Seca last year," Caracchi stated today, "and saw that he can go very fast. I'm excited to have him on our team. If he succeeds we'll all be happy. The great thing with NCR has always been our ability to do well without factory bikes or parts." Engine builder Rino Carrachi still consults with the team, as does Nepoti.
Although the lack of factory gear has been an attribute to the NCR success story over the years, so has Dunlop tires. Dunlop tires were on Hailwood's bike in 1978 and on Polen's FBF Ducati in 1991. Borja stared the season on a Dunlop-shod NCR Ducati but they switched to Michelin soon after. There are rumors that Bostrom will be on Dunlops by the time the series comes to America, but Caracchi stated that won't be the case.