One must feel a certain amount of sympathy for designer Pierre Terblance. He designed the motorcycles which, arguably, gave Ducati a financial platform to go MotoGP racing from.
But he left Ducati in 2007 under what looked to be a dark cloud, right after the release of the Ducati 1098. At the glitzy Milan launch, Terblance's much misunderstood 999 didn't even get a single mention in a multimedia build up featuring many other Ducati machines. Despite multiple championship successes, it was as though Ducati were trying to purge it from memory. Terblance was there, stood to one side in the darkened wings, cutting a rather lonely figure.
And the problem stemmed from the styling, because customers just didn't get it. The Ducati 999 wasn't a sales due to looks. How thoroughly Italian of us. We can understand some of the complaints and see why might think its ugly, but it isn't – it's beautiful.
Technically the Ducati 999 was quite a jump in production motorcycle technology. The superb fueling is courtesy of gaping 54mm throttle bodies controlled by a Magnetti Marelli ECU. CAN wiring sends multiple signals down shared wires to save weight. Cunning. Some early 999's suffered with some serious electronic problems. We had once a Ducati 999S that would start without the key when they got wet. What the Ducati 999 represents is the cutting edge of 1000cc V-twin development, function ruling over form. Give one a race paint job and it all makes sense. Go admire any Ducati 999 race motorcycle and it looks just right, like it's born to have numbers on its nose and flanks. The Ducati 999 was designed to cut through the air like an X-plane, to match the top speeds of the new breed of powerful 1000cc fours entering racing, with about 30 horsepower less. It looks like this because it has to. That nose heavy mug is what's responsible for so few of you out there buying one, and that's a tragedy, because you missed out.
The Ducati 999 in all variants was a far superior road bike to anything before it. We know this from experience. Despite the usual amount of odd setups, little felt as commanding as one of these on track. The Ducati 999R is the daddy, but you'd be more likely to come across an 999S variant. We've seen them for reasonable prices privately owned, which is seriously tempting.