American Rich Lambrechts, like many of his family before him, is a skilled craftsman, technician and designer with a passion for saving and restoring classic machines. Through this passion he has befriended the men who not only built and raced some of the most iconic machines, but also imprinted their names into the history books...
As a child, his grandfather gave him a motorcycle headlight and even then he knew he had to one day put it good use and whatever he chose to do with it, it had to honour the man who gave it to him.
Having worked on high performance open wheel cars, Rich also had a long time interest in two wheels and with one brand in particular - Ducati. Forming Desmopro with Vicki Smith, a fellow enthusiast and founder of ducati.net, they set about becoming the leading Ducati restoration specialists. So when the Discovery Channel asked them to build a machine for their Cafe Racer series, they knew they needed something special – and the idea for the Cafe 31 machine was born, giving Rich the perfect destination for his Grandfather's headlight.
With the show now in its third season, they knew they needed to produce something different, a machine that would not only turn heads but offer an excellent ride- especially as legendary American road racing brothers Ben and Eric Bostrom would be putting the finished machine through its paces on track.
Rich decided the bike needed to not only honour his Grandfather but should be a true Ducati thoroughbred so using four key Ducati men as inspiration – Cook Neilson who won the Daytona 200 race in 1977 on his Ducati 750SS machine, Phil Schilling who tuned and prepared Neilson's machine plus Giorgio Nepoti and Rino Caracchi who together created NCR – the famous Ducati racing workshop. Caracchi still resides in Bologna, busy building parts in his workshop and Rich would ensure some of his very special engine parts would be included in the Cafe 31 project.
With the concept decided and having endlessly sourced and stockpiled a host of interesting parts in complete secret (as dictated by the TV Show format), it was time to start assembling the Cafe 31 racer. Using an old Ducati 860GT as a basis, the bike was stripped down completely so that it was just a bare engine and frame, from there the process became much slower as items became more handmade and custom. Agonising for hours over the choices continued as the bike slowly began to take shape.
Keen to ensure his passion shone through, Rich ensured that with every decision made the Ducati heritage had to shine through. This was particularly noted in the paint scheme, when a heavy metalflake gold was chosen – a similar silver paint was used at the famous Imola races where of course Paul Smart took the victory in 1972 aboard his 750 Ducati. Continuing the amalgamation of various Ducati models over the decades, the Cafe 31 featured a handcrafted tank that was, like the paintwork, a nod to the Imola machines and featured an 888 Corse filler cap.
This bike of course was scheduled to meet the Bostrom brothers who would be pushing it to its limits, so it had to not only look stunning but also be able to offer great power and most importantly, handle extremely well. Up front, a set of Öhlins FG353P gas forks from a crashed Desmosedici D16RR were chosen as the perfect option so they were sent back to Öhlins Headquarters to be repaired and serviced before being fitted to the Cafe 31. At the rear, the Öhlins unit was modified to accommodate a monoshock, the chain eccentric now served as a means to adjust the rear suspension and swingarm.
To help with the handling, extensive work went on with the GT frame, reducing overall weight was key and a custom aluminium subframe was crafted while geometry was improved by reducing the rake from 31 degrees to 25. Further weight loss came from lightweight forged alloy wheels along with a whole host of exotic carbon fibre parts. Finishing this stunning gold machine is Desmopro's own stainless steel two into one exhaust, offering the Cafe 31 a distinct and loud growl.
With that, the Cafe 31 was sent off to meet the Bostrom brothers. As you would expect from the two it didn't take long before they were pushing the machine to its limits – both returning with huge grins and enthusing about how light and powerful the motorcycle was.
Rich and Vicki had done it, together they had produced an iconic Ducati cafe racer that was not only equally as happy on the road as it was on the race track but honoured Rich's grandfather.