Motorcycles: Code Red

<< Back to Robb Report, August 2003
  • Fluto Shinzawa

The portly harley-davidsons that John D’Orazio had tuned for years were rendered irrelevant in a matter of minutes. In 2001, D’Orazio, an Atlanta lawyer and Harley devotee, attended the Ducati Revs America event in Las Vegas, a celebration of the Italian marque’s motorcycles. There he test-drove the Ducati S4, slashing through a 24-mile circuit in less than 15 minutes. “It was like someone threw a bucket of ice water on me. I was awake,” D’Orazio recalls. “We were flying across the desert. Then I knew why the sportbike guys go so fast. Because they can.”

D’Orazio purchased an S4, relishing its tight handling, flawless braking, and effortless performance, but he soon wanted more. To that end, D’Orazio hired Mark Sutton, the proprietor of Ducshop, a Woodstock, Ga., company that transforms stock Ducatis into supercharged machines. Sutton installed high-performance cams, tweaked the high-compression pistons, and blueprinted the S4’s engine to match Ducati’s original motor layout for optimal performance. Three weeks later, the 51-year-old D’Orazio received the thrill of his life. “I think I’ve got a legitimate 20 percent power increase over what a stock S4 would have. It was fun to ride before, but now it’s an absolute ball,” says D’Orazio.

In the past decade, Sutton, 45, has fine-tuned more than 300 Ducati engines for individual customers while also working on motors for professional superbike teams. His work has taken him from Seattle to Wisconsin to Philadelphia—where he trained under famed Ducati specialist Eraldo Ferracci—and finally to Woodstock, just north of Atlanta, where clients, following consultations, ship their bikes and engines to Ducshop.
Factory Ducatis hardly lack street speed, and most dealers offer optimal service and repairs, but few are versed in high-performance tuning. Also, a Ducati motor can be challenging for technicians unfamiliar with the complications of the valve-actuated Desmodromic engine. Sutton has trained at Ducati’s Bologna factory on two occasions, and he personally piloted a Ducati 748 to a V-twin championship in Oregon in 2000, which lends him additional credibility. “A racing history helps with performance work,” explains Sutton. “Racing sells product.”


Sutton’s winning pedigree helped sell his services to Stephen Schact, 51, a West Bend, Wis., dentist. Schact, who owned a 1999 Monster, went to Sutton after learning about his superbike experience. Sutton upgraded the heads, installed high-performance cams and carburetors, replaced the valves, and introduced different chains to give the Monster greater torque and more high-end revving power. Because Sutton completed the project in December 2001, Schact had to endure four more months of the Wisconsin winter before he could ride his Monster. However, the bike was worth waiting for. “It was a totally new bike,” Schact says.

Sutton used his expertise to convert the 1993 900SS of Peter Wylie, a 63-year-old Seattle dentist, from a solid performer into what Wylie now calls a “midrange monster.” During three weeks at the Ducshop, the 900SS became a 90-hp machine that blows by anything in the zero-to-80-mph range. Wylie’s rides through and across northeast Oregon, Big Sur, and the Sierra Nevadas used to be fun, but aboard his 368-pound carbon fiber 900SS, the excursions border on nirvana. Wylie’s experience is typical for Sutton’s clients. “A lot of times they’ll call back the next day,” Sutton says. “They say, ‘Oh my God, what did you do to my bike? You transformed it.’ ”

Ducshop, 770.823.8707, www.motobritalia.com

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