It took 24 years, almost a quarter century, but in March of 2011, Jason DiSalvo became the only man besides Cook Neilson to ever stand on the top step of the podium in a Daytona Superbike race by winning the Daytona 200 on a Ducati 848 EVO. Jason, a privateer, as was Neilson, did it with great riding, perseverance and a huge dose of luck no one can deny. He also did it with two motors. And on that day, Jason DiSalvo’s Ducati became one of the two most important Ducati’s in US racing history.
The next morning, over breakfast in a small B&B 20 miles west of the Daytona Speedway winners circle a group of enthusiasts were mulling over the whole incredible story. The details of how it went down were controversial, as Daytona 200’s often tend to be but the one thing all agreed was Jason’s Ducati belonged in a museum, his win and accomplishment deserved to be remembered. The fate of the last Daytona Superbike winner (aka Old Blue) was to find itself in a private home, quietly passing it’s days on an Oriental rug, with no admiring crowds, while an exact recreation (aka Deja Blue) was making laps with Cook Neilson in the saddle and enjoying the retirement Old Blue had earned. It simply could not happen again, and that morning it was decided that if Jason’s bike could be bought, it was going to VintageMotos museum in Denver. And so for the next 6 month’s Jim Dillard Sr., Jr. and I, watched and waited and after a turndown or two a deal was struck in the hot pits at Barber’s, during the AMA race. Jason’s Ducati would get the retirement it deserved. The deal included the bike, in Daytona trim including the tires and other parts it wore in the winner’s circle, all of which had been lovingly saved and put away by the Latus team in the hopes something like this could happen. It also included Jason’s helmet, boots and leathers, along with the race notes and a replica spare motor, the original having long been sacrificed to the racing Gods. There was even a special book, “One Day At Daytona” which told the whole story in Jason’s own words about the weekend. Everything but the trophy, which remained with DiSalvo and the Latus crew as a reminder that they did what Ducati themselves never could.
The bike was delivered to Barber Motorsports Park in time for the Barber Vintage Festival and Ducstock, a National Ducati Party Ducati.net was hosting during the weekend. With Cook Neilson, and Paul Smart, Jason DiSalvo now counted in the company of Ducati’s most famous men, and his Ducati racer was stabled with Deja Blue, the Desmopro exact recreation. All three men were to talk at the Motorcycles By Moonlight dinner and then ride the track on Saturday. But the Sunday before the big weekend, Jim Dillard Sr. passed away unexpectedly. Nothing could cast a shadow on Jason’s accomplishment but Jim was a man who had given more to motorcycling than most, a true giant among those of us who knew him, and he had been the Barber Museum’s biggest donor as well. It was a tragedy and the pall it cast left the plans for the DiSalvo Daytona bike in its path. To make matters worse, during the weekend Jason and Cook Neilson switched bikes during the final session on Sunday and a sudden rain shower and a slick paint stripe conspired to send Cook and the bike down. We joked it was worth a fortune now, being the only Ducati to ever be crashed by both Daytona winners, but finding humor for any reason was a stretch. Jim was gone, Cook was black and blue and the fate of VintageMotos and the 848, was in question.
The one thing that was remained clear was that Jason’s accomplishment deserved to be remembered and so Jim Dillard Jr. contacted the Barber Museum and donated the bike, the leathers and other gear. Jason had recently moved to Leeds and was increasingly becoming part of the Barber “family” and it was clear Jim Sr. would have smiled on this solution to leave the bike in this place he loved so much. The Barber staff of experts working with the Latus crew repaired the Ducati 848 EVO right down to the last decal. Last weekend, right before the annual Barber Indycar event it took its place of honor in the Barber Museum, right at the door as the newest star in the Barber line up. A special tribute to one man’s life work and another’s grand accomplishment, Jason DiSalvo’s Daytona win will be remembered, thanks to Mr. Barber and the Dillard family, and his Ducati will get the retirement it earned.