Paul Ritter: Racing the Gods — A Ducati Superbike Racer’s Autobiography

| 6/11/2015 9:24:00 AM

Paul Ritter

Paul Ritter leads Ed Unini and Jim Haberlin at Ontario in 1976.

Fans of Superbike racing well remember the names that made the new-for-1976 class the most dynamic of the race season calendar. Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling put Ducati on the U.S. map with the California Hot Rod, while Reg Pridmore and Steve McLaughlin did the same for BMW. Wes Cooley and Erik Buell contested the series, too, as did Mike Baldwin and Keith Code. But there’s another rider whose name often seems left out in the memories, Paul Ritter.

That might be due to Ritter’s relatively short track career. He rode Ducatis from the beginning, starting with a single-cylinder Diana 250 in his first races in 1973. The 250 single gave way to a 350 Mark 3D desmo single and then, in 1975, Ritter started racing his Ducati 750 Sport street bike. Along the way, he discovered he had a natural talent for racing, honed by watching better riders and learning from their successes. Riding his 750 Sport, Ritter won the 1976 750 Production class championship.

His big break came later that year, when he teamed up with Dale Newton under the Aero-Union banner. In 1977, he raced Newton’s 750SS in 750 Production and Newton’s Ducati 900SS in Superbike. Ritter dominated the 750 Production class, ending the year with 12 overall wins and one crash. Not bad for someone only four years into the sport.

That year, Ritter won his first Superbike race, coming in first at Sears Point in front of Daytona Superbike winner Cook Neilson, plus Ron Pierce, Steve McLaughlin and Reg Pridmore. “I only vaguely remember the winner’s circle ceremony,” Ritter writes. “I was over the moon with joy.”