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Old 14th May 2011, 17:32   #1
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Default 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

Wanted to share my passion for Ducati.

Having grown up in Mysore in the 70s and 80s, I had only seen a handful of imported vehicles, a VW Scirocco that belonged to the rebel-star Ambarish, a Toyota Carina that was owned by the son of Mysore Maharaja, a Hillman Minx deluxe that belonged to a teacher’s family and a VW Jetta diesel that used to frequent our premises. I also recall a Suzuki GS550 that made an occasional visit to our neighbor’s house. My room was adorned with posters of a CBX1100, a Vanveen OCR 1000, a full dress Harley and a Suzuki GS1100. My only experience on motorcycle was on an Ind-suzuki AX-100 since Colt does not qualify. My only access to motorcycle technology in Mysore was a rare article or two in Popular mechanics and Popular Science. I distinctly remember a write-up on The Hindu about Honda Accord and the Lead 125 scooter.

It was Fall of 1990 when a Ducati 750 sport parked with a couple other bikes at a university campus in Massachusetts caught my eye. There were other bikes, but somehow, I don’t recall much about them. I must confess that I did ogle at Gixxers, Katanas, Hurricanes, Ninjas and FZRs when they were on their own. I did not know much about Ducati and had just begun reading the Motorcyclist magazine. During the next year, I learn more not only about Ducati but also about other brands like Norton, Triumph [did not know they made bikes – only awareness was the Standard Herald], and Moto Guzzi [surprisingly, had read about them in Mysore]

Fast forward to 1992, when I have decided to buy a real bike and deliberating between a Honda CB-1 and a Ninja 250. My decision to buy a bike was fully supported my colleague and mentor who rode a Honda Magna. I then get a chance to look an FZR 400 and really like it but it is well out of my price range. Eventually, I settle for the baby Ninja after briefly considering an EX500. While completing paperwork at Greater Boston Motorsports, I notice a strange sounding bike that looked unlike anything I had seen, BMW K1 being the closest. It was a Red 750 PASO and I learn later that it was named after racer Pasolini. I went outside to take a closer look and I could tell right away that there was something about this brand that was beginning to conquer my passion.

I would ride the Ninja for one year before realizing I was ready for a bigger bike. Access to funds was limited but suddenly I saw an 8%APR credit card with checks that you could use to pay off debt or buy merchandise with. The credit limit was $7500 and the price of a brand new Ducati 750 supersport was $7350. I raced in my RX-7 to Dunbar Eurosports in Brockton (the town’s only claim to fame is the fact that Marvelous Marvin Hagler hails from there.) There was a 900ss, a used 851 and a 750ss parked in a rather small display area. I just stood there staring at these red machines. The salesman allowed me to sit on the 750ss. I notice the sculpted fuel tank, the white Veglia gauges, the distinct “Made in Italy” sticker and the tasteful Agip decal. I then study the trellis frame and the fully exposed L-twin motor. I knew there was no turning back. It was not prepped for delivery, so I could not start it. I put down a 500$ deposit since there was an AGV helmet give away if I made a commitment that week. Just out of curiosity, I asked about the 851 knowing it was too much bike for a novice rider. They had another 851 that they had prepped for the track. I asked if he could fire it up for the kicks of it. At this point of time, I had a good understanding of desmoquattro motor after reading Pro-Italia’s Earl Campbell explanation of Duc guts in one of the articles in Motor Cyclist. I had also read about the history of the 851 in racing.

The salesman obliged and we both entered the dark service area. With the light on, the 851 sat on the side on a race stand. I walked around it and was eager to find out how it sounded. With the ignition turned on, the trade-mark idiot lights illuminated and the fuel injection system went to work with a series of gurgling sounds. Momentarily, the bike roared to life after a couple of attempts. I blipped the throttle a couple of times to feel the power. A feeling I cannot express in words and also managed to stall the motor. The Fuel Injection systems on the 851s were temperamental and needed several minutes of warm up. Also, without a choke, it needed a delicate touch to the throttle. We were inside a closed garage area and it was loud although not deafening. Decades later, similar emotions would be evoked upon hearing an RC211V and the GP7 exiting T4 at Laguna Seca under Wide Open Throttle, but I digress.

It would turn out that I was not meant to buy the 750ss after all. I had to lend money to a family member and I would settle for a Yamaha FZR 600 from the same guy who had sold me the Ninja. He praised my decision and tried to convince me that the FZR was a faster and a better bike. But he knew my heart was elsewhere. My first ride on the FZR was amazing however. I cracked open the throttle to see the response and I was grinning ear-to-ear inside my Shoei. I had never experienced acceleration like that. I raced to the DMV [equivalent of RTO] to get my permanent license. The officer asked me to do circles, 8s and a few other drills and I passed with flying colors. I read about Bimota Dieci and could not resist the fact that it was based on a Yamaha motor [albeit the FZR 1000’s] and started exploring options to make it look like a Dieci. Luckily, it was a fleeting thought.

I would ride to work whenever weather permitted and do short weekend rides. During one our weekend rides, we visit a Ducati dealer in Sommerville square in Massachusetts. By this time, my knowledge about Ducatis and sport bikes is on a meteoric rise. I had read about chief designer Massimo Bordi, his protégé Claudio Domenicali and the great Tamburini. We walk in and I see the triple eight waiting for a new owner. I must say, this has been my favorite Ducati from the day I saw it. The price tag on the 888 SPO was around 12.5k USD. In 94 they were called Ltd and only a 100 made it to the US and after the 916 came out a lot of the 888s were sent back to the factory. Today, an 888 will fetch a lot more than a 916 or even a 998. Of course the homologated 851s and 888s [the SP series] are even rarer. If I could afford and find a clean example, my all time favorite would be the 888 SP4. Finally, the factory works racer at 75k could blow the decals off a zx-11 (right out of motorcyclist.) We also get a glimpse of the Honda RC-30. I was not too impressed at that time but it was the best looking Honda that I had seen in flesh. I have to confess, I have not seen the NSR250.

Now getting back, me not buying the Ducati was actually a good thing. I land up dropping the FZR twice in one month of buying it. In the coming year, I would look at the Want-Ad magazine every Tuesday in search of a Ducati that I could afford. On one instance I miss a 750PASO by a whisker. But my persistence would pay off and I land up acquiring a Blue 750PASO. It was fairly cheap but was also in less than average condition. I end up detailing it, even putting a new instrument cluster cover that I sourced from Pro-Italia on our drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Then I went back to the dealer to sell my FZR and my old friend Jerome who sold be the ninja and the FZR says - so that’s what you have been wanting all the time..However, we cannot agree on a price since I am not trading it in for anything and I manage to sell it at another dealership. I am loving the 750Paso despite its quirks and the fact that it had a dent in the after market Cobra F1 pipes, and had a flat spot around 6Krpm range [it did not have the popular dellorto carburetor upgrade] It also had the diabolic kick stand that was popular on all Ducks. It was fairly heavy esp. with a full tank. In cold December, I convince a bunch of people to go to New York City for the yearly motorcycle show. The main attraction that year was the Yamaha GTS 100 with a RADD front suspension. It looked very beefy and did not have an iota of Bimota Tesi in it. Ducati’s presence was only through a dealer and saw only one 900 CR.

In a year, I find myself cash strapped especially with my wedding coming up. So, I sell the Duck very easily in a matter of minutes to the same dealer that bought my FZR and pretty much get what I paid for it. I end up moving to the west coast and to my luck, I see a 750ss parked in front of my new employer. I befriend the gentlemen and he introduces me to a Ducati news-group. I start reading technical content produced by the owners and begin to enrich my knowledge. I also indulge in understanding Fuel Injection technology and start a home project on a Yamaha TT350 with the intent of replacing the carburetor with a Fuel Injection system. Meanwhile, my friend has ordered a new 900ss SP and a set of Termignoni cans. I understand why this was so important after listening to the bike equipped with Termis. I learn the differences between the 750ss and the 900ss sp beyond just the motor size. He even educates me on a track day Laguna Seca and how a good rider on a touring 907 was able to blow away guys on faster bikes.

Then other responsibilities come to play and I invest in a house for my parents and unfortunately, I would lose my dad at the same time. Devastated, and in debt, we move to San Diego where my wife starts her graduate study. After two years, thoughts of buying a Ducati come to my mind as I settle into my new job. I would land up visiting the two local dealers - GP in downtown San Diego and Motoworld in El Cajon. At this point the 916 is expected at the dealerships.

On one such visit to Motoworld, I spot a 916 that belonged to the owner. Man…this was sex on wheels. It was leaps and bounds better than any other bike that I had ever seen including pictures. It was radical but stunning and at 14.5k USD, it was out of my price range and I knew it would be a couple of years before I can find an affordable used example. I had seen pictures of Honda NR 750 that came out ahead of the 916 but unless you were Jay Leno, it would not be on your shopping list.

I start looking for a Ducati again. I briefly consider the Aprila RS250. By this time, even the 748 has hit the showrooms and I head to GP to check them out. I talk to Paul co-owner of GP who is not only an incredibly fast rider but also a great mechanic. But as it turns out, I would end up finding a 91 907 IE. At 7k, it was affordable and one test ride on it, I make the purchase. The bike came with Termignoni cans and FBF [Fast By Ferracci] chip. I download the image from the EPROM in the ECU and start to dissect the assembly code to continue my fuel injection project.
I start exploring what Southern California has to offer for bikers. I hit up Julian, Palomar mountains, Anza Borrego and Jacumba. I rode in jeans and sneakers and a First Gear leather jacket. I then upgrade [or downgrade depends how you look at it] to a Dainese gore-tex jacket. I now realize how stupid it was. The 907’s FI was as eccentric as 851’s but the bike was equipped with a choke. One of my colleagues had just bought a Triumph Thunderbird Sport. The two bikes next to each other in the parking lot got a lot of attention. Although the 907 is a sport tourer, it was more sporting than a tourer. It sounded bad *** and would set off car alarms. During the world cup soccer time, my unfriendly neighbor came down yelling to shut my bike. He even threatened me. I had to push the bike clear of the apartment complex before starting it to make sure I did not make enemies. And I tell you, the 907 is not easy to push. It just did not like running cold and would stall unless it was warmed up fully. I did not like the idea of riding with the choke on.

I somehow still could not shrug-off my passion for owning and riding a Ducati superbike. I find a used 916 at Sonny Angels motors. I discover, GP’s Ducati franchise was bought from Sonny Angles. This particular bike was in immaculate condition with all the recall work done by a dealership in Japan where this gentleman was stationed for a few a years. At 12.5k, it was out of my budget. I locate an 851 at pro-italia for 7k but the trade-in for my 907 would be a lot lower. By then, I have established a very good relationship with GP since I had all the service and repair work on my 907 done at their shop. So, I ask Paul if he would be interested in buying my 907. He offers 7k but with a trade-in. I continue looking and find a rare 888 SPO. I hurry to see it and the owner actually lets me take it out for a spin. He saw me on a Duck and figured it was not too big a risk. My first ride on my dream bike was very special. It sounded quite different from my 2V 907. It was equipped with Carbon Tech pipes and some sounded somewhat mellow. To my luck, this gentleman was planning to buy a new 916 from GP and my buying his bike would make it easy for him since he did not have to accept a lower price that comes with a trade-in. So, I go into GP and give them the good news. I also notice a used 916 and Paul tells me it is his and is for sale. He agrees to offer me a test ride. They put on fresh tires [not new] and get it prepped since it had been sitting for a while. Once I sat on it, I realized how radical the seating position was and the purpose that this machine was built for – to win races. Paul led the way on my 907 and as I went through the gears, up-shifts were was so smooth and the bike had tremendous grunt. Before I knew, I was well into triple digits. We head back after 25miles or so and I don’t know what to say. I ask for a couple of days time and decide to go for it. When I am picking it up, I notice the 888 owner walking in and obviously not happy to see me going for Paul’s bike. A bad omen..

I would make a few trips to Palomar to get some seat time. I found it very uncomfortable and the suspension was not dialed in for my weight. I only wish I had read some of the cycle world articles on a base set up. It would mercilessly throw me off the saddle at the slightest road imperfection and keeping a smooth throttle was also tough for the same reason. One day, I ride my Cannondale bicycle to work. Upon return, I notice the parking slot where my 916 was parked is empty. Some scumbag had stolen it. I had not even received the number plates from the DMV

At this point, I had made a decision to go to business school on the East Coast. I had 6 months or so before my classes would start. I had given an order for racing leathers at Z custom leathers. Without a bike, it did not make sense to have full leathers! I got the insurance money and thought I would just get another bike. I would indeed find an 851 in Los Angeles for a bargain price. I drive to pick up my new leathers and get a chance to test ride the 851. A lot less power than the 916 but a lot more comfortable. We agree on a deal and I pick up the bike from LA. The idea was to wear my new leathers and ride the bike back to San Diego. I get into my racing leathers custom tailored for my size and fairly tight as leathers are supposed to be. Since it was not broken in, it was pretty uncomfortable and hot. My hip was cramping with seconds of putting feet on the pegs. I did not know what to do. With some struggle and pain, I managed to get going. I had another 100 miles to go in fairly hot conditions and at least a few miles of thick traffic. I fill up the tank and once I am on the highway, I feel ok and do the ride comfortably. I land up installing a full security system for the bike. But the number of false alarms and pranks played by friends becomes unbearable. So, I replace it with heavy chains. I would own the 851 for a few years and put on well in excess of 15k miles including track days at Willow Springs, Sears Point, Laguna Seca and Thunder Hill. I get the showa dialed in and rear Ohlins rebuild by PPS in southern California. I embark on a mission to lighten it by installing marchesini magnesium wheels, STM light weight clutch [not slipper], Nichols fly wheel. I also upgrade the EPROM with the FIM [Fuel Injected Motorcycles] unit. I ride from San Diego to Pleasant Hill in cold December weather. But enjoy it every bit. I would get the wind shield autographed by double world champion Doug Polen at a Track Day where Doug does one-on-one lessons. I felt like I was in a race when I saw Doug blow past me on an 888.

Through one of the Ducati forums [club desmo?], I get a referral to Nichols where I meet and befriend reliable and knowledgeable Ducati experts. They would have the pleasure of serving my unique needs. The wheels that were sold to me were from a 900ss. I don’t remember the different challenges that came with retro fitting them to an older model but they made it work. Jon Nichols has served as a race engineer and mechanic for a privateer ducati superbike team. I found that out when I asked him about the picture of Carl Fogarty and Dave Sodwoski accelerating out of T-11 at Laguna. Jon is an instructor for Jason Pridmore’s star school and one of the smoothest riders out there. He has taught me a lesson or two after following me on the track – not a pretty sight.

I would sell the 851 due to some financial hardship during the downturn. But I also embark on a new venture of designing special parts for Ducati, Bimota and MV as a part-time business. As the financial situation improves, I get a Yellow 996 from a dealer in Santa Cruz and use it as a test bench to test out the parts I designed. I would visit the Ducati factory in Bologna for a factory tour. I satiate myself staring at all race bikes of different era. With experience, I start to do complex and critical parts like short offset triple clamps. I visit every dealer in California except two [Covina and Brea] and get several of them to start reselling my parts. I leverage racers sponsored by Munroe Motors to test the parts in race conditions. Nick Haymen one of the co-owners is a highly qualified Ducati Mechanic and one heck of a racer himself. By this time, the 999 series had hit the market. I quickly decide to swap the 996 for a newer model so that I can design new parts. I end up getting a 2004 749R that came with full carbon bodywork. This is arguably the best handling Ducati. In stock trim, it came with an adjustable triple clamps to allow different offsets. Adjustable rake was popular on most 916 series bikes and the R had it as well. It came with a flatter rear suspension linkage similar to those found on race bikes. I install a 57mm exhaust system from Termignoni that would end up costing my 3k USD. I did not necessarily like the stock slipper clutch. I do one track day on the R. Somehow, I just did not like the styling of the new series superbikes and quickly dispose the 749R. I had an option to buy a 2000 996 SPS before I bought the 749R. I really did not need the R to test the parts since I had enough people ready to try them. The SPS is quite a unique specimen. Unlike most Rs, the SPS had a long stroke motor and was considered one the most fun bikes to ride. It had raw power that could lift the front wheel and slide the rear on hard acceleration especially coming out turns. The solution was to have a longer swing arm as I would find out from Jon who rides an SPS.

I would subsequently acquire a 996R from AMS in Texas. These are super rare and very expensive. However, due to family commitments, I decide to move back to India in 2009. I contemplate shipping the R but fear of excessive duty, I abandon the idea and sell the bike a few days before moving back.

However, I did pick up a 2000 996 SPS during my last visit in 2010. It sits in my sister’s home and I plan to ride when ever I visit. Eventually, I plan to bring it back with a couple other bikes. I would love to do track days…

Last edited by manson : 14th May 2011 at 18:32.
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Old 14th May 2011, 18:37   #2
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis...2nd try..

Great read but this thread really begs for pictures mate. Out with your dukes now!
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Old 14th May 2011, 18:44   #3
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis...2nd try..

Thanks Manson. I promise tomorrow I will spend time to get the right pictures on it. Was tied up putting up my new bicycle pictures for bikeszone.
Totally agree that pics make it a interesting read.
Krishna

Last edited by manson : 16th May 2011 at 16:26. Reason: Kindly avoid typing with excessing dots.
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Old 15th May 2011, 10:40   #4
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis...2nd try..

Some pictures starting from 1989 onwards [Ind-Suz].
will find pics of 749R and post.
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Old 15th May 2011, 14:33   #5
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis...2nd try..

Some of my creations for Ducati..

European Motorcycle Accessories - AVVI Mecannica
New Billet Triple Clamps for 1098/1198

the pics don't do justice however...

Krishna
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Old 15th May 2011, 16:00   #6
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis...2nd try..

Wow man, that is some real passion. Thank you for sharing the story - this thread needs lots and lots more pictures.
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Old 15th May 2011, 18:47   #7
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis...2nd try..

My friend, you are a crazy crazy man! Hats off to you. We want more pics.

btw - earlier the Ducks, now the Battaglin - awesome I say
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Old 16th May 2011, 10:17   #8
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis...2nd try..

Aamzing to read through all this Krishna, quite nicely you have summed up the Duc and their historical lineup.

There has been a lot of debate here about which is better in terms of owning one, a Jap like Honda/Yamaha or the Duc / HD etc. You can definitely comment here since you have owned both of 'em.
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Old 16th May 2011, 18:41   #9
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

Hey thanks guys. Interesting we have cross reference from Bikeszone. Very good.

Some more pics. I am seriously concerned that I may have tossed a full folder of slides taken in 1991/92 by my friend who as a very good photographer [although his focus was kingfisher calendar type - my wife threw away those slides] - I had made slides to view with a slide projector.
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Old 17th May 2011, 00:50   #10
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

Hats off Krishna. One marvels at the passion. It is reading experiences such as these which restores one faith in the motorcycling community which although gaining in numbers (for all the wrong reasons, from fatter tyres to chick magnets), is dwindling in outright passion.

PS - your location says you are in Bangalore, do catch up for a weekend cuppa sometime. Havent chatted with a Ducatista in a long time!
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Old 17th May 2011, 02:19   #11
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

Another Ducatista. Fantastic. The bikes looks awesome.

Don't know about taking Ducs to India though. Crazy traffic and probably questionable service. Not a problem if you do your own maintenance. Unless, absolutely sure, I wouldn't let a *** mechanic within a million miles of a Duc.
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Old 17th May 2011, 02:59   #12
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

VLOCT : perhaps in the past, but times have changed now. They retail in major cities with after sales support and their portfolio has enough bikes that make perfect sense for negotiating Indian road/traffic conditions. And if one cannot negotiate crazy traffic, one should probably hang in their gloves or stick to Sunday morning rides/track days.

The low down torque adds to its rideability. In fact, am planning to get a 1198 as a daily commute myself (even though the Monster is a more practical purchase).

I have found the occassional cow/oil spill etc to be a most necessary teacher in the basics of handling a motorcycle during a crunch situation and wouldnt have it any other way . Riding big empty roads under controlled conditions somehow takes a bit away from motorcycling for me (may be in a minority here, so be it!).
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Old 17th May 2011, 04:44   #13
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

Wow this was a great Straight from the Heart post by a True Blue Biker & a Ducatista.

Thanks for sharing this with us, looking forward to read more & see more pics
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Old 17th May 2011, 19:40   #14
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

Hey guys...I am glad you bike enthusiasts and riders liked my story and the pictures.

DevilsOwn - yes we should hook up for a coffee and discuss bikes, ducatis racing, etc.

I will post some more pics from my visit to Laguna Seca MotoGP...I did go to Estoril in 2009 [happened to be in Lisbon on business and was able to watch the race..]

I am shocked at the prices of import bikes (and cars) here in India...that is a separate discussion....

Krishna
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Old 17th May 2011, 23:15   #15
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Default Re: 21 years and 8 Ducatis - My Story!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ksanjee View Post
I start exploring what Southern California has to offer for bikers. I hit up Julian, Palomar mountains, Anza Borrego and Jacumba.
So close but our paths never crossed each other. Having never done a track day, most of my spirited rides are around Julian, Palomar, and Anza borrego. They are the sole providers of twisties from the late 90s in my life. I do love the rides up to Laguna Seca from San Diego. Please buzz me if you are ever on this side of the world, for a few group rides.

That was an amazing story, thanks for sharing.
-Prasadee
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