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The Moto Giro d'Italia

Prelude

We arrived in Bologna on Monday afternoon, the Ducati people had laid on a tour for us round both the Museum and the Factory; if you are planning on visiting Bologna get in touch with livio.lodi@ducati.net well before you go and he will be able to organise a guided tour of the Factory and the Museum for you. A seriously good meal followed in the centre of the town, a nice way to start.

Tuesday

Check in, chaos ......The Motogiro start was in the car park next to the Ducati factory, there were about sixty classic bikes and as many modern ones parked in a cordoned off section next to the Ducati workers cars. Over our heads there was the massive picture of Carl Fogarty that covered nearly a quarter of the side of the factory wall. Near the road was a large inflatable archway with a ramp and the Motogiro logo on it, we were obviously going to start there, I was just a little unsure whether it would feel like setting off for Superpole or the RAC rally.

I had not really thought through the way something like this would be organised but I had to agree that the arrival of four Bologna Metropolitan district police on 'Police' Monsters was as good away to start. The sight of four Blondes in black leathers, also on Monsters, to be escort riders for the whole tour also seemed promising.

The route has been divided up into 6 more or less 250km chunks, hopefully with plenty of time for having a look around on a normal day but on the first day there would be no hanging around because we wouldn't be starting until 1 pm.

When the organisers discovered that we would be writing a diary of the Motogiro for MCN they decided that it would be great if we could have a go on one of their Classic rental bikes, as a result we were allocated a Laverda 100 (Yes Laverda made 100,s and very quick ones too in the mid 1950's) for the first day.

The bike looked a little forlorn at the side of the starting paddock but the opportunity to ride a bike a year older than me doesn't come up very often and I wasn't about to turn it down. To keep the event looking original the idea is that the riders of the classic bikes wear black leathers so the trusty BKS's were dug out and squeezed on (mental note, join a gym on return..).  Technical inspection was fairly simple, if the classic bike is the right age and capacity to have been in the original Motogiro, and it has working lights and a horn you are in.  Street bikes don't even get looked at.

The first major impression as we stood in the car park was not only how small and old the racebikes looked but equally how small and old the riders were, not only were most of the bikes  authentic ex-Motogiro bikes so, it seemed, were most of the riders.

Chris Bushells Ducati 125; all clean before the stormThe Laverda was very very small and I felt pretty stupid dragging on a full set of leathers to ride it, still it keeps things looking vaguely authentic. Inspecting the bike there were a few details that needed understanding, the right hand 'rocker' gear change was explained. Change down into first with your toes, bang up for the rest with your heel on the rear lever, all designed to keep the rider tucked in and flat on the tank.

The rest of the bike was just small, as these races were very long distance the normal setup was to have a comfortable flat handlebar style seating position.  Some bikes, notably Ducati's, had jellymould tanks designed to hold loads of fuel but also to allow the rider to tuck in on long straights. In keeping with the requirement for bikes to be road legal all had full lighting sets, but the racing pedigree showed in the crisp crackle from the open exhausts.

The initial wobble out of the factory was watched over by film crews, press photographers and most of the factory workers out on their lunch-break. Believe me, the Laverda was quick, for a 100, it's just that I normally ride a ST4.

Spalding gets the off, on Maoggis Laverda. Notice the subtle kit for riding a 10 hp single.Four miles up the road the first sign that we were not going to have a good day came as the bike died going round a junction, looking down there was fuel everywhere, a plug on the carburettor had fallen off.  Feeling every bit as determined as an old racer we searched up and down the road for the bit. After 20 minutes of people gesticulating wildly out of the windows of cars as we wandered around in the road the part was spotted and screwed back on.

Five miles up the road the misfire started and while I nursed it for 40 miles the bike finally gave up the ghost.  I am sure it was nothing more than an old spark plug but it was frustrating at the time. The bike was fixed overnight and was to be used by ex champion Guilano Maoggi for the rest of the tour; we grabbed the chance of a talk with him before he took the bike over. When asked what he thought of this event he said 'After 45 years away I would prefer more of a race but it is OK', his wife chipped in with 'when we race we like to win'. Guilano Maoggi is 75 years old, was second in the race in 1954 and 1955 and won it in 1956 on a Ducati.

The rest of the afternoon was spent observing the competitive habits of the Support van driver and his rather animated reaction to a Ducati.com van being driven at less than fully competitive speeds.  The Italians compete whatever the vehicle!

While the classic field were enjoying a group of time tests, the rest of the tourist group were actively corrupting a police guide into a End of the first day at Chioggia100 mph charge through the route.  As we harassed the van in front a Monster S4 with a rider in a red leather Ducati jacket and a set of panniers sped past, Federico Minoli, the Ducati Chairman was enjoying a day out on the bikes with his boys…     

Chioggia is a fishing port on the south edge of the Venice lagoon.  It is very pretty but it is still being used as a working town and is not merely a tourist resort.  The local mayor was there to host a barbeque; as we sat and ate in the sun it seemed like the whole town had turned out to welcome us.

 

Neil Spalding

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