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The Moto Giro d'Italia

The Motogiro d'Italia is a classic name in Italian motorsport. The first race was run in 1914 as the Giro Motociclistico d'Italia and was a competition for road legal motorcycles run over long distances, on public roads closed for the occasion, just like a modern cycle race. As the bike version of the Mille Miglia it became known as Italy's premier long distance road race.

In the years following the end of the Second World War, with Italy still trying to re-establish its economy, the most expensive form of transport an average worker could aspire to was a 100cc or 125 cc single.  Just like in Germany engineering firms from the hi-tech armaments and aero industries were looking for new places to use their skills in making something, anything, which they could sell.

The result was a burgeoning industry making and selling small but quite sophisticated motorcycles. To be a top seller a firm had to attract the attention and imagination of the buyers and in a country where motorsport has been deeply ingrained for years the only way to do that was to race.

The new firms started to enter the Motogiro to prove their skills, with their bikes adding to the entry list the Motogiro became one of the most important sporting events in the Italian calendar.  By 1954 50 different manufacturers were involved, the race had grown to an eight stage race covering over 3,414 km on public roads.

With capacity classes of 75 cc 100cc 125cc and 175cc. The event was seen as a great opportunity to prove the reliability and speed of the bikes most popular at the time.  Just like Supersport or Superbike now a win on Sunday meant sales on Monday. Just like now special bikes were built to carry each firm's name in these competitions.  Over the bad roads of the time 500-km days, flat out on small bikes were real tests of endurance and skill, the riders became national heroes.

In the early 1950's Ducati were struggling with regular good placings but couldn't get their pushrod 98cc Sport onto the top of the podium. To get to the top they recruited top engineer Fabio Taglioni from a rival and set him to work on an overhead cam single, The bevel head Ducati was born (The Marianna, in 100 and 125cc). First time out Ducati cleaned up the top five places.

In the aftermath of the massive Mercedes crash at Le Mans and the deaths of several spectators in the equally popular Mille Miglia the Italian government moved to ban all motorsport on public roads in 1957.

To put the competitiveness of these bikes into perspective Ducati modified their Marianna with their first Desmo head and went on to win their first (and only) 125cc Grand Prix win.

Moving forward to 2001 a new company called Dream Engine run by Ducati Supremo Federico Minoli has resurrected the Motogiro as a road time trial, against the clock but not as a full race. The new 'race' has classes for all the original bikes of the mid to late 50's and follows many of the same roads as the original race over six days, travelling across northern Italy's scenic countryside.

As well as the old racers there is a touring bike section for street bikes, new or classics, this section is escorted using the same route, following the same timetable, and joins up with the Motogiro in each town the race visits. The Shell Monster girls at speedAny bike is eligible and if you want a non-riding companion to come along there is a coach following the tour, there are also luggage trucks and a very good recovery and repair service run by one of the Saltarelli brothers. All you need to do is get to the starting point.

The tour left Bologna on June 5th, with an itinerary leading directly to the town of Chioggia near Venice. The following day the tour carried on to the seaside town of Rimini.  On ensuing days the racers and tourists ride along some of the most scenic roads of Romagna ending up crossing the Apennines and arriving in Terni. The tour then travels across the Tuscan countryside, leading back to Bologna, where a grand finale and awards ceremony took place o in the Medieval castle of Panzano.

This is the story of the 2001 Motogiro d'Italia. The 2002 adventure will be run during World Ducati week, June 16th-20th 2002.  Full details can be obtained from www.motogiroditalia.com.

You can also read the MCN version of these articles on

Neil Spalding

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