Giancarlo Morbidelli, one of the most successful motorcycle designers in late-’70s GP racing, has died.
Morbidelli had a long career designing motorcycles; his first racebike designs (based around a 50 cc engine) hit the track in the late ’60s, and by the mid-’70s, his bikes were winning in the 125 and 250 GP classes.
Morbidelli’s bikes won the 1975-1977 125 titles, and the 1977 250 title. A later team-up with Benelli brought two more production titles in 1979 and 1980.
In later years, Morbidelli won acclaim for his revolutionary 847 cc V8 touring bike, touted by Guinness as the most expensive motorcycle in the world in 2001. Although sales never took off, you can still see examples in museums, and one was displayed in the Guggenheim’s famous Art of the Motorcycle collection.
One of those machines was in Morbidelli’s own motorcycle museum. He converted his former factory in Pesaro into a home for his extensive collection, which was sold off last year. Many of them are coming up for auction this spring.
His death came after an extensive illness. He was 85 years old.
Sad, May his soul rest in peace
In 2014 I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Giancarlo in Pesaro. Five of us, on a tour of central Italy, stopped by to see if the museum was open. Although it was outside of opening hours the door was ajar, so in we went.
After a few minutes of poking around with no one in sight, an older gentlemen approached and asked us how we were. Of course, it was the man himself. After taking us straight to his office for a shot of booze he told us to browse at our leisure. A room near the rear of the building – a sort of holy of holies in this amazing shrine to Italian motorcycle engineering, was where his own Morbidelli race bikes were kept.
It’s utterly amazing that his tiny little race shop was able to produce grand prix motorcycles capable of winning multiple World Championships – 125 cc titles in 1975, 1976 and 1977, and the 250 cc championship in 1977 – during a period when the Japanese were throwing significant resources into the fray. Although it certainly helped that plenty of engineering expertise was available to him, the real driver was his pure passion for the sport.
Ciao Giancarlo. Puoi prendere il tuo posto tra gli dei della velocità.