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Morbidelli isn’t exactly a household name in the U.S., but mention Morbidelli to an Italian or European race history buff and chances are they’ll wax nostalgic on the exploits of Giancarlo Morbidelli and his world championship-winning race bikes. Working with a small team often consisting of no more than four members — including rider — and building no more than a few motorcycles a year, Morbidelli and his band successfully challenged and beat the giants of 2-stroke GP racing, including Kawasaki and Yamaha.
It was a classic David and Goliath battle, yet Morbidelli, who entered GP racing and manufacturing more as a hobby than a business (his substantial fortune from manufacturing wood working tools funded his efforts) managed to win not just one world championship, but four, taking the 125cc championship in 1975, ’76 and ’77, and the 250cc class, also in 1977.
The history of Morbidelli and his team’s challenge has been captured by Jeffrey Zani and Matthew Gonzales in the recently released documentary film Morbidelli, storie di uomini e di moto veloci — a story of men and fast motorcycles.
The story of Morbidelli’s seemingly unlikely rise to championship victory is told through interviews with the players who filtered through Morbidelli’s team, including riders Graziano Rossi, Mario Lega (250cc champion), Eugenio Lazzarini, Paolo Pileri and Pier Paolo Bianchi (125cc champions), and others, including of course Morbidelli himself. Stitching the interviews together with period stills and race film, Zani and Gonzales provide a comprehensive and compelling account of Morbidelli’s incredible success on the track.
It was, as with so many things Italian, a success driven by passion, a passion for motorcycles and racing that was shared among all of Morbidelli’s team. Morbidelli is the first to recognize the importance of this, telling us that he picked his designers and engineers “not for their skills in designing the bikes, but for the love they had for their job.” Rossi, father of the great Valentino Rossi and a rider for the team, calls Morbidelli “one of the best [technicians] in the world … he was a flea compared to them [the Japanese], but he had great ideas.” $25 (approx.), includes shipping. More info: Morbidelli film website.