LAZZARINI Small bore as­sas­sin

Classic Racer - - PEOPLE - Words and pic­tures: Ray­mond Ain­scoe

In the ul­tra-light­weight classes Eu­ge­nio Lazzarini was a force ma­jeure, with 27 GP vic­to­ries, two 50cc ti­tles and an­other in the 125cc class. He was run­ner-up eight times and won four Ital­ian crowns. As if that’s not quite enough, it is worth adding that this tiny track master was one of the last of the breed to race home-brewed spe­cials to the top step of the podium.

Born on March 26, 1945 in Urbino, at the age of 14 Lazzarini started work in Pe­saro on Benelli’s assem­bly floor but he soon found him­self pro­moted by Mimo Benelli him­self to the dizzy heights of the race shop, where he worked on the 250cc sin­gles cam­paigned by Dale, Spag­giari and Gras­setti. He dis­cov­ered that the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the me­chan­ics and the rid­ers were of­ten fraught. “The rid­ers were con­vinced that they made the dif­fer­ence when they won, but the de­feats were down to the bikes’ in­ad­e­qua­cies," re­called Lazzarini. “And, of course, the me­chan­ics held the op­po­site view. In about 1964, my col­leagues talked me into rac­ing, partly think­ing that, as a de­cent me­chanic, I would be able to di­ag­nose the de­fects and im­prove the bikes.” How­ever, the Benelli rac­ers were pukka GP jobs, not suit­able for the ‘Ju­nior’ (or na­tional) cat­e­gory, and the fac­tory’s sis­ter com­pany Mo­tobi had al­ready al­lo­cated its race bikes, so Lazzarini went to Bologna to buy a tired 125cc Du­cati Mar­i­anna from Franco Farne. “It was re­ally a mu­seum piece which Franco kept in a cel­lar; it was all I could af­ford. But, when I was fourth in my first race at Mo­dena, Mo­tobi re­alised that I was more than just a good me­chanic and in­stantly gave me a bike for the rest of the sea­son. I won a round at Pescara but then fell at Val­lelunga and my sea­son was over.” In 1965, back on his mod­est Du­cati, Lazzarini took a vic­tory at Mo­dena but lost the ti­tle to Mo­tobi’s cho­sen rider, Lom­bardi. De­spite the fact that he was one of the group of me­chan­ics mak­ing parts for the Mo­tobi rac­ers, Lazzarini was never an of­fi­cial Mo­tobi pi­lot but, in 1968, came his Ju­nior 125cc crown aboard a Mo­tobi pro­vided by Scud­e­ria Im­pe­ri­ali (a sub­stan­tial pri­vate team based in Rome). Lazzarini thereby grad­u­ated into the ranks of the ‘Se­nior’ (or in­ter­na­tional) class of rid­ers for 1969, which marked a turn­ing point in his ca­reer, both on and off the track. “I was not yet a full-time racer but I just took one race at a time. And as I had been work­ing on frame con­ver­sions, I de­cided to leave Benelli and set up my own work­shop in Pe­saro.” Then came his GP de­but, aboard the fac­tory 250cc Benelli quat­tro. Renzo Pa­solini was in­jured and could not ride in the French GP at Le Mans. Benelli needed some­body to ride as back-up to Kel Car­ruthers and hope­fully take points off other ti­tle con­tenders. Lazzarini took sev­enth place and im­pressed suf­fi­ciently to be given the bike for some Ital­ian cham­pi­onship races. But the Lazzarini fam­ily was about to suf­fer a dev­as­tat­ing blow.

Brother Enzo was born on Novem­ber 13, 1949 and, in­spired by Eu­ge­nio’s ex­ploits, his rac­ing ca­reer be­gan in 1968 astride a 60cc Mor­bidelli. Mov­ing up to the 175cc class on a Mo­tobi, Enzo won his first two races of 1969 and was de­prived of vic­tory in his next two races only by a flat bat­tery and a fall in heavy rain. A sec­ond place at Imola, af­ter an­other fall, en­abled him to take third place in the Ital­ian ti­tle. But then tragedy struck. In test­ing at Val­lelunga on Novem­ber 12, Enzo was the vic­tim of a ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent. He was flung along a guardrail which, act­ing as a lethal blade, am­pu­tated an arm and, once in hospi­tal, the doc­tors were un­able to save the other arm. Just short of his 20th birthday, Enzo faced months of treat­ment, not to men­tion im­mense phys­i­cal and men­tal pain. He did not sur­ren­der; he joined Eu­ge­nio in open­ing their work­shop, ini­tially with a Moto Guzzi agency, and was in­stru­men­tal in the suc­cess that was just around the cor­ner. In 1970, with Enzo un­der­go­ing treat­ment and his Mor­bidelli ma­chin­ery prov­ing to be less than reli­able, Eu­ge­nio had a frus­trat­ing sea­son, at the end of which the broth­ers de­cided to build their own racer, which meant de­vot­ing their evenings and hol­i­days to the project, as they had their fledg­ling busi­ness to run dur­ing the day. The cho­sen pow­er­plant was a 125cc Maico mo­tocross en­gine; the Ger­man fac­tory promised them a one-off en­gine with a few more bhp and so Eu­ge­nio and a mate drove to Ger­many in Fe­bru­ary 1970 to pick it up, sleep­ing in the car as funds were tight. The Maico was to sit in a home­made frame with the rest of the bike either bought in or ma­dem in the Lazzarini work­shop. In haste, t he bike was ready for the first race of the 19711 sea­son, at Mo­dena. The re­sult: the so­calledc spe­cial en­gine was in fact ab­so­lutely stan­dard,s pro­duc­ing no more than 14bhp and Eu­ge­nioE failed to reg­is­ter a qual­i­fy­ing time. How­ever, from this dev­as­tat­ing start, the li it­tle Maico was de­vel­oped (al­beit slowly, t hanks to the lack of funds) en­abling Eu­ge­nio t o chal­lenge in Ital­ian ti­tle races and to sam­ple a num­ber of GPS, pri­mar­ily to fa­mil­iarise him­selfh with the cir­cuits in an­tic­i­pa­tion of f uture cam­paigns. Things be­gan to look up in 1972 when Egid­ioE Pio­vat­icci, a fan from Pe­saro, en­tered t he scene as a spon­sor; not that he was of­feringo tobacco com­pany-type loot but it wasw suf­fi­cient to buy spares, which en­abled

Eu­ge­nio to un­der­take more test­ing. The real break­through into the big time came with the vic­tory in the Dutch TT at Assen in 1973. Enzo wrote of it: “When I heard the news on the ra­dio, I could not be­lieve it. It seemed im­pos­si­ble, too good to be true. I kept switch­ing chan­nels to check on the re­sult, in case it was a mis­take.” From 1973, the Maico-lazzarini was re-badged Pio­vat­icci, as the Lazzarini broth­ers con­vinced their spon­sor to cre­ate a ded­i­cated race shop within his fur­ni­ture fac­tory. Eu­ge­nio sub­se­quently sweet-talked Jan Thiel and Martin Mi­jwaart, the Dutch cre­ators of the 50cc Ja­mathi, to col­lab­o­rate with him in the con­struc­tion of a 250cc twin-cylin­der racer, based on two Maico en­gines and a Yamaha gear­box. The 250cc bike, suf­fer­ing from vi­bra­tion, was soon aban­doned but its 50cc lit­tle brother took Eu­ge­nio to run­ner-

LAZZARINI IM­PRESSED SUF­FI­CIENTLY TO BE GIVEN THE BIKE BUT HIS FAM­ILY WAS ABOUT TO SUF­FER A DEV­AS­TAT­ING BLOW.

up spot in the world ti­tle stakes in 1975. Sadly, Pio­vat­icci’s busi­ness foundered; the bikes were sold to Bul­taco, where they later achieved world ti­tle suc­cess, and it meant Lazzarini was back on cus­tomer bikes. He pretty much drew a blank in 1976 (us­ing pri­vate Mor­bidelli 50cc and 125cc ma­chin­ery), only to be re-born in the fol­low­ing year when he was run­ner-up in the 50cc and 125cc ti­tle stakes aboard a works Kreidler and MBA steeds re­spec­tively. But he was not sat­is­fied; the MBA’S frame was a lim­it­ing fac­tor so, over the 1977/78 win­ter, he built a re­place­ment in his work­shop, the Lazzarini frame. “It changed my life, by giv­ing me the great­est sat­is­fac­tion, first as a racer, by win­ning the 125cc ti­tle in 1978, but also from the tech­ni­cian’s point of view, as I ended up build­ing 40 of them and nearly ev­ery top MBA run­ner used one. Gi­a­como Agostini tele­phoned me to make sure that his brother Felice would jump the queue to get one.” How­ever, the ti­tle suc­cess proved to be a dou­ble-edged sword, as Lazzarini’s re­la­tion­ship with MBA drew to a close. Read­ing be­tween the lines, the MBA fac­tory (just a stone’s throw from Pe­saro) and, in par­tic­u­lar, In­no­cenzo Nardi Dei (the for­mer Benelli race man­ager who was, by then, in charge of a Benelli-re­lated com­pany that built the of­fi­cial fac­tory frames) were dis­en­chanted that Eu­ge­nio had raced and won with his home-crafted frame. Wait­ing in vain for a tele­phone call from MBA, Lazzarini in­stead signed for van Veen, the Dutch out­fit that ran the of­fi­cial Kreidler team, for the 1979

THE MAICO WAS TO SIT IN A HOME­MADE FRAME WITH THE REST OF THE BIKE EITHER BOUGHT IN OR MADE IN THE LAZZARINI WORK­SHOP.

cam­paign. Af­ter three run­ner-up spots, Lazzarini fi­nally won a 50cc world crown, thanks to van Veen. But life was not get­ting eas­ier, as spon­sor­ship took hold in a big way. “My van Veen con­tract was not re­newed for 1980; in­stead it went to the 1978 cham­pion, Ric­cardo Tormo. I was not sur­prised; whereas I needed a salary to race, Tormo brought cash with him, from the Span­ish fed­er­a­tion. So once again I had to sort my­self out.” Yet again, a lo­cal spon­sor came to his aid; Iprem of Pe­saro man­u­fac­tured wood­work­ing ma­chin­ery (echoes of Mor­bidelli? - Ed) and pro­vided Lazzarini with suf­fi­cient bud­get to ac­quire Kreidler en­gines, to build a new frame and to race through­out the forth­com­ing sea­son. The re­sult – he re­tained his 50cc ti­tle in 1980 on his Iprem-kreidler. Lazzarini then signed for Garelli, which had de­cided to en­ter the 50cc fray. Alas, 1981 was a washout, as the new 50cc en­gine proved to be down in power and it never raced, re­strict­ing Lazzarini to the oc­ca­sional out­ing on his own ma­chines. But, when Minarelli pulled out af­ter the death of its boss Vit­to­rio Minarelli, Garelli supremo Daniele Agrati saw a short­cut and bought the 125cc Minarelli bikes and race shop, lock, stock and bar­rel, to­gether with the ser­vices of Jan Thiel. Three suc­cess­ful years fol­lowed for Eu­ge­nio astride the ex-minarelli 125cc rac­ers and a new 50cc model that had been de­signed by Thiel, with a Lazzarini-in­spired frame. In 1982, he was run­ner-up be­hind his team-mate Ni­eto in the 125cc cat­e­gory and lost out to Dor­flinger in the baby class by a whisker. In 1983, he was again run­ner-up in the 50cc class and third (be­hind Ni­eto and Kneubuh­ler) in the eight-litre cat­e­gory. For 1984, the 50cc class gave way to an 80cc cat­e­gory, in which Lazzarini did not com­pete, and he con­cluded his ca­reer with yet an­other run­ner-up spot in the 125cc class. De­spite his suc­cess, he stuck to his de­ci­sion to re­tire from the tracks and to en­ter team man­age­ment. He took in hand Team Italia, thereby con­tin­u­ing an as­so­ci­a­tion with Garelli (which no longer ran a works team but made its bikes avail­able to the newly-formed squad fi­nanced by the Ital­ian fed­er­a­tion, the FMI). More suc­cess came Lazzarini’s way as a man­ager; in three years, the team won three 125cc world ti­tles – two with Fausto Gresini and one with Luca Cadalora. But when twin cylin­der en­gines were out­lawed in the 125cc class, the Garelli’s days were num­bered and Lazzarini re­turned to full-time ser­vice in his Pe­saro agency and work­shop. To­day, Eu­ge­nio and Enzo can still be found work­ing there, lit­er­ally just across the road from Gian­carlo Mor­bidelli’s mu­seum, or at a re­vival meet­ing, which they grace with the 125cc Pio­vat­icci that usu­ally lives in the re­cep­tion area of their shop.

JUST SHORT OF HIS 20TH BIRTHDAY, ENZO FACED MONTHS OF TREAT­MENT, NOT TO MEN­TION IM­MENSE PHYS­I­CAL AND MEN­TAL PAIN.

Left:L The ex­quis­ite 125cc Pio­vat­icci in ac­tion withw Eu­genino in 1973.The lo­ca­tion is un­known, couldc this be one of the tighter right hand cor­nersc at Brno in the Czech Re­pub­lic.

Mid­dle right: Serv­ing the pub­lic­ity needs for Garelli. These cards for the fans were signed by the rid­ers and handed out at meet­ings.talk about ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing.

Right: 1982 at the Bri­tish GP, Sil­ver­stone and time to stop the pe­riphary of mar­ket­ing and get down to the busi­ness of rac­ing.

Above left and above: The or­ange and blue bike is the 125cc Pio­vat­icci. These pic­tures were taken in Spa in 2008.

Top right: Sil­ver­stone and the Bri­tish GP in 1981. Just leav­ing Parc Ferme on the 125cc Iprem.

Left: 1980, haed down, throt­tle pinned back and giv­ing the lit­tle 125cc Iprem ev­ery­thing it’s got.

Top: When Eu­ge­nio re­tired from rac­ing he took up the only slightly less com­petitve passtime of parad­ing. This photo is of him, num­ber 3, at the Cat­tolica Mo­tor Meet­ing in 1991 sur­rounded by a 125cc Rumi Ju­nior, a 1968 500cc Benelli 4 (num­ber 2) and a 1951 Moto Guzzi 500 twin, num­ber 1.

Above: The Garelli and Lazzarini were syn­ony­mous as an ef­fec­tive part­ner­ship in the early 1980s.

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