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Postcards from the Edge

This is the postcard MV Agusta had printed when they finally won the Motogiro in 1957, winner Remo Venturi (right) and runner up Gilberto Milani armed with twin cam GP racers, a money-no-object attempt to undo the hurt of previous years. The Motogiro was the most popular and difficult race it Italy, racing a 175cc (at most) motorcycle over 3,000 km of 1950s backroads; no wonder they called it la sfida temeraria - the reckless challenge. Post war Italy was a desperate place, with hunger and death walking hand in hand across the land. Rebuilding the industrial might of the country meant getting people to work, and that meant cheap transport for the masses. So lightweight motorcycles appeared and, this being Italy, they needed a sporting edge if they were to sell. Aldo Bologrini first ran the race in 1953 supported by the Stadio newspaper. Bologrini’s stroke of genius was to create a circular route that could be shuffled annually to gain maximum exposure with classes for the bikes people were actually buying: 75, 100, 125 and 175cc engines. Recognising factories would race for publicity, prize money stretched down the placings so that a privateer could finish midfield and still feed his family. Health and safety amounted to posters warning people a race was coming through and to keep animals off the road. This was private enterprise at its finest – and most ruthless. The original 1953 race started with 400 riders and 53 marques, and it was only going to get bigger. It didn’t take long for full-on racing bikes to appear. The organisers banned fairings and split the classes to keep the privateers involved. The Formula 2 bikes were factory racers, leaving Formula 3 for production bikes. The 1957 Giro was barely 2,000km long, a series of sprints for the racers rather than the product-proving endurance race of the 1953 original, but despite atrocious weather Venturi averaged 105kph/65mph. It would prove to be the final Giro, when a few weeks later Mille Miglia racer Alfonso De Portago and his Ferrari 355S crashed into spectators, killing 11. Racing on open roads was banned and the Giro passed into history.



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