Racing Collection

Nata per correre! Born to Race!

YB1 Image During the coming months, we will photograph the Racing Bimotas in our collection and post them with their technical specifications. Eventually, we will add some text collected from worldwide sources to document the "spirit" of each design. We welcome information from anyone and will try to incorporate it as time and space permits. If you have something to contribute, please send electronic information to:

archive@bimotaspirit.com

Our current collection of Bimota Racing Motorcycles includes:

YB1

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The YB1 was the first motorcycle racing chassis kit produced by Bimota for sale to the public, being developed at roughly the same time as the HB1 for the street. Having gained some local notoriety from running his personal MV, and then Honda, on the racetrack, Massimo Tamburini was asked to build custom frames for private individuals who wanted to race them. He chose to work around the ubiquitous Yamaha TZ250 engine and initially tried both monocoque and open cradle designs before settling on the elegant double closed loop cradle design that you see here. This was one of two early chassis designs that Tamburini produced that used twin rear shocks (the other was the HDB2.) YB1 frames and kits—or Yamaha-Bimota kits as they were called at the time—were sold during 1974 and 1975.

The chassis' were available for both the TZ250 and TZ350 engines, and there were a very few that were sold as complete "kits," featuring unique bodywork that fully enveloped the rider, including his hands, to produce a very aerodynamic front profile. The bodywork is very broad in the front and the tail section has an integral spoiler.

Bimota produced a sales brochure for these kits, and this is the first evidence that Bimota intended to enter into the motorcycle business (having previously been Tamburini's hobby working out of the Bimota Heating and Air Conditioning company.)

The YB1 had considerable racing success, most notably in the hands of Giuseppe Elementi (Kocis), Mario Lega and Roberto Gallina in the 350cc Grands Prix of 1974 (they garnered numerous podium finishes including a win by Lega at Misano), and then in 1975, Johnny Cecotto won the 350cc Grand Prix World Championship on his Bimota-framed Yamaha. Bimota did not receive much acclaim outside the paddock for this championship, because many racers during that era used custom chassis', and Cecotto was sponsored by Venemotos, the Venezuelan Yamaha importer, so Cecotto listed the motorcycle brand on which he won the championship as a Yamaha! (not a Bimota, but we all know!) Cecotto had to beat many other top podium finishers on Bimota-framed racers, including Bruno Kneubuhler, Otello Buscherini, and Mario Lega. Inside the paddock however, Bimota's successes were being noticed and requests for chassis' and chassis kits started to grow. The success of the Yamaha-Bimota in 1975 led directly to Bimota's contract with Suzuki of Italy (Saaid) to produce a batch of 50 racing chassis' for their water-cooled TR500 racing engine—which we now refer to as the beautiful Bimota SB1. The success of the SB1 project led Suzuki of Japan to commission 200 Superbike chassis' for their GS 750 engine, whose revolutionary design later became known as the Bimota SB2. So, in effect, the YB1, with its success on the racetrack in 1974 and 1975, was largely responsible for the growth and development of Bimota into a proper motorcycle company.

The motorcycle featured here, from the Bimota Spirit Collection, is one of the complete kit bikes—chassis, fork, wheels, brakes and bodywork. It is completely original, unrestored as it left the racetrack many years ago. It features many of the custom motorcycle parts that Bimota had just begun to offer to the public, including the beautiful Tamburini-designed adjustable clip-on handlebars and "star design" magnesium wheels.

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YB3 - Rougerie

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Bimota YB3 - Michel Rougerie History

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In 1978, the Bimota factory hired its first contracted racer, Frenchman Michel Rougerie. Rougerie raced the new YB3 chassis with a 350cc Yamaha TZ engine in the 350cc Grand Prix class. The YB3 was a further development of the YB2 (for Yamaha TZ racing 2-stroke engines—250cc and 350cc) and featured a more direct longitudinal frame member connecting the headstock to the heavily gusseted swing arm pivot (the predecessor to the SB6—Straight Line Connection) and a more triangulated swing arm structure.

Rougerie had been an official pilot for Harley-Davidson/Aermacchi in 1975, finishing 2nd to his teammate Walter Villa in the 250cc Grand Prix class. He won the Finnish and Czecho GPs and finished on the podium in the French, German, Nations, Dutch and Belgian GPs.

In 1976, he rode a privateer Suzuki in the premier 500cc Grand Prix class finishing 14th, behind the likes of Champion Barry Sheene, Pat Hennen, Marco Lucchinelli, Giacomo Agostini, Jack Findlay, Phil Read, and Chas Mortimer. He had two 4ths, in Austria and Belgium.

In 1977, he finished a position higher in the 500cc class, 13th, behind repeat Champion Sheene, Steve Baker, Pat Hennen, Johnny Cecotto, Agostini, Gianfranco Bonera, Lucchinelli, and Virginio Ferrari (who later rode the Bimota YB4-R (currently in the Bimota Spirit collection) to the 1987 TT F1 World Championship.) But more importantly, he also rode a privateer Yamaha TZ350 and finished 4th in the 350cc World Championship, behind Champion Takazumi Katayama, Tom Herron and Jon Ekerold (who would later win the 350cc World Championship on a Bimota YB3 in 1980.) On the Yamaha 350cc, he won the Spanish Grand Prix and was 2nd in the Dutch TT.

For 1978, capitalizing on his strong 350cc GP performances, Bimota offered him a factory bike—the YB3 featured here, to compete in the 350cc Grands Prix. (He continued to race his privateer Suzuki in the 500cc class—finishing 10th behind Champion Kenny Roberts, Sheene, Cecotto and others.) For Bimota, he finished every race in the top 10, with two podiums—3rd places in West Germany and the Czech Republic, and was 6th overall in the 350cc GP Championship.

In 1979, American Randy Mamola moved to Europe and joined Michel on the Bimota team to race a YB3-framed 250cc TZ in the 250cc Championship (the first GP experience of his very successful career!). Rougerie continued to race the YB3-350cc bike. Mamola raced in only four GPs, finishing in the top 10 in all of them—with two 2nd places in Germany and Italy. He left the team mid-season after a dispute with Massimo Tamburini, and was replaced by Eric Saul—who will play into the history of this YB3 later on. Rougerie was not able to improve upon, or even match his 1978 results. In 1980, Rougerie left Bimota as well, moving to the French-based Pernod-Yamaha team to ride their 350cc Yamaha. This Bimota YB3 passed on to Thierry Espie, who raced it with some support from Bimota.

Rougerie continued to race in the GPs until 1981—when in Reijka, Yugoslavia, he was tragically killed during the second lap of the 350cc Grand Prix. He had fallen and gotten to his feet when his Pernod-teammate, Roger Sibille came around a corner and was unable to avoid him—Sibille's motorcycle struck him directly in the chest at full speed and Michel died instantly.

It is interesting to note that until 1980, many Bimota-framed machines were raced in the Grands Prix, but the motorcycle manufacturers were always listed by the names of the companies who produced the engines—Yamaha and Harley-Davidson—as if the chassis was just a custom part like a shock absorber, wheel or front fork. In 1980, Bimota, through sponsorship of Jon Ekerold, (and Jon's dislike of Yamaha for their refusal to give him sponsorship) became officially listed as a Motorcycle Type. Jon Ekerold—the eventual 350cc World Champion, Johnny Cecotto (4th), Eric Saul (6th), Massimo Matteoni (8th), Jean Louis Tournadre (20th), and Loris Reggiani (21st) all raced Bimotas. Bimota had finally gained recognition as a legitimate motorcycle manufacturer—and Bimota YB3s were now Bimotas—not Yamahas!

YB3-Rougerie HISTORY
The bike featured here was raced by Michel Rougerie in 1978 and 1979 and then by Thierry Espie. Espie eventually sold it to his friend, Eric Saul, (Rougerie’s teammate – the replacement for Randy Mamola) who raced it in Vintage Grand Prix events. I met Eric in Daytona during the 2002 Bike Week where he was leading a delegation of French riders coming to the USA to race in the Daytona Vintage Grand Prix. After the Week, Eric returned to France and the bike moved to North Carolina – Eric sold me the bike having just found the Chevallier 350cc machine on which he had won the Austrian Grand Prix in 1982. Soon after, Eric Saul created the International Classic Grand Prix organization. I have completely restored the bike to its original Michel Rougerie livery, based on archival photos. This bike was also featured in the Bimota 25th Anniversary Celebration, and can be seen in photos of the event in the yellow and blue Thierry Espie livery. We have also preserved the set of bodywork in Eric Saul livery (his Bimota factory colors) that he used while racing in the vintage series.

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YB4R - Ferrari

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Bimota YB4-R – Virginio Ferrari, 1987 World Champion

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The Bimota YB4-R was designed as a Superbike Racer, and after winning the ultimate prize, the 1987 TT Formula 1 Championship, became the basis for a series of production motorcycles. The original bike was designed by Federico Martini, featuring an FZ750 Yamaha 4-cylinder engine wrapped by an external twin-spar aluminum frame with an aluminum swing-arm. Front suspension is a racing Marzocchi M1R fork that is machined rather than cast, and the rear uses a Marzocchi shock absorber. The engine breathes through either a set of Mikuni CV carbs for shorter circuits, or a set of magnificent magnesium flat-slides for the longer circuits.

The bike made its racing debut in the French Bol d’Or Endurance Race in 1986 in preparation for contesting the TT F1 World Championship in 1987. In 1987, the TT F1 championship was the ultimate series for production-based Superbikes, officially becoming the World Superbike Championship the following year.

In 1987, the favorites for the TT F1 title were Rothmans Honda, led by the dominating 5-times champion Joey Dunlop and supported by the emerging star – American Fred Merkel on a privateer Honda. Perennial front-runners – Heron Suzuki – featured Roger Marshall and Paul Iddon, with Suzuki Sweden fielding former endurance star Anders Andersson. The small Italian firm – BIMOTA – entered this championship for the first time with a factory effort led by former 500cc World Championship runner-up Virginio Ferrari (second to Kenny Roberts in 1979) and supported by fellow Italian Davide Tardozzi (going on to be the long-time team manager for the dominant Factory Ducati World Superbike Championship team.) Germany fielded a Suzuki team and a second Bimota-Yamaha team under Hein Gericke sponsorship.

The 1987 series had 10 races, but early in the year the Finnish race was cancelled because the track did not pass its safety inspection, and the Portuguese round was cancelled due to a conflict with the Portuguese car F1 race when it was re-scheduled. That left the Italian, Dutch, German, Japanese, Hungarian and British rounds to go with the original TT races at the Isle of Man and in Ireland.

The first race of the season was at Misano – literally minutes from the BIMOTA factory in Rimini, but it couldn’t have started worse for the factory effort. Ferrari crashed on oil midway through, and Tardozzi retired with a bad fuel pump!

The second round at the Hungaroring demonstrated the potential of the BIMOTA YB4-R. The Heron Suzuki team leapt out to a commanding early lead (they finished one-two at Misano), but both crashed out. Ferrari went on to win and Tardozzi finished second after a very aggressive run up through the field. With the win, Ferrari moved into a tie for second in the Championship, with Dunlop fourth and Tardozzi tied for fifth.

The third round was at the Isle of Man and, as usual, Joey Dunlop dominated at his favorite track. Neither BIMOTA scored any points. Dunlop now had a commanding lead in the Championship (28 points) with Ferrari tied for third (15) and Tardozzi still tied for fifth (12).

The pivotal race in the Championship came at the next round at the Dutch TT. The BIMOTAs of Ferrari and Tardozzi dominated - the two fiercely fighting for the win - with Ferrari emerging victorious. The BIMOTA YB4-R was now proving its prowess. Joey Dunlop crashed after colliding with Merkel, (jumping to his feet and gesturing at Merkel, but Merkel claiming that Dunlop ran into him!) and now trailed Ferrari in the Championship 30-28.

The next stop was another road race - the Ulster Grand Prix. The conditions were terrible. Ferrari began practice and then withdrew - going back to Italy stating that the situation was just too dangerous. The start of the race was in question as many of the 40 racers pushed their bikes to the side of the start line – but the race did begin. It lasted only one lap as Klaus Klein on the German BIMOTA crashed and was killed. The race was immediately cancelled. This was a blow to Dunlop who expected to win yet another road race and regain the Championship lead – especially with Ferrari back in Italy!

The next round was in Japan and dominated by the local factory teams. Australian Kevin Magee (future GP rider) won on a Factory Yamaha. Joey Dunlop finished out of the points in twelfth and Ferrari slid off after touching Dunlop’s rear wheel while chasing him. Tardozzi retired. After much drama, Ferrari still led the Championship by two points!

The next round was at the magnificent Hockenheimring…and the BIMOTAs again rose to the occasion. In dominating fashion, they finished Ferrari first, Tardozzi second, and with a local German rider, Bodo Schmidt, in fifth! Dunlop’s Honda was no match for the Bimotas, but his grit and determination took him to fourth, and kept his Championship hopes alive going back to England for the final race.

Donnington Park was the site for the final race and Dunlop needed to score 10 points more than Ferrari to take the Championship. The Heron Suzukis took the early lead with Dunlop in third and Ferrari riding a calculated race right behind him in fourth. After the pit stops, Dunlop fought to advance to a third place finish, with Ferrari avoiding unnecessary risk and winning his most prestigious championship! – he finished in seventh. The tiny BIMOTA factory had beaten the mighty Rothman’s Honda and Joey Dunlop, as well as the Herron Suzukis, in the tightest F1 finish in the 10 year history of the Championship – with the magnificent YB4-R.

The bike depicted here, from our collection, is the very bike that Ferrari rode to the Championship, exactly as it was raced in the series. The photos show the bike with and without the monocoque bodywork, with the CV short-track carbs installed. The long-track carbs are shown separately.

The history of this machine is as follows: Bimota Factory team (Virginio Ferrari) – Vanni Blegi – Roberto Anelli – Bimota Spirit.

The following year, the bike was changed to the YB4i.e.R and used Bimota-developed fuel-injection. It campaigned in the World Superbike Championship with Davide Tardozzi and Stephane Mertens, with Tardozzi narrowly finishing second in 1988 after crashing in the final race. Giancarlo Falappa and Gianluca Galasso both won the Italian Sport Production Championship on YB4i.e.Rs. Bimota Spirit is proud to have the Galasso bike in our collection and it will be the subject of another Racing Motorcycles profile.

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