Marco Lucchinelli

Marco Lucchinelli won the 500 cc World Championship in 1981 riding a Suzuki. He then embarked on a new stage of his career at Ducati, earning success after success. Among his highlights was the famous victory at Daytona in 1987 and the triumph in the inaugural race of the World Superbike Championship. 

The life of a racer is full of emotional moments, but invariably it is the great victories that mark it. As in every field important exceptions exist, and as history tells it, one of these exceptions is Marco Lucchinelli, born 26 June 1954 in Ceparana.

Without downplaying the importance of his title as 500 cc World Champion in 1981 on a Suzuki, which won him fame and money, this rider will be remembered for his great victory at Daytona in 1987 in the famous raced dubbed "Battle of the Twins", where he won with the eight-valve Ducati 851 cc. To that moment, with the exception of Giacomo Agostini, who had clinched it way back in 1974, no Italian had ever won this race: the victory was to have an impact all over Europe. 

Years earlier, in 1977, the Castiglioni brothers, owners of Cagiva, decided to sponsor Team Life directed by Alberto Pagani. Racers included Lucchinelli, one of the riders in best form at the time, Cereghini and Perugini. This team took part in the Grand Prix with the “ancient” Yamaha and Suzuki. It was a tough season: halfway through the sponsor pulled out, so the little Cagiva “elephant”, symbol of the brand, was the only decal applied to the fairings of the bike. 

And so it was, when the help of Castiglioni was the only source of funds, that Lucchinelli won his first GP with a Yamaha TZ, and it happened on the Dutch circuit at Assen, popularly referred to as "The Cathedral of motorcycling".

The result, which was considered an unprecedented sporting success, allowed the Castiglioni brothers to reboot the obsolete racing division Aermacchi Harley-Davidson, property of the Italian family, and create their own team with their own motorbikes. In honour of the MV Agusta the motorcycles were painted red and silver, and the rider was obviously Marco Lucchinelli.

The season was a rough one, and the Harley-Davidson they were racing with had major problems of reliability. The only moment of glory in this period was the victory, under torrential rain, of the British Grand Prix fought out on the Silverstone circuit. Cagiva’s economic difficulties pushed Lucchinelli to search for a new home on another team. After a few races riding different motorbikes, in 1981 aboard a Suzuki, his dream of becoming World Champion came true. Cagiva found a solution to its problems and came back knocking on the door of the Italian rider, who very sure of himself by then, promised to win. But it was not to be. He ranked 8th in the "200 Miglia di Imola" and in the World Championship he had some unjustified absences. 

The most unbecoming episode took place in the France GP, when after Franco Uncini’s accident he fought with a commissioner and was penalised by the racing management. Lucchinelli took leave of Cagiva and went home. Later he would clinch the famous victory at Daytona in March 1987. The Ducati Desmoquattro 851 with its 120 HP raised a lot of expectations because it represented the chance of a twin-cylinder would face the Japanese four-cylinder engine on an equal footing to become a true idol in Italy. But his exploits with the Bologna manufacturer did not end there. 

The birth of the Superbike World Championship in 1988 offered Ducati an excellent opportunity to benefit even economically from the new four-valve per cylinder engine designed by the engineer Massimo Bordi.

Lucky, as Lucchinelli fans affectionately called him, worked alongside Bordi to develop the 851 Superbike. Its first time out was on the circuit of Donington Park in the first trial of the new championship; the two races were truly memorable: the first was won by Davide Tardozzi, on Bimota, while in the second Tardozzi and Lucchinelli fought it out until the last lap. At the high point of the battle, Tardozzi attempted to pass Lucchinelli and went off the track. 

For Ducati, the victory was as important as Paul Smart’s in 1972. The championship was noted for the title won by Fred Merkel, the misfortune of Tardozzi with his Bimota, and Ducati placing fifth. The result convinced the Bolognese manufacturer to continue development of its power engines, and history reveals that it wasn’t a bad decision.

Prior to that moment in Bologna, the wager was always on the two-valve engines designed by Taglioni, but Bordi and Mengoli showed that to be able to increase power year after year, eight-valve engines were in order.  

Lucchinelli had started to race in the 1976 World Championship, in the France Grand Prix, and over his career he claimed six victories, 19 podiums and 10 fastest laps during a race. His first victory came in the Germany Grand Prix in 1980.

Lucky raced in the 500 cc championship eleven times, becoming one of the riders with the longest participation in this premier class, even though the only years he took part were 1981 and 1982. But his dedication to engines goes beyond motorcycles: the same year he put motorbikes aside he took part in an F-3000 automotive race with the team Lola. 

In 2004, there was talk of a return by Marco Lucchinelli in the highest category of the GPs as a team manager, though things did not materialise.  

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