Mario Recchia

Interview with one of the most famous Ducati's historical mechanics and riders

Mario, when did you start working for Ducati?

I started in March '46. I was a mechanic, a vehicle maintainer.

How old were you when you came to Bologna?

I was 20. They were still putting the factory back together.

What was your first job at Ducati in Bologna?

I manufactured Cucciolo engines. I worked on ten of them. Then the team started racing.

So you were in the sample department of Cucciolo.

Yes, in the pre-production models.

When did you start racing?

It must have been in '47, with Cucciolo, on Via Emilia. And I won the race.

You later became the Emilian champion.

Yes, I did in 1951. At the time Ducati did not even know what racing was. They started for real when Taglioni arrived. Then came Farné, it was about 1952. I used to call him "topolino” or little mouse because he looked a bit like a mouse.

With Ducati, you also raced with the Marianna in the Motogiro of '55, '56 and '57.

I had my own engine, it was fast and I did whatever I wanted. But when Tartarini raced I was ordered to wait for him and, if he stopped, I had to help him. Once he got into a ditch, then I could not go after him. On another occasion I "pulled" him all the way to Trieste.

You made your own engine. Did each rider manage his own vehicle?

No, not all of them. I used to do my own and also fix others’, such as Spaggiari’s, Villa’s and Gandolfi’s vehicles.

Gandolfi, poor thing, was a great rider but used to break engines. Then I had to make them more reliable.

Did you consider yourself as a full-fledged pilot?

Not really, because I was letting the others through.

In short, a domestique, to use a cycling term.

Yes, but once they let me free in the stage from Bolzano to Verbania and I won it, because I knew perfectly that route: I used to test engines there. But I am a motorist by experience.

You worked for the Siluro and Hailwood's motorcycle on the Isle of Man.

Mike HailwoodTM was a rider like few others. He was always happy, always saying "okay, okay" to everything. He had a very even temper. And he used to win.

Which departments did you work in at Ducati?

In the racing department, in the experience department and then for six years, in the vehicle one, when they did Triumphs. In the end, they made me foreman, where engines were mounted on the frames.

What was your relationship with Taglioni like?

He was a very good person, but sometimes we had to ask him for some extra money, because the funds were not enough. I am referring to the period between '65 and '70.

Now you are working with the NCR.

Yes, but I do it mainly out of passion. Luckily I now have my pension and my children who help me, so I do not work out of necessity. I go there to help them, because I still have Ducati in my heart.

What do you remember about Farné?

The "mouse" had a stunning tuning. I gave him the material and he did whatever he wanted, he had the right ear for carburation.

Tell us the Cruiser’s story, because many people do not know the problems it involved.

It was me and Pedrini, the engine designer. They wanted to put in the automatic gearbox and it was crushing all the horsepower in the engine. It just did not work out. I suggested a mechanical gearbox, but they told me it could not be done. And the Cruiser was not performing at all. When we tested it in Turin, even Lambretta passed it. It took it a while to arrive. And I said: "It's still not good, we need to work on it.” It was a beautiful bike, with automatic start, arrows, but it did not work, the gearbox was an issue. Eventually, the Cruiser's failure led to 920 layoffs. It was an unfortunate corporate choice. But Ducati moved on.

Ducati still remembers when you were racing with the Cucciolo and a bearing broke down.

I was on the Milan-Taranto, I refuelled in Florence and I also bought some fruit to eat something on the way. In Siena the engine broke down, I put the Cucciolo on a post and I changed the pin, but the rollers I mounted had expanded due to the heat. I did not have any grease, so I spread a banana on it instead. And I got to the finish line with it.

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