Leopoldo Tartarini

Leopoldo Tartarini was born in Bologna on the 10th of August 1932, in a family in which motorcycles have always had a special consideration. His father competed with various brands including Frera and Guzzi, of which he was a dealer for many years, before moving with his son to Ducati.

As a boy Leopoldo began to race in minor categories to get his international federal license and established himself, so as to be hired by the leading Italian motorcycle manufacturers as a professional rider.

He specialised in endurance races, but not only. His greatest sporting achievements can be summarised as follows:

  • 1952 - First overall in the "Milan-Taranto" with a bike for which he personally made the frame, driven by a 650cc BSA twin cylinder engine
  • 1953 - First overall in the "Motogiro" (organised by the daily newspaper "Stadio" of Bologna) riding an official Benelli and still first in his category and second overall in the "Milan-Taranto", of course riding a Benelli.
  • 1954 - First overall in the "Motogiro" always riding an official Benelli. At the end of the season he switched to Ducati.
  • 1955 - He was first in his category in the "Motogiro" riding a Ducati, when near Perugia, with a 24-minute advantage over the second, he suffered a serious accident that ended his career. He even risked being paralysed in his legs.

In the violent impact with the road Tartarini had reported the crushing of the spine. For three months he could not feel any sensitivity to his lower limbs. He daily checked (from April to September) with some needles if sensitivity was restored, but always with negative results. Then the situation finally improved and in the following months he returned to a normal gait. This was already a great success because after the first post-trauma tests his doctors had said that he could possibly no longer be able to walk with his own legs.

The newfound partial physical health did not allow him to pass the medical tests that the Italian Motorcycling Federation imposed on riders at the end of the season.

He was basically a finished rider, because he was expressly forbidden to participate in any competition. He did not want to wait for a whole year, as tests were done once a season only - in December - that is why he decided to spend his free time organising a motorcycle raid. 

He could not have run anymore, also because in the meantime the great endurance road races in which Ducati had obtained excellent results had been cancelled. In fact, he arrived at Ducati to race the new 175cc, designed by engineer Taglioni, and to win the "Motogiro" again.

Once healed, he dedicated himself to the Ducati dealership for Bologna and its province, which he had opened with his father at the end of 1954, namely when he joined Ducati as an official rider. However, he was still under contract and had a very high fee because it pocketed 1 million 600 thousand lire per season (in 1956 it was a considerable amount).

He was therefore forced, even for moral reasons (he did not want to receive his salary without working for Ducati, since the contract was valid until the end of 1957) to invent the "advertising" trip, an extraordinary and pioneering journey that would have taken him for a year around the world.

At first, he had to go as far as Turkey, then the raid had been extended to Cape Town but, surprisingly, it turned into a real "world tour". He hoped to do it in shorter times: going to Turkey would have only taken a few weeks. Instead, it came to a whole year with an unthinkable mileage.

After the end of the "World Tour", Tartarini ceased to be a rider and became more sedentary and his further adventures were almost all technological.

He continued to be a Ducati dealer until 1960, when he decided that the time was ripe for change, thus turning from a Ducati dealer into a motorcycle manufacturer. This is how he created the Italjet brand, which has had considerable success, even on a competitive level.

He subsequently sold this activity to his son Massimo, devoting himself to the design and construction of new motorcycles that always have a remarkable amount of originality in design and line.

Leopoldo Tartarini died on the 11th of September 2015 at the age of 82.

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