Monday, 7 April 2014

Rest in peace, Massimo Tamburini - the greatest of the great?

Rest in peace, Massimo Tamburini, who passed away last night at the age of 71. He was the greatest innovator, to my mind at least, during arguably motorcycling's most innovative era. I was blown away by the SB2 when I saw it at an Earls Court show circa 1977, and the same thing happened when I saw the Paso (his first design for the Castiglionis and Ducati). When the 916 debuted at the NEC in November 1993 I stayed till the end of the show to be able to see it without crowds climbing all over it: this despite promising Dr Girlie Nice-Smile - pregnant with our first child - that I'd be home early. I'm lucky to have owned various Pasos and 916-series bikes and, despite being too ancient and slow to justify a 916 anymore, I still have a 916 Strada just because it's so beautiful and the last truly groundbreaking bike. This despite Massimo preferring fours to twins, in sportsbikes at least.

This photo tribute includes his MV café racer courtesy AH Herl Inc, the SB2 via Made in Italy Motorcycles, the HB1 from Bonham's - and the rest are mine. We featured the Paso in Benzina issue 1, and told the story of his 1960s MV Agusta café racer in issue 9. In fact, looking through the back issues of Benzina  his name and bikes come up again and again, the last couple of issues covering the SB2. Massimo was a giant of motorcycling history, and will be sadly missed. What a follows is the tribute and obituary by Italian moto-journalist Bruno de Prato - you can read the full piece on the Cycle World website.


My great friend, Massimo Tamburini, the man who designed the Ducati 916, passed away last night. Last November, he started not feeling well, but he thought it was simply a light fever related to a bad cough. Since he was not recovering as quickly as expected, he went for a check-up, which revealed that he had lung cancer. For the first time in years, we had to cancel our New Year’s Eve dinner at his residence. Since then, he was under intensive chemotherapy treatment at a highly advanced medical center not far from his home in San Marino.
To make sure he was receiving the best possible treatment, I arranged a medical consultation for him at the best oncology center in Milan. The doctors there confirmed that the chemotherapy treatment he was receiving was the most effective to treat his specific form of cancer. Perhaps they told him this to give him some hope, as hope can be a positive factor to help recovery.
Sadly, the health of Massimo did not improve. Every time I called him, I could detect a sense of growing weakness in his voice, which was also terribly sad.
Massimo Tamburini will be remembered as one of the greatest innovators in motorcycle chassis design, and also as a superb stylist. He was blessed by a great ability to work with his hands, plus a great passion and dedication to his job. But, above all, he will remain in the heart of all who were lucky enough to know him as a man of supreme ethics and loyalty, a straight-talker who was known for his great gentleness.
His first creation was a totally revised MV Agusta 750 Sport, which he made in 1971 using a frame he welded himself. He kept doing this after founding Bimota with his partners, Morri and Bianchi. At first, he designed a chassis with twin diagonal spars, and then he refined the concept of monoshock rear suspension. As is common with most loyal men, Tamburini got stabbed in the back by his partner and had to leave Bimota. He was hired by Claudio Castiglioni, then in command of the Cagiva Group, which included MV Agusta (where he created the F4 750) and Ducati, for which he designed the Paso 750 and then his most celebrated creation: the aforementioned Ducati 916.
Massimo Tamburini made this a better world and he will be terribly missed. Rest in peace, my friend.

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