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Italian Legends

Italy will hold the next round of the FIM Motocross World Championship, set at the Ottobiano Motorsport Circuit in the north of Italy. A proud motocross country, and one that has not only the current MXGP red plate owner, Antonio Cairoli, but a very special history with the sport.

A handful of countries have a long-standing relationship with the FIM Motocross World Championship, and Italy is one of those, holding their first ever Grand Prix in 1957, when Swedish rider Bill Nilsson won at the Imola circuit.

Antonio Cairoli is passionate about his sport and even more so about his country. Often sportsman of the year in Italy, and a household name, Cairoli has done more for Italian motocross than any Italian motocrosser before him, and believe me, there have been some very special Italian riders to have graced our sport.

Present day Yamaha Factory team owner Michele Rinaldi was the pioneer of Italian world champions, winning the FIM World 125cc Motocross Championship in 1984 and scoring 13 GP wins.

Rinaldi was a lucky man, like anyone else who raced for the Suzuki factory back then he knew he had the bikes to win. The yellow Suzuki machines won 10 125cc titles in a row, Rinaldi’s crowning glory being the last of the 10.

Rinaldi still attends the races as team owner of the Yamaha Factory effort, and he has seen a changing of the guard in many ways. He has also seen the improvement in the MXGP riders over recent years.

“The modern day MXGP rider has become crazy fast. I mean these bikes they ride are so powerful. I think maybe one or two American riders are capable of racing with the MXGP riders now. Things have changed. I was in an era for me that the American riders were just too fast for us, they were much faster than me and more others.”

Alessandro Puzar kept the fire burning in Italian motocross with a 250cc title in 1990 and a 125cc title in 1995. Puzar also picked up 22 GP victories in his very exciting career and he remains one of the most interesting characters in the sport.

Following Alex Puzar success came Alessio Chiodi. Chiodi won three 125cc titles in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and scored 26 GP wins, at the time placing him just outside the top ten for all time GP winners.

At the time Chiodi was considered the best Italian rider of all time, and his battles against the likes of Grant Langston, James Dobb and David Vuillemin were epic.

Another Italian Andrea Bartolini won a world 500cc championship in 1999, racing for the Rinaldi Yamaha team Bartolini was up against the mighty Joel Smets, but made the most of the Belgians misfortunes to clinch Italy their seventh motocross world championship.

Since Bartolini times got a little quiet, although in 2008 David Philippaerts added title number 8th world title, and of course in 2005 Cairoli began his collection of world titles.

What makes the performances of Cairoli so special is the fact he has won FIM Motocross World Championships on eight occasions, just as many as all his previously mentioned countrymen. Cairoli also has 80 GP victories. A tally he would love to add to in 10 days’ time, when the FIM Motocross World Championships return to Italy.


Copyright: Photo: Ray Archer

Author: Geoff Meyer

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