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“Ferrari bike rumours rubbished”, declared a headline in the MCN (29/10/2014). All kinds of rumours on this subject were circulating after a patent submitted by Ferrari engineer Fabrizio Favaretto in June 2012 was shown to feature a drawing of a (cruiser) motorcycle when it was published on the EPO website.
Ferrari’s Northern European spokesman, Jason Harris, stated that his company had no intention of venturing into bike production. The illustration of the bike, he said, had been there to show the advantages of balancing technology on a “Vee” engine; “… the V-twin layout was used as it’s the minimum number of cylinders that can be used without going into detail over how many cylinders an engine may have. What works on a V-twin can work on a V4, a V6, V8 or V12 engine.”
The idea of Ferrari developing a motorcycle division may seem odd - but it’s already happened. In 1929, Enzo Ferrari - whose initial personal motorised transport included a US Army surplus Henderson of First World War vintage - formed a racing team, Scuderia Ferrari, and between 1932 and 1934 this highly-successful concern included Ferrari-badged bikes powered by Rudge and Norton. (The choice of Rudge in particular to supply engines was said to have been influenced by Enzo’s involvement with Alfa Romeo racing cars, which used Rudge-Whitworth wheels.) By supplying and delivering bikes, offering full support and entry fees, Ferrari effectively created a motorcycle racing division.
The extent of Enzo’s direct involvement with Rudge has never been fully established. He was known to have been in contact with Rudge’s company staff, and the motorcycle racing team jerseys advertised “Rudge Whitworth Coventry” (as well as the sponsors, Pirelli) rather than Scuderia Ferrari. Commercial tie-in or not, the bottom line was that Enzo Ferrari considered motorcycle racing as excellent schooling for up-and-coming car racing drivers.
According to the “Vintagent” website, “The motorcycle division of Scuderia Ferrari shortly equalled the success of its four-wheeled stablemates, winning and placing with stunning frequency. Rider Giordano Aldrighetti had particular success in 1932, winning almost every 250cc and 350cc event entered, including a Gold Medal in the 1932 ISDT. Ferrari moved him up to 500cc for 1933, and he won the Italian championship. Aldo Pigorini won the 350cc championship in 1934. Mario Ghersi and Piero Taruffi became very well-known riders in international competition. It is possible the Ferrari team didn't pay well, as the personnel changed dramatically in its 3 years. Aldrighetti was the only team member for all 3 years.”
“Vintagent“ also details the end of the project; “A combination of factors led to the closure of the motorcycling team in 1934; Scuderia Ferrari was likely the only large-scale 'private' motorcycle racing team in the world, until the 1950s. Fielding a racing team is an expensive proposition even for the manufacturers themselves, and it is equally likely that the automotive half of SF was subsidizing motorcycle racing, as sponsorship deals were simply not lucrative enough in the early 1930s, in the midst of a worldwide Depression. There is an implication Enzo Ferrari didn't aggressively pay his riders, as the best (Taruffi, Ghersi) were quickly lured away by other race teams. Finally, the Rudge 'TT Replica', on which the team was solely dependent by 1934, was no longer as competitive at international-level racing; 1930 was the last year a 'pushrod' engine won the Isle of Man Senior TT - a Rudge ridden by Wal Handley - after this, the writing was on the wall for 'knitting needles' pushing valves.” There was also the problem that, although Enzo valued victory above patriotism, the Italian motorcycle racing fans and press were not to keen on British machines being used instead of their domestic products, which were, to be fair, more technologically advanced.
That wasn’t quite the end of the story of Ferrari motorcycles. In 1990, ex-MV Agusta employee David Kay (of David Kay Engineering) contacted Enzo’s son Piero to ask permission to incorporate the Ferrari badge into the design of a one-off bike he was building. Piero agreed to the request, and the 900cc dohc four-cylinder machine was completed in 1995. The BBC’s Top Gear magazine (yes, that one) wrongly described it as “the only Ferrari motorcycle ever built”. In May 2012 it was reported to have been sold at auction for £85,000, having previously been listed at £250,000 (on eBay) and £180,000.
Postscript; When John Surtees won the Formula 1 World Championship in 1964, he became not only unique in becoming World Champion on two and four wheels, but also in being the sole driver to gain such a victory in a blue and white Ferrari. (The model designation was 158.) Wikipedia reports that “Ferrari won the 1964 World Championship by competing the last two races in cars painted not in the traditional Rosso Corsa but in white and blue as these were not entered by the Italian factory themselves, but the US-based NART team. This was done as a protest concerning arguments between Ferrari and the Italian Racing Authorities regarding the homologation of a new mid-engined Ferrari race car.”
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