Massimo Tamburini is a legend. He was chief designer on two of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made: the Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta F4.
But Tamburini's designs have been around a long time, since 1965 to be precise. That was the year he formed the famous Bimota Company with two colleagues: Bianchi and Morri. The name Bimota was derived from the first two letters of the three names, being: BiMoTa.
Tamburini designed tubular steel chassis for Yamaha TZ 250 Grand prix engines initially for use in the Italian road racing championships. But it was American Randy Mamola who made the Bimota name world famous when he finished 5th in the Venezuelan Grand Prix of 1979. Mamola also finished third at the prestigious Daytona 250 that year on the Bimota Yamaha.
First Bimota Street Bike
It was the street bike designs that Tamburini became famous for. The idea to produce a street bike chassis was formulated after Tamburini crashed a 750 Honda at Misano in 1972. As he recuperated from three broken ribs sustained in the crash, he designed and built the first street chassis that Bimota would become famous for.
At a time when Japanese manufacturers were famous for great engines but poor handling chassis, Tamburini designed a chassis that was far stronger and lighter than the factory item. Designated the HB1 (for Honda powered Bimota one), the chassis soon gained a reputation for outstanding quality and handling. However, only ten of these first bikes were produced.
Lighter Than the Factory Suzuki
After the success of the HB1, Tamburini went on to design the SB2. This chassis was powered by the Suzuki GS750 power unit. Bimota claimed their bike was some 60 lbs. lighter than the factory Suzuki unit. This bike proved to be very successful, the company selling 140 of them.
During the 70s and 80s Tamburini designed Bimotas that used engines from all of the major Japanese manufacturers. Each one carried the designation of the donor engine: KB1 for the first Kawasaki engined Bimota, for instance. However, it was an association with another Italian manufacturer that would ultimately lead to Tamburini's most famous designs: Ducati.
Tamburini Joins Cagiva
The Ducati powered DB1 was first introduced in 1985, the company selling 453 examples. Bimota also sold 158 Suzuki GGSX 1135 cc powered SB5's that year too. But 1985 saw a major change for Tamburini when he joined the Cagiva Research Center design team (Cagiva owned Ducati).
One of the most striking designs was the Ducati powered Tesi 1D. Developed over seven years, the Tesi 1D was eventually offered for sale in 1991. The Ducati 851 V twin powered bike had Hub-centered steering, front and rear coil-over mono-shock suspension and a semi-stressed steel tube frame.
Ducati took advantage of having one of the best motorcycle designers in the world working for them, albeit with the Cagiva Research Center. Tamburini being responsible for such memorable designs as the Ducati Paso (named in memory of Italian racer Renso Pasolini), the Cagiva Mito and the forerunner to the 916 Ducati, the 888.
The Ducati 916 Arrives
But it was 1994 that saw the introduction of one of the best (arguably) motorcycles ever designed: the Ducati 916. Not only did the 916 receive accolades from the worlds motorcycling press, it also won the World Superbike championship. England's Carl Fogarty won four world titles and a record 59 races with the factory 916.
When Cagiva acquired the MV name, the challenge of designing a new superbike with the MV name was given to Tamburini. The resultant F4 is another outstanding motorcycle that will grace classic motorcycle events for years to come.
In December 2008, after Harley Davidson had taken over the Cagiva and MV companies, Tamburini decided it was time to retire.