Italian interest in the TT is certainly developing, in respect of both competitors and enthusiasts. This year five riders entered the event – Giuseppe Barachetti, Giorgio Cantalupo, Umberto Rumiano and newcomers, Stefano Bonetti and Giovanni Iovine.
Giuseppe – “Pino” to his friends – after his 2003 results of 61st, Production 600 and 52nd in the 1000 Production class on Yamaha machinery, had planned to race in those classes again, this time on Suzukis, but, due to over subscription had his entries refused. Thanks to support from Adrian Earnshaw of the Hailwood Foundation and Minister of Tourism and Leisure, David Cretney MHK, he secured an entry in the 400cc Lightweight event on a Kawasaki ZXR. Suspension trouble and then a major engine breakdown during practice caused Pino severe problems, but Ian McKay, a regular TT Marshall from Ramsey, came to the rescue with the loan of an ex-Milky Quayle Honda NC35; sadly, Pino ran out of fuel on the Mountain during his final qualifying lap. We hope to see Pino back next year when he is surely due better luck.
Normally Ducati mounted, top Italian, Giorgio Cantalupo turned to Aprilia, accepting a factory offer of a twin cylinder Tuono 1000R for F1, Senior and Production 1000 races – however, he again rode his machine in “naked fashion”; he used his standard Honda CBR 600RR for the Junior and Production 600 TTs.
In the prestigious F1 Giorgio achieved a good 41st position with a fastest lap speed of 111.67mph, very fast for an unstreamlined machine; in the postponed Production 1000, with the Tuono in standard configuration he came home 46th with an improved lap speed of 111.89mph. The Honda secured 40th, with a best lap of 111.97mph, in the Junior and 43rd in 1 hour 2 mins 19.7 secs at an 108.96mph average in the Production 600, to gain a Bronze Replica. The Senior, back on the factory Aprilia, was much more dramatic as a leaking fuel cap caused him to run out of petrol on the second lap; undeterred he pushed to the Pits, refuelled and continued in fine style to finish in 63rd position, improving his lap speed to 113.74mph. Congratulations to Giorgio and thanks to his sponsors, notably Aprilia and Pirelli; the Tuono 1000R was one of the most admired machines in the paddock with many enthusiasts visiting Cantalupo’s tent to offer their appreciation on his spectacular riding of the naked Italian twin.
After an impressive IoM debut in 2003 with 42nd and 49th places, Umberto Rumiano returned during the winter to learn the intricacies of the Mountain Course, with a view to entering three bikes in this year’s meeting – a powerful ZX10 for the F1 and Senior, a Honda CBR 400RR, rented from Paddy Martin and finally a beautiful MV Agusta F4 SPR750 for the Production 1000, to be the first Italian rider to race the red and silver machine since Giacomo Agostini and Alberto Pagani some 32 years ago. After struggling with the set up of the Kawasaki during practice, Umberto made the wise decision to race the MV in all the larger capacity classes. A fastest lap of 112.65mph brought him home in a fine 38th position in the F1, the fourth 750cc to finish. Umberto was delighted with a Bronze Replica for 23rd aboard his 400 Honda; it was then back to the big Italian 4 for the final two races of the week. Consistent lap speeds saw him take 43rd position in the Production 1000 [an average speed of 110.07mph for the three laps] and 48th in the Senior [av 110.71mph]. Umberto managed a lap of fractionally under 114mph in Production event to indicate his developing skills and commitment to TT riding.
Visiting the Island during the winter with Umberto was 27 year-old newcomer, Stefano Bonetti from Castro, near Bergamo in northern Italy, who was a double national hill climb champion. With the help of the Hailwood Foundation, Stefano began his apprenticeship to good effect as he achieved the qualification speed during the very first practice session – amazing! Better was soon to come with 28th position and a Bronze Replica on a Yamaha 600 in his first race, the Junior TT; a fastest lap speed of 114.01 also secured him a Newcomer Medal. Next up was the Production 600 on his Suzuki GSXR – an excellent 22nd place, a Silver Replica [the first won by an Italian since Franco Martinel in the Sidecar B of 1985] and another Newcomer Medal. In fact, Stefano, missed the meeting’s overall Best Newcomer’s Award, won by Guy Martin, by less than a second! This race saw him circulate at 114.82mph, to become the fastest ever Italian around the Mountain Course. Sporting number 46 in the Senior, again riding his Suzuki, Stefano rode another fantastic race to finish 40th, the fourth 600 home and another Newcomer’s Medal – a brilliant TT debut on the track, with Stefano also winning many friends off it with his great humility. Form was maintained on his return to Italy when he won his third hill climb championship, this time the 600. Congratulations to Stefano; we look forward to seeing you at TT 2005.
The second Italian newcomer was Giovanni Iovine, who, despite steadily increasing his lap times during practice, failed to qualify his 930 Honda CBR for Saturday’s F1 Race. Not so for the Production 1000 in which he finished 66th with a fastest lap at over 93mph.
The Italian competitors were welcomed as “Guests of Honour” at the 3rd Italian TT Supporters Club Festival held in Cocconato d’Asti on July 17th. Over 300 attended including William Cavazzini, who has taken part in several TT Laps of Honour and sidecar expert, Franco Martinel, who hopes to make a TT comeback in the near future. Another “Guest of Honour” was TTSC member, Mauro Borella, who displayed his ex-Ron Haslam Norton Rotary RCW 588 – what music to our ears.
Pier Giuseppe Ortalda