Vespa hits the racetrack
A success story
Published on 02 December 2021
Racing competitions were for Vespa one of the first and most incisive means of advertising communication. Of a substantially peaceful nature, born for utility transport, Vespa was forced to take to the field driven by the perplexities fueled, in the first years of its long history, by motorcycle lovers, wary of the choice of small wheels and the engine lateral. To best justify these solutions, nothing was more decisive than showing oneself victorious in competitions.
However, the victory was not so obvious, especially in the first year of construction, a time burdened by various problems, both for the procurement of raw materials and for the many improvements necessary for series production.
In 1947 the first step was to prepare some engines through some measures that could increase the power from the standard 3 hp to 5 hp, with an increase of 60%.
The development of the engine consisted in the adoption of a shaft with full shoulders, in the use of a clutch with metal discs only (more resistant to strong stresses) and specific gear ratios (with long first gear and close second and third gear), in the use of an oversized carburetor, in the improvement of the diagram of the lights and in the elimination of the starting lever. The latter choice was also dictated by the race regulations, which provided for the ignition of the push engine in the speed tests. Thanks to the abolition of the start-up mechanism, the crankcase could at the same time be shaped in such a way as to allow the Vespa to approach curves with more pronounced bends and therefore with greater speed.
The debut of the first Vespas in racing, with an engine developed directly by Piaggio, took place at the Circuito di via Caracciolo in Naples on 20 April 1947. A few days before the race, Piaggio sent two racing-type engines to the dealer Mario Revetria in Naples, to be mounted under the Vespas of Enzo Pignatelli and Francesco Leone who, together with two other riders with production machines, would have formed the Vespa racing team. They participated in the race of the 100 class, but the victory was of the more experienced Fausto Faraglia on Guzzi 65. The rematch was postponed to June 22, on the occasion of the uphill race Sorrento-Sant'Agata, where the first two places were the Vespa riders Leone and Paw up.
Piaggio had broken the ice, but the road to its competitive success was only just beginning.