"One of the first names that would come to mind when you think of sports bikes would be MV Agusta, and visiting the museum, a few kilometres from Milan Malpensa airport, where MV Agusta was born, I’ve learned why "
Ivano Beggio and Aprilia
A boss like no other
When Ivano Beggio passed away at the age of 73 earlier this year, the residents of the town of Noale mourned greatly.
Ivano was the mastermind behind the rise of Aprilia, a small bicycle company based in the town that his father Alberto started at the close of the Second World War, just as Italy – like most of Europe – was struggling to regain its feet.
Aprilia’s story truly began at the moment Ivano took to his desk in 1968 and decided that he wanted to build motorcycles instead of bicycles. From this point on, Sir Ivano engineered the meteoric rise of Aprilia, ordering production of 50cc motorcycles that quickly became 125cc and by the mid-1970s, Aprilia was already competing in and winning Motocross championships in Italy, courtesy of Milanese rider Ivan Alborghetti, who took the Italian 125 and 250cc Motocross championships.
The 1980s saw Aprilia begin to firmly establish itself as one of the brightest brands in the world for small-displacement bikes, especially 125 and 250cc. From 1985, Aprilia focused heavily on road and circuit racing which led them to becoming holders of some quite remarkable statistics – 294 Grand Prix races won in the Road Racing World Championship, 54 world titles (38 from the Road Racing World Championship), 7 in Superbikes (including rider and manufacturer doubles in 2010, 2012 and 2014) and 9 in off-road disciplines (7 in Supermoto and 2 in Trials). Under Ivano Beggio’s inspired stewardship, there were also remarkable achievements away from the track.
Between 1982 and 1997, Aprilia went from a company with a turnover of 7 billion lire to a company turning over 970 billion lire. By 1991, it was producing 50,000 motorcycles a year, but come 1997 this had grown to 290,000 units a year – of which 45% were destined for homes overseas. Ivano, like other great helmsmen at other great Italian engineering firms, was honoured by his country. In 1998 he was awarded the title of ‘Cavaliere del Lavoro’ – literally ‘Knight of Work’ – recognising his achievements in industry, and later he received two honorary degrees in mechanical engineering and business administration from Universities in Pisa and Venice.
Aside from his exceptional business skills, passion for motorcycles and racing, he was also highly regarded in Italy for spotting and aiding young talented riders. Aprilia helped kickstart the careers of Jorge Lorenzo, Marco Melandri, Max Biaggi and the incomparable Valentino Rossi. Upon the occasion of his passing earlier this year, Biaggi recalled Ivano as a father figure in the racing world, a man who never enforced upon him the fact that he was the boss.
More than 1,200 workers are employed by Aprilia in Noale, which remains the home of Aprilia to this day, despite becoming part of the Piaggio group back in 2004. Stories of Ivano secretly helping his workers and residents of the town are commonplace, and he is fondly remembered for bringing success and glory to the region through his achievements.
While attention in Europe often falls so readily on Ducati, Aprilia is a worthy, highly-competitive brand that flies the Italian tricolour just as proudly and successfully as its more famous compatriot. Ivano’s vision for his company transformed a bicycle manufacturer into Europe’s most successful motorbike team and a mass producer of some of the finest bikes in the world. Sir Ivano deserves to be remembered as one of the great Italian company leaders, alongside the Agnellis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the nation.
As for Aprilia, it will continue its mission to be the pride of Italy, Kings of the circuit and its bikes lions in the hands of the enthusiast.
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