Italian machinery on display at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Visitor Centre.
Australia has secured a superb private collection of 24 grand prix-winning motorcycles from the famous Italian marques Aprilia and Cagiva, with the two-wheel treasures permanently installed from tomorrow 26 January as the star exhibit in the History of Motorsport Display at Victoria’s Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Visitor Centre.
Fans at this weekend’s Island Classic at Phillip Island – one of the largest historic bike meets in the world – will be the first to see the collection with a discounted entry to $9.50 for event patrons.
Uncovered in Italy by Andrew Fox and purchased from private collectors by Melbourne’s Fox family – owners of the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit – the collection boasts a fleet of 15 sleek, agile Aprilias and a brood of nine beautiful, fiery-red Cagivas.
All two-strokes, they raced in GP competition between 1987 and 2003 and on-board were some of the world’s great riders including the Italian aces Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi, and American stars Eddie Lawson and John Kocinski.
“We are extremely excited about this collection,” said Andrew Fox. “It represents a sensational era of grand prix racing and showcases the bikes that launched some of the biggest names in motorcycle racing. The bikes are all in perfect condition and I believe we have the finest collection of Cagivas anywhere in the world.”
Fox said they decided to search for a significant collection after last year securing rights for the MotoGP and World Superbike for another decade: “We are the only circuit in the world with 10-year tenures on both these world championships and this collection launches our desire to build a world class exhibition of grand prix motorcycles that befits our circuit.”
The 15 Aprilias of the Phillip Island collection starred in world championship campaigns from 1992 to 2003, across the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc classes. Heralding from Venice, the Aprilia manufacturer’s philosophy of ‘Made in Italy’ was replicated in their race team – with Italian riders on Italian bikes charting the team’s successful path and launching the careers of many including Rossi and Biaggi.
Aprilia was particularly dominant in the 125cc and intermediate classes during that era, with the bikes in the Phillip Island display winning an incredible nine world championships and taking home 50 GP wins towards a total podium count of 152.
In the Aprilia stable, the Phillip Island Collection includes the world title-winning machines of Rossi in 1997 (125), Biaggi in 1995 (250), Capirossi in 1998 (250) and Marco Melandri (250) in 2002. There are also three RSV500s in the collection, including the Aprilia Jeremy McWilliams rode to pole position in the Australian GP at Phillip Island in 2000.
The Alessandro Gramigni bike of 1992 was the machine Aprilia won its first world title on in 125cc and following came further world championship success with Kazuto Sakata on the 125cc bike of 1994 and 1998.
Rossi’s 1997 Aprilia RSV125 is a treasured member of the collection. The bike rode the Italian to 125cc dominance with 11 victories, 13 podiums and a world title and launched his career on the world stage. He took two titles with Aprilia, in the smaller classes (1997 125cc, 1999 250cc), before he moved up to 500cc racing and increased his world championship count to nine.
But it was the quarter-litre class where Aprilia really made its mark on the world stage. Biaggi scored three consecutive 250cc world titles for Aprilia from 1994 to 1996, with the bike from his 1995 campaign (eight wins and 12 podiums) a highlight of the Phillip Island offer.
Biaggi’s dominance led the way for Capirossi, Melandri and Manual Poggiali whose world championship winning bikes are now firmly ensconced at Phillip Island – a showcase to the Aprilian success story of the 1990s.
The Cagiva bikes of the Phillip Island collection represent 500cc racing from 1987 to 1994, the race category where the Italian Varese factory concentrated its efforts with riders like Lawson, Kocinski, Randy Mamola, Alex Barros, Doug Chandler and Aussie Mat Mladin, who was plucked straight from an Aussie superbike-winning season in Australia to go GP racing in 1993.
The nine brilliantly bright red Cagivas on display include the race-winning machines of Lawson, who scored the first ever Cagiva victory in Hungary in the wet in 1992, and Kocinski, who led the final Cagiva charge in 1993 and 1994 with wins in the US and Australia.
During that eight-year period, Cagiva scored three wins and a total of 13 podiums, before withdrawing from competition at the end of 1994 due to the financial squeeze of competing at the highest level of road racing – ironically after its best ever year of competition when Kocinski won at Sydney’s Eastern Creek and finished third in the championship.
The story of Cagiva is a true Italian melodrama that started in 1978 with an ambitious plan by the two Castiglioni brothers from Varese, Gianfranco and Claudio, establishing an Italian team to go 500cc racing and take on the all-conquering Japanese makes. They purchased the old Aermacchi factory beside Lake Varese and renamed it Cagiva, after their father Castiglioni Giovanni.
Red-blooded Italian passion and persistence were the characteristics of the 15 year Cagiva 500cc journey, a campaign that ended due to lack of funds just as the brand was tasting 500cc glory and success.
Fox and circuit managing director, Fergus Cameron, sourced the bikes from two Italian collectors: “These are legendary Latin machines and a special collection for the people of Phillip Island. It is a racing repertoire to be proud of, another wonderful treasure for our island that visitors will really enjoy,” said Fox.
“Part of me sees it as a thank you. For more than a decade, the track has benefited from a great working relationship with the Premiers and the Victorian government, the support of Brendan McClements from VMEC, and more recently from the team at Visit Victoria. This is something to build on for the future.”
Cameron took delivery of the collection from Italy last weekend and said the collection is another step to ensure Phillip Island is truly regarded as the world’s motorcycling mecca: “Race fans come to experience Phillip Island’s thrilling action live and now viewing these incredible machines at such close range, they can relive some of motorcycling’s great memories.”
The Phillip Island Grand Prix Motorcycle Collection at the Visitor Centre will be open to the public from Australia Day, with entry $17.50 for adults and $8.50 for children. For patrons of this weekend’s massive historic bike meet, the AMCN sland Classic at Phillip Island, there’s a discount on entry for adults to $9.50.