Legends: Luigi Taveri
Luigi Taveri was the antithesis of today’s teenaged tear-away 125 GP racers – technically savvy, immaculately presented and cool headed.
An Italian-Swiss, born near Zurich in 1929, Taveri won the first of his three world 125 championships on a four-cylinder Honda in 1962 at age 32. He won again in 1964, also on a 125-4, and in 1966 on the fantastic five-cylinder Honda RC149 which revved to 20,000rpm.
Luigi’s racing career began in the late 1940s, as sidecar passenger for his elder brother Hans. He recorded his first world championship points in the 1954 French GP, on a 500 Norton. He signed with MV-Agusta in 1955 and won the opening 125 GP of the season at Montjuic Parc, Barcelona.
From 1955 to 1960, Taveri rode for MV, Ducati, MZ and again with MV. And there his career might have ended. Frustrated with MV team politics, where Carlo Ubbiali was the favoured 125/250 rider, he retired.
Wife Tilde saved the day by approaching Honda on Luigi’s behalf. He was given second string bikes in 1961, but in 1962 he soon became the firm’s number one 125 racer.
By the end of 1966, Taveri had won three championships and 30 GPs — 22 in 125, six in 50s and two in 250s.
In retirement, he ran a spotless automotive panel shop. Underneath, he had a private museum with his collection, including a Honda 125-5.
In 1988, Taveri told the author that when he was at MV, he was never sure who received what equipment; there was a pecking order. At Honda, the equipment was the same for all the riders, but he could never figure out how Jim Redman had so much power in the team!
Luigi Taveri turns 81 on Sunday, September 19.
The video below is in German, but features some good period footage and a look at Luigi’s personal museum.