Arturo Magni Made MV Agusta a Racing Legend

If one man was responsible for securing MV’s legend, it was Arturo Magni.

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Looking over the red fuel tanks of an early MV Agusta tells the story of Arturo Magni better than I ever could. Stars by the dozen, like a child’s lunchbox, each cementing a legend. In an era of outstanding competition, when almost any manufacturer could build a bike to win a race, it was Arturo Magni who propelled a tiny Italian manufacturer to win championships.

We think of MV Agusta as the mount of Agostini, Hailwood, Surtees and Ubbiali. A thoroughbred. A roaring monster of a machine to take on the likes of Ducati and BMW, Yamaha and Honda. But the MV Agusta that built up around Magni was focused on the tiny 125cc class that was popular in postwar Italy. Magni, fresh off a successful stint at Gilera, built the four-stroke MV into a something else entirely; by 1952, the tiny racer could spin to 10,800 rpm and make 15 horsepower. Combined with British rider Cecil Sandford, that was enough for an Isle of Man TT win and MV Agusta’s first championship.

As MV Agusta’s reputation grew, so did the motorcycles. The little Italian shop built a business around its on-track domination. The owner Count Giovanni Agusta, recognizing this, provided an exceptional environment for success, hiring the era’s best riders and  motorsport engineers. As the technological sophistication of GP racing machines continued to skyrocket, many of MV Agusta’s Italian competitors abandoned racing due to it’s ever-increasing expense.

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The combination led to a generation of domination by MV Agusta. First fielding 125cc GP bikes, then the iconic three-cylinder 350cc and 500cc racers  that would, on their own, account for 101 Grand Prix wins and 10 Constructors’ titles. Upon Count Agusta’s death in 1971, MV lost its patron and, with him, its will to thrive. The company won its last world championship race in 1976, making for a total of 270 Grand Prix wins, and giving the Magni-led team an astonishing 75 World Championships. An incredible feat, and a testament to an extraordinary man.

The world lost Arturo Magni last week at the age of 90. Magni, and his accomplishments, are wonderfully remembered by his friend and Cycle World European Editor Bruno DePrato, a piece that’s well worth a read.