Interview by Dean Adams
The Man behind the MV Agusta F4 ... and the Ducati 916
Interview: Massimo Tamburini
Translation by Jonathan Maizel
As head of the Cagiva Research Center in Italy, Massimo Tamburiniís designs have changed the aesthetics of motorcycles forever. While in Italy for the MV launch,
AMASuperbike.com recorded an exclusive interview with the most celebrated motorcycle designer in the world.
AMASuperbike.com: Please tell me about your life before Cagiva and Ducati. You worked in Grand Prix, correct?
Tamburini: My life in the motorcycle industry began with the Bimota
years, which ran from 1973 to February or March of 1983--eleven years.
Then one year of R & D for Team Gallina in 500 Grand Prix with Franco
Uncini. After that, I joined the Cagiva Group in '85, February of '85,
and by now you might say I've become part of Cagiva.
AMASuperbike.com: What models that you have designed are you most proud of?
Tamburini: I don't really like to look back on the past. When I wake up in the morning, yesterday is basically forgotten. One particular memory that does stay with me from the Bimota period was when we created the KB2 with the Kawasaki 500 motor, because that bike represented what has always been my philosophy. A lightweight bike.
I remember a meeting in Japan with Suzuki, when an engineer asked me what I thought would be the bike of the future. I remember very clearly my answer: a 750 with the power of a 1000 and the weight of a 500. This was my view then, back in '83 I believe, 25 or so years ago, and today I still hold to this view.
For a street bike, this hold true as well. In my opinion a bike with 120 horsepower at the rear wheel is more than enough for the street. What's really important is to minimize weight.
AMASuperbike.com: Have you ever worked in design outside of the motorcycle industry?
Tamburini: No. I was born with this great passion. I remember when I was a little boy, my mother always complained about the obsession which was in my blood with bikes, which continued and grew with time. I have no intention [of designing outside of the bike field], even though I like mechanical things in general. I've always liked high speed aircraft, but now at my age I feel quite fulfilled and am happy to stay with bikes. I think I can still contribute to this sector and to the Cagiva marque, which by now is my family.
AMASuperbike.com: Is the rest of your life ruled by design as well? Do you have a magnificent house, or furniture that youíre very proud of?
Tamburini: Yes. My latest big project was to supervise the work on my house. We've built a small villa in San Marino, and it was a big job. It has all different shapes and designs and I drove everyone crazy. You could say that in whatever I do, I am very demanding. I don't mind working Saturday and Sunday if I have a particular objective to achieve. Only Christ could stop me from reaching that objective. I have a determination inside which doesn't allow me to accept something which is less than what it might be. No, if I have a particular objective and am sure I can achieve it, I will fight until it comes to pass.
AMASuperbike.com: You designed the Ducati 916. Were there unrealized design attributes in the 916 that you used here with the MV? Were these some of the things you looked at in the 916 but could not be used in a twin?
Tamburini: Yes. The 916 was our penultimate project for Ducati, a project very important for us at CRC, where our organization was made up of youngsters who went to school, so to speak, with the project. Initially, we were working on the evolution of the 916 at CRC. Then with the separation of Ducati, we brought all of this learning and experience, as well as some new concepts, to the F4. If there had been no separation, we would almost certainly have seen an evolution of the 916 instead of this.
AMASuperbike.com: Many people feel that the newer Ducati models, post the 916, are not real Ducatis because they mimic the Japanese motorcycles too much. What do you think of this?
Tamburini: If we are talking about the new 900SS, for example, one of the latest models, or the ST2, I never supported the ST2 concept because in my opinion it was an attempt to follow a Japanese product and concept. A Japanese concept made by Italians will surely come out bad. The Japanese will do a better job.
Regarding the 900SS, itís somewhat awkward for me to give an opinion. First because the designer of that bike was one of my students. Pierre Terblanche, although he had the degree when he came to us, didn't know how to design bikes. He was with us several years and I believe he is a person of considerable talent. He has a problem, though; he doesn't understand the mechanical side.
When the designer doesn't have a good understanding of the mechanical side of things, he can never design a good product. Only an engineer can create a good product in the first instance, and then be assisted by a good designer.
AMASuperbike.com: Of which aspect regarding the new MV Agusta are you most proud?
Tamburini: This was a project which in some respects was easy, and in other respects extremely difficult. Easy because dealing with a marque so prestigious and historic, and without having any current models or inventory, enabled us to avoid all of the compromises related to mass-produced products such as utilizing existing parts, etc. We
designed and built everything from scratch, which was very gratifying. Difficult because, when we did the 916, the input and design brief that we received from Castiglioni was to create a highly distinctive bike from front and rear, one that had to have its own distinctive personality. Our work on the design, front and rear, including the
underseat exhausts, gave it this personality. One which an observer would know, even from behind, was a 916 and not a Japanese bike. Even a non-expert would know what kind of bike it was. All of these new ideas which we brought to the 916 made things more difficult for us with the F4 because our design brief from Castiglioni was again to make the bike distinct not only from the Japanese machines, but also from Ducati. Therefore
the frontal aspect of the bike, the exhausts were the subject of intensive study and tests. In the end, I can say I'm 100% satisfied.
AMASuperbike.com: Growing up in Italy, you must have many memories of the MV Agusta being raced by Agostini and others. What are your favorite memories?
Tamburini: I remember the first time I saw an MV in a world championship race was here at Monza. I was in the stands at the second Lesmo curve and it was 1961.
It was the year of Agostini's debut, not on the MV but on the Morini 250. Everyone was waiting for Provini--who was then on an MV--to come by at Lesmo, and we were all screaming "Provini", "Provini", "Provini".
Instead there was this young kid named Agostini on the Morini and he led for the first lap, with Redman second and Provini third. After two laps Agostini retired with an exhaust problem, and later went on to become the great champion that we all know. But what struck me was the sound of that MV. Thus, my memory is from '61 with that wonderful 4-stroke sound with open pipes which was really great music.
AMASuperbike.com: Many feel that this, the MV Agusta, is the bike of the century, what are your feelings on that?
Tamburini: It's not for me to make a statement of this kind, although we did try to achieve this. It was one of our objectives to establish a new point of reference for sport bikes of this type.
AMASuperbike.com: Form or function, which is more important?
Tamburini: The two cannot be separated. A well-designed piece which is nice to look at must also surely be functional. The two things can and must exist together.
AMASuperbike.com: Youíve made at least two ground-breaking motorcycles now, the Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta. How many of these remarkable machines do you have inside of you? How many more can we expect?
Tamburini: Any time when I finish a project, I ask myself--how can I top this? However, every day, every month, after a year, life teaches new things, new experiences. Strangely, there's always something new that exceeds what was done before. This is part of life.