Marco Lucchinelli raced seven seasons in Grand Prix before winning the big prize, the 1981 FIM 500cc World Championship. And even though he was popularly known early in his career as “Crazy Horse” for his wild riding style, over the years, perhaps from all the escapes after spectacular crashes, he became more known for the name “Lucky” Lucchinelli. It wasn’t luck, but pure skill involved in winning his ’81 world title.
Lucchinelli battled Suzuki stablemate Randy Mamola all season for the championship. In the end the flashy Italian won a series-leading five rounds that year, including a stretch of three in a row, to beat out Mamola by nine points. N
Lucchinelli began his road racing career as an endurance racer with Laverda, before making his GP debut in the 350cc class at his home round at Imola in 1975, where he finished seventh on a Yamaha.
A year later a 21-year-old Lucchinelli proved a quick learner. He stepped right up to the premier 500cc class with Suzuki in ’76 and proved he was ready for challenge, finishing on the podium three times and finishing fourth in the championship. Over the next several seasons Lucchinelli morphed into a gritty veteran, who on his day could easily be a podium finisher. In ’81 it all came together and Lucky and his Suzuki RG500 were both at a competitive peak and Lucchinelli streaked to his lone world championship.
American fans enjoyed watching Lucchinelli in the late 1980s when he famously raced Battle of the Twins at Daytona and Laguna Seca. And again when he became a leading World Superbike rider for Ducati in the late 1980s, winning two races in that series.
Lucky’s luck seemed to run out in 1991 when he was arrested for drug trafficking. He was acquitted of the most serious charges and ultimately served just two years of a five-year sentence. Lucchinelli said the time in jail turned out to be a positive turning point in his life and helped to put him back on a good path.
In the end, it seemed Marco lived up to his nickname after all.