A look back at the history of Bimota
The story of Bimota, now partly owned by Kawasaki, is not long. Since the company was founded quite recently, in 1973, its history has been shaped by looking aside, as admirers or owners of these Italian bikes.
The company name comes from the first two letters of the names of the founders, Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini; presumably in alphabetical order. Bimota’s first notable motorcycle was the SB2, and it was powered by a Suzuki engine and was technically a GS750 in disguise. At first, Bimota customized top models from Suzuki as well as Honda and Kawasaki. Later they decided to build Lamborghini brand motorcycles and also handled the high-end customizations of Yamaha and Ducati.
In addition to launching high performance models, Bimota even launched into kit bikes for those who liked to build their motorcycles. When it comes to model names, it’s easy to see the origins. Only real bikes made by Bimota are labeled V Due or Tesi, others start with the same initial as the base motorcycle company. Thus, Yamaha engine models are named with a “Y”, Honda models with an “H” while Harley-Davidson models begin with “HD”.
So what is really going on with Bimota today, after a few rather tumultuous years?
The rise of Bimota
Bianchi, Morri and Tamburini were three friends who took care of the air conditioning and insulation / heating equipment. All three loved motorcycles, especially Tamburini who also raced. Tamburini is said to be driving a Honda 750 Four on the Misano circuit in 1972. He lost control at Quercia, the fastest corner in Misano, and came home with three broken ribs. Furious, Tamburini designed a new frame for the Honda 750 Four, and this became the HB1, 50 kilos lighter than the original.
Under Massimo Tamburini, Bimota manufactured sets of frames as well as other components and accessories thus turning normal bikes into legend. Like the Honda 750 Four transformed into HB1, the Kawasaki Z1 900 was now KB1 and finally the Suzuki GSX 750 and 1100 were transformed into SB2 and SB3.
But in 1983, Tamburini left Bimota. He was then replaced by a former Ducati engineer, Federico Martini.
Bimota goes even higher with the marks before the fall
Martini, despite being younger and with less experience than Tamburini, managed to make two Bimota bestsellers, turning a Ducati and a Yamaha into DB1 and YB4. To date, production has also doubled, reaching 1,200 bikes per year.
In the 90s, the Japanese had become scarce and the quality of their framework approached that of Bimota. Bimota then started the Tesi Project, turning Honda, Yamaha 5-valve and Ducati 851/904 V4 engines into motorcycles with much better frames. Unfortunately, the Tesi arrived a bit too late and did not go the way Bimota expected.
To date, Franco Morini was also involved and Bimota tried to manufacture his first motorcycle, the 500 V2, but the engine had a problematic injection system. This and other financial problems caused Bimota to file for bankruptcy in 2001. Later, after the money was injected by Milanese investor Roberto Comini, Bimota rose from its ashes, under the leadership of Sergio Robbiano . Robbiano focused on Ducati and made the DB5 and DB6 Delirio, and also gave Tesi a rebirth. The last of the models was the DB7, the position of which the company was sold to the Swiss Daniele Longoni and Marco Chiancianesi. Under them, Bimota launched the fastest motorcycle to date, the BB3, powered by BMW’s S1000RR. But even so, Bimota floundered until finally, he again traded hands, or rather stocks.
In October 2019, Kawasaki bought a 49% stake in Bimota and announced that the new Bimota motorcycles will be made from parts from the Kawasaki supply chain.
Racing Legacy & New Direction
In 1980 Jon Ekerold rode his Bimota HB3 to win the 350 World Championship, much to Bimota’s surprise. Then Virginio Ferrari won the 1987 Formula TT with Davide Tardozzi, in a YB4 El. In 2000, Anthony Gobert won a wet track race at Philip Island riding a Bimota SB8K. More wins also happened, enough to tell the world that even unsponsored Bimota motorcycles were the real thing.
And now Bimota is taking a new direction with Kawasaki at the helm. The EICMA 2021 fair in Milan saw the launch of the Bimota KB4 series, and it came well praised. But for Pierluigi Marconi, CEO of Bimota, the sky is the limit. While Bimota has always focused on sport bikes, now they want to make adventure bikes and even tourers. The Tesi ADV was offered as a teaser, although for now it is only a rendering.
But for the first time, Bimota has a stable supply chain. Thus, he no longer has to worry about where the motors came from, which he not only struggled with but also caused his eventual bankruptcy.
So this is an exciting new chapter in Bimota’s history and we can’t wait to witness it.
Sources: MotoType, Bimota, CanadaMotoGuide, asphalt and rubber
It was the rebirth of something special after the acquisition of the Italian firm by Kawasaki.
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