1964 Benelli 250cc Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle By Bonhams

When, in 1960, Benelli was forced to acknowledge that it needed a multi-cylinder machine to remain competitive in Grand Prix racing’s 250cc class, the Italian firm was able to draw on past experience of this type if machine, having constructed a ‘blown’ quarter-litre four in 1939. Although it was first seen in 1960, the 250 Benelli four did not race competitively until April 1962, when Silvio Grassetti debuted the bike at Imola. Although eliminated by a bent valve in that first race, Grassetti stunned the racing world a week later at Cesenatico, beating the seemingly invincible works Hondas of Jim Redman and Tom Phillis. Development continued into 1965, an eight-speed gearbox being new for that season, but by now Honda were fielding a six-cylinder 250 ridden by the best rider in the world: Mike Hailwood. Spreading its limited resources even more thinly, Benelli pressed ahead with developing a 16-valve 350 and a 500.

With its No. 1 rider Tarquinio Provini forced into premature retirement through injury, Benelli signed Renzo Pasolini, who promptly rewarded his new employers’ faith by winning the 250 and 350 Italian Championships in 1968. By 1969 the last of the Japanese manufacturers had pulled out of the World Championships, clearing the way for the Benelli fours to grab a slice of Grand Prix glory. Agostini and MV Agusta remained unassailable in the 350 and 500 classes at World Championship level, but in the 250 category Benelli eventually got the better of Kent Andersson’s Yamaha and Santiago Herrero’s Ossa, Kel Carruthers bringing the Championship back to Pesaro. There were sporadic appearances by the 350 and 500 fours over the next few years (four-cylinder 250s having been banned) but that glorious 1969 season effectively marked the end of Benelli’s Grand Prix campaign.

The Benelli racer offered here was used by the great Tarquinio Provini to win the Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuic Park, Barcelona in 1964, the second round of that year’s World Championship. He completed three more GPs that season, finishing 4th at Assen and 5th in both the Belgian and German rounds, ending up 5th overall in the Championship at the season’s end.

The Provini machine’s engine ended up being used in a road bike by Marco Benelli, from whom it was purchased by Giancarlo Morbidelli (the two men were friends). Other parts, including the frame, were bought from the Benelli family, and the machine was then restored in the Museum’s workshop (Mr Morbidelli fabricated the exhaust system himself). The factory wanted the machine to be as fast as a cannonball, hence the drab iron-grey colour scheme. Accompanying documentation consists of a quantity of in-period and before/after restoration photographs.

• Ultra-rare works bike
• Purchased in component form from the Benelli family
• Restored in the Morbidelli Museum’s workshop

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Report by bonhams.com

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