The First Challenges, The First Victories


Count Domenico Agusta was convinced that racing would be the best form of advertising, especially for a young brand such as MV Agusta was at the time. Based on this reasoning the manufacturer officially entered offroad competitions, to go on to Gran Prix racing in 1950. The first speed racing bike was the MV Agusta 125 double cam, capable of achieving 13 HP at 10, 000 rpm. In the same year the 500 Four Cylinder road bike was presented at the motorcycle fair in Milan, a double cam 50 HP bike out of which engineer Pietro Remor developed Cascina Costa's first four cylinder GP bike.

Following a number of technical evolutions this bike became a winner in the hands of Leslie Graham, who won the Monza and Barcelona GPs in 1952. While the 500 had become competitive, Cecil Sandford's double cam 125 was considered the bike to beat, and the Englishman was World Champion by the end of the season with three wins. This was the first of a legendary series of 75 world championships (38 drivers' and 37 manufacturers'). 1953 was a tragic year for the Cascina Costa team due to the accident that cost Leslie Graham his life at the Tourist Trophy, where only two days earlier he had claimed a spectacular victory on the double cam 125.

Bell-shaped fairing and aerodynamic appendices were the new technical features characterising the 1954 season, allowing the 500 four-cylinder engine to achieve speeds of 230 km/h with just 60 horsepower. The following year the young Ubbiali appeared on the 125 World Championship scene, bringing Cascina Costa the first of its 8 world championships with five victories. MV Agusta dominated the popular "formula two" racing with its 175 double cam engine, a model derived from production which raced successfully in countless important races and in the Junior and Senior formulas. In the 350 class Umberto Masetti won the Monza Grand Prix on the bike that had previously belonged to the unfortunate Ray Amm, an ex-Norton driver who died in the first race he ran for MV Agusta.

With twelve wins, including both National and World Championships, 1956 set an absolute record for the number of victories in a single season. Among the many successes of that year, the most significant was undoubtedly the 500 World Championship won by John Surtees, a win that brought the name MV into the golden books of the top racing class. The following year Cascina Costa's racing bikes were subject to strong competition from Mondial in the 125 category and Gilera in the 500, while in "formula two" racing Remo Venturi won on his double cam 175 bike in both Monza and the Motogiro d'Italia. On the research front, MV Agusta proposed a spectacular 500cc six cylinder engine capable of 75 horsepower, which was not used in racing due to internal competition from Surtees's still competitive four-cylinder bike.

The drop in demand for motorcycles led to decreased investment in racing, and ended up with Guzzi, Mondial and Gilera temporarily leaving the races in 1958. At the same time new competitors such as Ducati and Morini appeared on the scene, but none of them caused MV Agusta much worry: in 1958-1960 the Cascina Costa manufacturer won 63 races out of 76 run, thanks also to the top condition of riders such as Surtees, Ubbiali and Provini.

The end of the decade saw the advent of new technologies leading to significant improvements in performance and driveability. MV achieved a power of 70 horsepower in its engine for the 500 category, 45 for 350, while forks with a square section, four shoe brakes and use of materials from aeronautics were introduced, permitting significant reductions in weight of up to 20 kg. MV Agusta's vocation for technological research also led to experimentation with a desmodromic 125 and a direct injection 250, projects that got no farther than the prototype stage.