Sunday, February 4, 2018

Roberto Gallina

Roberto Gallina  was the guest of honor at Team Obsolete's annual holiday party.  Rob Iannucci first got involved with Roberto when he was negotiating to buy what was left of the MV race shop in 1986  and has kept involved with him ever since.  I did a little research on Roberto's history in preparation for his visit.
Roberto was born 4 January, 1940, so just turned 78 and is in great shape and is incredibly vigorous.  He was born in La Spezia in north west Italy, and still lives there.  He first raced in 1960 and in the early '60s raced Motobis and Moto Morinis.  By '67, he was racing Ducati singles regularly in Italian national races.  1970 was the first year he raced in the World Championships, riding a 350 Aermacchi and a 500 Paton, finishing 11th in the 500 class on the basis of a 3rd in Yugoslavia, 7th at Monza and 5th at Montjuich Park in Barcelona.  Roberto did no World Championship racing in '71 and, in '72, scored a single point in the 500 World Championship with a 10th in Yugoslavia.
1973 was his most successful year as a rider in the World Championship, finishing 8th on a Yamaha TZ250, with a 2nd to Dieter Braun (who went on to win the championship) in Sweden, a 3rd in Yugoslavia, and 6th at Circuit Paul Ricard in France and Salzburgring in Austria.  After Renzo Pasolini was killed along with Jarno Saarinen at Monza in May, Gallina raced the works Benelli four cylinder, but without much success.  In his final ride on the bike, the drain plug fell out and oiled his rear tire causing him to crash and break his collarbone.  He also competed in the 500 class on the Paton and did Endurance racing on a Laverda SFC.  In '74, he race a TZ500 and TZ750 Yamaha.  He still has the 750, the only race bike that he kept, which he enjoys parading now and again.  Roberto was twice an Italian National Champion.
In 1975, Roberto started Team Gallina and was a founding member of International Race Teams Association (IRTA).  Marco Lucchinelli and Virginio Ferrari were his riders in '76, Lucchinelli finish 4th in the 500 Championship and Ferrari 21st on a RG 500 Suzukis.  Lucchinelli left in '77 and Virginio Ferrari and Franco Bonera raced for Team Gallina finishing 12th and 7th in the championship respectively on the Nava Olio Fiat sponsored RG 500 Suzukis.  In '78, Gallina was offered a works Suzuki on the condition that he had to have an American rider and Gallina hired Steve Baker to ride along side Ferrari.  Baker finished 7th in the World Championship and Ferrari was 11th, winning the last race of the season at the old Nurburgring.  Ferrari's form continued into the next season and he finish 2nd on the Team Gallina Nava-Olio Fiat Suzuki in the World Championship to Kenny Roberts.
In 1980, Ferrari went to Cagiva and Gallina ran Marco Lucchinelli and Graziano Rossi (Valentino's Dad).  Lucchinelli ended up 3rd in the 500 World Championship with Rossi 5th.
In 1981 Lucchinelli won the 500 World Championship quite convincingly, winning 5 of 11 races with two other podiums.  I think Franco Uncini also rode for Team Gallina.
Honda hired Lucchinelli and the #1 plate away for 1982, but Uncini won the 500 World Championship for Team Gallina even more convincingly.  Although he also had 5 wins and two other podiums, this year out of 12 races, his competitors split up the remaining places more.  Loris Reggiani rode for Team Gallina also and again the next year, before going back to the 250 class.
In 1983 Team Gallina got HB cigarettes sponsorship, but Suzuki lost it competitive advantage as Suzuki went to a thinner section frame that didn't handle as well and Honda and Yamaha progressed more and Freddy Spencer burst on the scene.  On top of that, Uncini had a huge crash at Assen and Wayne Gardner couldn't avoid him and knocked his helmet off when he hit him.  Uncini was out the rest of the season.
He came back the next season, but struggled, only finishing 14th in the Championship.
Things were no better in 1985 and Uncini finish 15th in the Championship and retired from competition at the end of the season.  He went on to become the FIM's safety officer in MotoGP.  Sito Pons also rode for Team Gallina and finished 13th in the 500 World Championship.  Pons went on to win the 250 World championship in 1988 and 1989.
In 1986, Pier Francesco 'Frankie' Chili rode for Gallina in the 500 World Championship and had modest success, finishing 10th on the aging Suzuki.
Gallina switched to Honda for the 1987 500 World Championship and Chili finished 8th overall.
In 1988, Chili finished 9th in the 500 World Championship  and Gallina courted Bubba Shobert, but Shobert went with Yamaha.
1989 was Chili's most successful year in the 500 class, finishing 6th, largely on the basis of winning the Nations Gran Prix at Misano when most of the top riders boycotted the event.  Otherwise, his best finish was 5th.
In 1990 Chili finished 11th in the 500 World Championship.
In 1991 and 1992, Chili rode an Aprilla 250 in the G.P.s for Team Gallina, finishing 3rd in the Championship in 1992, winning at Hockenheim, Assen, and Donnigton Park.  This marked the end of Team Gallina's participation in the Gran Prix World Championship.
In 1990, Gallina started developing a motorcycle powered by the Suzuki DR Big single cylinder motor in his own chassis in both road and race trim.  This was shown at the '92 Tokyo Show and won Sound of Singles races in that year.  And 'Big' it was with a 105mm bore and 90mm stroke yielding 773cc.  Gallina also developed a 750cc Superbike based around a Suzuki GSXR lower end with his own top end and chassis.  The intention was to build 25 to go Superbike racing and was financed by a wealthy Japanese businessman, Hayashi.  But, when the real estate bubble burst in Japan, the plug was pulled on the project after only ten were built.
Gallina opened a retail bike shop and still does specialty work including maintaining a Team Obsolete MV 500 3 cylinder which he and his son Michele parade at vintage events in Italy.    When Roberto was at Team Obsolete this winter he was collecting parts for an XR750 Harley of a customer of his.
It's always a delight spending time with Roberto as he is very funny, interested and has great stories to tell.