Moto Guzzi V8GP: a great design in motorcycle racing

During the Classic GP the unmuffled exhaust sound of one of the greatest designs in motorcycle racing, the Moto Guzzi V8, will most certainly impress the masses. The 'Otto Cilindri' from Italy was a true game changing Grand Prix bike as it became the first and only to sport 8-cylinders, also ultimately leading to a ban on full front wheel covered fairings due to instability at high speeds.

It was actually the half a meter wide full fairing to ensure the minimum steering lock required by the FIM that led to the idea of packing eight cylinders into the available fairing space. Guzzi’s V8GP weighed 137 kilograms, only 5 kg heavier than a similarly faired Manx Norton single. The water-cooled 500 cc V8 motorcycle with dual overhead cams and a separate carburettor for each of the eight cylinders produced an unprecedented 79 hp at 12.500 rpm. In its final race at Spa-Franchorchamps the Otto smashed the lap record achieving a top speed of 287 kilometers per hour (178 mph). It took 20 years before such speeds were reached again in Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Moto Guzzi entrusted Australian works rider Ken Kavanagh with the V8’s debut in 1956 at Imola, where he actually led the race comfortably before retiring with a mechanical issue. Englishman Bill Lomas suffered the same fate after a fierce battle with three-time world champion Geoff Duke at Solitude in Germany. For 1957, in an attempt to solve the reliability issues, the Otto got a 90 degree crossplane crankshaft fitted and with it the Italian Guiseppe Colnago scored the V8’s first ever race win at the Italian race track of Siracusa, with the Brit Dicky Dale scoring its second and final win at the next race in Imola. Moto Guzzi retired from racing at the end of 1957 but over the course of 2 years the V8GP had established its reputation as one of the greatest designs in motorcycle racing.

During the Classic GP Assen Italian Guiseppe Todero will race a genuine 1956 Moto Guzzi V8GP in the Bike GP Legends GP1-category.

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