At the end of the 1970s, Cagiva began exploring Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and by 1980 the Italian manufacturer stepped up into the top 500cc Grand Prix class with Virginio Ferrari – the Italian ace who was narrowly beaten to the 1979 500cc World Championship by ‘King’ Kenny Roberts. Though Cagiva’s bikes looked stunning and showed some promise, results were not coming initially, despite great efforts from the plucky and charismatic team, run by Giovanni Castiglioni. For 1984, the team switched to 1980 500cc World Champion Marco Lucchinelli, but it was his flamboyant 1986 teammate Joan Garriga who started to bring results, especially when armed with feedback from test sessions with the great Kenny Roberts and the new powerful V4 engine.
Didier de Radiguès and Raymond Roche continued this moderate success through 1987, even claiming a fastest lap against the mighty Japanese works teams. For 1988, Randy Mamola would join the team as its lead rider, bringing the Italian team its first ever podium at the Belgian Grand Prix. Mamola’s bike was designed by Massimo Tamburini (who would become the legendary designer of the Ducati 916), and the Cagivas were becoming not only increasingly beautiful but also highly experimental, with carbon fibre and active suspension even being trialled. By 1988, the 500cc bikes had become viciously powerful and were violent and unpredictable to ride on the edge, regularly spinning the wheels and drifting on opposite-lock in fast corners, only to suddenly grip and hurl its rider eight foot into the air – the ‘high-side’ - a defining feature of this legendary two-stroke era. Retirements and injuries were very common, although Mamola became well-known for his ability to produce tyre-smoking black lines in some fearsomely high-speed corners. With technical assistance from Yamaha, aided by Kenny Roberts secretly bringing a Yamaha Grand Prix bike for the Cagiva engineers to inspect at the factory, Cagiva were showing some real pace, particularly in testing with Roberts in the saddle. Despite its best efforts, and Mamola showing streaks of brilliance, the 1989 season would not quite bring the results the team should have achieved. Despite this, and as the bike that inspired the Ducati 916 styling, it is not only a fantastic piece of motorcycle grand prix racing, but also a truly important piece of automotive design.
The bike we have for sale is one of Mamola’s race bikes from the 1989 season, and came directly from the Castiglioni family collection. A two-owner bike from new, this is not only one of the most beautiful Grand Prix machines of all time, but is race-ready and totally original. A regular at Goodwood and World Grand Prix Bike Legends events, this ex-Mamola V589 would be a fantastic addition to any great motorcycle collection or indeed hallway of any great house!