Italian Sports: Motor Racing,
Motorcycle Racing & Bicycle Racing

There are three main Italian sports that are all about speed: motor racing, motorcycle racing and bicycle racing. All require a remarkable set of skills, but of the three, motor racing would have to be considered the most glamorous. The use of fast cars as symbols of wealth and power in numerous advertising campaigns and movies have helped cement this image.

Here's a brief look at these three popular Italian sports:

1. Motor Racing

italian sports motor racingConsidering the fact that Italy produces some of the best sports cars in the world, it's not surprising that car racing holds such a prominent position in Italian sports.

Italy hosts the annual Italian Grand Prix and also two races on the Formula One motor racing circuit. The first race is held at the Monza track near Milan. The Monza Grand Prix is generally one of the first events in the annual Formula One season, and is usually scheduled in September. San Marino also hosts Formula One, usually in April the following year. The Ferrari team has won more Formula One races than any other sports car manufacturer in the world.

The list of Italian drivers that have competed at the top levels of motor racing are too numerous to list, but here are a few of the best:

Michele Alboreto
Alberto Ascari
Mauro Baldi
Lorenzo Bandini
Andrea Caldarelli
Sergio Campana
Elio de Angelis
Fabrizio Del Monte
Teodorico Fabi
Giuseppe Farina
Giancarlo Fisichella
Pietro Gandolfi
Fabrizio Giovanardi
Fabrizio Gollin
Fausto Ippoliti
Giovanni Lavaggi
Andrea Montermini
Luigi Musso
Domenico Schiattarella
Gabriele Tarquini
Alessandro Zampedri

Italian Racers Abroad

Italians whose families emigrated to other countries also feature prominently in the list of motor racing champions:

  • The legendary Andretti family is perhaps the most prominent motor racing family. Mario Andretti won 109 races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR, as well as midget cars, sprint cars and drag racing. His son, Michael Andretti, is a former Formula One driver who now owns the Andretti Autosport team in the Indy Racing League. Another son, Jeff Andretti, competed in IndyCar. Mario's grandson son, Marco Andretti, is also an IndyCar Series driver.
    Mario's brother, Aldo Andretti, was an open wheel racer. Aldo's son John Andretti, raced in IndyCar and NASCAR, and Aldo's son, Adam Andretti, is also a racecar driver.

  • Dario Franchitti is a Italian-Scottish racing driver who won the IndyCar Series three times (2007, 2009 and 2010) and the Indianapolis 500 in 2007 and 2010. He also raced for Andretti Green Racing with his brother, Marino Franchitti, in the American Le Mans Series.

  • The Fittipaldi family from Brazil is another prominent motor racing family. Wilson Fittipaldi was a sports journalist, a former racer and founder of the Mil Milhas Brasil race in 1956. His son, Wilson Fittipaldi Jr, raced in 38 World Championship Formula One events, but it was his younger son, Emerson Fittipaldi, who achieved fame as a two-time Formula One Champion (1989 and 1993) and Indianapolis 500 winner. The brothers currently own a Formula One team. Wilson Jr's son, Christian Fittipaldi, was also a CART, Formula One and NASCAR driver.

Rosso Corsa (race red) is the international motor racing colour of Italy. Since the 1920s, Italian race cars have been painted red. French cars were blue, German cars white, and British cars green.

2. Motorcycle Racing

italian sports motorcycle racingMotorcycle racing is another Italian sport that attracts legions of fans both on the field and on television. Italy takes pride in producing some of the best racing motorcycles in the world. Top manufacturers include Aprilia, Benelli, Bimota, Cagiva, Ducati, Ghezzi & Brian, Gilera, Laverda, Magni, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta and NCR. Of these, Ducati is arguably the most recognizable brand, having amassed more Superbike World Championship wins than any other manufacturer.

The world championship motorcycle racing Grand Prix began in 1949 in France. Top riders from every country compete in the annual FIM World Championship series. Italy and Spain boast the largest number of motorcycle racing fans, perhaps because of their dominance of the sport in recent years.

The Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix is part of the Grand Prix motorcycle-racing season. The race was initially held at Monza, but from 1972 rotated through a number of circuits until finding a permanent home at Mugello in 1994.

The all-time best performer in the motorcycle Grand Prix is an Italian named Giacomo Agostini, with 15 titles and 122 wins to his name. Number two is Valentino Rossi, currently regarded as the undisputed champion of the motorcycling world. Rossi has won six Moto GP titles and has a total of 105 wins. Other winners include: Max Biaggi (42 wins), Carlo Ubbiali (39), Luca Cadalora (34), Loris Capirossi (29), Eugenio Lazzarini (27), Pier Paolo Bianchi (27), Walter Villa (24) and Marco Melandri (22).

3. Bicycle Racing

italian sports bicycle racingItaly's premier cycling competition is the Giro d'Italia. The race is held in May each year and constitutes one of the three Grand Tours of cycling, along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Established in the 1930s, this long distance cycling competition is held in stages over a three-week time frame. Professional cyclists from all over the world compete, but the Italian team has historically outperformed most of their competitors.

Italians have won more World Cycling Championships than any other country except Belgium. To date, Belgium has 25 gold medals, with a total of 47 medals in all three categories. Italy has 19 gold medals, with a total of 55 in all categories. One of the greatest Italian teams was Mapei, which ranked as the strongest UCI team in 1994-2000 and 2002. They won Paris-Roubaix five times, and in 1996, 1998 and 1999, claimed the first three places in that competition.

Italians have also won the Tour De France nine times. First staged in 1903, the Tour covers more than 3,600 kilometres (2,200 miles) and is the most prestigious of cycling's three Grand Tours. Ottavio Bottecchia was the first Italian to win the Tour in 1924, and again in 1925. Gino Bartali's victories were 10 years apart – in 1938 and 1948. Fausto Coppi won twice, in 1949 and 1952; in both years he also won the Giro d'Italia. Marco Contani also won the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia in the same year, 1998.

Coppi - The Champion of Champions

Fausto Coppi's successes earned him the title Il Campionissimo, or champion of champions. He was an all-round racing cyclist: he excelled in both climbing and time trialing, and was also a great sprinter. He won the Giro d'Italia five times (in 1940, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953), the Tour de France twice (1949 and 1952), and the World Road Championship in 1953. In 1942 he set a world hour record that was unbeaten for 14 years.

Coppi also won the Giro di Lombardia a record five times (1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1954), and the Milan-San Remo three times (1946, 1948 and 1949). In the 1946 Milan-San Remo he won by 14 minutes. He also won Paris-Roubaix and Belgium's La Flèche Wallonne in 1950. When Coppi won, the cyclist in second place was usually 10-15 minutes behind him. He remains Italy's greatest cyclist.

To learn more about Italian racing sports, you'll find a wealth of articles on Wikipedia.