Thursday, 16 April 2015

Mondial Piega - Honouring the Favour

Mondial Piega
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Take a long-dormant name, add a proven heart, clothe it in Italian design, surround it with high hopes, then end the whole project with crushed expectations, insolvency and some ancillary criminal escapades. It is the classic story of the failed motorcycle company, a trope that gets repeated over and over every few years when someone seeks to play on nostalgia and resurrect some long-dead company to sell vapourware to unsuspecting enthusiasts... Except this story is a bit more interesting and a bit more nuanced, and the revival came that much closer to succeeding. This is the story of the Mondial Piega, a machine that was set to conquer the superbike market through an unprecedented partnership that had its roots in a simple gesture of good sportsmanship that occurred over 50 years ago.



Mondial Piega
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Mondial was one of the more storied marques that had fallen upon decades of obscurity for one simple reason: their modus operandi from day one was racing, and once they stopped the brand gradually faded away. Founded in 1929 by the four Boselli brothers, members of a wealthy aristocratic Milanese family, Fratelli Boselli (FB) began with a workshop in Bologna dedicated to the service of local GD Motobiciclette machines, later expanding into the production of light three-wheeled delivery vehicles. Allied action during the Second World War took a heavy toll on the company, with bombing destroying the factory and military commandeering snapping up the surviving machines. At the close of the war, Mondial had effectively ceased to exist. The Bosellis were fortunate enough to survive the war with their wealth, and resumed production in 1946. It was during this period that an engineer by the name of Alfonso Drusiani, son of an engine builder for GD, developed a new four-stroke 125cc single. Featuring a modern design with double-overhead cams, Drusiani’s engine was too complex and unsuitable for use in a utility vehicle, but Count Giuseppe Boselli saw its potential as a sporting motorcycle powerplant.

Mondial Piega
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With the blessing of the his brothers, the more famous incarnation of the company emerged in Arcore in 1948 as F.B. Mondial when Count Boselli began production of Druisiani’s DOHC 125. The resulting machine was the legendary 125 Bialbero (“two camshaft”), a machine that was an oddity in the new 125 class that had emerged after the war. Featuring an undersquare 53x56mm configuration displacing 123.5cc using a two-valve head, the Bialbero used a pair of camshafts driven by a bevel tower on the right side of the cylinder. An outer flywheel ala Moto Guzzi bacon slicer kept the crankcases compact (some examples show an exposed flywheel, while others feature a protective cover), while the unitized bottom end contained a four-speed gearbox and wet clutch. Power was initially 12hp at 9000 RPM, with subsequent tuning eeking out 18 hp at 12,000 RPM by the end of development in 1957.

Mondial Piega Dash
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While most Italian manufacturers were focussing on simple and relatively quick two-stroke designs, Mondial placed its faith in a highly developed four-stroke. The gamble appeared to pay off: in its debut season in 1948 the Bialbero often ran ahead of the two-stroke competition, clocked at up to 80 MPH when most 125s were barely clearing 70. A dustbin fairing was added to improve aerodynamics, and with rider Nello Pagani aboard Mondial won the Grand Prix des Nations at Monza at an average speed of 71 MPH. Performance increased steadily over the years as the power output and the rev ceiling were raised, aided by the addition of a fifth gear in 1956, eventually resulting in a 115 MPH top speed by 1957.  

Mondial Piega Front
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Mondial quickly earned a reputation as a purveyor of high-quality, high-performance racing machines in an era when most Italian manufacturers were struggling to rebuild in a postwar economy. While Ducati and MV Agusta were selling inexpensive motorcycles to suit the needs of a war-ravaged market, with racing as an incidental pursuit, Mondial went straight to the top and set about building the best machines possible to compete in the 125 category, with limited production of street legal machines beginning in 1949. Even at their peak, Mondial remained a boutique manufacturer that never produced more than a few thousand machines per year.

Mondial Piega Tail
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Mondials were superbly engineered, fast, and reliable, to the point of being the template for the competition. Legend had it that MV Agusta obtained a Bialbero to reverse engineer and use in the development of their own four-stroke racers. When Mondial revealed their factory lineup in advance of the 1949 season, the competition scrambled to rework their machines to suit. Mondial’s first real success came in 1949 when they took the 125 Constructor’s Championship, with their rider Pagani taking the Driver’s Championship. Mondial would go on to win the 1950, 1951 and 1957 125 Championships for Drivers and Constructors, along with both titles in the 1957 250 category earned with a 1st through 3rd place sweep.  In 1951 Mondial took the first four positions in the Ultra-Lightweight category at the Isle of Man TT, then again winning the 125 and 250 Lightweight prizes in 1957. All of that is not mentioning the numerous wins in Italian national events.

Mondial Piega
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Given the success of their factory efforts, it wasn’t a surprise when Mondial began building production racing machines for privateers. The 125 Monoalbera (“single cam”) was introduced in 1952, using the architecture of the Bialbero in slightly simplified form with a gear-driven SOHC valvetrain. Demand was so great that the production of delivery trikes ended in favour of building motorcycles. The company entered machines in the 175 and 250cc categories, and developed an experimental desmodromic valvetrain ahead of rival Ducati. In fact the famed Fabio Taglioni, father of Ducati’s desmodromic heritage, had been an assistant to Drusiani at Mondial from 1952-1954. He had worked on a 175cc version of the Bialbero campaigned in the 1954 Moto Giro; legend has it that he was snubbed from the celebration following Mondial’s victory at the event, and this slight led to Taglioni accepting an offer to defect to Ducati.

Mondial Piega Front
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Then in 1957, at the height of the company’s success, Mondial joined Moto Guzzi, Gilera and MV Agusta in announcing a cessation of factory racing programs, leaving only the privateer efforts to continue campaigning Mondials after the 1957 season. The company continued to produce production machines, diversifying into off-road models and two-stroke designs, but the glory days were over.

Giuseppe Pattoni, the chief mechanic of the Mondial GP team, and Lino Tonti, hired by Mondial as a designer in 1957, purchased equipment and spares from the now-defunct racing department and founded Paton (PAttoni TONti), which would go on to achieve some notable success with updated designs based on Monoalbero architecture. Their attempt to label their first 125 machine as a “Mondial-Paton” in respect to their former employer was met with an order from Count Boselli to cease using his company’s name, lest they make it appear that Mondial was violating the Italian manufacturer’s pact - which MV Agusta eventually did, in so doing becoming a legendary dominator of the sport until the 1970s.  

Mondial Piega Intake
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Following Mondial’s withdrawal from racing, the CEO of a Japanese firm producing small motorcycles sent a letter to Boselli asking if he could purchase one of his now-obsolete 125cc machines. Soichiro Honda had admired the design and success of Mondial’s Grand Prix efforts and wished to obtain an example to study in the development of his own dedicated racing machines, which had hitherto been based on his company’s road-going four-stroke Dream models. With his eyes on conquering the Isle of Man TT, Honda set about building a clean-sheet design to introduce at the TT by 1959. It was a seemingly impossible goal for his company when he laid out the mandate for the racing program to his employees in 1954, mere months following a bailout that had saved the company from bankruptcy.

Remarkably Count Boselli agreed to supply Honda with a 1956 125 Bialbero, which was delivered to Japan in September 1958. Dyno testing by Honda’s race department led by engineer Kiyoshi Kawashima revealed that the company’s prototype, an early version of the two-valve, bevel driven DOHC 125cc parallel-twin dubbed the RC141, actually produced slightly less horsepower than the “obsolete” Mondial. Despite having two cylinders, the RC produced a hair over 15 HP compared to 16.3 from the single-cylinder Mondial, prompting Kawashima to redesign the engine. The result was the RC142 which retained the oversquare 44x41mm dimensions of the RC141 but used a four valve per cylinder head that raised power to 17.4 HP at 13,000 RPM. The RC142 was the first indication of what was to come from Honda: beautifully complex and highly engineered small displacement racers that would prove to be fast and reliable. Soichiro achieved his goal of competing at the Isle of Man in 1959, where his team earned 4th, 5th, 6th, and 11th place and won the Manufacturer’s Cup in the Ultra-Lightweight 125 class using three RC142s and one R141. It would prove to be the first of Honda’s countless international successes, and legend had it that Soichiro never forgot the role that Count Boselli’s generosity played in his nascent racing team’s achievement. A 1956 Mondial 125, clad in a full dustbin fairing, remains on display among Honda’s racing machines at the Honda Collection Hall in Motegi as a tribute to Mondial’s aid to a then-obscure Japanese manufacturer.

Mondial 125 GP in the Honda Collection Hall, Motegi
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By 1960 production of Mondial engines had ceased. The company continued building motorcycles by installing third-party powerplants into their own chassis until 1979, returning to some limited competition on- and off-road, but the glory days were long passed. An attempt was made to resurrect the marque between 1987-89 with a line of fully-faired 125cc sport bikes, and once again with a 560cc Golinelli-chassis Supermono racer powered by an overbored KTM single in the mid-1990s, but by the end of the 1990s the brand was dormant with the rights to the name remaining in the hands of the Boselli family.

Mondial 560 Supermono
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In 1999 Roberto Ziletti, the head of the Lastra group, then one of the world’s largest printing plate manufacturers, approached Pierluigi Boinini Boselli, son of Count Giuseppe Boselli and heir to the Mondial name, about the possibility of resurrecting the brand with a modern sport bike design. Boselli agreed and Ziletti began to orchestrate the rebirth of Mondial. To expedite the process an existing, proven high-performance engine would be used in a proprietary chassis. The intent was to return Mondial to competition in World Superbike, so a 1000cc V-twin seemed like a natural choice in an era when Ducati was dominating WSBK and BSB with their twin-cylinder machines. A tentative agreement was made with Suzuki to obtain 250 996cc TL1000 V-twins for the anticipated limited-production run. It seemed like a perfect match – the TL mill had a reputation as an excellent powerplant in search of a decent chassis, given the questionable (and inconsistent) handling of the rotary-damper TL series. Bimota had the same idea and had unveiled their SB8R in 1997, a beautiful machine featuring a chassis designed by Pier Luigi Marconi which cured the handling issues and gave the potent TL engine a worthy Latin home.

Mondial Piega Concept
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With a concept bike assembled and ready to unveil at the 2000 Intermot show, Suzuki abruptly backed out of the deal. Mondial had a chassis, but now they didn’t have an engine to power it. In desperation Ziletti asked a personal favour of his friend Oscar Rumi. Rumi was the well-known head of the Team Rumi, which had achieved some notable success in World Superbike with the Honda RC30 and RC45 until the mid-1990s. Ziletti asked Rumi if he could obtain one of Honda’s newly introduced SP-1 (RC-51) V-twins as a placeholder to use in his concept bike for Intermot.

Mondial Piega Concept Intermot 2000
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Given that Honda would frown upon seeing one of their engines in another machine without their express permission, Rumi deferred to the corporate hierarchy and relayed the request to Honda. Ziletti soon learned that old favours were not quickly forgotten in Japan. In respect to Count Boselli’s sale of a Mondial GP machine to Soichiro Honda over 40 years prior, Honda agreed to not only supply Ziletti with a SP-1 engine for Intermot but would step in to replace Suzuki and supply engines for the entire production run. It was an unheard-of partnership. Honda had traditionally refused to supply large engines to outside parties. Any exceptions to this rule (Bimota-Honda hybrids, Rickman chassis, Harris-frame specials, and so on) were the result of privately purchased donor vehicles being sacrificed to supply their powertrains. The resulting Mondial Piega (“Bend” or “Fold”) would be the first machine to use an officially supplied Honda mill.* And their flagship engine, at that. It would be a heartwarming story if it hadn’t involved an all-conquering multi-billion dollar corporation.

Mondial Piega Concept Front
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The SP-1 represented Honda’s attempt to unseat Ducati’s dominance in World Superbike by beating them at their own game. While their previous 750cc V-4 RC30 and RC45 series had been the pinnacle of HRC engineering in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, Honda found that Ducati’s benefitting from a 1000cc displacement limit was enough to keep it ahead of the four-cylinder opposition despite an apparent deficit in peak horsepower. The Bolognese big twins just seemed to have superior traction and tractability that the fours couldn’t match. Honda scrapped the V-4 program in the late 1990s favour of building an all-new V-twin.

Mondial Piega Prototype 2001
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Despite initial beliefs that the SP-1 shared architecture with the 90-degree twin introduced in the VTR1000 in 1997, the truth was that the engine was entirely reworked with the latest in Honda’s racing know-how. Precise gear-driven double-overhead cams, a staple in RC models dating back to the 1984 VF1000R, replaced the chain driven items of the VTR. All-new horizontally split crankcases used wet cylinder liners made of a proprietary ceramic composite that did away with the need for Nikasil plating. A hugely oversquare 100x63.6mm configuration gave a genuine 999cc. That vast bore allowed the fitment of the biggest valves in the class: 40mm intakes paired with 36mm exhausts. With a PGM-FI system feeding 54mm twin-injector throttle bodies, claimed power was 133 HP at 10,000 RPM and 76 lb/ft at 8000 despite a relatively modest 10.8:1 compression ratio, all fed through a close-ratio six-speed gearbox.

Mondial Piega Prototype Front
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Like the RC45 that preceded it, the entire machine was built from the ground up to be a race winner. Unlike the limited-production $27,000 USD RC45, it was affordable: Honda sold the SP-1 RC-51 for a mere $9,999 USD despite it clearly being built to a standard that led to some reviewers suggesting they must be losing money on each one. Every component was designed with racing, not streetability, in mind. The twin spar alloy frame was overbuilt and stiff, the suspension was harsh, the gearing was tall, and the fuel injection was abrupt. Handling was generally good but early models suffered from a twitchy front end that could be easily overwhelmed. Weight was also an issue; at 490 lbs wet, the SP-1 was noticeably heavier than the Ducati 996 it competed with, equalling the Aprilia RSV Mille in porkiness, and surpassed only by the 505-pound gorilla that was the Suzuki TL1000R. The SP-1 was a beastly machine that rewarded skilled riders but punished everyone else, and despite excellent reliability it wasn’t a machine you’d be expected to ride everyday. It was a perfect competitor to the Ducati, in other words, but didn’t seem to fit the template of the refined and easy-to-ride dynamics typical of most Honda sport bikes. It was a brutish cult classic in the making.

Mondial Piega Prototype Suspension and Brakes
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Over at Mondial, initial plans called for some serious in-house engineering to make the Piega a truly world-class machine. Work was underway to develop proprietary six-piston monoblock brake calipers, 45mm forks, a rear shock with high and low speed damping, in-house wheels, a solid carbon-fibre swingarm for racing machines, and a variable-map ECU that would automatically determine the riding conditions and select a pre-set map of varying aggression to suit (though the manner in which the computer would determine those conditions wasn’t revealed). A running prototype featuring some of these in-house components was unveiled in the spring of 2001. The styling was more or less determined but a few of the details appeared half-baked – Ducati mirrors and awkwardly hung underseat exhaust cannons revealed some last-minute scrambling and distracted from the interesting suspension and braking components on display. It seemed like a good effort, but one that was still far from being production ready. Cynical observers waited for the inevitable revelation of Mondial disappearing once again.

Mondial Piega Prototype Swingarm
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The in-house components proved to be overly ambitious for a new company, and none of the came to pass; once production bikes began rolling off the line in 2002, they featured off-the-shelf 46mm Paoli forks, Brembo axial calipers, forged Marchesini wheels, and an Ohlins rear shock. Some reviewers mentioned the multi-map fuel injection but it appeared to be a passive, tunable ECU rather than a dynamic system making changes on the fly (with the promise of owner-downloadable maps available through the internet). Conventional components aside, the pre-production prototypes unveiled in 2002 featured more coherent styling and looked far more finished than the slightly awkward-looking prototype shown in 2001. Progress was being made and the media was starting to take notice. Suddenly it looked like this upstart company using a long-dormant name might not be so ephemeral after all.

Mondial Piega Prototype
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The Piega, named by Ziletti’s four year old son Mario, promised to take the already good SP-1 and make it better in every respect. Everything from the Honda donor was ditched save for the engine, throttle bodies, digital instrument panel, and sidestand. The mandate was for a high-spec sport machine that was designed for performance (and eventually racing) as the primary goal. Good street manners would be incidental.

Roberto Ziletti Mondial Piega Prototype 2001
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The result appeared to be an accountant’s nightmare, the best sort of cost-no-object Latin-Japanese fusion. Styled by Sandro Mor and designed by ex-Aprilia engineer Nicolo Bragagnolo, the Piega replaced the wide beam frame of the SP-1 with a slender, TIG-welded, chromoly vanadium steel trellis. The swingarm was a steel trellis design operating a rising rate linkage, with the framework hidden beneath a carbon-fibre skin. Wheelbase was 55.9 inches with 26 degrees of rake. The subframe was eliminated entirely, replaced by a self-supporting carbon-fibre tail section wrapped around an underseat Arrow exhaust system. There were no pretences or provisions for carrying a passenger. Everything that was made of aluminum was CNC milled, without a single bit of cast or forged alloy present outside of the engine and wheels. Bodywork was produced by Carbon Dream in, no surprise, carbon-fibre with a sleek and sexy design that incorporated a pair of stacked projector beam headlights, before Pierre Terblanche introduced the same feature in his oft-maligned Ducati 999. There were a few awkward lines and some odd proportions, but most observers found the Piega quite striking and it was an exceptionally good effort for a new company, particularly for a machine styled by a hitherto-unknown designer.

Mondial Piega Track
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The engine was internally unchanged and retained the Honda’s 54mm Keihin throttle bodies, but the titanium and stainless steel Arrow exhaust (homologated in Europe but apparently devoid of catalytic converters), a larger carbon-fibre airbox, and revised fuel mapping bumped the claimed output slightly to 138 HP. More importantly an amazing 45 pounds of weight was saved versus the SP-1 donor, with Mondial claiming the Piega weighed 390 lbs dry, a result achieved through the thorough (and costly) application of carbon-fibre and milled aluminum.

Mondial Piega Nera Track
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Retail price was set at 23,900 Euros for the corporate blue and white liveried Piega, 27,000 for the Nero if you preferred your machine clad in naked carbon-fibre. A direct sales model was setup, where “dealer” showrooms served merely as a place to exhibit and service Piegas, with customer orders being fulfilled by Mondial directly through the internet. All components would be produced by outside suppliers with final assembly occurring at the Mondial factory, which was located near the Monza circuit at Villasanta with plans to move to the company’s historical base in Arcore later on.

Mondial Piegas
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High-spec exotics are all well and good on paper, but the real proof is in the riding and despite some initial doubts the Piega appeared to do exactly what it was supposed to – give a lovely, balanced home to a rip-snorting Honda engine. Once production started in 2002, road and track tests revealed that not only was the Piega noticeably quicker than the SP-1, with stable handling that cured the quirks of the donor machine, it was also easier to ride and exhibited none of the fuelling issues that plagued the early Hondas. The chassis performed well enough to earn near-universal praise from most of the early testers. It appeared to be the perfect exotic hybrid: fast, beautiful, and lovely to ride, with a reliable, proven heart in a sorted chassis. The price was exorbitant but largely justified considering the quality of the components and the extremely limited production. The only gripes that commonly appeared was slightly awkward ergonomics owing to the wide 20 litre fuel tank (itself an internally-baffled, aluminum flourish flying in the face of cost-cutting) and the 34 inch seat height that precluded Napoleonesque riders from flat footing at a stop, but the controls were fully adjustable to suit most riders who weren’t fat old gits shoehorned into their leathers. All signs pointed to the Piega being a winner.

This is the point in the story when you will start to think things are going a little too well, where the dream will start to unravel. And you would be right.

Mondial Piega Naked
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Later tests revealed slightly less polish than the early reviews suggested, with sometimes finicky handling and less power than the Honda donor, despite the claimed crankshaft figures being virtually the same and the engines being internally identical. Criticisms that hadn’t surfaced in the preview tests began to filter through. Weird inconsistencies popped up – some testers noted a very quiet exhaust note with the stock pipes, while others found it astonishing that the Piega had passed noise testing at all. Dyno tests showed less horsepower than expected, and the fuel injection performance was occasionally problematic. Meanwhile Honda had updated the RC-51 with the SP-2 in 2002, which corrected many of the faults present in the SP-1 while upping power, reducing weight, and improving driveability – suddenly the Piega had stronger competition from the very machine it was based on. Nobody faulted the quality of the chassis or the component quality, which remained stellar, but things didn’t appear quite as rosy as they had upon the Piega’s launch and not everyone was seduced by the bike’s exotic aura.

Funding problems began to pop up and the business side of the company became increasingly murky. Following Ziletti’s Lastra group acquisition of Mitsubishi’s graphic arts division, Ziletti found himself apparently unable (or unwilling) to deal with the running of Mondial. In early 2003 he was replaced (or, depending on the source, supplanted) by a duo of Swiss investors named Daniel Alismeno and Rafael Alfonso. There were rumours of the company courting Swiss investors for more capital, and hints that they were not successful.

Mondial Piega EVO
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Despite the uncertainty and only having made a few deliveries of the first series of Piegas, several new models were announced. The EVO was an up spec’d Piega featuring 43mm Ohlins forks, Brembo radial calipers, restyled fairings, and revised tuning that bumped the claimed power to 143 hp. A limited run of 100 EVO Ziletti Special Editions were to be produced, featuring a unique paint scheme, a set of custom-fitted leathers, and a hardcover coffee table book detailing the history of Mondial.

Mondial Piega EVO
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Meanwhile two naked models were presented at the 2003 EICMA show: the Starfighter was a Piega stripped naked and restyled by Massimo Zaniboni of Arkema Studio, with a new tail section mounted on a traditional tubular subframe but retaining the clip-ons and aggressive ergonomics of the Piega. The Starfighter wasn’t dumbed down compared to its fully-faired sibling, and featured the same Ohlins suspension and radial brakes found on the EVO as well as identical engine tuning. This was accompanied by the RZ Nuda which was a similarly naked Piega wrapped in styling provided by French company Boxer Design. The Nuda followed traditional streetfighter design elements, like motocross bars and bugfuck ugly projector beam lights yanked off the nearest mid-1990s Honda Civic. If you believed Mondial’s claims circa 2002, the Nuda was intended to be the company’s mass-production model retailing for around 18,000 Euros; it was hoped that up to 800 examples per year would be rolling out of the factory.

Mondial Starfighter
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Across the pond in the United States shady deals were being made by proposed Mondial importer Andrew Wright and his Georgia-based company Superbike Racing Inc. It was an open secret that Wright had a nasty reputation as a fraudster in the motorcycle industry. As the official importer of Benelli, his company ran afoul of the Feds and severed ties with the Benelli factory when the government came asking about bikes possessing EPA certification stickers that didn’t appear to have passed emissions testing; the whole debacle ended with Benelli and Wright engaging in a public shouting match with each party claiming the other was to blame for bungled certification and substandard products. Meanwhile Superbike Racing had made a bad name for itself as the apathetic distributor of Dymag carbon-fibre wheels, with angry customers claiming that Superbike was selling the wrong wheels for specific applications and ham-fistedly modifying parts in dangerous ways. At least one high-profile carbon swingarm failure was blamed on Superbike employees compromising the component though careless modification. Wright was also notorious for having promised prospective owners that he would import MV Agusta F4 models through the grey market to circumvent the long waiting lists during the company’s reintroduction in the late 1990s, taking deposits from numerous customers without delivering bikes. To say his position as Mondial’s US importer was suspicious is an understatement.

Mondial Starfighter
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Then it was all over. In the summer of 2004 Mondial Moto Spa declared bankruptcy and its assets were set to be sold off by the Monza courts. At this point a mere 35 Piegas had been produced, along with two EVOs, one Starfighter, and several prototype Superbike race machines. In the confusion surrounding the proceedings 11 Piegas were stolen by company employees as “compensation” for unpaid wages - potential buyers should note that their VIN numbers remain flagged to this day.

Mondial RZ Nuda Concept
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Andrew Wright claimed that Superbike Racing was due to purchase the tooling and restart production, promising to release a new Mondial powered by an unspecified powerplant by 2007, but the Monza court ended up auctioning 50% of the assets in 2005. Milanese company Biemme, a company run by Piero Caronni who had previously purchased the spares to continue production of the Bimota V-Due, was the winning bidder. The other half of the assets remained in the hands of the Boselli family.

Mondial Nuda Concept Front
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Biemme reformed the company and restarted production of Piegas using the remaining spares in late 2005 under the name Gruppo Mondial S.R.L.; total production numbers vary according to the source, but it appears that Gruppo Mondial produced an additional 85 Piegas (including 10 Nera Edizione Finale models), 7 EVOs, and 14 Starfighters.

Mondial RZ Nuda Concept
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In August 2006 Andrew Wright was sentenced by a US federal jury to serve 27 months in federal prison and pay over 20,000$ in restitution to defrauded customers following a conviction for illegally smuggling vehicles into the United States, in addition to a laundry list of lesser fraud charges. The court documents revealed that Wright had forged documents and certification stickers to make the vehicles he imported appear to be EPA and NHTSA certified before selling them illegally in the US market. Wright fled the United States and went into hiding, but not before sending an email to the Valdosta Daily Times that read in part: “I made plans to remove myself from the U.S.A. a tyrannical country, I carried out my plan with the utmost precision and secrecy. No one was privy to or had any knowledge of what I was about to carry out. As far as my wife was aware I was traveling to Ohio. I waited until she left for work on Wednesday 6th December 2006. I executed my plan with the utmost precision. I was very successful... I realize the seriousness of my situation, after careful consideration am prepared to carry out suicide if that is the only option I have left. You will never take me alive to be tortured in you(sic) death chambers.”

Mondial Piega Prototype
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In November 2012 Roberto Ziletti and Daniel Alismeno were charged by the Italian court with fraudulently declaring the bankruptcy of Mondial Moto Spa and sentenced to pay restitution to former creditors. Both were given prison sentences, which were suspended for those reasons of “amnesty” that somehow only apply to wealthy white businessmen, and were barred from commercial activities for 10 years following the sentence.

Mondial Piega EF
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Mondial has gone dormant once again, their greatest moment remaining in 1957 when Count Boselli gracefully bowed out of competition while the company was at its peak. Those victories remained unequalled despite a genuine attempt to build a world-class superbike and renew the marques’ sporting credentials. Like far too many well-intentioned attempts at resurrecting the dead, the results ended in disappointment, bankruptcy, and court sentences for a colourful cast of characters. Those few Piegas and Starfighters that made it out of the factory remain as a tribute to that vision of what might have been, striking rolling sculpture in the form of the classic Italian hybrid – though it seems unlikely Honda is particularly proud of their involvement, one that represented an attempt to symbolically honour a past favour. It was an unfortunate result, but not one that was surprising. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that a once proud marque gets dragged out of the history books by wealthy investors looking to capitalize on past glories.  

*Bernard Li’s attempt to revive the Vincent name was slated to use the RC-51 engine as well, though Li’s untimely death put an end to the project.

Mondial Piega Edizione Finale Tank
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Interesting Links


3 comments:

  1. Another great read. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. God I love this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Outstanding detailed journalism!

    ReplyDelete