Sixty thousand kilometers in a year, riding a Ducati 175, for adventure, for challenge, to discover. In 1957 Leopoldo Tartarini left for this unique adventure around the world in agreement with Ducati, of which he was the official rider at the time.
In fact, the opportunity to set off to discover the world is due to the convergence of a series of coincidences that Tartarini remembers as follows: "I was competing as a Ducati rider in long-distance competitions such as the Milan-Taranto. For a few years everything worked out perfectly. Then I had a bad accident and I was forced to stop racing. I still had a one-year contract with the Borgo Panigale house, so we decided to exhaust it with some propaganda initiatives, perhaps with an adventurous background. First, I thought about the African circumnavigation, then I raised the bar: why not the world tour? "
The idea was accepted and so Tartarini, who had to look for an adventure companion, contacted his childhood friend Giorgio Monetti, a great motorcycle enthusiast. Which immediately accepts with great enthusiasm.
Travel preparation is a complex thing. An itinerary must be established, taking into account geography, but also the various political situations. “First of all - Tartarini says - it was not possible to cross the Iron Curtain, or China. In short, it took us six months to establish the path. Despite this planning, we could not help but encounter three revolutions: in Iraq, where they hanged King Feisal, in Syria and in Indonesia”.
The two intrepid motorcyclists manage to set off to discover the world on September 30th, 1957. From Bologna they arrive in Trieste, then in Belgrade (Yugoslavia), Thessaloniki (Greece), Istanbul (Turkey), Teheran (Iran), Karachi (Pakistan), Bombay and Delhi (India), Jakarta (Sumatra). By ship, the two reach Borneo, then pass through New Guinea and arrive in Australia, crossing it across its entire width, from Darwin to Sidney. Still on the ship to reach New Zealand, then another crossing to reach Venezuela.
The journey then continues in South America: Caracas (Venezuela), Bogota (Colombia), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Santiago (Chile), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay), Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Another passage by ship and the two reach Dakar. Then, by motorbike, the arrival in Casablanca, Tangier, Gibraltar. Return to Italy via Spain and the French Riviera.
Tartarini and Monetti cross 42 countries. At each stage, the two grow in popularity, with press conferences and journalists ready to steal stories and details about the great adventure.
In Singapore in a club, we got involved in a big fight. Some cadets of the Amerigo Vespucci training ship intervened to help us, which in those days was in the port of Singapore. A scene from Far West - Tartarini remembers today - with bottles, mirrors and tables flying. We were also robbed, on the stage between Iran and Iraq. While we were sleeping in the tent, seven or eight desert raiders arrived, armed to the teeth. They rummaged in our suitcases, grabbed something, then, without saying a word, they left, riding their camels. In Indonesia, we discounted our similarity, at least according to the locals, with the Dutch, who had just been expelled from the newly installed government of Sukarno: the misunderstanding cost us three days in prison, just before Christmas, before clarify the misunderstanding".
And then there are the inconveniences caused by the climate. “In New Zealand we faced a deluge, flooded roads, freezing cold - is the memory of the future founder of Italjet - On the other hand, in Australia we suffered from terrible heat. As we entered the desert the temperature increased, up to 52 degrees Celsius. Following the track, we came across the remains of animals that had died from the heat. It was impossible to travel with those temperatures, so we rested during the day and left at night.
But in the dark it went very slowly. One night a tire got punctured, in the dark I tried to fix it, but when I reached out instead of the key, I grabbed the tail of a lizard who tried to bite me. In Latin America we have known the swamps and it was not exactly pleasant to cross them with the caimans and leeches, both eager to taste our blood!
But the difficulties have never stopped them. The journey, which lasted twelve months, ends in Bologna, in an exultant crowd, on September 5th, 1958. One year later Leopoldo Tartarini will found Italjet Company.