Carlo Ubbiali in 1950 on FB-Mondial.

Part 2 about the history of the first MV Agusta works rider

After finishing fourth in the world championship for MV in the first year of the motorcycle world championship, Carlo switched to the reigning world champion manufacturer FB-Mondial. Despite the departure of world champion Nello Pagani to Gilera, Ubbiali had very strong competition in his own team for the 1950 season. The season opener didn’t go as planned. At the beginning of May he took part in the very popular Milano-Taranto race with 120 other drivers. A leading road race over 1,300 km.

Driving in steep bank curves, on routes like AVUS, the “Wuppertaler Zementbahn” and Monza, there were such elevated curves in the first post-war years and more were built. On the other hand, races like Milan-Taranto took place on public roads that were not cordoned off, until this nonsense came to an end due to the too frequent accidents.

Bad luck at the Milan-Taranto race
Although he was the first to cross the finish line with his 125cc Mondial, he was then disqualified. What exactly was supposed to be wrong with his bike can no longer be said with certainty today. At the Austrian Grand Prix on June 11, 1950, which was not part of the world championship, Carlo drove the fastest lap in the 125 cc class. But in the end it was only fourth place behind Josef Harburger (A), Biaggio Nocchi (I) and Norbert Fehr (A). It was a start of the season to be forgotten and unfortunately things couldn’t get any better at the first Grand Prix in the Netherlands.

F. B. Mondial advertisement with the world championship title from 1949 in the 125 cm³ class and the reference to the three street models related to the racing bike. Interestingly, the Italians already had different models on the same technical basis. When the Japanese factories began to flood the global motorcycle market in the 1960s, there was only one version for a long time. The initials F.B. Incidentally, were an abbreviation for Fratelli Boselli (the Boselli brothers).

The factory teams of the 1950 motorcycle world championship

(Hersteller = manufacturer / Kategorie should be clear / Fahrer = rider/driver). Only Italian and British brands in the second year of the motorbike racing world Championship.

False start for Ubbiali at the Dutch GP
Carlos’ team-mate Bruno Ruffo won the 125cc Grand Prix of the Dutch TT in Assen ahead of Mondial team-mate Gianni Leoni. Morini driver Giuseppe Matucci completed the podium. Places 4 and 5 went to Umberto Braga (FB-Mondial) and MV driver Felice Benasedo. Local hero Gijis Lagerweij won the first 125cc world championship point since the introduction of the motorcycle world championship was held by a non-Italian. The Dutchman drove a Sparta, one of the innumerable makes that were not to survive for a long time. At least as far as the motorcycle production of the company from the land of tulips is concerned, from 1982 only bicycles were made.

Gianni Leoni, Carlos’ team-mate, on his FB-Mondial finished second in the Netherlands.

No Championship points for the disappointed Northern Italian
Carlo Ubbiali missed out points in Assen and had to hope for the second of only 3 world championship rounds of the 125 series. His Mondial forced him to give up at the Dutch TT. After the first GP podium last year, it was a bitter disappointment for the young man from Bergamo. With only 3 world championship races, his chances of winning the title were as good as gone.

The various layouts up to 2006 from the “Destination of Speed”, as the racetrack is called today. The Assen Circuit from 1926 to 1954 – a typical street circuit like most of the tracks back then. Today’s much shorter circuit is in the area of “Oude Tol”, which translates as “old toll”.
Our photo from the last Assen GP 2019, which did not take place the following year due to the corona pandemic. Since 1950 the visitors have only grown wider, but certainly not smarter.

125cc World Championship round 2 of 3 – the Northern Ireland GP
After the Swiss Grand Prix, which this time was held in Geneva, the GP circus performed on the Clady Circuit on the Clady Circuit. In Geneva, however, the 125 series had a break. The smallest class was just as little advertised there as at the start of the season on the Isle of Man and then at the Belgian GP in Spa-Francorchamps. The Ulster GP was the second of only 3 rounds of the 125cc World Championship and Carlo should never forget that day in his life.

Carlo’s breakthrough at the Ulster Grand Prix
Ubbiali drove the fastest lap and took the first GP victory of his life on August 18, 1950. While this time his Mondial team-mate Gianni Leoni had bad luck and his engine died, Bruno Ruffo, the third top driver in the group, took second place. What was particularly strange about this Grand Prix was the fact that only the two Mondial drivers were rated. No other pilot had reached the target except for the two of them. But Ubbiali couldn’t care less, he had beaten the winner of the first round of the World Cup in Assen and really deserved his triumph.

Bruno Ruffo – the 250 cc world champion from 1949. His first 125cc title was almost guaranteed after a win and second place in only three races after the Ulster GP.
Peter von Loewis from Fischbeck, died in July 1950 after a fatal crash on his 500cc Norton in a left turn while training for the Schottenring race. He had already won at the Hockenheimring and in Tübingen and had a contract as works rider for the next year in his pocket. Ubbiali was to lose many comrades, even from his own team, in the coming years The young driver fled from the Baltic States in World War II was known to be very friendly and helpful. He lived far too briefly in a time when people had almost nothing, but competitors indeed helped each other..

The season finale in Monza
Carlo didn’t have a long journey to the third and last World Championship run of the 125cc class in Monza. Even then you could cover this distance in less than an hour. While Bruno Ruffo was the favorite for the world title, Ubbiali and Leoni still had outsider chances. But Ruffo shouldn’t have reached the goal for that and that’s exactly what he did at the Nations GP with fourth place. Gianni Leoni won the race, while Carlo claimed the fastest lap and finished second behind it. Third behind the two Mondial drivers was Luigi Zinzani on Morini. Ranks 5 and 6 also went to two Italians, Raffaele Alberti (FB-Mondial) and Emilio Soprani (Morini).

The racetrack from Monza after the war damage was restored from 1949 had a fairly simple layout. Except Barcelona from 1952 to 1954, the final always took place here in the first 11 years of the motorcycle world championship from 1949.

Vice-world title for Ubbiali
Behind Bruno Ruffo, his two teammates Carlo Ubbiali and Gianni Leoni became vice world champions ex aequo. The regulations had changed for the first time compared to 1949. Otherwise Carlo would have become the sole runner-up champion with one point more than Leoni, because the fastest lap was awarded one year before with an additional World Championship point. But the young man from Bergamo still had the future ahead of him. Back then, nobody could have guessed how often he would be on top of the podium and how many titles he would still win. In any case, Ubbiali did not have to regret the decision to switch to Mondial. The best MV pilot Felice Benasedo was only seventh in the final score with just 2 World Championship points. In the first years of the motorcycle world championship, against FB-Mondial was simply no chance to win.

FB-Mondial 125 cm³ from 1950 – this year again the measure of all things in racing.

125 cc drivers world championship 1950

After only the first 6 drivers of a race were able to win championship points at that time, here are also the drivers who finished 7th to 10th in a GP (with the country codes customary at the time):
Dario Ambrosini (I, Morini), Franco Bertoni (I, MV Agusta), Romolo Ferri (I, Morini), Tonnie Heinemann (NL, Eysink), Renato Magi (I, MV Agusta), Dick Renooy (NL, Eysink), Antonio Ronchei (I, MV Agusta), Toon van Zutphen (NL, Eysink).

125cc constructors World Championship 1950

The 1951 season with Ubbiali’s first world title

Carlo Ubbiali remained loyal to Mondial after his runner-up World Cup title in 1950 and his employer shouldn’t regret it either. The GP of Spain was added to the calendar. The 1951 season kick-off took place on the street circuit in Montjuic Park in Barcelona. The 125cc class was also part of the program, which is why Montesa, the first Spanish manufacturer, took part in the World Cup. Finally there were 4, instead of only three laps in the smallest class. But this time too, the riders from Germany were not allowed to participate in the motorcycle world championship for the last time. Therefore, of course, no works from Germany took part in the World Cup. Also due to the venues, the world championship was still more of a rather reduced European championship, with fewer rounds than at the EM before World War II.

The 3 GP winners of the smaller classes at the Ulster GP 1950, from left: Bob Foster (350 cm³), Maurice Cann (250 cm³) and Carlo Ubbiali (125 cm³) after his first GP victory his still young career.

Factory teams of the 1951 motorcycle world championship

The German manufacturers and drivers are shown in italics because they were still not eligible to participate for the third year in a row. But a season later this should finally change. This created real competition in all classes for the first time from 1952. The 1951 season was still an “Italian-Spanish championship”, with Montesa clearly lacking competitiveness. In this respect, everything stayed the same in the third year of the World Championship and the Italians were able to negotiate the title among themselves. At that time, however, this did not change anything about FB-Mondial’s superiority.

Significantly more manufacturers took part in the third year of the World Cup than in the previous year.

Podium for Ubbiali at the 1951 season opener
Guido Leoni won the race on the course in the Montjuic Park of Barcelona, which is new for most Grand Prix drivers. Carlo followed his teammate in second place in front of Morini drivers Vincenzo Zanzi and Raffaele Alberti (FB-Mondial). For the latter and the winner, this should be the last GP of their lives. A short time later, the two fell victim to a pile-up at the 125cc race on the Circuito di Ferrara on May 6, 1951. Three years later, Ubbiali was to win this race when it was held for the last time after a break.

Layout of the 1950s and 60s route from Montjuic Park.
Today’s photograph of Montjuic Park with the city of Barcelona on the left and the port on the right. The route from then was a dangerous road circuit, which is why the Jarama racetrack became the venue for the Spanish GP from 1969.

The TT premiere for Carlo Ubbiali
For the first time, the smallest class made a guest appearance on the Isle of Man in 1951. It was the Tourist Trophy premiere for Carlo, and he knew how dangerous the road course was. The highly dangerous route had already claimed over 30 deaths before its premiere. One can assume that Ubbiali went about his task with due respect. Otherwise, he would hardly have become the last surviving participant in the first motorcycle world championship season when he died in June 2020.

Route map of the more than 60 km long Mountain Course on the Isle of Man. 1951 should be remembered as a particularly black TT season. On the course, also known as the Snaefell Circuit, no fewer than five English racing drivers were killed in their falls.

Be quick without dying was the motto of that time
In the first decades of motorcycle racing, the motto of riding with controlled risk was absolutely vital. It won a Mondial in the 125cc class. But it was local hero Cromie McCandless who won the race ahead of Ubbiali, Gianni Leoni and Nello Pagani. A total triumph for the brand from Italy with the first 4 places. With Juan Soler Bultó and José Maria Llobet two Spaniards got the remaining ranks 5 and 6 on Montesa, for which there were still World Cup points at that time.

Not all crashes at the TT were as minor as they were for this driver in a photo taken in 1951. Carlo Ubbiali was aware of this and drove intelligently but still fast. The reward for this was a second place in his first race in the 125 cc class on the Isle of Man.

The second half of the 1951 season
Ubbiali came to Assen as World Cup leader, but he was supposed to leave the Netherlands without any points. This time the victory went to Gianni Leoni, Carlo’s team-mate, ahead of Luigi Zinzani (Morini) and Leslie Graham (MV Agusta). Carlo had bad luck at the Dutch TT and did not see the checkered flag. After he was still in the lead at the beginning, he fell back to 3rd place in the third lap and shortly afterwards lost his chances of a top position due to a fall. For this reason, team-mate Leoni was able to catch up with him in the intermediate championship ranking.

Report from a German magazine about the preparation of NSU and BMW to participate in the World Championship from 1952. Only from then should the World Championship deserve this name. Because from then on there were no more excluded nations.
Races were also held on the other side of the Adriatic in 1951. Here is a report from the race on the Preluk track near Opatija, directly at the coast, where Grand Prix races were later held in what was then Yugoslavia (today Croatia).

Carlo’s first teammate to have a fatal accident
Just a little over a month later, Leoni, the third FB-Mondial pilot, was to die within just 3 months on the Clady Circuit in Northern Ireland. The year 1951 was bewitched for the team. In his home race at the end of the season in Monza, Ubbiali took victory in front of his new Mondial team-mate Romolo Ferri and Luigi Zanzi (Morini). It was done, Carlo had secured his first world championship title! Cromie McCandless was only fourth in the 125 cm³ GP of Nations, with which he took third place in the World Cup final ranking behind Gianni Leoni as posthumously declared vice world champion.

Gianni Leoni († August 15, 1951) – the 125 cm³ vice world champion from 1950 (together with Ubbiali) and 1951 (posthumously). The 1951 race at the Clady Circuit (northwest of Belfast) was a bad start for Italian motor racing. With Sante Geminiani and Gianni Leoni (both in training of the 250 cm³ class) two racing drivers from the country of origin of pizza lost their lives.

Extension of the contract with FB-Mondial for 1952 and most important successes in 1951
After two successful years at Mondial, Carlo Ubbiali renewed his contract after first world title. His track record of 1951 was more than impressive, here is a summary of the most important successes in his second Mondial season:

  • April 8th: 2nd place behind Guido Lorenzi at the GP of Spain (World Championship round).
  • April 25th: Victory on the Circuito Motociclistico Modena
  • May 6th: Leadership in the 125 cc race in Ferrara, canceled after an accident.
  • June 6th: 2nd place behind McCandless at the Ulster GP (championship round).
  • July 22nd: Victory in the national race from Bra to the Italian championship.
  • September 9: Victory at the World Cup final in Monza, GP of Nations.
  • Italian 125cc champion 1951.
  • World champion 125 cm³ 1951.

125 cc driver world championship 1951

After only the first 6 drivers of a race were able to win championship points at that time, here are also the drivers who finished 7th to 10th in a GP (with the country codes customary at the time):
Felice Benasedo (I, FB-Mondial), Franco Bertoni (I, MV Agusta), L. Caldecutt (GB, BSA), Wout de Greef (NL, Grefa/Villiers), H. Grindley (IRL, DMW), E. Hardy (GB, Dot), Tonnie Heinemann (NL, Eysink), R. Holton (GB, Pankhurst), Dick Renooy (NL, Eysink), “Setroc” (E, MV Agusta), Ton van Zutphen (NL, Eysink), W. Wierda (NL, Eysink), Gianfranco Zanzi (CH, FB-Mondial), W. Zylaad (NL, MV Agusta).

125cc constructors World Championship 1951

Part 3: