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1995 Benelli Racing Evocation
Benelli Racing Evocation

Benelli returned to the 250cc Grand Prix Class in 1959, having won the 1950 250cc World Championship in 1950 with Dario Ambrosini, with a revised version of their well proven, although slightly dated twin cam single. However, even as that machine was making its debut a twin cam four cylinder machine was in development. The new machine followed the established pattern for Italian racing fours of the period in virtually all respects and would make its competition debut at the 1962 Imola Gold Cup races. The rest of the season was marked by disappointment and occasional hints at the potential of the new machine. Grassetti beat the works Honda's of Tom Phillips and Jim Redman at Cesentatico and kept the Morini of Provini "honest" at a number of meetings but also suffered from the inevitable failures that occur with a new design.

Over the next three season's development of the 250cc four continued, resulting in Tarquinio Provini, who had joined the Benelli team for 1964, winning both the 1965 and 1966 Italian Senior Championship titles as well as taking a well deserved victory in the 1965 Italian Grand Prix. Of equal note was the appearance at the same meeting of a 350cc class machine, initially displacing 322cc, later increasing to 343cc which was joined in 1967 by a 500cc four, that won on its debut at Modena, piloted by Renzo Pasolini who had replaced Provini as Benelli's lead rider following Provini's retirement in 1966.

Benelli were now in the enviable position of having competitive four cylinder machines in three Grand Prix classes; however they also had a desperate need of riders, this was not wholly addressed until the 1969 season when Kel Carruthers joined the team alongside Pasolini. With two regular world class riders the team were able to mount a strong challenge for the 250cc World Championship which Carruthers eventually won, giving Benelli their second 250cc World Championship.

Although the team had focused on the 250cc class they did not neglect the 350 and 500cc classes, with riders such as Mike Hailwood and Phil Read being employed at different times to ride the 500cc. Unfortunately, 1969 also marked the high water mark for the company, the declining domestic motorcycle market resulted in the Benelli family selling a controlling interest in the company to Allessandro de Tomaso. Although the team would continue to enter machines in Grand Prix's on an occasional basis they would never again mount a sustained campaign to challenge for a title.

The acquisition of an original 413cc Benelli four and the subsequent loan of an original frame and engine from Benelli collector Giancarlo Morbidelli provided the information required for three examples of the 500cc (actual displacement 413cc) and two 350cc replicas to be manufactured by George Beale Motorcycles during the mid 1990's, this bike being one of them. Following its purchase in 1995 this example was paraded at the Isle of Man by ex TT Riders Association Secretary Allan Robinson MBE and also appeared at Assen during 1998 with Walter Villa in the saddle. The engine was rebuilt during 2004, at which time a new crankshaft was fitted, by Leo O'Reiley Motorcycles and has not been used since.

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