Guareschi Corse Moto Guzzi.

Also see: Guareschi Corse 2 (Videos)

Words and pictures courtesy of Moto Guzzi. Website: 

2018 Varano Project

The name Guareschi instantly conjures up images of the merging of two quite different worlds and two very distinct passions, namely for Moto Guzzi and for bike racing.

This well-known Moto Guzzi dealership in Parma was started back in 1974 by the father of the Guareschi family, Claudio, and his two sons with incredible racing pedigrees: Vittoriano, who raced in the Supersport and Superbike world championships before becoming team Manager in the MotoGP and Moto3, and Gianfranco (A.K.A. “Il Guaro”) who, amongst all his other achievements, also took the amazing Moto Guzzi MGS01 to two legendary wins in the Daytona Battle of Twins in 2006 and 2007.

Two illustrious racing careers that led the boys to storm their way around various circuits half way around the world, without ever keeping them too far removed from the family business and from their shared passion for the Moto Guzzi Eagle, so much so that together they won the 2017 Italian Vintage Endurance Championship on a thundering Moto Guzzi Le Mans.

This success sparked the idea to come up with a plan for a “racing Moto Guzzi”, but this time based on a more modern Griso. Not just a simple “one off”, but rather a fully-fledged racing kit that would be available to anyone who loves to take their Mandello twin out for a spin on the track.

Hence the birth of the “GC Corse” (or “GC Racing”, where “GC” stands for “Guareschi Claudio”): Varano Racing Frame Kit.

According to Vittoriano, “This project represents our desire to be out there on the racetrack on a racing Moto Guzzi. We have done everything we possibly could in the racing world and now that I no longer had to worry about winning a world championship and both of us finally had some peace of mind, we really felt like we wanted to be out there racing on a Guzzi.

While we were preparing the Le Mans for the 2017 Endurance Championship, we realised just how well the bike was running and that we had all the necessary skills and experience to come up with a bike that is both competitive and fun to ride so, as soon as the season ended I began designing, starting from the Moto Guzzi big block.”

According to “Il Guaro”, “The idea of turning it into kit form was inspired by the requests we received from our customers who race Moto Guzzis in various championships. Over the years we have modified their bikes time and time again, one part at a time and entirely in a bespoke manner. All that hard work is now available to anyone in the form of a kit that is not only affordable but also modular, so that each individual rider can fit the various components depending on the level of performance that he wants.”

The “basic” Varano Racing Frame KIT includes a complete frame, a saddle-mounting frame and air box housing (which is none-other than the original Griso one), an instrument-panel mounting frame, a footrest kit, clip-on handlebars, a fuel tank, an oil breather-tank, body panels and a tailpiece and tank cover, all of which can be used in conjunction with any 2- or 4-valve Moto Guzzi big block linked to a 6-speed gearbox and Moto Guzzi’s CARC shaft–drive system. The easiest model to use as a base is obviously the Griso since you can retain many of the bike’s original components, for example the wheel rims, brakes and brake pads, the shock-absorber and the front forks, but the kit can also be adapted for use on the Breva, Norge, Sport 1200 and even the Stelvio models, with an endless range of customisation options available.

“Over a period of 9 months we succeeded in putting together a kit that we’re very happy with, no easy task by any means since both Vitto and I are extremely fussy and demanding guys. The thing that we’re most proud of is that we have been able to come up with an affordable way for many guys to experience the thrill of taking a Moto Guzzi out on the track. Make no mistake, this is still a Moto Guzzi, but with the kind of performance you might expect from an upgraded MGS01, or at least from one of its direct descendants. In fact, we were keen to maintain the Moto Guzzi tradition and identity both in terms of lines and technical features, starting with a tubular-steel trellis frame that harks back to the classic Tonti frame.

The best part of any Moto Guzzi is obviously the way it rides. We began conducting initial track-tests back in March. Since then, we have made quite a few changes and we now have an end-product that is a perfect blend of manoeuvrability and stability and the feel and predictability of a modern racing bike, combined with the unique features of this engine. The bike gives you an incredible feeling of safety, irrespective of whether you’re just riding for fun or pushing the bike to the absolute limit, and we can certainly vouch for the fact that we’ve tried the latter too, right Vitto?”

“You bet! We took the bikes to the last two legs of the 2018 “Trofeo Guzzi” and “Gentleman Cup” races and came away with 1st and 2nd place overall at Adria in September and 1st, 2nd, and 5th places at Misano in October.

For us, this project was not only a way of combining our respective experience and passions, but also the missing link in terms of fulfilling one of our dad Claudio’s dreams. The passion for Moto Guzzi is something that is very hard to explain, but in our case it’s undeniably a family trait. Many of our friends in the Guzzi community display this passion out on the road every day, while we have chosen to display it out on the track as well, but all that really matters is that this very same passion is what unites us all!”

2020 GC Corse Project

Let us start with the bike: what is the origin of this beast?
“This GC Corse is a different expression of the “Varano Kit” fairing with which we dominated the 2019 season of the Gentleman Cup, winning all the races and even putting three bikes on the podium in the Magione race. Once we proved that the bike worked on the track, we said to ourselves: why confine it between the kerbs? So, from the idea to take the substance of this bike to another area, closer to the road, the naked version was born that we presented at the Motor Bike Expo in Verona.

It was still a prototype version, with half-handlebars and superstructure in aluminium, now the fairings are full carbon and to adapt it to Stefano we fitted a wide “Griso” style handlebar. The result is a modern naked, muscular but with some retro sport elements. If you think about it, the original Superbike were like this, with the wide handlebar, and the races of the origins, the ones where Moto Guzzi dominated up to 1957, were held on road circuits. In short, even if the “outfit” is different, the philosophy and heart remain those of the Varano kit. In this case, the engine is a Griso style 4-valve, prepared like you do for a real racing engine, bringing the displacement to 1310 cc (the maximum allowed by the regulations) and coupling it with a custom-made exhaust system.

We’re talking about 136 HP at the wheel at 7,500 rpm and 144 Nm at 5,300 rpm, respectable numbers, even for a GC Corse.”

And where did the idea to race in the Italian Hill Climb Time Trial Championship come from?
“First of all, we have to say that in Moto Guzzi’s DNA uphill races already existed, as part of a somewhat recent past. Just think of the V11 Ballabio, a version celebrating the victory of the historic Guzzi test rider Cesare “Cecco” Micheli at the Ballabio-Pian dei Resinelli hill climb of 2002 with the V11 Sport. But our approach, I must admit, was almost by chance.

We’ve known Stefano since he raced with my brother and me in Sport Production in the ‘90s. He comes from a family of bikers and above all he is from Parma like us. If someone from your own city wins 19 Italian titles you cannot help but follow him, but we had never thought of doing something together. It all began when we met him in person here at our dealership in the winter of 2019, through common friends. We had a friendly chat and he was almost leaving when he saw the GC Corse we were preparing for MBE; 30 seconds later, we were already asking him: “What if we make a naked bike for you to race?”

From an idea to the race debut… to the next season?
“The GC Corse is a nice change for him from the Triumph Street Triple he used before, and between Covid-19 and other issues this year, he managed to do very few tests and only two races in September. That 2nd place, however, made us understand that we are on the right track. We like working with people who are on our wavelength in terms of passion and ambition, but also for the ability to have fun. It’s a job but it also has to be fun, and Stefano took on the project with exactly this spirit. But we are still racers, so for 2021 we’re going to start out fierce, aiming to tackle the whole Italian championship in the top category, the 1000 Superbike, and to rank first. We’re talking about four-cylinder 1000 cc supersport bikes driven by the best Italian road racing specialists. It won’t be easy, but we have the whole winter ahead of us to get ready. My brother and I continue to develop the bike, with Stefano adapting and getting into symbiosis with it. I’m sure it will be a great adventure both for us and for the Eagle fans.”

Interview with STEFANO MANICI:
What prompted you, after nine winning years with the same bike, to take up this challenge?
“2019 was an important year for me. My 19th Italian title, the 11th consecutive, won with 19 as my race number (my idol was Freddie Spencer): in short, a milestone. I’ve been racing for almost thirty years, and I felt satisfied, and after nine years in a row of wins with the same bike, I was losing a bit of motivation. I had thought about doing a few more races but nothing more unless the right kind of stimulus came along. And then it came with that question the Guareschis asked me at the end of 2019.

Consider that no one has ever provided me with the bike; I simply couldn’t ignore this expression of esteem and trust. In addition, I had never raced with a twin-cylinder, much less with a Moto Guzzi, which meant lots of unknowns but a lot of curiosity.
Then there was winter, in February the lockdown with the championship postponed, so we were all busy thinking about other things and honestly, I imagined that the thing wouldn’t materialise. Then I got a phone call from the Guareschis, who confirmed that they were going ahead with the work, even though slowed down, and finally, in June, I got the call saying the bike was ready!”

What was the first impact with the GC Corse like?
“When I finally started it up for the first time and I felt that sideways shudder when I opened the throttle, I must admit that I thought, ‘How can I race with a bike like this?’ Then as soon as I could test it, first on a small track and then on a road closed to traffic, I realised I had a special vehicle in my hands. On the straights at first, I didn’t seem to reach great speeds. The real surprise was the first uphill hairpin bends: in the race you confront slopes up to 8% and with the low end torque this bike has it seems like being on level ground, there’s practically no difference. Of course, going from the three-cylinder 675 cc to the GC for me meant having to relearn everything. To understand the different weight distribution, to learn how to take advantage of the torque at low and middle revs instead of the acceleration, use the engine brake, which can be really important when braking uphill. And finally, I’m understanding that Guzzi bikes have their own particular character, like the Guaro says: you have to drive them like they want, if you try to force them they become beasts that aren’t much fun and don’t forgive you; instead, if you follow them, they give you magnificent satisfaction.”

In fact, satisfaction arrived with the 2nd place win in September!
“Maybe it could have come even earlier. The first double race weekend was postponed to August. Just think that I had already been in the car for a few hours headed toward the site, leaving at four in the morning, when I got the news that a member of my team had tested positive for Covid-19. I had no choice but to go back home and do the necessary tests. So, my first appointment became the one at the end of September with the races at Pieve Santo Stefano, on the Passo dello Spino.

Saturday, I admit, was really hard. The asphalt was half dry and half wet, and with the Friday tests skipped and the bike still in the prototype phase I practically had to do adaptation experiments during the race. At the end of the first day, I brought home a 7th place at five and a half seconds from a specialist like Stefano Bonetti, on one of the fastest tracks in the panorama of Italian races, where the sport 4-cylinders are favoured.

If it had happened last year, I might have skipped the Sunday race because of the disappointment, but this year I decided to put myself on the line, so I rolled up my sleeves, taking advantage of the first day, participating and winning the Trofeo Crono Climber category of regularity, to do as many km as possible on the bike.
On Sunday the weather changed, and the pouring rain gave me a good feeling. I did nothing but try to be “smooth”, using the low-end torque of the twin-cylinder and limiting the gear changes on the bends that the day before had given me some traction problems. I didn’t realize I was fast in the first heat until I went down to the paddocks and they told me I was 1st, having trimmed three seconds from Bonetti. The second heat went equally smoothly, and I closed in 3rd, despite an improvement of two-tenths. In a situation of equal points, the first place of Race 2 was given to the rider with the best heat, even though considering the times I would have been 1st. Anyway, I was satisfied: a podium in the second race and a heat won. A great feeling. But unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Loading the bike in the rain at the end of the day, I injured my shoulder, serious enough to have to give up the last round of the year. So that’s how my season ended.”

Let’s talk about next year. What are your expectations? What are the biggest challenges?
“First of all, I’m hoping for a normal season, in which I can gradually improve my performance, both mine and the bike’s. On a technical level, the bike is already doing well. There are some aspects we can work on, like the weight, which is approaching that of the bike I rode before, or the gearbox, that could benefit from an electronic shifter. As for me, I found the stimuli that I was looking for and I think that we can have a good season in 2021, when we have fun showing that a Moto Guzzi can finish ahead of the 1000 Superbikes.

Already the fact of the wide handlebars, in this category, is a particular choice: racing with a bike like the GC Corse is even more intriguing. At the paddock lots of people came to look at it and asked, ‘What the heck is this?’ They’re going to have the opportunity to find out, I have no doubt.”

Stefano, what’s special about uphill races?
“I love everything about motorbikes, and in the past I also raced in other disciplines too, but in some races you don’t even know who’s next to you in the paddock and the spectators are made up of family members and insiders. In uphill races we are all friends, and the audience is everything! I’ve been in races with 10,000 people watching, just like car rallies were – and a bit still are. I also find that there is something special about racing in people’s home places, instead of having people come to your home. A little boy comes by, an old man comes by, a fan comes by; everybody’s interested because they are involved, even if it’s just because you’re racing on the road that they travel in the morning to go buy milk at the dairy.

There’s still that bread and the engines of the past. You can afford to go with your family, your children, your dog, and maybe, with the excuse of being there, you can also go to visit some special place in this magnificent country of Italy. For me it’s a bit like going on holiday. In fact, I have to thank my family-run team: they help me in everything and if I’ve continued to race for 30 years it’s because they’ve always been by my side.

We’ve had some dark years, with newspapers not talking about the discipline, as if it didn’t exist, but in recent years a new scene has opened up. The participants are there, in part for the costs – just think that with a set of tyres you can do two weekends of racing – and in part for the passion it arouses, which was still felt even in this year of restrictions. After Pieve Santo Stefano, the news of the race came out in several sports papers and what impressed the journalists most was the fact that I raced with a Moto Guzzi, albeit heavily modified. I like to think that it’s a good sign for both the sport and the brand. For this we must thank the Guareschis, the real creators of the return of the Eagle to racing.”

So, we have to conclude the interview, would you like to leave a message to the Guzzi community? “I’m tiptoeing into the world of Guzzi passion, but I’ve already had a lot of evidence of how strong and widely felt it is. I think about a friend who’s a Guzzi fan who, when he found out I was going to race with GC Corse, almost had tears in his eyes. I think about this interview, and the unexpected request flattered me and made me reflect on how many people are entrusting a piece of the sporting honour of the Eagle to me. I hope to be able to keep that honour high, and even more, I hope to meet lots of passionate Guzzisti on the tracks of my next races. You are all officially invited!”