Benelli 250-350 1968
At the international circuit at Mi-lano Marittima that year,
Giuseppe Mandolini fell, and the Guzzi 500 went back into retirement.
Benelli 250-350 Four-cylinder
Benelli won its first world title with the 250 single-cylinder two-shaft model
in 1950. But later, after the death of Dario Ambrosini, it took less interest in
speed racing. In 1958 the company decided to go back into official racing. Again
it turned to the fantastic single-cylinder, but now there was a host of
committed rivals. The Benelli single-cylinder soon showed its limitations and
In 1962 Benelli went back into racing again with a new 250, a
four-cylinder model this time, thus passing from the traditional to the
avant-garde in a single step. The four-cylinder formula had been advocated by
Gilera and MV Agusta since the beginning of the world championship and was
followed by Honda when the Japanese company went to Europe.
The Benelli 250 four-cylinder was ridden by Silvio Grassetti
in its racing debut. He won his second race in 1962, at the Cesenatico
International Circuit. But the old single-cylinder Morini kept the Benelli in
check. Until the end of 1963 the Benelli and the Morini fought it out in Italian
250-class racing. The Benelli four-cylinder was continually improved, but it
never succeeded in overcoming the opposition of the Morini.
Benelli got Morini's racing ace, Tarquinio Pro-vini, but even
that was not enough.
In 1964 the improvements made on the vehicle bore fruit. Provini won the
Barcelona Grand Prix and turned in fine placings in the world championship. But
again the championship went to a Morini, which was driven by Giacomo Agostini.
In 1965 the Benelli 250 four-cylinder became the Italian
champion, aided by Morini's retirement from racing. The motorcycle drove a
modest world championship, but it won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza under a
torrential rain, coming in ahead of the Yamaha four-cylinder two-stroke driven
in its debut by Phil Read. Meanwhile Benelli had also prepared a 350
four-cylinder model. At first it was simply an enlarged 250. Later a new engine
was built. Tarquinio Pro-vini began riding the new 350 in mid-1966. His high
hopes for the motorcycle were dashed when he had a bad fall at the Tourist
Trophy trials, resulting in his retirement from racing.
Then Benelli hired Renzo Pasolini as its new official driver.
Pasolini had made his debut in the 500 class by winning at Vallelunga with an
enlarged Benelli 350 sixteen-valve model. He introduced the new vehicle, which
had 491-cc. displacement, at Modena in the opening race of the 1967 season.
Pasolini won, beating out Agostini's MV by a nose.
Thus began one of motorcycle racing's most interesting rivalries—Benelli versus
MV Agusta and Pasolini versus Agostini. In the races held along the Adriatic
coast, Pasolini often beat his rival, especially in the 350 class, where
Benelli's engine was better tuned. But in the world championship it was Agostini
who led the way.
This constant challenge resulted In significant improvements
in the Benelli 250 and 350. The vehicles were made lighter and more powerful,
but not enough to face Grand Prix competition. In 1968 Renzo Pasolini came in
second in the 350-class world championship. The following year the Japanese
manufacturers withdrew and Benelli concentrated all its efforts in the 250
class, preparing a very competitive four-cylinder vehicle.
The first world championship Grand Prix was won that year by
the new single-cylinder two-stroke Ossa ridden by Santiago Herrero. The second
race was won by Kent Andersson's semiofficial Yamaha. The third race went to the
surprising Ossa 250. At the Tourist Trophy, the fourth race of the season, the
Australian racer Kel Carruthers (replacing the injured Pasolini) rode the
Benelli to first place. This was the company's first major victory since the
1965 Italian Grand Prix.
Pasolini came back after recovering from his injury and won in Holland, East
Germany, and Czechoslovakia. In Finland he had another accident. Carruthers won
in Ireland and Yugoslavia, and Benelli had its second world title (Ambrosini had
won one in 1950).
Motorcycle: Benelli 250-350 Four-cylinder Manufacturer: Moto
Benelli, Pesaro Type: Racing Years: 1968, 1969
Engine: Benelli four-cylinder, in-line, transverse, four-stroke, with two-shaft
overhead geared distribution, four valves per cylinder. Displacement 246.3 cc.
(44 mm. x 40.5 mm.—250); 343.1 cc. (51 mm. X 42 mm.—350)
Transmission: Eight-speed block (250); seven-speed block (350)
Power: 50 h.p. at 16,000 r.p.m. (250); 64 h.p. at 14,500 r.p.m. (350)
Maximum speed: About 150 m.p.h. (250); over 160 m.p.h. (350)
Chassis: Double cradle, continuous, tubular. Front and rear, telescopic
Brakes: Front, central drum, four shoes, four-cam; rear, central drum, two-cam.