Featured: Up Close And Personal With A Special, Modified Moto Guzzi

Up Close And Personal With A Special, Modified Moto Guzzi

By Jacopo Villa
August 28, 2015

Photography by Rosario Liberti

For some strange reason, if you want to win a motorcycle road race, you’ll almost always need a Japanese 4-cylinder or a Ducati.

Sometimes, however, air cooled, pushrod, big bore and shaft-drive twins can win big races. If properly developed, a traditional twin cylinder motorcycle can inflict a serious blow to more modern or powerful competition. Torque helps a lot: in my experience in riding motorcycles, having a full-bodied low rpm response rather than revving all the way up to 6-8,000 RPM always means better engine response and tractability.

Brands that are considered old and antiquated like Harley Davidson and Moto Guzzi have a potential that is most of the time restrained by odd company regulations, lack of product development, or little interest by the management of introducing new exciting motorcycles. Harley and Guzzi have a long history of racing, which is often overshadowed by lifestyle marketing campaigns or simply forgotten by many motorcyclists. In particular, the competitive story of Moto Guzzi is long and glorious, just like Harley Davidson, Buell, and many more. Guzzis, in particular, have always been regarded by its fans as among the most “competitive” motorcycles in history.

In the mad world of bikes, , the idea of racing a Moto Guzzi has always been labeled as a visionary dream of passionate people rather than a clever or an interesting choice. After Dr. John Wittner, the factory wasn’t interested in supporting racing anymore, and any official competition program was suspended. You can say that there was the MGS-01 in the early 2000s, but that was a program that was cancelled before long.

The MGS-01 was the last of the breed of pure supersports coming out of Mandello, and perhaps the last bike inspired by Dr. Wittner’s efforts, and the last true supersport Guzzi. Despite the Factory has stopped producing sportsbikes, there is still someone left in this world who hasn’t given up on racing big twins from Mandello. This is Ghezzi & Brian, an Italian firm dedicated to all things Guzzi and to build transformation kits for regular production twins to turn them into real art pieces. One bike that caught my interest is named the “Dr. John Tribute”.

As I told you at the beginning of the article, some stories are too good to end. To meet with the continuation of the history of racing Guzzis, I met with Bruno Saturno at the San Martino del Lago Circuit in the province of Cremona, in order to have a chat with him. Oscar Bacco, the owner of the Dr .John Tribute bike, was also able to give his impressions of this rare machine.

From which platform do you start building the bike?

BS: It can be built from an EVO 11 or a 1100 Sport and can be bolted on the bike without touching anything. You can bolt them or unbolt them as you want. The kit is made out of fiberglass and includes an auxiliary frame to have a single seater tail.

Do you make other modifications to the bike?

BS: No, we never change the engine, even if this may change from customer to customer. We can do a bike under specific request from the owner. This one in particular has only the open carbon fiber exhausts, but that’s it. This bike is owned by Oscar Bacco. In his own philosophy, he prefers to leave the engine stock because he wants it not to break soon. He races as a gentleman and prefers to keep things durable.

OB: Let’s just say it’s enough for me! My bike is 40 kg lighter than the standard 1100 Sport. With a stock 90 horsepower (which is now around 100 with the open exhaust) engine, you obtain a great increase in performance. I admit that Hondas and Ducatis have more power, but this one can keep up with no problems.

Guzzis are generally behind Japanese bikes because they do not have an upgrade every year. Regardless, a well developed Twin can keep up with no problems with a Honda.

When did you have the idea of making this kit?

BS: Me and Oscar wanted to pay our tribute to Dr. John, because we felt that his story had to be told. It is a person I feel really close to myself because we lived almost the same events, and it wasn’t right that his deeds had been forgotten. We made this bike to remember his victories and avoid putting the word end to what happened in the past.

Bruno, when did you start Ghezzi & Brian?

BS: About 20 years ago. We started out as a simple shop than we slowly acquired the ability to build better bike and suspension systems. We then continued racing with a bike I have built 10 years ago for the European BOTT, which was a good competitive bike.

OB: His racing bike was the continuation of Dr. John’s work, and it was a superb handling machine. It was developed with 1990s technology, like a 35-degree steering angle, longer forks, shorter and narrower frame, new geometry, and so on. Still, 20 years after its debut in racing, these Guzzis are still on the edge.

Bruno, how often do your customers use the bikes you build?

BS: They use them often, some even race with them! Once I had a customer that came from France with his helmet and leathers on, we bolted on the license plate and he rode back home on the motorcycle!

Why choose Guzzi as a racing bike?

BS: It’s a challenge; a matter of pure passion and heart.

After seeing Ghezzi & Brian bikes I had only one question ringing in my head: why isn’t Moto Guzzi building these bikes? Why has the company stopped offering official support to customer racing ?

As the story of Dr. John seems to have ended 20 years ago, some Guzzisti are putting all their heart and passion into a dream that’s too good to end. I sincerely hope that the future will bring more exciting motorcycles out of Mandello, but until then, this is one of the few bikes that keep the flame alive.

You can learn more by visiting the official Ghezzi & Brian website.

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John Warnersteve mclaughlinstonegrooverChris LeightonJB21 Recent comment authors
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John Warner
John Warner

” . . . wanted to pay our tribute to Dr. John, because we felt that his story had to be told . . . ”

I wonder if they left out the part where John Wittner stole the Spine Frame design from Tony Foale?


As far as I know, the MGS-01 was developed for Guzzi by Ghezzi & Brian, based closely on their Supertwin/Furia bikes which they had been producing for a number of years. Wasn’t the Dr John bike a cambelt driven DOHC 4 valve head engine? Maybe the writer of this article has been smoking crack…

Chris Leighton
Chris Leighton

all of this reminds me of 1980s BMW heading away from the K series back to the R series, mostly for ‘nostalgic’ marketing reasons. For Guzzi & Harley to re-join top-end racing they would better off with different engines to their historic designs, a bit like BMW with their S1000RR. admittedly BMW now have a finger in many different engine pies.

For marketing reasons I doubt Guzzi or Harley have the heart for it.


While I really like Moto Guzzi, I kind of want to say something really nasty. About both Harley and Guzzi. Both are currently made NOT to move things forward, both catered toward people who’d like to color and brand match their riding gear and socks and underwear. Both are sort of made for people who’d tell you this and that about their bikes while ignoring that their bikes are essentially stuck in last century, and no match for pretty much all the other bikes. Of course they are not interested in racing which is a shame, because I think Moto… Read more »

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson

Back in the 70’s I and some friends were pretty well known as hot shoes at club level motorcycle racing series. A few of us stepped up and ran in the AMA Super Bike events. One year at Daytona ( yes that place, was a spot on the International motorcycle racing calendar every year , but sadly not a part of the points paying system)I met Dr. John and his rider , a women named Gina who was a great competitor and a superb rider. Their ability to get that old push rod motor and chassis to turn was absolutely… Read more »

Ray Jay
Ray Jay

Torque helps a lot: in my experience in riding motorcycles, having a full-bodied low rpm response rather than revving all the way up to 6-8,000 RPM always means better engine response and tractability.

Most modern 4 cylinder bikes spin twice as high as you noted.


Oh yeah? I really like my two-stroke with 3500rpm powerband between 7000-10500rpm. Yeah, it’s a bit exhausting, but still nothing like it.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Actually what prevents brand liken Guzzi , Harley , the now defunct EBR , Bimota etc from winning is the fact that in the cases of Guzzi/Bimota/EBR etc they don’t have the money to petition the racing organizations for more balanced rules allowing their bikes to be competitive and in the case of H-D they’re not willing to spend the millions needed to get the rules bent in their favor [ with the sole exception of pro stock drag racing ] Ultimately like everything else about racing these days … its all about the almighty Dollar/Euro/Pound and to ____ with… Read more »

steve mclaughlin
steve mclaughlin

This reply is a year after your post, but I wanted to mention that the Harley Pro Stock motorcycles do not use ANY Harley Davidson parts. They use specialized engines made by S & S motors. The bikes are simply branded as Harleys, or Victory’s, etc. There was an article about this in one of the 2017 cycle magazines last month.

Bertram Wooster
Bertram Wooster

Ya might want to change the title photo.

Chris Gonzalez

Ah, good catch. Should be updated shortly. Thanks!