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BULTACO Grand Prix Racing
One of motorcycling’s many legends, the foundation of Bultaco was occasioned by the resignation of Francisco Xavier Bulto from Montesa, a company he had co-founded with Pedro Permanyer in 1945. The Montesa board wanted to withdraw from racing; Bulto disagreed and left in 1958, taking most of the racing department with him to set up a new company which was named BULTACO. By the spring of 1959 the fledgling concern’s first machine - the Tralla 101, a 125cc two-stroke, was ready for production. Given the circumstances of Bultaco’s birth, it should have surprised no one that the company began racing soon afterwards, entering a team in the roadster class at the 1959 Spanish Grand Prix.
We pick this story up from 1976 when Jan Thiel and Martin Mijwaart joined the company from Piovaticci.
Question: 1976, You had a new start at Bultaco with Angel Nieto as a rider. Didn't you find it strange to quite suddenly have him as a rider after so many years as a competitor against your bikes on the race track.?
"It was at the end 1975 that Piovaticci sold the racing shop to BULTACO and we started with Nieto as the only rider for our bikes. Two drivers would not have been possible at that time due to the situation in the race shop. When we went to the factory at the beginning of January to start our work, there was nothing left to work with. It was not even certain that our material from Pesaro would ever arrive. We bought everything we could and it was a lot more money than we had originally agreed. It was not until the end of January that all of our material came to Spain, and even then the truck was still suspended in customs for almost a week".
"The first race for the Spanish championship took place in mid February and so we could do little more than paint the Piovaticci bikes in Bultaco colours and badge them. It was also our first race with Angel Nieto and with his sheer determination and our bike on good form, we won it.  Our strongest competitor was Ricardo Tormo on a Kreidler. There was always a very good relationship with Angel and there were never problems between us. I found that I could just work well with him, and that became the way things".
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The re-painted Piovaticci in the BULTACO colours
Question: "Nieto the rider is well known to all of us, but how did you find him as a man when he was not on the seat of a motorcycle"?
"Nieto as a person was and is already something special. He is quite normal and friendly in dealing with others, but he also has the gift to pursue his interests with a very special emphasis and determination and when does he does not go off the path. Thus, after his first world title, he was presented to the then Spanish dictator Franco. When Nietzes congratulated him, he had to say that he was having to stop racing. When Franco asked him why?, Nieto answered, "because one could not earn enough money racing motorcycles"! A life-long pension was immediately granted by Franco, to him.
On the 15th of February 1970, the newspaper El Mundo Deportivo announces the selection of the 200 sportsmen nominated for their annual gala where the best sportsman of the year will be chosen in the section on motorcycles, Ángel Nieto, Santiago Herrero and Carlos Giró are the three nominees. Days later on the 18th, the directors of the Derbi house, accompanied by Ángel Nieto and Luis Soriano, president of the RFME, are received in audience by Francisco Franco, the then head of state. On 23rd, the list of finalists to the best athlete of the year becomes official, Ángel Nieto is part of the final selection.
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The occasion at which the conversation took place with Franco was covered in this magazine.
"In 1972, he won two World Championship titles at the Barcelona GP in one day. The next day, Sr. Rabassa, the owner of the company Derbi, told him that the factory would withdraw from the world championships because even greater success could no longer be achieved. He then advise Angel, that it would be better if he stopped racing. Angel asked him if he could use the telephone on his desk, and in the presence of Sr. Rabassa, he immediately joined Giancarlo Morbidelli and made a contract with him from Sr. Rabassa's office for the following season to ride the 50cc and 125cc"!
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"There are still many such stories to tell but there would not be enough time or space to do them justiceHe is, by the way, very superstitious, he will not sit when 12 other people are sitting at the table in the restaurant, he does not want to be called a 13-times world champion, so he has become a world champion 12 + 1 times".
Question: Another big competitor at this time was Jörg Möller, did you see yourself as a colleague with him to whom you could speak, or was any form of contact avoided?
"With Jörg Möller, we always had the best reletionship. At the time we were both in Pesaro and I was working for the BULTACO company. We often went to eat together, and he sometimes came to my house. We were also together at Giancarlo Morbidelli's home when we were invited, which was always very nice. On one Saturday we, the employees of Piovaticci's race department, visited the people of the Morbidelli race department. Afterwards we all went out together in a fishing boat, owned by Morbidelli, and a net was ejected for fishing. Spaghetti was made, and then, from all sorts of possible and impossible containers, enormous quantities of beverages appeared, and after a short time we all had had a great time. I still remember that a police boat appeared as you were not allowed to fish there, then a statement was taken. Later, when the police boat had gone, Morbidelli said, "no problems people, I call his boss tomorrow"....!  We delivered the fish we caught to a restaurant in the port, and later in the evening we tasted it all together, very tasty and also very sociable".
"It was a nice time there in Pesaro, but at the end of the year everything was over and we moved to Spain. Jörg is a person who likes to be in the focus, but on this subject one must also understand that this is not always very pleasant for those who have to pay the bills. They operate racing sport to make themselves and / or their companies known. When we went to Minarelli later, we all soon realized that the main goal was to show, that without Jörg Möller, you could still win races. Also Jörg and Angel Nieto were not exactly unaware to this situation, very understandable, because they were both happily in the center of attention. A few years later I met Jorg again in Bologna, and we went out to eat together, it was a nice reunion. We had almost worked together at Italjet, but it did not matter then because Italjet had gone bankrupt before our meeting".
"One tries to improve the performance by making small changes at the inlet and Transfer Ports, one also tries out different forms of the outlet ports to improve the flow into the pipe, All these parts are CNC machined. Naturally, experiments are also carried out with different-sized outlet ports"
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Nevertheless, there has been little progress in the last few years.The last big step forward was the electronically controlled Powerjet, which was developed three years ago. The Kreidler engine shows the development of a twin exhaust system on an air-cooled barrel.
Getting back to BULTACO, Jan explained that "After the 1976 season Bultaco wanted to make production racers, so casting moulds were made for the barrels and heads. You can easily see the difference if you take a good look at some of the photo's". "All 4 world championships were won with the Jamathi engines which were machined from solid material, the production racers of which 4 were made had the Bultaco cast engines and a rough cast finish".
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1976 Bultaco, rider Angel Nieto, Jan and Martin Mijwaart
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BULTACO 50 in the museum plus memorabilia in 1976
Nieto riding the flat side tank Bultaco 1976
A Diversion: Ricardo Tormo was born in the Spanish province of Valencia, in the Ayacor district, which is a small village on the outskirts of Canals. When he was 8, his family moved into the center of Canals. His active years in motorcycle racing were between 1973 and 1984. Tormo won the 1978 FIM 50cc world championship as a member of the Bultaco factory racing team. He repeated this as 50cc world champion in 1981 on a privately backed Bultaco. He was also a three-time 50cc Spanish national champion and a four-times 125cc national champion. His career was closely linked to that of Ángel Nieto , who was both a teammate and rival of Tormo.  In 1994, Tormo received Valencia’s highest honor when he was given the Valencian Community’s High Distinction award.
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In collaboration with the journalist Paco Desamparados, an autobiography was published, entitled "Yo Ricardo. Una vida por y para la moto". (I am Ricardo. A life by and for motorcycles). On December 27, 1998, Tormo unfortunately died from leukemia , which he had been battling for many years. In his honor, Valencia’s racetrack was renamed the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana 'Ricardo Tormo'. (More about Ricardo and Bultaco later)
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PIOVATICCI / BULTACO 50cc GP
Among the rare examples of Guardian Angels you would have to include Angel Nieto, who was the one who recommended to his young countryman Ricardo Tormo to the game and made him climb, giving him the right push so that in 1978 he would win the 50cc World Championship. The hard riding Nieto felt affection for a boy that could have caused him problems in his future career.
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The King of the "little girls", Angel Nieto, "El Cavron", heads for the World title in 1976, piloting to Piovaticci / Bultaco.
The 50cc BULTACO allowed the famous "El Cavron" to conquer two of his thirteen world-wide titles, in the two years of 1976 and 1977. However to these world titles, we must add a third, consecutive one, securely won by Ricardo Tormo in 1978 where he beat the competition in fine style
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However the winds of the change were becoming very strong in the Bultaco factory and great changes had to be made. This caused both Jan and Martin Mijwaarts to again return to Italy and this time to the Morbidelli factory. Ricardo Tormo stayed with the BULTACO brand and riding a 'private' machine still wins the world title of 1981 with the emblem of Bultaco taking him over the line. This marked the end of the GP sporting activities of the Spanish factory.
Question: But what was so innovative about the Piovaticci/BULTACO of 1975 to arouse the interest of the Spanish Federation and keep Bultaco at its peak for so long?
"Well, most of the competition when they built their bikes, such as Kreidler, used the conventional steel tube frame construction with bracing tubes for strength. This structure gave more weight to the finished bike. The 1975 Piovaticci and then BULTACO featured a beautiful monocoque, aluminum frame with built-in petrol tank that made it lighter than other frames in the 50cc GP arena"!
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This solution was not the brain child of Thiel and Mijwaarts, as many were experimenting with this type of design in the bigger classes of Grand Prix racing. One example of this is with the frame of  Santiago Herrero's Ossa 250.
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This type of frame, created for the Piovaticci had two lateral reinforcements (ribs), along the side of the tank, to increase its rigidity. when it was with the Bultaco camp these were eliminated as it seemed an excessive solution and provided for a general increase in the motorcycle's weight.  
With their loss the frame was only half a kilo over the minimum threshold imposed by the FIM for the 50 GP bikes, which was 55 kg.
The 1978 50cc World Championship was played out over just 7 GP races. The opening event was on April 16 in Spain and the final one in Rijeka, Yugoslavia, on 17 September. In Jarama it was Lazzarini who won with Tormo in second place and tis was the first signs of the close fight that would exist between the two throughout out the year. At the next GP, held in Mugello, Italy, the Italian rider crashed and when he was able to get up and get back on the track, his opponents had already completed the first lap and with that, Tormo takes his first win of the season!  
At the Assen circuit, it's Lazzarini's turn to win and again Tormo makes it into second place only 24 seconds behind! However in the next four GPs, Belgium, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia Tormo leaves everyone and wins all of these races, thanks to the bike that is working like a Swiss watch. Unfortunately Lazzerini has problems with his Kreidler. In the last GP, in Yugoslavia, the title was already mathematically assured and Tormo with his Bultaco gave another show for the fans, with a beautiful victory! 
Throughout this story three Piovaticci/BULTACO 50s were built before the project was completed by the Spanish Bultaco enterprise, where six more were built by the end of 1977. This last six are recognizable by the monocoque frame without reinforcing ribs along the sides of the tank area and the cast barrels and heads. Another batch of six copies was produced in 1979, again using the cast engines and this batch ended the adventures with the world titles for Ricardo Tormo in 1981. 
The fame was with Spain, the birth was in Italy, the Dutch were the breeders, with some German componants ... a beautiful salad. , But the very rapid and revolutionary "mosquito" that charmed the world of Grand Prix was and still is undoubtedly 'Eternal' ...
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Research:
JEEP's Archives
Motorcycle Magazines
On-Line encyclopedias
News Paper Cuttings/ Scrap Books
Submissions from readers by email.
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Ricardo Tormo on the BULTACO 50cc Grand Prix Racer
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Jan and the Minarelli
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