Andrea Bartolini: Italian Legend

Andrea Bartolini is one of a handful of Italian riders who has been capable of winning a World Motocross Championship, and along with their first champion in 1984 Michele Rinaldi and their last Antonio Cairoli is a member of a very special club. Of course, those three are not the only members, two other Italians have also won World Championships, Alex Puzar on two occasions, Alessio Chiodi on three occasions.

Despite his glorious victory in the 1999 World 500cc championship, where he beat the seemingly unbeatable Joel Smets, it wasn’t a season Bartolini expected to be crowned World Champion or maybe even fight for a title.

“The win in the World Championship arrived in a year where I started to make some good results,” Bartolini said. “I wasn’t thinking to win, because I broke my thighbone in August ’98 and I had to stop racing until January ’99. Everyone, even Yamaha, even Rinaldi (team manager), weren’t betting so much on me: in the beginning they believed more in Alex Puzar. However, I began working really hard, day and night, and after two races I was leading the World Championship, and so I thought that maybe it was the right opportunity to win.”

Consistency is what has made somebody like Antonio Cairoli a nine-time World Champion, and back in ‘99 it was the main goal for Bartolini as he saw mistakes from other riders.

“I wanted to finish each race. The year before I had to retire seven times and it made me nervous. The 1999 season some new riders arrived in the 500 class, like Yves Demaria, Alex Puzar, and more, and there were six or seven of us who all wanted to win. I thought that the only thing to do was to finish each race and to wait for the other ones’ mistakes. In this way I even won some races and GPs, and at the end I also was one of the fastest.”

The 1999 season didn’t just see Bartolini win an individual title, but also the team championship, the Motocross of Nations. It was a period in his career that the Italian felt stronger than ever.

“To tell the truth I arrived in Brazil with the will of beating everyone, including Joel Smets. He declared many times that he lost the title only because of the problems of his bike, not because I was stronger. So, I did my races in Brazil to arrive always in front of him.”

Of course, Bartolini didn’t win the MXoN alone, he did it with two of his best friends in Alessio Chiodi and Claudio Federici.  Chiodi had also just claimed a World title in the 125cc class and was on the form of his life and Federici was a top ten 250cc rider.

“Chicco (Chiodi) and Claudio (Federici) are my friends, but during the year we rarely have the opportunity of meeting each other, everyone works by himself to reach his goals. It’s good to meet together again after the World Championships, and we reached Brazil with the will of doing a good job, to create great harmony. We talked about the bikes, the races, the sponsors, about our world. Then we helped each other with suggestions and to make sure everyone did their best. I arrived in Brazil after a long holiday, and until Saturday maybe we weren’t so sure of being competitive for the victory. Saturday, I won my qualification heat, while Chicco and Claudio maybe didn’t push so hard. But the next day we all did the maximum and came out the winners.”

So here we are, not 20 years later and heading to Italy for a triple Grand Prix but let’s not forget these former champions and their achievements in motocross long before Antonio Cairoli was even around. History has been kind to Italy and motocross and guys like Andrea Bartolini are very much a major part of that.


Photo Copyright: Yamaha 

Geoff Meyer



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