Giancarlo Falappa’s eyes display the intensity of his approach to racing, as he prepares to start of the Canadian round of the World Superbike Championship in June of 1989.
Falappa was only a year removed from motocross and was thrust into the ultra-competitive realm of the World Superbike Championship. He raced for Bimota in 1989, racing the YB4 powered by a Yamaha FZ750 motor.
Falappa’s riding style was something to behold. Very much a carryover from motocross, Falappa thought nothing of stuffing a rider, even at the apex, forcing them to alter their line. He leaned the bike hard into the turns, but his upper torso would lean forward and away from the turn. He was unconventional in his style to say the least. He’d also charged impossibly hot into a turn and somehow get the bike turned. It rarely looked pretty, but Falappa made it work.
Other riders complained that he was out of control, but there was no arguing with his results. No one had come out of left field like Falappa and almost immediately started winning world championship races – all this with practically no road racing experience. He was a phenomenon.
The Canadian World Superbike round at Mosport in ‘89 was typical Falappa. He qualified ninth, seemingly unable to get in a lap without running off the track. But in the races, with rabbits to chase, Falappa was unreal. He charged to battle among the lead pack before running off the track at Moss Corner. He was back on the track charging and passing in groups when he ran off again laps later. He explained he had over tightened an arm guard under his leathers and when his arms pumped up his hands went numb and he couldn’t feel to use the front brake.
The second race was one of the best in the history of the series with defending WSBK champ Fred Merkel and Falappa swapping and banging on each other from the start, trading the lead several times a lap. It came down to the final lap. All the bumping and banging by the leaders allowed home country hero Rueben McMurter to sneak up. Merkel led into Mosport’s final set of turns, ran wide on his Honda, Falappa, diving in late, took the lead bringing McMurter with him. Falappa was still gathering it up coming out of the final turn while McMurter had a great drive on his Honda and nearly got it at the flag.
Falappa held on to win. It was one of his 16 World Superbike victories. A serious crash in ’94 ended his racing career, but the Lion of Jesi will always be remembered for his unbridled intensity and for catching the road racing world complete by surprise when he burst onto the scene.
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