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Libero Liberati :: Motorcycles World Champion 1957 Gilera 500cc.

To read this blog in ITALIAN, please click HERE Per leggere questo blog in italiano cliccare QUI. To read this blog in Spanish, please click HERE. Pagina dedicata al pilota ternano, campione del mondo di motociclismo della classe 500cc con
Gilera, con informazioni sulla carriera sportiva e foto d'archivio.Libero Liberati (Terni, 20 September 1926 - 5 March 1962) won the Motorbike World Championship 500cc class in 1957, with a grand total of 32 points. In the year 1957 he won 4 races of the World Championship: Hockenheim, Francorchamps, Belfast and Monza. It is in the circuit of Monza that Liberati became World Champion, racing on a four cylinder Gilera 500cc., n° 4.

Technical data 4 cylinders Gilera 500cc:
Engine: 4 stroke, 4 cylinders, double overhead cams. air cooled.
Carters: magnesium
Capacity: 499,99 cc
Bore / stroke: 52 / 58.8 mm.
Power: 70 hp @ 10 000 rpm
Gearbox: 5 speed.
Mass: 150 kgs
Top Speed: 250 km/h ( 155 mph )

ABOVE: Picture of a bike reproduction taken from

In the Italian championship Liberati won 4 times in the year 1947. In this very same year he participated in his first ever race (of which I will relate later), that became memorable, from Fontiveggi to Perugia. Liberati demonstrated a terrific mixture of talent, audacity and, for the time, a barely credible speed. In this occasion he raced on a Guzzi Condor 500cc.

He then won 4 more contests in the year 1948, 1 race in the year 1949, and prevailed in 2 more races in the years 1951- 1952 - 1953 and 1954. Liberati won the Italian Championship in the years 1955 and 1956.

On 18 May 1946 the first edition of a motorbike race organized within the city centre of Terni took place. This circuit, called CIRCUITO DELLE FERRIERE, included the streets of Piazza Valnerina, Via Curio Dentato, Viale della Stazione, Via Galileo Ferraris, Via Federico Cesi, Viale Cesare Battisti, Piazza Tacito and back to Piazza Valnerina again.

On 19 October 1947, the 2nd edition of the same race CIRCUITO DELLE FERRIERE took place. Liberati won on Guzzi 500cc. In this same year in the cycle-racing track in Terni, in occasion of a day demonstration, Liberati proved his ability on an Alpino 100cc.

In this same year (1947) Liberati also won the races ' Circuito di velocità di Chieti ' and ' Circuito di velocità di Frosinone ', both on Guzzi 500cc.

(Pictured here a Guzzi Dondolino 500cc.)

The Guzzi Dondolino was given as a gift to Liberati by his co-workers at the Steel Factory of Terni. These workers put together a part of their wages to buy a bike that would finally allow Liberati, of whom they understood the great talent, to race and win. Liberati won’t frustrate their expectations.

On the 4 July 1948 the first race of the so-called CIRCUITO DELL'ACCIAIO was organised. This was a 10 km track which included Viale B. Brin, Viale Campofregoso, Campomicciolo, Papigno, Viale B. Brin, and was considered by many as one of the most difficult racing tracks in Italy. The 1st race was won by Libero Liberati, driver of the Italian 3rd category, on Guzzi 500cc.

In 1948 Liberati, together with this victory in Terni, also assured himself a 1st place in the contest on the 'Circuito di Spoleto' on Guzzi 500cc; and arrived first in Chieti and first again twice in Frosinone (in two different races). He obteined a 2nd place in Cattolica but had to quit in the race held in Caracalla.

The 2nd race of the Circuito dell'Acciaio (24 July 1949), was won by Tomassicchio, on Guzzi 500cc. However, in the same year the 3rd edition of the race of the Circuito dell’Acciaio was also held on 2 October 1949, and this event (valid as 6th race of the Italian Championship for drivers of 2nd category), is won by Liberati on Guzzi 500cc. Together with this 1st place in Terni, Liberati arrived 2nd in Ancona and Urbino and 3rd in Bologna.

In the year 1950 Liberati turned up 1st again in Terni, and reached a 3rd place in Modena. It is in this year, (1950), that Liberati partook to his first ever race of the World Championship riding a Moto Guzzi 500cc.

On 29 July 1951 the 4th race of the Circuito dell'Acciaio took place in the same 10km track that from Terni lead to Papigno and back. This race was valid as 5th race of the Gran Premio of the F.I.M. (Italian Motorbike Federation) for drivers of 1st category. Liberati, riding a Gilera Saturno, won the race for the 500cc class.

The 5th Circuito dell' Acciaio, valid for the Italian Championship for drivers of 1st category, (Liberati moved up to 1st category in the year 1950) is won, once again, by Liberati for the 500cc class.

In 1951, after having bought a Gilera Saturno 500cc, he established himself as the best driver of this kind of bikes (monocilindric). In this same year he won in the race at Casale Monferato, arrived 1st in Terni, 10th in Codogno, 5th at Senigallia, 3rd in Varese, 4th at the Bergamo race and had to give up in Ferrara.

In 1952 he suffered a terrible accident on a race held in Berna. In this racing season he arrived: 1st at Parma, 1st in Terni, 1st in Voghera, 7th in Berna, 5th in Casale Monferrato, 2nd in Senigallia, 8th at Monza.

In the years 1953 and 1954 he classified second in the Italian Championship (Seniores) 500cc class.

In 1953 Liberati raced on Gilera Saturno (5 races), on Morini 175cc. (1 race), on Gilera S 500cc, (1 race), on Gilera 4 cylinders (1 race). He arrived: 1st in Terni, 1st in Senigallia (150cc.) 5° in Senigallia (500cc), 3° in Monza. In 1954 he only raced on Gilera 500cc.

In 1955 Liberati won his first Italian Championship 500cc class, (Seniores), winning a race in Naples (19 March); Sanremo (3 April); Imola (11 April); arriving 2nd at Reims (15 May); 2nd in Genova (19 May); 1st in Senigallia (31 July), and finally 1st at Mestre (18 September).

In 1956 Liberati won his second Italian Championship title 500cc, (Seniores) winning in Modena (19 March); arriving 2nd at Imola (2 April); 1st at Monza (6 May); 2nd in Faenza (20 May) and 2nd again in Cesena (17 June); 1st at Sanremo ( 24 June); 1st at Senigallia (29 July); 2nd at Monza (9 September 500cc.) and again 1st at Monza (9 September), but this time on a Gilera 350cc.

Pictured below : 350 cc start: nº 51 Surtees (MV), nº 60 Liberati (Gilera) nº 55 Dicky Dale (Guzzi)

It is in 1956 that Liberati displayed (once again), all his great talent both in the Italian Championship (winning it for the second consecutive time), and in the World Championship. In the race held at Monza, after winning the 350cc race riding a Gilera n° 4 (Liberati raced in his career with two bikes number 4: the number 4 of the 350cc had a different layout from the one displayed on the 500cc) he was able to give birth to a memorable race with Geoff Duke, 'Il Duca di Ferro' of the Gilera team, exhibiting tremendous obstinacy, audacity, and great control. (Picture above). Duke was racing with a 4 cylinder Gilera n° 2, and Liberati with a 4 cylinder Gilera n°28. In the end of the race it is only a team strategy that gives the winning lead to Duke, followed by Liberati. (Picture below: Arriving at Monza)

In 1957 Liberati won the World Championship Title for the 500cc. He won the races at Hockenheim (Germany) both with the 350cc and the 500cc. He reached a 1st place at Assen (Nederlands) for the 500cc, and 3rd for the 350 cc. He then won in Francorchamps (Belgium) 500cc, and also in Monza (Gran Premio delle Nazioni) 500cc, and arrived 3rd at Monza for the 350 cc. . Triumphed at Belfast (Ulster) 500cc; arrived 1st at Siracusa 350 cc, but had to quit for the 500cc race. He then arrived 1st at Imola 350cc, and 1st in Ravenna. In 1957 the racing team Gilera allowed Liberati to take part only exclusively for the World Championship races, despite Liberati’s desire to participate also in the races for the Italian Championship.

Liberati arrived 1st (Gilera 500cc), in Buenos Aires, in Montevideo, at the circuit of Mendoza, and in the Mar de la Plata circuit (in this latter track he arrived 1st also for the 350cc). The Milanese team Gilera organised a tour for the neo-world champion in South America. During this tour Liberati collected, together with many victories (Three 1st places and one 2nd place), appreciation and compliments from everybody. The ‘Unione Stampa Sportiva Italiana’ Press gave Liberati the prize as 'Best Athlete of the Year ' 1957.
In the race at Hockenheim, under a heavy rain, Liberati fell off his bike in the 350cc race, just a few miles away from the arrival lane, injuring himself in an ankle. Despite this, he managed to win the race. The 500cc class race followed the 350cc race and the team doctors feared that Liberati could not participate in this race. However, Liberati, despite the adverse opinion of the doctors, started the race with a heavy bandage on his ankle and won the race of the 500cc, with an average speed of over 200km/h. Liberati is acclaimed by a warm crowd.

The year 1957 is also the year of the crisis of the Gilera, (as well as of the Guzzi and of the Mondial). The racing team of Arcore abandoned the races and Liberati found himself without a team and a bike. Many are the offers he received from different racing teams, such as the one from the MV Augusta. Liberati, loyal to the Gilera with which he was able to win the World Championsip, declined all these offers hoping in a quick return of Gilera to the races (Picture: Gilera n°10, 1957)

From now on Liberati will race with his private bike, but the technical gap between the means of a racing team and a private racer becomes greater by the years. After having raced with the Morini, 250cc, in the year 1959, Liberati decided to race with his own bike, a Gilera Saturno 500cc, that his mechanical knowledge and the help of his engineer and friend Pirro Loreti from Spoleto, brought to an acceptable level of competition.

Unfortunately the years 1958 and 1959 are very unlucky for Liberati. In 1958, at the Vallelunga track, he follows on second position Vigorito who tries to keep Liberati behind him. At a bent Vigorito fells off and brings Liberati down with him. In Cattolica Liberati is not allowed to start the race for a problem with the fairing of his bike. He then had to withheld from the race at Imola. In 1959 Liberati is again forced to withheld in the race of Modena and Cesenatico and arrived in 7th place at Imola.

In 1960, Liberati participates to two races: in Cesenatico and Imola, both valid for the Italian Championship (Seniores) for the 500cc class. In Cesenatico he arrived 5th and is 1st of the monocylindrics. At Imola he is 5th and again 1st of the monocylindrics.

In 1961, the MV Augusta team withdrawn from the competitions. Liberati decided then to participate in the racing season 1962 with his private bike, a Gilera Saturno 500cc. In the meanwhile, in 1961, he took part in 5 races of the Italian Championship (Seniores), winning 2 races in Modena (19 March), putting to rout the fastest Northon thanks to an intuition he had to modify the gears of the Gilera Saturno, and Genova (1 June). He arrived 2nd at Cesenatico but, despite this, he is acclaimed by the crowd, and arrived 3rd at Sanremo.

In 1962 the Gilera racing team announces its intention to compete again. Five long years have passed since 1957. Liberati wants to be ready for the new racing season. On 5 March 1962, while he was training with his Gilera Saturno along the Valnerina road, Liberati fell off his bike on the slippery road not far away from where he was born, and hit the rocky wall along a bent at Cervara. Liberati lost his life.

The 1962 is then the year of the tragic death of the 'ternano volante' (flying ternano) , as Libeari was also called. With this words the Mayor of Terni opened the burial ceremony amongst a crowd of thousands of citizens:

"O, daring Knight of our time, you show us a distant goal, the glorious ending of a highly noble life..."

Libero Liberati raced in his career with many different numbers : the number 78 of the Guzzi Dondolino, the n°2 (right hand side picture) , the 'closed' 4 (Gilera 500cc.) and the ‘open’ 4 (Gilera 350cc), (Picture on the left:: Liberati, Monza 1956 on Gilera 350cc. with an 'open' 4, pictured with the engineer Rapanelli.- Property of the picture: Moto Club Terni) Picture the n° 6, the 10, the 16, the 18 on the picture below(property: Moto Club Terni), the 26, the 28, the 34, the 39, the 40, the 42, the 44, the 60, the 66, but his favourite number was the 39, which he mounted on his Gilera Saturno, pictured below. (Property: Moto Club Terni)

Liberati was also known as “the Steel Knight" to underline his loyal rivalry with Geoff Duke who was known as “Iron Duke". The Steel Knight also highlights Liberati’s belonging to the city of the steel production Terni, whose economy rotated (and still does rotate) around the production of Steel. A footage on Liberati, entitled "Libero Liberati", has been shot by Antonio Spaccatini and Sergio Frattaroli; original writing by Angelo Rossi and directed by Paolo Liberati.(picture of liberati)

On Liberati have been written: "Trent'anni il Campione", by Giampiero Sacchi, in occasion of the 30th anniversary of his death. A series of articles which appeared on the newspaper 'Il Corriere dello Sport'. Space was given to Liberari on a few Sport magazines, among which: ' Il Motociclismo'; 'La Moto'; 'Il Centauro' and on the 'Gazzetta Motociclistica di Genova'. In occasion of the 50th anniversary of the (1925-1975) Moto Club Terni, that, from the day of the tragic death of Liberati (5 marzo 1962) has been entitled to him (and recently also to Paolo Pileri). In conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Liberati’s death, the Moto Club Terni has produced a CD with pictures and information on Liberati. Along this, it has recently been published a pamphlet for the ‘Memorial Libero Liberati 1957-2007 (held in Terni on 20th and 21st October 2007) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World Championship win (1957). On terninrete, Ivano Mari has written an excellent article (in Italian). By clicking the link, you can watch a great footage by the Istituto Luce broadcasted on RaiTre Sfide with interviews of Aldo Crocetta, Manrico Liberati (Libero Liberati’s son) , Pirro Loreti (engineer of Liberati), Alfredo Milani (racer of the 50’s), Renato Venturi (racer 1950’s and 1960’s). "Il Cavaliere d'Acciaio" has been written, illustrated and published in 2009 by Piero Ruju. An online version of this book is available HERE. Pictured on the right side is the Gilera 4 cylinders number 4 'closed' with which Liberati won the World Championship in 1957. Amongst some curiosities: the asteroid n° 6417, discovered in 1993 by Mr A. Vagnozzi, from Stroncone (Terni), has been named after Libero Liberati. This blog is also hosted in the web page of the Moto Tribe Terni (and linked to it), a site created by motorcycles lovers of Terni.
Other information and pictures on Libero Liberati are to be found on the web page of the racing team Liberati Corse of Liberati’s son, Manrico Liberati, and his wife, Laura del Balzo. The web address is: Please also visit a superb site on Vintage and Classic Motorcycles (by clicking the link), featuring great information, pictures and news on classic bikes.

Click on the name to read what Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, writes on Libero Liberati.

At the Cervara’s turn, in the exact spot of Liberati’s accident, a plaque has been placed to commemorate the tragic event (Picture below taken from the web page of Moto Club Terni). A monument dedicated to Liberati, by Carlo Lorenzetti, has been erected in front of the football Stadium 'Libero Liberati' in Terni. Possibly, this football Stadium is the only one in Italy dedicated to the memory of a sportsman other than football. This gives a precise idea of the enormous importance that Liberati and his ability to triumph had on a whole city, especially in the difficult years of the aftermath of the war.

Liberati’s passion for motorbikes starts in 1937. Libero is 11 years old. After school, he spends long hours staring at the front window of a motorbike shop owned by Giulio Allegretti, plunging himself into a magic world.

One fine day Liberati is asked to start working in that shop as ‘Carletto’, impressed by Liberati’s attitude towards motorbikes, is looking for an apprentice. Aged 15, Liberati starts riding under the help and guide of Giulio Allegretti and Gildo Gatti, receiving from them valuable advices. The latter owned a Benelli motorbike with which he participated every now and then to some races.

Liberati’s first ever race would be the Ponte San Giovanni – Perugia race along a road almost entirely uphill. In the aftermath of the war the city of Terni tried to pull itself together alongside the sport competitions of every kind, seen as an aid to its recovery. However, for motorbike contests times are strikingly hard. A race in Spoleto is organised and Liberati wants to take part in it. He somehow manages to fix and old Norton 500cc, but when his turn to start the race comes, a tyre flattens. Spare tyres were literally impossible to find at the time and Liberati has to give up. However big, this delusion for the young rider does not spoil his eagerness for racing.It would be Gildo Gatti who lends Liberati a Guzzi Condor 500cc. Liberati can finally race in the Ponte San Giovanni – Perugia race with a fast and reliable bike. He wins the race establishing the fastest time.

After Perugia, Liberati arrived 2nd in Teramo. In Rome he raced in the Caracalla track with a Guzzi Condor 500 cc., already followed by an enthusiastic crowd that had heard about his talent. Liberati arrived on 2nd place because of the technical impairs of his bike compared to the more modern ones at the contest. However, Liberati manages to win again in Spoleto and in the Circuito delle Ferriere, hosted in his native city of Terni. In these magical years for motorbikes in Terni, Liberati has to combine his passion for races with his work in the Steel Factory of Terni. In this years he also won the Frosinone race and arrived 2nd at Urbino.

Liberati replaces the Guzzi Dondolino with a Gilera Saturno. It is the year 1949. At the Ancona race Liberati’s bike has some problems at the start. All the other contestants start without any problems. 1':47" passed by before Liberati manages to start the engine. By the time, the others have nearly completed the first circle. Despite this, Libero manages to overtake all the contestants one by one until he finishes on 2nd place at just 6 seconds from the winner Battisti. Everybody now knows Liberati.

It is at this stage that the Racing Team Gilera starts to become interested in Liberati. The rider strikes for his style, and ability. In fact, it would be Mr Gilera himself who will ask Liberati to try the Gilera 4 cylinders in the track of Monza. For Liberati it is a great joy. He is now part of the Gilera Racing Team.

An important race for Gilera is being held in Genova. This trophy had already been won the previous year by Colnago for Gilera and Mr Gilera wants Colnago to win it again. Liberati starts this race as subordinate to Colnago following precise indications from the Racing Team. Despite Liberati’s hard work, the victory goes to Callot on Norton. Liberati will arrive 2nd in this race though he would have easily won it hadn’t he had to support Conago.

Liberati is then paired with Geoff Duke at Gilera. At Ospedaletti the two riders will engage one another in an incredible race full of suspense. Duke slips at a turn and falls down, and Liberati wins. Duke and Liberati will show, once again, an amazing duel at Monza in the year 1956 (already acknowledged above). Libero wins the 350 cc. race, but has to give way to Duke in the 500cc. race, as ordered by the Team, despite remaining on 1st position for the whole race, until the last turn: Duke 1st, Liberati 2nd.

But for a whole Country and the city of Terni Liberati had been and will always be first. So it was in 1957, when the entire city of Terni received a World Champion and again in the many races amongst his fellow citizens, that of Liberati loved his simplicity and passion for races, his courage and hard work, his audacity, his shyness and humility and, above all, his smile.

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