21 Nov 2021

ROBERTO AZZALIN, the manager with a passion for dust, and sand! Born in 1938 in Padua, Roberto Azzalin made his mark as a stubborn and passionate manager, a man of no compromises and rock-solid values. He joined the Fiamme Oro at an early age, and was allowed to race at competitive levels, getting his wheels stuck in the mud of his childhood valleys. His love for enduro would accompany him for the rest of his life. For work purposes, he often visited the small metal production department of the historic Cagiva. He started working for the company, and soon became part of the family, though he never held a stake in the company’s capital. Together with Cagiva and under the Lucky Strike colours, he would write some of the most intense pages of Italy’s motorcycling history. Azzalin was a one-of-kind manager, with a deep knowledge of motorcycles’ mechanics, and a pro rider himself. He acquired his managerial skills on the job, tutored by his employers who always highly considered his opinions. In 1982, during a biking trip in Algeria, he came across the Paris-Dakar race, and became fascinated with it and with African rallies at large. From that moment, Azzalin set out to win the Dakar, an objective he doggedly pursued over the years, and which he achieved. In the meanwhile, Cagiva had already started working on the prototype of an endurance bike which was to become the legendary Elefant. In 1984 Azzalin persuaded star rider Hubert Auriol to abandon the established and incredibly powerful BMW team to join the newly-born Cagiva team. A leap into the unknown, but they became legend. During Auriol’s first participation in the race, Azzalin didn’t hesitate to follow the rider, accompanied by engineers Alberti and Lazzati, riding the exact same bike! That time the team seriously risked disqualification, and Azzalin had to give up on his extreme style of hands-on management. Nevertheless he became a legendary character for the close-knit community of the Dakar. Dressed in Lucky white, with his inseparable red pouch containing some local currency and essential documents to survive for about a month in the middle of Africa, he imposed himself for his silent and often unhappy feature. He never really got over the 1986 tragic accident that claimed the life of his friend Gian Paolo Marinoni. One day he svagely destroyed an improvised all-Italian banquet, prepared in the best possible way in the middle of the desert, just because it was hosting a journalist who, in one of his articles, described the Lucky Explorer team as “a desperate crowd in search of victory”. A long awaited victory that came in 1990 with Edi Orioli, who was to repeat the feat in 1994, yet by the time of Orioli’s second victory Azzalin had left the company. He never parted with the Lucky Explorer family, though, and always kept an excellent relationship with his former colleagues and employers.