Paton is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer. In 1957 after FB Mondial pulled out of Grand Prix racing, Paton was set up by Giuseppe Pattoni (chief mechanic of the FB Mondial GP team) and designer Lino Tonti.
|Giuseppe Pattoni, Lino Tonti
|Settimo Milanese, Italy
At the end of 1957 some Italian motorcycle manufacturers, among them Mondial, Moto Guzzi and MV Agusta, decided to quit racing competitions, where they were protagonist since decades, signing the famous “abstention pact”...
The first Paton
1958 race season would have then been orphan of a significant part of first row actors in the racing circus; but with great disappointment MV Agusta was attending to the season’s opening under the flag of “Privat” Racing Team.
Even Mondial was brought back to races, but in a much different and “gentlemen” way: in fact two of its leading technicians and mechanics, Giuseppe Pattoni and Lino Tonti, pushed by an extreme passion for races and motorcycles, as well as by an uncommon obstinacy and talent, giving up the liquidation expected from Mondial for quitting them and asked for the material remained on the shelves of the racing department where they were used to work every day.
This was the birth of Paton (from the initial of the founders), with only one “t” and sometimes confused with the famous general Patton, whose first model was a revised and improved version of the Mondial, both on the engine perspective, now with a double overhead camshaft instead of a single one and on the frame and suspensions.
The gratitude of the two technicians in respect of their patron, earl Giuseppe Boselli, was so high that they presented to the press the bike with the name Mondial-Paton on the tank. The earl, yet really flattered by this offer, was in reality inflexible and ordered to cancel the name Mondial in order to avoid violating the pact just subscribed with the other three factories.
The first years of the sixties show the alone “Pep” (how was commonly called Giuseppe Pattoni) leading Paton.
In fact Lino Tonti andoned the friend at the end of 1959 to join the racing department in Bianchi, factory with which he wanted to carry on the development of the new 250cc twin, born after the poor results obtained in Paton with the initial project developped in Mondial and transferred in Paton.
Pattoni was’nt discouraged and, on the opposite, spurred by this new challenge he pushed the development of this new engine, a twin 250cc, wich was born in 1962 and made the racing debut in 1964 with Gian Piero Zubani at Modena circuit and after few months, precisely the 8th of June 1964, conquered the third place at the Tourist Trophy with Alberto Pagani in the lightweight class.
An outstanding result,, which gives internation awareness to the bike’s features and reinforce that special feeeling between the Mountain Circuit in the Isle of Man and the italian factory: in 1958 Mike Hailwood (whose nickname was “Mike the bike” to describe his reputation in this sport) arrived 7th with the Paton 125 and both of them, Mike and the bike, were debutant at the Mountain.
In the following two years the engine, recognized as Giuseppe Pattoni’s masterpiece, will be modified first up to 350cc and finally to 500cc and with this version was italian champion ridden by Angelo Bergamonti preceding Giacomo Agostini on MV Agusta and also took good podiums in several world championship races.
The decade’s end present the italian half liter still in a really good shape, winning the second place in the 1969 italian championship with Franco Trabalzini and the 4th absolute in the final world championship ranking, this time with the english rider Billie Nelson.
For the technical reader, we notice that the engine of this bike is a cutting edge unit for the period, because of the central gear distribution with 4 valves per cylinder and the cassette gearbox,; all features impossible to find elsewhere, moreover if you think that they were a product of a single man and not of a luxury R&D department in a big factory; a man helped by his friend Gianemilio Marchesani day by day after the normal working hours as mechanics in the Giorgio Pianta’s Lancia asiistance shop.
The opening of this decade finds the Paton 500cc 4 stroke in really brilliant shape, continuing his racing career both in italy and abroad, with a continous technical develepment: first of all the 4 valve head becomes a standard, after debuting in 1968 at Monza’s “Gran Premio delle nazioni”, and then with the transition from the Belletti frame to the Bimota one. This was the first time for Bimota in the 500cc racing arena.
The version with the original frame reaches, with Roberto Gallina, the third place in 1970 and 1972 and the second place in 1971 at the italian 500cc championship, while the Bimota frame version comes third in 1974 with Armando Toracca.
In 1975 Toracca is joined by the 500cc newcomer Virginio Ferrari which later in 1979 was vice-worldchampion in 1979 with the Suzuki RG500 of Roberto Gallina’s official team.
Between 1975 and 1976 Giuseppe Pattoni has to retire the 4-stroke engine in favour of the 2-stroke and Virginio Ferrari is the leading actor of this transition.
The step was’nt an easy one, and after a poor season from the racing results perspective, Giuseppe Pattoni, now helped by his young son Roberto, decide to drastically reduce the competitions and dedicate all the time to the development of this “disrespectful” engine: in fact Pep was used to say that this new engine, with its sound so different from the 4 stroke profound and respectful rumbling was too much confidential.
Also we have to mention that at the beginning of this decade Giuseppe Pattoni together with his friend and junior rider Adriano Friggione are busy preparing for races the famous Honda 500cc, known as Honda-Paton, improved in the engine and the chassis and used by many riders in the italian championship
In the first years of the eighties Pattoni father and son continue the hard work for the development of the new 2 stroke engine, with the objective to elevate the performance and reliability needed to be able to go back to competitions: At he end of this process in 1983 the model C1 500 is presented, an important one for the italian factory because is the first priject participated by Roberto Pattoni, Giuseppe’s son, and Claudio Colombo, which start as the Paton frame builder a cooperation that still exist today.
This model’s engine has the same architecture as the 1976 one, but brings a lot of improvements enginnered with the internal team hard work and with the support of the studies and experiments conducted by factories and engine experts from all over the world around this new family of engines. Paton was the first factory to produce in 1976 the first “V” and single crankshaft architecture which was later adopted by Honda for his famous and multi-world champion engine.
Time goes by but after the 4 valve head in 1968, also this engine’s architecture is the practical demonstration of how passion, talent and the determination in challenging the competitors allowed this small factory to be on the technical fronteer compared to many competitors with much bigger finantial, human and technical resources.
The qualiti of Pattonis technical developments are demonstrated from race results, of which the best was the third place in the 1988 europea championship with Vittorio Scatola, who won also for the first time in Misano in an internationall competition.
During the awards ceremony, all the team components were celebrating the success except one: Giuseppe Pattoni, in fact, a little be touched and being an anti-star, decided to enjoy alone this moment, watching the scene from afar and already thinking to next improvements for the coming races
The beginning of this decade shows still on the circuits the bike with the 4 cylinder V 115°, coming after the 4 cyl V 90°, which obtained the first point in the world championship in 1990 at Monza Gran Premio delle Nazioni with Vittorio Scatola.
The performance gap against competitors led to the engine abandonment in favour of the new model with V shape at 70°, founder of the last generation of 2 stroke racing Paton engines.
For the realization of this new power unit the Pattonis and the team took a sabbatical year from races, to be able to concentrate on the hardwork necessary to develop the project.
As a demonstration of the attention and the reputation in the international motorcycle circle, in support to Paton comes the mythical Youichi Oguma, at that time boss of Honda Racing Corporation, the division responsible still today for all the racing products for the Honda Group. In fact, the problem with the new Paton engine was that no one was able to produce carburetors so small to fit in the engine architecture and so Oguma decided to give a battery of Keihin 36mm carbs, developped specifically for Honda. In a recent visit to the brand new Paton factory established to develop the new projects, Oguma and Roberto Pattoni remembered this episode with some regrets for this gentlemen world.
After the first set up, the new model make is debut in 1994 and soon demonstrates his potential thanks to the new french rider Jean Pierre Jeandat; early 1995, during the pre-championship tests the Paton is very close to the best competitors but a crash during the warm up at the UK Grand Prix had a bad influence on Jean Pierre performance for the rest of the season and also the following year 1996.
In 1997, the world championship organization, more and more focused on business and media rights, refused Paton the automatic registration, after 39 years of races.
This was not enough to stop an “old lion” as Giuseppe Pattoni, which decided to coninue the new bike development and to participate as a “wild card”, that means paying the most part of the expenses on his own.
Once more we have a demonstration that, yet with a big amount of sacrifice and obstacles no one and nothing can resist will, talent and determination… all characteristics of Paton racing team DNA which give the ability to continue even after August 30th 1999, the day Giuseppe Pattoni ended his race on earth, victim of an heart attack after a test rase session in Imola, due for start the next sunday.
Two Thousand Year
Roberto Pattoni, still shocked by his father death, does’nt get doscouraged and with the team support continues the bike development: the Paton PG500 R was in this way at the start line of the 2000 world championship, with a new frame realised by the Turin based factory L.M. Gianetti (producer of the Ford rally chassis winner of the worl championship with Colin Mc Rae). The bike was present on five circuits always with Paolo Tessari and gained the last point of the Paton racing history arriving 15th at the Germany Grand Prix.
In 2001 a new step in the evolution created the PG 500 RC, the first and only Paton with a competitor’s frame: with the support of a timeless reputation by competitors, despite the bad times, Cagiva, the italian brand protagonist for many years in the world races, supply to Paton the 1994 C594 model frames, with wich the american John Kocinskywon the Australia Grand Prix and terminated with the third place the season.
The bike, ridden by the french Sebastien Gimbert made a good impression during the England Grand Prix test in Donington but a crash, during this session, with severe injuries to the rider terminated the season.
The arrival of the 4 stroke and highly expensive MotoGP, allowed for a double capacity (1000cc), with the clear intent to push for the 2 stroke retirement by the organization,pushed Roberto Pattoni and his team to write the word end under the adventure, for the impossibility to afford the euro-millionare budgets required to develop a 1000cc 3 new 4 stroke engine; many other and much more rich factories, such as Kawasaki and Suzuki, followed this choice in a few years.
The last Paton 2 stroke high note was during the 2007 Tourist Trophy centenary, the famous and dangerous race (once the english stage of the world championship) that take place on 37miles road circuit in the Isle of Man. The race organizers, looking for rare participants to make unique the edition, were really happy hearing the veteran Steve Linsdell (70 times at the mountain circuit) asking for the registration with a 500cc 2 stroke GP.
They took few minutes to decide that the request was in perfect line with the TT spirit: the absolute race for bikes and for riders and the small italian factory was reputed a good champion of this spirit.
Even though the bike had to stop for mechanical problems after half race (whose total leght is 364 km, much more a normal Grand Prix), the participation was a great success and the people was astonished hearing the 2 stroke engine brilliant sound, totally different compared to all the 4 stroke superbikes, today leading the class.
So the PG500 RC, still visible in the Paton factory, owns the personal record of being the last Paton 500cc partipating to a world famous race Two thousand ten
In 2013 the first S1 prototype is ready.
In 2014 the S1 is complete, and it will race at TT 2014 in the lightweight category