Born in Castelnuovo Rangone – between Modena and Maranello, in the heart of Italian motor sport world – on 13 August 1943, Walter Villa started to race at the age of 13, on a 175cc Moto Morini. He was a very quiet person except when racing… He started to race in the World Championship Grand Prix 125cc class in 1967, then went up to the 250cc riding a Yamaha, then also in the 350cc. But he did not achieve significant results.
After the disaster of Monza in May 1973, Harley Davidson (owner of Aermacchi) hired Villa to replace Renzo Pasolini. Walter Villa was immediately at the top. He clinched his first victory at the Nations GP in Imola, and then at the Dutch TT in Assen. With a total of four wins he took his first World title with 77 points, 19 more than second-placed Dieter Braun. In 1975 the Harley Davidson increased their domination in the 250cc class, Villa taking five wins and his second title, his French teammate Michel Rougerie taking two and finishing runner-up 9 points behind. 1976 was his best year as he won both 250cc and 350cc World titles. In 1977 he concentrated on the 250cc but Mario Lega became champion on the Morbidelli. Villa finished third behind his new teammate Franco Uncini. He was 6th in the 350 and 7th in the 250 in 1979, and ended his career in 1980 with a 9th place in the 350cc – both seasons on a Yamaha. He also won eight Italian Championship titles. He then went on riding in vintage demonstration events, and also worked as national coach. He passed away of a heart attack on 18 June 2002. He was 58.
Text Marc Pétrier
Photo FIM/Maurice Bula