At 65, Riding a 1979 Vespa 50, Valerio Boni Enters the Guinness for the Sixth Time

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A new record, the sixth in three years, adds to the unique collection of Valerio Boni, a 65-year-old journalist specializing in engines, especially small-displacement ones. The latest in the series is the one that with 1,233.075 km (766.19 miles), sets the maximum distance traveled in 24 hours on a 50cc scooter, conquered from noon on March 6 to the same time the next day on the historic Terramar track, about forty kilometers south of Barcelona. A result that not only raises the record bar by 305 km but also represents personal satisfaction for having repeated and surpassed what was done 45 years ago. In 1979, a young Boni, just 20 years old had indeed traveled 940 km (584.089 miles) in 24 hours on his Vespa 50, an impressive distance considering the speed limit of 40 km/h (24,85 mph) imposed by law at that time.

“It wasn’t an official record because despite the presence of an official timing service I hadn’t thought about the possibility of obtaining Guinness certification. I simply considered it one of the small two-wheeled follies of my life, but I also saw it as a small defeat, since my goal in 1979 was to reach 960 km. To do this, I planned a 24-hour non-stop, using an innovative refueling technique inspired by the “air to air refueling” method used by fighter jets, but a drop in engine performance during the night hours made me lose about twenty kilometers. During the days of Covid, I discovered that in the Guinness database there was a category “farthest distance traveled in 24 hours on a 50cc scooter”, and it belonged to the Australian Mark Brown, who in 2005 had not gone beyond 928 km, 12 less than mine.”

The refueling technique used by Valerio Boni.

From that moment, the idea of reclaiming the record that morally belonged to him was born unconsciously. The Vespa 50 was still in the box, restored in 2015 and registered in the FMI historical register, but in the meantime, 45 years had passed for both the scooter and the rider, an element absolutely not to be underestimated. The final push came by chance, during the presentation of a book, “You never forget your first Vespa,” in which the author Paola Scarsi collected in 208 pages the testimonies of more or less famous characters linked to the world’s most famous scooter. The meeting with Denys Maiorino, owner of the Epoca Motors workshop in Trezzo sull’Adda, specialized in scooter restoration, ignited the desire to accept the challenge.

Valerio Boni with the Vespa 50 restored in 2015.

One of the fundamental elements in organizing a record attempt is always related to the choice of the ideal circuit, which must combine the layout of the track with the economic aspect. If in 1979 the 24-hour was organized on the Pirelli Track of Vizzola Ticino, after careful evaluation, the Spanish circuit of Terramar, not far from Barcelona, was preferred. A 2,005 meters (1.24 miles) long ring, with two impressive elevated curves, among the oldest in the world, born in 1923 and much loved by Tazio Nuvolari.

“I saw the Terramar racetrack for the first time in 2018 – Boni recalls – and I was fascinated. It feels the weight of time and in some points, the concrete slabs of the bottom are very uneven, but given the reduced speed, I considered taking the risk and facing the long trip. I must say that an important part of the choice was made by the “round” numbers: a 45-year-old scooter, a track that has just celebrated a century of life, 55 years since the presentation of the first Vespa 50 Special, 100 years of the Pontedera plant, where the Vespa is always built, and finally my 65 years.” 

In the early planning phase of the attempt, there was a bit of a toss-up about aiming for the original goal of 960 kilometers or going for 1,080 (671,08 miles). The first was the original target, achievable by cruising at 40 km/h, the legal speed limit back in 1979, while the second represented the max distance travelable at today’s legal max speed for a moped in Europe: 45 km/h (28 mph). The answer came from the Guinness guidelines, which set the displacement limit at 50cc but no speed caps, provided the engine conforms to a mass-produced one. So, the Vespa got freed from the blocks limiting its performance, boosting its speed to around 55 km/h (34,1 mph).

Backed by the Epoca Motors team and friends Ivo Viscasillas and Cristian Noguera, expert endurance scooter riders, who also lent the competition Vespas used for the on-the-move refueling, Valerio Bonimanaged to keep an average speed higher than necessary to beat the goal right from the start. And he smashed the old record of 928 kilometers well before 5 in the morning. The only hitch was an eye irritation caused by dust, which forced a brief pause to apply some eye drops, by which time the record was already in the bag. This meant it wasn’t possible to pull off a strictly non-stop 24-hour, but this didn’t affect the final outcome, as it was an extra challenge added by the rider keen on exactly replicating the 1979 trial. In fact, the guidelines don’t set any limits on stops, which can be entirely managed at the rider’s discretion within the attempt’s timeframe. The certainty of the result came in the past few days, after all the required documentation was sent to London for verification and approval, otherwise, it’s not possible to use the “Guinness record” denomination in communications.

Valerio Boni with Matthieu Liard, Executive Director of the Terramar Autodrome, the mechanics of Epoca Motors and the Spanish riders of Team Castrol who managed the refueling operations with two racing Vespa PXs.

This outcome not only celebrates the determination and passion of someone who stayed in the saddle for a whole day but also the timeless charm of the Vespa, an icon that withstands time and trends and continues to inspire challenges and dreams. It’s interesting to note that despite being 78 years old and the numerous feats accomplished by travelers and dreamers on the Pontedera scooter, the record achieved at Terramar is currently the only one featuring a Vespa among the over 53,000 recorded in the Guinness database.

Before this feat, Valerio Boni had already clinched these unbeaten records:

  • May 2021 – Castelletto di Branduzzo (Italy), greatest distance on a pocketbike in 24 hours
  • May 2022 – Brembate (Italy), greatest distance on a motocross bike in 24 hours
  • October 2022 – Zuera (Spain), greatest distance on an electric motor scooter in 24 hours
  • February 2023 – Cremona (Italy), fastest towed asphalt skiing
  • November 2023 – Cervesina (Italy), greatest distance on an electric scooter in 24 hours by a team

Source: Guinness World Record


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