Historic Motorcycle Brands

Paton

 

Not many motorcycle makers have been able to survive by making competition-only bikes, but Paton managed to do just that, until 2007. The brand was revived by exhaust-system specialist SC-Project in 2016 and international racing success immediately followed.

 

The specialised Paton brand was born after the closure of the Mondial Racing Department in 1958. Giuseppe Pattoni and Lino Tonti gave up their Mondial redundancy payments in exchange for the racing material left on the shelves and began to develop the first Paton racing bike. ‘Paton’ is a portmanteau of PATtoni and tONti.)

The first Paton engine was a dual-overhead-camshaft version of the single-cam Mondial 125cc four-stroke. It was released as a Paton-Mondial, but Cavaliere Boselli, patron of Mondial, ordered the cancellation of any connection to the Mondial brand.

Interestingly, the cancellation of racing involvement began the rapid decline of Mondial sales and the last all-Mondial bike was produced in 1960.

 

1958 TT – Mike Hailwood

 

Paton’s success was immediate, with a young Mike Hailwood picking up seventh place on his and Paton’s debuts at the Isle of Man TT, on the Paton 125.

Lino Tonti was busy developing a two-cylinder, twin-cam 250cc engine, but was lured away from Paton by an offer from Bianchi. 

Starved of funds, Pattoni worked as a mechanic in a day-job, while continuing to develop the 250 and preserved a racing profile in the Italian championship, with the 125.

The workshop where Pattoni worked was a Citroën dealership, owned by Italian driver Giorgio Pianta. This garage became Paton’s development workshop after-hours and that arrangement continued for many years.

 

1959 Paton 125

 

The 250cc BIC (Bicilindrica) Paton began testing in 1962 and proved good enough for third place in the lightweight category in the 1964 TT, with Alberto Pagani in the saddle.

A 350cc development of the 250 soon followed and one was bought by the sponsor of English racer, Fred Stevens: Bill Hannah. Both men were sufficiently impressed with the Paton BIC 350 to request a 500cc derivative and Bill Hannah financed this innovation. He became the Paton racing team’s sponsor in 1967.

 

 

The engine displaced an actual 464cc and featured engineering advances: a central gear train, four valves per cylinder and a cassette gearbox.

The 500 was known as the BIC 500 BL1 (‘BL’ denoting the Belletti frame).

The BL1 had instant success, with Bergamonti winning the title of 1967 Campione d’Italia, ahead of Agostini on the MV Agusta.

Frame and engine development continued and Gallina scored second in the 500cc Italian Championship, in 1971 and third places in 1970 and 1972.

In 1973 Paton adopted new Bimota frames and Toracca got third place in the Italian Championship the following year.

 

 

Two-stroke revolution

Virginio Ferrari, Giuseppe and Roberto Pattoni with the development Paton BM3 at Imola in 1975

 

To keep up with the competition, ‘il Pep’( Pattoni’s nickname) dropped four-stroke development in favour of a two-stroke engine. A young Virginio Ferrari helped develop this new solution as a team co-worker, together with Toracca.

The work to develop the two-stroke engine was unstoppable and, in 1976, Pattoni revealed the first four-cylinder, two-stroke V-engine with a single crankshaft. Honda used this layout later on, in its world championship winning, four-cylinder engines.

The new Paton V90 BM4 – a 90-degree V-engine – was mounted in  a frame developed by Tamburini, but didn’t have good performance results.

Giuseppe Pantoni and son Roberto realised there was much development work to be done. Paton gave up participation in the World Championship and showed up at just one race per year, to check progressively on the competitiveness of their engine and frames, developed by Segoni.

 

 

In 1983 the Paton C1 500 model was shown: the first model on which dad Giuseppe and son Roberto worked together, helped by the frame maker Claudio Colombo. Colombo provided the Grand Prix motorbike frames until 1999 and, later on, also made the frames for the retro version of the 1968 MY Paton BIC 500.

In the 500 European Championship of 1988, Paton scored third-place, with Vittorio Scatola, with the highlight being victory in the Misano GP.

 

 

 

Chasing more performance, Paton replaced the 90-degree V4 with a 115-degree V4-cylinder that was followed by a 70-degree V-engine, forefather of the latest generation of two-stroke engines. 

Patton struggled to fit carburettors inside this narrow-V engine, but in a gesture that confirmed deep respect for Paton, Oguma – president of Japanese HRC – personally sent Paton an array of 36mm carburettors, specifically produced for the Honda Grand Prix motorbikes.

The new model’s debut was in 1994 and the following year, with the arrival of the French rider Jeandat, the bike started to show its potential, putting itself close to the factory bikes. However, because of a serious accident during the warm-up at the Donington GP, Jeandat couldn’t show up on the start line and the season closed without much satisfaction.

 

 

In 1997 it got even harder for Paton, when the IRTA and DORNA denied them inclusion in the World Championship, due to the poor competitiveness of the bike. That meant the Paton official team wouldn’t be present in a world race paddock, after 39 years of racing history. 

But this enormous setback didn’t stop development of the bikes and Luca Cadalora reported favourable performance on test rides.

Bad fortune struck again, on 30th August 1999, while returning from a private testing session before the Italian GP in Imola, Giuseppe Pantoni passed away.

A strong will and spirit of sacrifice were just some of the qualities that made it possible for Giuseppe Pattoni to continue following his dream – that and undoubted talent. These qualities that il Pep had transmitted to Roberto stood him in good stead. 

Although shocked by the sudden passing of his father, Roberto continued development of the bike, producing the PG500 R that participated in the World Championship of 2000, with Paolo Tessari. His 15th place in the German GP was the last World Championship Race in the history of Paton.

In 2001, thanks to the Cagiva frame with which Kocinsky won the Australian GP, the French racer Gimbert showed himself competitive on the PG500 RC, the evolution of the PG500 R model. 

Times changed and the introduction of the MotoGP 1000cc four-stroke formula forced Roberto to put an end to Paton’s racing endeavours, after more than 40 years.

The last Paton two-stroke highlight was in 2007, in the 100-year Isle of Man race event. Steve Linsdell, a veteran of the Tourist Trophy with more than 70 entries, requested a 500 two-stroke GP bike to enter. He needed to retire mid-race, but the roar of the motorbike blew people’s minds. 

Moto Paton, a name synonymous with precision in motorcycle racing, was acquired by Advanced Group Srl – owner of the SC-Project brand – in 2016. This company specialised in motorcycle exhaust systems.

Under its new ownership, the Paton brand continued to honour its rich racing history; especially with successes at the Isle of Man TT.

 

 

The S1-R first triumphed at the TT in 2017, with Michael Rutter and achieved further glory in 2018 when Michael Dunlop secured his 18th TT win.  Paton dominated the leaderboard with five bikes in the top six positions. 

More glory came Paton’s way in 2024, during the Isle of Man TT Races. On Saturday, 8th June, 2024, Michael Dunlop won the Supertwin TT Race 2, on the MD Racing Paton, giving him his world-record 29th TT win. 

Also, Paton produces road-legal, race-replica bikes, headed by the S1-R Lightweight. This special can be modelled to suit customers’ needs and comes with a choice of three stages of engine tune.

It boasts the slogan: Hand Made in Milano. 

 

The S1-R was conceived by Roberto Pattoni and his chief engineer, Andrea Realini, who also formerly worked with Roberto’s father on the Paton 500GP two-strokes.

The choice of the S1-R’s 650cc engine was obvious to the two men: the Kawasaki ER6 being a modern development of the original Paton Bicilindrica design, using a parallel-twin, eight-valve DOHC format, with a 180-degree crankshaft and cassette gearbox.

The S1-R Lightweight came with a titanium SC-Project exhaust system, Ohlins sunspension, Brembo braking system, TK discs, Metzeler Racetec RR shod OZ Racing forged wheels and Valter Moto and Rizoma accessories.

“By adhering to its bespoke manufacturing process, Paton remains dedicated to meeting the demands of both classic enthusiasts and modern racers, ensuring each motorcycle exemplifies exceptional craftsmanship and sustained excellence,” the company said.

 

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