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Sebastian Vettel: My love of classic motorcycles

Sebastian Vettel on the cover of The Red Bulletin in NovemberSebastian Vettel, the best Formula One driver of his generation, has a lifelong passion for historic vehicles. It’s a love of engineering, beauty, form and freedom. On a recent day off, he rode some of the rarest old bikes in the world. The Red Bulletin joined him.

On the Furkajoch alpine pass in the western Austrian state of Vorarlberg, a young man dressed in a stylish leather jacket, jeans and silver helmet is doing circuits on a motorcycle. There are several bike lovers present, but only a few can identify the ride, even after looking at its emblem. It’s a Scott Flying Squirrel, made in 1938. The rider is much more easily identified: Sebastian Vettel, four-time Formula One world champion and lover of historic vehicles.

The bicycle was the first means of transportation which gave me independence

– Sebastian Vettel

“Once I learnt to ride a bicycle my father bought Mini Vespas for my sister and me, ” says Vettel. “When I took my first ride in the garden it was freezing cold, and I shivered so much that I fell.”

Vettel had a normal, active childhood, and the most obvious means to freedom came on two wheels: “You could ride into town, to the outdoor pool, meet up with friends. The bicycle was the first means of transportation which gave me independence.”

At 16, I invested all of my confirmation money in my first motorcycle, a Cagiva Mito

– Vettel

As a teenager, Vettel raced go-karts, and a moped licence was the logical next step. A racing driver travelling to school on a pushbike? No way. Naturally, the moped underwent certain mechanical modifications to increase its speed, “fairly aimless tinkering”, laughs Vettel.

In any case, he was born too late – 1987 – for the true golden age of moped tune-ups. It was his father’s generation that pushed the parameters of that particular mode of transport. “At 16, I invested all of my confirmation money in my first motorcycle, a Cagiva Mito, ” says Vettel. “It was quite something. From the front it looked like a Ducati.”

Vettel now has the same BMW that Grandpa once rode

The Mito was rarely parked out front of the school because Vettel was otherwise engaged with storming his way through different junior racing series. Not long after he passed his final exams, he made his debut in Formula One, aged 19.

However, at home the talk of motorbikes never let up. His grandfather had rhapsodised about his NSU Max and his BMW R 51/3, and Vettel now has the same BMW that Grandpa once rode. It’s not ready for riding yet. “To be honest, ” says its new owner, “it has to be completely rebuilt.” He wants to do it with his own hands, but doesn’t have the time right now.

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