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Ivano Beggio, founder of the Aprilia motorcycle and scooter brand, has died aged 73 after a long illness.

Born in 1944 at the Northern Italian town of Scorzé, Beggio took over his father’s Aprilia bicycle factory at nearby Noale in 1968 with the aim of moving into powered two-wheelers. He began by entering Italy’s then-vast 50cc moped market and subsequently launched small off-road competition machines in 1970. Early success came from 125 and 250cc motocross bikes, winning the Italian national championship for both classes in 1977.

During the 1980s, trials and enduro machines and the company’s first ST125 road bike were added to the Aprilia range, followed by a 600cc Tuareg Dakar-style adventure bike. All were reliant on Austrian-made Rotax proprietary engines.

Aprilia expanded into scooters in the 1990s, most notably with the big-wheeled Scarabeo, and went racing on tarmac, taking 125 and 250 world championships with the likes of Max Biaggi, Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi in the saddle. A 1000cc RSV Mille V-twin — also Rotax powered — joined its line-up in 1998.

Along the way, Beggio acquired the Moto Guzzi and Laverda brands, and he remained a flamboyant showman, bragging about Aprilia’s achievements, right up to the bitter end. In 2004, Beggio defaulted on a maturing £6m bond and Aprilia collapsed into bankruptcy. Roberto Colaninno’s Piaggio Group fought off Ducati in a bidding war for the wreckage. Colaninno allowed Ivan Beggio to stay on for a couple of years as titular president, a token non-executive role, and then he disappeared from view.