- The Piaggio Ape is a miniature three-wheeled utility vehicle popular with companies throughout Italy.
- It’s also become the star of one of Italy’s biggest up-and-coming motorsports, Ape racing.
- One of the sports most well-known drivers is Loris Rosati, whose custom Ape sports a Lightning McQueen-themed livery.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
This is Ape racing.
Narrator: Movie-loving car fans still enjoy debating what kind of car Lightning McQueen from the popular ‘Cars’ franchise really is. However, here’s one thing we know he’s definitely not.
This little fellow is what’s known as a Piaggio Ape. It’s a three-wheeled miniature Italian cargo vehicle based off the popular Vespa scooter, which the Piaggio manufacturer also happens to produce. ‘Ape’ in Italian means ‘bee’, and it’s a clever reference to the work ethic of this tiny thing. These small commercial automobiles are still popular with companies throughout Italy due to their compact size that allows them to navigate the narrowest of streets and park virtually anywhere.
However, as with almost any vehicle ever built, there’s a community of gearheads out there who can’t resist turning them into racing machines. Ape racing has become a surprisingly popular motorsport throughout Italy that features owners of modified Apes competing in some of the most fun-looking organized races we’ve ever seen.
One of those competitors is Loris Rosati, an Italian driver and builder who transformed this particular Piaggio Ape into the perfect compact racer for the track.
Loris: In Italy, the Ape is very well known because it is used by children aged 14 to 18 to go to school and by the elderly to drive around as a means of work.
Narrator: Powered by a Honda motorcycle engine and sporting that unmistakable Lightning McQueen livery, Loris’s custom Ape might be the most fun you can have on three wheels.
Loris: It all started out as a joke with an old Ape that I used to drive around at home. Later I discovered that here in Italy there were racing competitions with these vehicles. Then with the help of my father, we made a racing Ape and at 13 years old I competed in my first race. Initially, in my Ape we had kept its original 50cc engine. Then we developed and switched to a 125cc engine and I went up one category with this vehicle.
The engine we added to it comes from a 2002 Honda Hornet 600. It is a 4-cylinder engine and makes 100 horsepower. , while the rest we built ourselves, starting from the chassis, braking system, exhaust, transmission, etc. There is practically nothing left of the original 50cc Ape, but the functionality of the front brake, accelerator, rear brake pedal, clutch and the way you change gears has remained the same as the old Ape.
I started competing in 2007 and currently have won 5 Italian championships, I participate in events all over Europe, the most recent was in Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Austria, Germany.
Narrator: In addition to his continued success on the racetrack, the creative livery Loris chose for his car has definitely contributed to him being one of the most popular names in the sport.
Loris: For the coloring, we were inspired by the movie "Cars" because we wanted to create something unique, that nobody had before and that both adults and children would like. And indeed it’s been a great success.
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