How Salvo Pennisi Shaped Pirelli’s World Class Tire Testing Practices

How Salvo Pennisi Shaped Pirelli’s World Class Tire Testing Practices

His business card reads: "Pirelli Head of Outdoor Testing and Technical Relations, Motorcycle and Bicycle." However, it’s impossible to explain Salvo Pennisi's job in one sentence—let alone who he is as a person.

Perhaps a little anecdote, told during a dinner by the sea in Taormina, Sicily, will illustrate the passion with which this man still acts every day after more than 40 years in the business. Since his first motocross victory in December 1971 at the tender age of 14, he has never stopped racing motorcycles, whether on or off-road.

Winning the acceleration test during the FIM Vintage Trophy 2022 in Portugal on his Honda CR250 has hyped him so much that he is aiming to win this year’s Sicilian Enduro Championship for classic machines again on an ultra-tuned Yamaha TT350. Mind you, he’s doing it all at an advanced age between a week of tire testing in Brazil, a technical meeting in Japan, a business appointment in Germany, and a tire release at the Pergusa racetrack in Sicily.

Pennisi is an incredible bundle of energy and is constantly rumbling inside, like the volcanic Mount Etna right next door to Pirelli. At the same time, he radiates calm sovereignty to the outside world and seems to be connected with all motorcycle manufacturers and journalists around the world.

Sicilian Heritage

Pennisi was born in Acireale on the eastern coast of Sicily, growing up in a rural environment. His family grew citrus fruits, a profession the island’s farmers still practice today.

His father, Piero, competed in car races and famous racers often visited the family, so little Salvo has been breathing gasoline-scented air from an early age. In the ‘70s, he competed in motocross and enduro races, and he became a junior factory rider in southern Italy for Ducati in 1977.

Pennisi rode Ducati’s 125cc two-strokes until a knee injury stopped him. He completed his military service with the Carabinieri because he wanted to do something against organized crime.