1981 Laverda Jota 180: orange crush

The Slater brothers’ Laverda Jota was once the world’s fastest production bike. Simon de Burton dances to the beat of the beast

Side view of a 1981 Laverda Jota 180 motorbike

Humped seat, silver frame and the ultimate Jota hue

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In 1976, Pete Davies won the Avon Roadrunner race series riding a bike that was virtually street-legal. The machine in question was the original Laverda Jota, a model developed by the Italian marque’s UK importers, Roger and Richard Slater.

The Jota was born out of the 981cc 3CL triple, the 1976 update of the 3C, which featured five-spoke cast wheels, three disc brakes and a neat glassfibre tailpiece. To it the Slater brothers added performance exhausts, rear-set footrests , less restrictive air filters and a close-ratio gearbox to create a brutal beast which made 90bhp at 7600rpm and offered a potential top speed of 140mph – so making it the quickest road bike of its day.

A jota is a Spanish dance accompanied by castanets in three-four time, and the name was chosen for the Italian triple in homage to the quirky arrangement of its crankshaft, which leaves the middle piston at top dead centre while the other two
are at the bottom. When a Jota is ‘on the cam’, the engine delivers an effortless flood of ultra-smooth power which, combined with characteristically nimble Italian handling and ultra-solid road holding, makes it a motorcycling delight.