Born in Modena on the 5th February 1933, Francesco Villa merits a prominent place in the history of motorcycle racing, not only for the numerous successes he achieved as a rider, but also as a mechanic, preparer and constructor. He raced for more than a decade from the mid-fifties, and, after gaining the title of Italian Junior Champion in 1956 in the 125cc class, and second place in the 100cc class, he went on to win the Italian Senior Championship in 1961, '62, '63 and '64 on a 125cc Mondial. His career has been based on two main activities: that of a rider and that of "engineer", in the widest sense of the word. Francesco Villa started as a mechanic with Ducati in their "race division" that was directed by Ing. Fabio Taglioni, during that time totally dedicated to the production of a 100cc and 125cc SOHC named "Marianna", that was gaining brilliant results starting in 1955 at the Motogiro d'Italia, at the Milano-Taranto and numerous other competitions. Having already taken part at various contests and obtaining a second place at the Maranello-Serramazzoni Hill Climb on a 125cc Mi-Val, Ing. Taglioni included him in the race team as a rider. In the final classification of the 100cc class, Francesco gained second place at the Motogiro and the Milano-Taranto.

Second also at the Coppa U.C.M.I. at Imola and first at the circuit of Lugo, Rimini and Perugia. In 1956 he was again second at the Motogiro in the 100cc class at the shoulder of his teammate Gandossi and was adjudicated victor at a number of race circuits and hill climbs. At the end of the season he moved over to Mondial, where he was engaged more as a technician than a rider. He gained first place at the Aerautodromo di Modena in the 125cc class and third in the 100cc class. Again in 1957, at the Motogiro he won the first stage, Bologna-Riva del Garda, on a 175cc Mondial, and was second at the Circuito di Macerata with a 125 and the Viano-Baiso on a 250 cc. However, at the end of the season Mondial withdrew from racing, a decision taken jointly with Guzzi and Gilera. Francesco returned to knock on the door at Ducati, where he was greeted with kindness and employed at their competitions division, where the House of Borgo Panigale needed greater publicity, especially in the 125 and 175cc Sports class, events that created a market, as Ducati focussed on commercial successes principally in Spain and the United States.

In Italy he won at Messina and at Lago di Ganzirri with a 125cc Ducati. He was third at Monza in the G.P. delle Nazioni, which saw the debut of the new 125cc Twin, and first in the 175cc at the Trofeo Internazionale Sport. These summarize the results obtained in the 1958 season. A year later, in 1959, with the 175cc Ducati, he was first at Monza, Locarno and Florence. With the 125 he was first at Monza, Morciano di Romagna and Florence, and second at Riccione and Circuito della Favorita in Palermo. In 1960 with the Ducati 175 he gained four victories in the United States. He won the "24 hours" Montjuch (Spain), the Circuito di Morciano di Romagna and was second at the Circuito di Misano Mare. With the 125 he was first at Torino and Gallarate and second at Monza. In 1961, Count Giuseppe Boselli, incredibly passionate about racing, having now spent a reasonably long period of abstention from his close pact with Guzzi and Gilera, believed he could put his "old" machines back on the track in the competent hands of Francesco Villa. This was a somewhat low-key return and certainly not backed by the vast resources at his disposal during the golden years.