Freddie Spencer: FEEL My Story

I have been an enthusiast of Grand Prix motorcycle racing since the early 1970’s and always relished reading the latest news, race reports and interviews in the specialist press. To a degree, it allows a certain amount of insight into the character of our racing heroes but like anyone who is thrust into the media spotlight, the public image does not fully reveal the person.

For example, triple World Champion, Freddie Spencer, was presented by many in the media as a devout Christian who hailed from the Bible belt town of Shreveport Louisiana USA. It was alleged his faith helped him to his first 500cc World Championship in 1983 defeating “King” Kenny Roberts by just two points. The truth though is somewhat different.

Freddie Spencer’s autobiography (with Rick Broadbent) is an openly disarming account of his life. From the early days racing with his Dad, Frederick Snr, to the highs and the lows of his racing career and the many injuries he sustained but hid from the press. Freddie reveals that he was not a churchgoer or deeply religious, but he has faith and his journey has been in many ways a spiritual one.

Spencer is also the only rider to have won both the 250cc (Moto2) and 500cc (MotoGP) World Championship in the same season, a feat that is unlikely to be emulated. FEEL: My Story, is the book that fills in the blanks surrounding Freddie’s career and reveals a fascinating insight into his search for meaning.

Highly recommended.

Available from the Book Depository.

Review © Geoff Dawes 2017.

 

 

 

 

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Archives: The Great Wings and Wheels Challenge

Jeff Evans aboard his 1950 Norton International and Neville Schubert on his 1956 MSS Velocette take on the Supermarine Spitfire MK V111 (background) in the feature event.

The classic racing scene has become a worldwide phenomenon over the past thirty years or more.  The highly successful Goodwood Festival of Speed was first held in 1993 followed five years later in 1998 by the Goodwood Revival that celebrates not only historic racing cars and motorcycles but also aircraft with spectators dressing in period costume to recreate the era.

1993 was also the year Adelaide had its own unique historic event in aid of charity. Below is my report on the meeting.

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The idea for the Great Wings and Wheels Challenge was inspired by the writings of T.E. Lawrence – the fabled “Lawrence of Arabia “. It was Airman Lawrence’s exploits racing his “super tuned” Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle against the likes of World War One aircraft such as Bristol fighters and Sopwith Camels that captured the imagination of Blind Welfare fundraising promotions officer, and motorcycle racing enthusiast, Chris Wain.

With the help of the Historic Motorcycle Racing Register, Tourism S.A., the Historic Racing Register and the Federal Airports Authority, this unique event was put together to aid the Blind Welfare Association by pitting historic motorcycles, cars and aircraft against each other.

Held in absolutely perfect weather conditions on Sunday, November the 14th at Adelaide’s Parafield Airport, the organisers turned on an entertaining family event that was enjoyed by approximately 20,000 spectators.

But how do you translate Lawrence’s daring races on public roads into an event contained within the safety conscious confines of Parafield Airport? The answer turned out to be really quite simple. By utilising three of the northwestern runways it was possible to have the motorcycles, cars and aircraft race each other side by side over a measured four hundred metres.

Kent Patrick’s magnificent Type 37A Bugatti.

In the spirit of the era, well known “flagman”, Glen Dix, waved them away with each competitor’s progress being timed by hand held stopwatch. With some sixty entrants in the car division and thirty-five in the motorcycle class, it was going to be quite a feat to get through the various categories before a final “top ten shootout” for the three divisions could be held. Each competitor though was guaranteed at least three runs, with their best time to be recorded on a special certificate and accompanied by a plaque.

The air was filled with nostalgia as the time trials started with interesting machines for both motorcycle and car enthusiasts to watch and aircraft aficionados to admire. In the motorcycle class, these ranged from Doug Treager’s 1961 Manx Norton and Dean Watson’s 1948 KSS Velocette to Mark Schuppan’s 1962 pan head Harley Davidson outfit. The sight of Peter Graham’s vintage 4.5 litre Bentley and Kent Patrick’s Type 37A Bugatti whipped up images of Le Mans and Brooklands in the car class, which added to the atmosphere of the occasion, helped along with such classics as the SS100 (Jaguar) of Simon Finch and Don Davies MG TC special.

Colin Pay taxies his Supermarine Spitfire MK V111.

The aircraft were well represented too, including perhaps that most loved of bi-planes the Tiger Moth owned by Bryan Price and also the Boeing Stearman’s of Ivor Peaech and Tim Knappstein.

The time trials, however, were not the only attraction of the event. The organisers had made sure there was a carnival atmosphere with plenty of side shows, rides and static displays to admire. The latter included public access to the cockpit of an Avon Sabre jet fighter of the type used during the Korean War.The Southern Cross Trust also had on display their replica of the Focker V11 that carried Australian pilot Charles Kingsford Smith on the first aerial crossing of the Pacific from America to Australia in 1928.

But the stars of the show for most were Colin Pay’s World War Two Supermarine Spitfire Mark V111 and the Hawker Sea Fury owned by Guido Zuccoli. It was the individual lunchtime acrobatics of these two aircraft that had the crowd enthralled. If the Spitfire could be described as swift agile and elegant, then the Sea Fury was fast furious and loud. With 2,550hp on tap from its radial 18 cylinder engine, the Sea Fury is one of the most powerful piston engine aircraft ever built, and after seeing it in action there are few who would dispute this claim. Truly awe inspiring stuff and a fitting build up to the feature event of the day – a match race between a Brough Superior, the Supermarine Spitfire and a Type 37A Bugatti.

Time trials winner Andy McDonald on his 650cc Triton (15) lines up against Bob Eldridge on his Honda CB72 based racer.

Unfortunately, this brought the only disappointment of the meeting when the Brough Superior was unexpectedly scratched. Neville Schubert’s 1956 MSS Veloccette and Jeff Evans 1950 600cc Norton International however ably filled its place. To the entertainment of the crowd, these classic and vintage competitors lined up against each other in a cacophony of revving engines as they waited to be flagged away. At the starter’s signal, they launched themselves off the line with the motorcycles scrambling to an immediate advantage, which they held to the line. The Spitfire, although putting in a creditable 17.38 seconds run, was no match, but it was still quick enough to beat home the vintage Bugatti.

By now most of the huge crowd were suffering from a severe case of nostalgia overload as the meeting started to wind down with the final runs of the top ten entrants being run for each class – although it would be the fastest run the competitors had accomplished on the day that would decide the winner of the time trials.

The most powerful piston engined aeroplane in the world the Hawker Sea Fury.

And they were pretty close too, with eight competitors getting into the 13 second bracket in the motorcycle category and two in the car class. The overall winner and first in the motorcycle division went to Andy McDonald on his 1962 650cc Triton with a 13.04sec pass. Overall second and first in the car class was the Elfin of F. Greeneklee with a 13.12sec run while third place and second in the motorcycle category went to Wal Morgan on his 1962 650cc Tribsa with a time of 13.25sec.

Worth a mention also is the effort of Neil Munro and Shane Edwards who came sixth overall with a13.47sec on their 1000cc Vincent HRD outfit. Perhaps not surprisingly the aircraft didn’t fare so well, with the best time of 16.0sec being achieved by Tim Knappstein with his Boeing Stearman.

But the real winners, of course, were the public who got a unique opportunity to see some amazing machinery compete against each other and in doing so contribute toward a very worthwhile cause.

 

Words and photographs Geoff Dawes © 1993. Published in British Bikes Magazine 1993.

Vale Nicholas Patrick Hayden

 

2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden has passed away following an incident with a car while out training on his bicycle along the Riviera di Rimini on the Adriatic coast. He had competed at the nearby Imola circuit the previous weekend in the World Superbike Championship. On Wednesday the 17th of May he sustained severe head and chest injuries when he was hit by the car.  Hayden was treated at the Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena. “The medical team has verified the death of the patient Nicholas Patrick Hayden, who has been undergoing care in the intensive care unit following a very serious polytrauma, ” the hospital said in a statement.

The 35-year-old from Owensboro Kentucky started out racing dirt track in his native USA before switching to the tarmac and was crowned AMA Supersport Champion in 1999.  This was followed by the AMA Superbike crown in 2002 making Hayden the youngest rider to win the title before moving to the MotoGP World Championship for 2003. As a rookie, he took two podiums that year, at Motegi in Japan and Phillip Island in Australia.  More podiums followed in 2004 before Hayden took his first pole and Grand Prix victory at Laguna Seca in 2005. The following year, the “Kentucky Kid” became the MotoGP World Champion beating Valentino Rossi to the premier class crown, only securing the title at the last round of the year at Valencia in Spain.

Statement from Tommy Hayden, on behalf of the Hayden family:

“On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way.

“Although this is obviously a sad time, we would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle. He dreamed as a kid of being a pro rider and not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport in becoming World Champion. We are all so proud of that.

“Apart from these ‘public’ memories, we will also have many great and happy memories of Nicky at home in Kentucky, in the heart of the family. We will all miss him terribly.

“It is also important for us to thank all the hospital staff for their incredible support – they have been very kind. With the further support of the authorities in the coming days, we hope to have Nicky home soon.”

Words (C) Geoff Dawes. Image courtesy http://www.topspeed.com.

Archives: A Special Classic Racer

 

From humble 250cc road going street bike to 500cc championship winning classic racer.

I penned this article in 1984 for Bike Australia, and over the thirty years since, Jerry Kooistra built Honda CB72 based 350cc and 500cc classic racers have been winning championships and breaking lap records.

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Classic racing in Australia has become one of the most popular and fast growing sections of motorcycle road racing, a trend that’s also sweeping many other parts of the world. The class in Australia caters for motorcycles manufactured between 1931 to 1962, giving a new lease of life to many famous, but previously idle, racing machines. It has also lured former world and national champions out of retirement to compete; recreating an era of motorcycle racing that was missed by many of today’s racing enthusiasts.

At any classic meeting, it’s not unusual to see pristine examples of pure classic racing machinery such as the 500cc Manx Norton or 350cc 7R AJS. However, it is unusual to find a Concours condition racing special built from a road bike that would do any factory’s racing department proud. The racing bike in question is the Graham Besson and Jerry Kooistra owned and built Honda 500cc twin that started its life as a road going 1962 250cc CB72 Super Sport.

The 500cc and its older 350cc brother have made the team a force to be reckoned with in Australian classic racing. The teams racing debut was at the September 1981 classic meeting in South Australia. Using the 350cc CB72 they won all four heats against machines of up to 1000cc capacity and in the process broke the lap record. Since that successful debut, the 500cc version has been developed and holds lap records at all four venues in South Australia and recently won the 1983 Historic Twin Cylinder Championships at Mallala Motorsport Park.

The 350cc version of the Honda CB72 based racer.

Graham and Jerry modestly suggest this is due to their professional approach to racing that has been complimented by having top riders such as Wayne Gardner and former Australian Champions Otto Mueller and Bill Horsman riding their machinery. The team has been so encouraged by their results that they’re building a new 500cc bike for Bill Horsman to ride at Daytona in the Classic Race and Battle of the Twins. The target is Daytona 1985 due to business commitments and the need to find sponsorship to fund the project.

But success for the CB72 racers did not happen overnight and it has taken many years of development to make them competitive racers. Graham started modifying Honda CB72’s with mechanic and racer Terry Dennehey back in the early sixties when Besson was a budding road racer living in Sydney. Their bike in 350cc form was officially timed at 136mph (223kph) at Longford in Tasmania, which Graham believes is still the record for a 350cc four-stroke. In 1970 with the motor stretched to 500cc, it was measured at 142mph (228kph) at Bathurst.

It’s worth noting that “Pops” Yoshimura (who was virtually unknown outside of Japan at that time) was developing the CB72 engine along the same lines.   A data sheet put out by Yoshimura and distributed by Honda compared favourably with Besson and Dennehey’s development work. Eventually, Graham pulled out of the project and Dennehey sold the bike to the Honda Racing Team of Tasmania who Kooistra was involved with as a rider/mechanic. Graham later moved to South Australia with his family, which by chance is where Jerry Kooistra moved some years later. It was after meeting again that they decided to build the current generation of CB72 racers to meet classic racing requirements as a “hobby”.

To say their CB72 racer is highly modified would be something of an understatement and would probably not do justice to the many parts that Jerry Kooistra (who is a toolmaker by trade) has fabricated for the bikes. On the 500cc engine, they’ve used their own specially built crankshaft to increase the engine’s stroke from 54mm to 64.8mm, which required the use of a spacer between the barrels and the crankcase. The bore has been increased from a humble 54mm to a whopping 70mm by using new liners. These took so much “meat” out of the barrels that the cooling fins had to be welded together! Many hours were spent optimising the cylinder heads gas flow with the resultant increase in inlet and exhaust valve size of 27mm to 32mm and 32mm to 37mm respectively. Compression has also gone up from 9.5:1 to 10.5:1.

The 500cc version of the Honda CB72 racer. Note the mufflers on the end of the megaphones.

Although Graham developed a lumpier camshaft for the CB72 in the sixties, they have found it necessary to design a new profile for the special requirements of the bigger engines. Jerry has also slotted the camshaft sprocket and can adjust the degree of cam timing independent of the crankshaft and individually for each cylinder. Kooistra will even grind the cam followers in the quest for a perfect set-up. The original neoprene guides for the cam-chain have been retired so that steel items can be used in the pursuit of reliability.

A pair of 31mm Keihins, that replace the standard 22mm units, supply the air-fuel mixture. These were acquired from the Honda Racing Services Centre and were at one time offered as part of a race kit for the CB72. They are replicas of the carburettors on the factory’s first 125cc Grand Prix racers from 1959 except they are die-cast instead of sand-cast. All that effort to get more air-fuel into the combustion chamber to create a bigger “bang” would be partially lost if the exhaust system didn’t allow the engine to exhale properly. Over a hundred hours were spent developing exhaust megaphones to achieve the correct power characteristics only to find the exhaust note was over the allowed decibel limit. In desperation, some mufflers were made from automatic transmission parts and tacked on the end the megaphones. To their surprise not only did the mufflers put the exhaust noise under the decibel limit but also increased the racers horsepower. Jerry believes the engine is making approximately 60bhp at 10,000rpm, a jump of 36bhp over the stock 250cc engine that produced 24bhp at 9,000rpm.

Lengthening the stroke of the engine required some special thought to increase the oil supply and to improve crankcase breathing. The standard 250cc CB72 sump was small capacity and only carried 1.4 litres of oil so an extra oil tank was fitted directly above the crankshaft relieving oil pressure and allowing it to flow back into the crankcases. Breather hoses run from this tank to a catch-tank which doubles as the seat bum-stop. A VW oil cooler is also fitted under the engine to utilise cool air scooped up by a lip in the fairing.

The ignition has been modified from the usual battery coil set-up to a more suitable magneto system, which Kooistra made. With the increased torque of the 500cc motor, the primary drive chain was seen as a possible weak link due to difficulties experienced earlier with the 350cc engine. Jerry attacked this problem by replacing the chain with his own gear drive system between the crankshaft and the clutch, resulting in a totally reliable primary drive. Problems did occur with the race kits $1,200 five-speed transmission. The five-speed racing transmission was designed to fit in the space vacated by the standard four-speed gearbox and was designed to handle only 28 fairly tame racing horsepower. Unfortunately, the full torque of the 500cc engine at 9,000rpm usually resulted in stripped gears. One solution was to increase the speed of the gearbox to the crankshaft by changing the gear ratio between them. The other was to change to a cush gear drive by installing a Honda dream rear hub, the both of which have eradicated the gearbox woes. The clutch has also been beefed up with the addition of three more plates making a total of eight.

Bill Horsman in action on the Honda at Mallala Motorsport Park.

No matter how much horsepower is extricated from a racing engine that alone will not win races. A lot of innovation and clear thinking has gone into transforming the CB72 from an adequate road bike into an excellent racetrack performer. The CB72 is well known for dragging its engine cases under racing conditions which can result in oil leaking from the main oil feed gallery that runs to the gearbox on the primary side. To improve ground clearance the spine tube type frame was cut into half a dozen pieces and then reassembled with extra bracing around the main backbone tube and the standard length swingarm. The opportunity was also taken to change the steering heads rake and trail to angles more suited to racing.

The net result is an extremely rigid frame with more ground clearance than available tread. The front forks are standard items with the main development being different weight fork oil. Earlier experience with the race kits stiff fork springs only resulted in producing the world’s first 140mph (225kph) pogo stick! At the rear Koni hydraulic shocks are used but re-valved by Jerry to his specification.

Some problems were encountered with the standard twin leading shoe front brake that under racing conditions were cracking the hub due to excessive heat build-up. The solution to this came in the form of a specially cast hub Graham had made by his father-in-law in the early sixties. A new hub was made from the pattern of the original to give the bike a twin leading shoe arrangement. But it wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds. To get identical brakes on each side Jerry took the backing plate of a CB72 front brake and cut it into seven pieces. He then re-arranged the pieces so he had a mirror image of the original and welded them together. It’s almost impossible to detect the welds as the whole thing is so well executed it looks like a factory component.

A Honda Dream rear brake unit with competition linings adequately handles the rear braking duties. Kooistra also crafted the tank and seat unit from aluminium as well as the fairing of their first bike, the 350, from which fibreglass replicas were moulded. Jerry’s five-year cadetship in mechanical instrument and tool making shines through again in the execution of the hollow footpegs, brake and gear lever, which have an almost clinical precision to them. The overall effect of this high level of craftsmanship is a racer that looks as though it just rolled out of the factory’s racing department and good enough to win the Best Competition Bike and Best Bike trophy at the 1983 Adelaide M.R.A. Bike Show.

Note the replica carburettor patterned on the Grand Prix units used by Honda in 1959.

To Graham Besson, the Honda CB72 based racers are a realisation of how he would like to have gone racing 20 years ago. For Jerry Kooistra, they have been an outlet for an inquisitive mind and an enormous creative talent. With 8 times Australian Champion, Bill Horsman, riding them you have an irresistible force in Australian Classic Racing that with the required sponsorship can only do well at Daytona in 1985.

 

Words and photographs © Geoff Dawes 1984. Published in the March 1984 issue of Bike Australia.

Vintage Jaguars

 

The South Australian Barossa Vintage Festival is the oldest of its type in Australia with 2017 marking 70 years of celebrating the end of the grape harvest and vintage. As is usual with this type of event there were numerous opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in the regions famous wines and locally produced food against the backdrop of Borossan history and heritage.

The car that started it all. A 1932 SS 1.

Held from Wednesday the 19th to Sunday the 23rd of April 2017, there were altogether some 90 events to charm all age groups that showcased arts, music, culture and community. But access to one of Australia’s largest collection of Jaguar cars was a pleasant surprise for any avid car buff.

The collection, which boasts some 50 vehicles, is the obsession of fifth generation Barossan, Carl Lindner. Carl, who is of descent from the religiously persecuted Silesian Lutherans that immigrated to South Australia in the 1840’s and settled in the Barossa Valley, has interests in a number of vineyards and is also a property developer. He is also passionate about the Barossa and works tirelessly to promote the region.

Part of the extensive collection.

Carl’s interest in the Jaguar marque began almost by accident in 1982 when at an auction in Tanunda he was determined to outbid a friend for a lot that turned out to be a 1932 SS 1 with coachwork by HW Allingham. Lindner became fascinated with the story of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons and the rest, as they say, is history.

Carl has purchased an array of different models over the years, although the E-Type figures prominently, and has a spotless display in two separate buildings one of which has a restoration area. Lindner also has a number of replica model Jaguar’s built in association with Rob Firman and Matt Gill of Whitestone Panel Paint and Coach based at Oamaru in New Zealand.

Replica C Type Jaguar.

The exhibition of cars at 55 Basedow Road Tanunda is not usually open to the general public although car clubs have arranged to visit the collection and the cars are occasionally used to raise money for charity at events in the Barossa.

What more could classic car enthusiasts ask for? Good food, great wines and classic cars. Pencil in the 2018 Barossa Vintage Festival.

Words and photographs © Geoff Dawes 2017

Vale John Surtees

Surtees in discussion with “Il Commendatore” Enzo Ferrari.

John Surtees has passed away in hospital on the 10th of March 2017 at the age of 83. Surtees was the only person to win World Championships in both the premier Formula 1 car and the 500cc (MotoGP) motorcycle Grand Prix categories.

The Surtees family announced the news in a statement, which read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our husband and father, John Surtees CBE.”

“John, ‪83, was admitted to St Georges Hospital, London in February with an existing respiratory condition and after a short period in intensive care he passed away peacefully this afternoon.”

“His wife, Jane and daughters, Leonora and Edwina were by his side.”

“John was a loving husband, father, brother and friend.”

“He was also one of the true greats of motorsport and continued to work tirelessly up until recently with The Henry Surtees Foundation and Buckmore Park Kart Circuit.”

“We deeply mourn the loss of such an incredible, kind and loving man as well as celebrate his amazing life.”

“He has set a very real example of someone who kept pushing himself at his peak and one who continued fighting until the very end.”

“We would like to thank all the staff at St George’s Hospital and The East Surrey Hospital for their professionalism and support during this difficult time for us.”

“Thank you also to all of those who have sent their kind messages in recent weeks.”

Below is a piece I published on MotoVue in 2014 celebrating the 50th anniversary of John’s outstanding achievement.

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Fifty years ago, on the 25th of October in 2014, John Surtees secured the Formula One World Championship for Ferrari, becoming the first and only man to win a Grand Prix World Championships on two wheels and four. Surtees had already won the premier 500cc Grand Prix crown on four occasions (1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960) and the 350cc G.P. title on three occasions (1958, 1959 and 1960) for a total of seven World Championships on two wheels, before he clinched the Formula One title at the last race in Mexico in 1964.

John Surtees rides his MV Agusta to victory at the 1958 Isle of Man TT.

It’s interesting to note that Surtees won his World Championships on two wheels and four with Italian racing royalty, MV Agusta and Ferrari. But remarkably, Surtees had never raced a car until a non-championship meeting at Goodwood in 1960. Surtees put his F2 Cooper-Climax on pole and finished an incredible second to Jim Clark in a Lotus. In only his second F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, Surtees, driving a Lotus, finished second to World Champion Jack Brabham. It was only his eighth car race.

At the Portuguese F1 Grand Prix, he put the Lotus on pole giving the team their very first pole position. This was all in 1960 while he was on his way to winning both the 500cc and 350cc World Championship on two wheels with MV Agusta.

Other examples of John’s versatility was to win the inaugural 1966 Can Am Sports Car Championship in America driving a Lola T70 while another was taking Honda’s second F1 win in 1967 by driving the Honda Racing RA 300 to an amazing victory on its debut at Monza in Italy.

 In today’s world of specialisation in Motorsport this type of versatility is unheard of. Surtees, like most riders in the 1950’s and 1960’s, also rode in more than one Grand Prix class during a championship meeting: a concept that would be alien to today’s MotoGP heroes. Yet there is still even more to Surtees’ accomplishments.

Surtees pushes the Ferrari 158 to second place behind Jim Clark’s Lotus at Zandvoort in Holland 1964.

Surtees also became a racing car manufacturer in 1970 forming the Surtees Racing Organisation with his cars competing in Formula 5000, Formula 2 and Formula 1. Surtees greatest success as a manufacturer came with another former motorcycle multi world champion, Mike Hailwood, who won the European F2 championship for Surtees in 1972.

 The prodigious talents of John Surtees have created a unique chapter in the history Motorsport and one that is unlikely to be repeated. Although Surtees has already been awarded an M.B.E. and O.B.E. (in 2016 he was also awarded a C.B.E.) in the Queens honours list, many feel that a Knighthood would be a more appropriate recognition of this great man’s contribution to Motorsport and charity.

© Words Geoff Dawes 2014/2016. Images http://www.commons.wikimedia.org, http://www.ilpost.it, http://www.performanceforums.com

Two Titans

With Christmas 2016 upon us here are two books which any motorcycle racing enthusiast would like to find under the Christmas tree.

They say a picture paints a thousand words and these two photo-autobiographies “GIACOMO AGOSTINI A LIFE IN PICTURES” and “JOHN SURTEES MY INCREDIBLE LIFE ON TWO WHEELS AND FOUR” certainly do that.  Both are primarily photographic accounts of the lives of these two motor racing giants, beautifully presented on high-quality glossy paper as hardback coffee table size publications.

9788879115841

Agostini’s book is co-authored by Italian Mario Donnino, a long serving reporter for well-known motorsport magazine Autosprint,  Donino’s  almost poetic narrative is combined with quotes provided by Agostini that reveal his highly competitive nature and a search for perfection in his racing.  This is hardly surprising for a man who has won eight 500cc (MotoGP) and seven 350cc World Championships accumulating along the way 122 Grand Prix victories.

It is the photographs however, most of which are from Agostini’s own collection, that enrich this book so much,  allowing the reader to look back in time to the late 1950’s and mid 1970”s, to an era considered to be “Golden” in the sport of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and sometimes also deadly to its participants. The photographs, such as the MV Agusta mechanics working in the factory workshop, and those of Giacomo socialising with his racing rivals are priceless.

Highly recommended.

9780992820923_1024x1024

John Surtees’ book is co-authored by well-known journalist Mike Nicks who has contributed to specialist magazines such as MCN, Classic Bike among many others. The format is very similar to Agostini’s tome with the photographs accompanied by Surtee’s own description that gives an intimate voice to the book.

Surtees, of course, is the only man to ever win both the 500cc (MotoGP) World Championship (four times) and the F1 World Championship with Ferrari in 1964.  Surtees also won the inaugural CAN-AM series in 1966 and later became an F1 car constructor in 1970 with his cars winning the European Formula 2 title with Mike Hailwood in 1972.  But these are just headlines of a long and enduring career and this book reveals so much more.

Highly recommended.

Royalties from “JOHN SURTEES MY INCREDIBLE LIFE ON TWO WHEELS AND FOUR” go to the  Henry Surtees Foundation which was set up to honour the memory of John’s son Henry, who was killed in a freak accident at Brands Hatch in 2009.

The above books are available from the Book Depository.

Review by Geoff Dawes (C) 2016