Author Archives: Geoff Dawes

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 classic 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 event.

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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 starters signal they launched themselves of 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 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.

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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 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 todays 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 have used their own specially built crankshaft to increase the engines 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 camchain 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 seats 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) pogostick! 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 was 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 quiet 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 toolmaking shines through again in the execution of the hollow footpegs, brake and gearlever, 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 photograhs © Geoff Dawes 2017

Vale John Surtees

Surtees in discussion with “Il commendatore” Enzo Ferrari.

John Surtees has past 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 Ferari. 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 todays 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

2017 Ducati 1299 Superleggra

Casey Stoner and Claudio Domenicali introduce the 2017 Ducati 1299 Superleggra.

Casey Stoner and Claudio Domenicali introduce the 2017 Ducati 1299 Superleggra.

In 2014 Ducati introduced a very special version of its Panigale with the beautifully executed 1199 Superleggra (or Superlight). It was the logical progression from the World Superbike homologation special, the Panigale R, and it certainly lived up to its moniker with the liberal use of magnesium for the monocoque chassis and forged Marhesini wheels. There was also carbon fibre for the subframe and bodywork with a sprinkling of titanium for the exhaust system, the engines connecting rods and valves, plus various fasteners. The 1199 was enhanced even further with latest suite of electronic acronyms, and with over 200hp on tap, the Superleggra boasted an outrageous power to weight ratio reputed to be the best of any production motorcycle. Only 500 these works of art were made.

So how do you take the Superlight concept to the next level? Ducati revealed the answer just recently at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan with the unveiling of the 1299 Superleggra. Understandably it is the search for even lighter weight and more power from the Superquadro engine that makes this motorcycle intriguing, especially with the extensive use of carbon fibre not only for the monocoque chassis and sub frame, but also the wheels.

As a matter of point, when the Panigale was first released in 2011 its aluminium monocoque chassis could trace its DNA back to the Desmosedeci MotoGp racers, starting with the 2009 GP9,  which used carbon fibre for the monocoque chassis and subframe (and at different times the swingarm). Like the Panigale, it also utilised the engine as a fully stressed member. Casey Stoner tasted a number of victories with the carbon fibre frame but it was scrapped after Valentino Rossi joined the Ducati MotoGP team in 2011, reverting to a more familiar aluminium twin spar configuration. Stoner still believes there were benefits with the carbon fibre chassis on the Desmosedeci and with the release of the 1299 Superleggera it appears Ducati still have faith in the technology as well. As such, it was appropriate that the Ducati brand ambassador, and MotoGP test rider, rode the new model Superleggera onto the stage in Milan. Again only 500 units will be built.

Below is the Ducati press kit, which details this amazing motorcycle.

1299 Superleggera

With the 1299 Superleggera, Ducati takes the world of road Supersport bikes to levels that were unheard of until now: the Superleggera is the first ever factory bike to be equipped with a carbon fibre frame, swingarm, subframe and wheels. The 1299 Superleggera is a gem of engineering, technology and performance. No motorcycle manufacturer has ever produced a factory bike quite like it.

With the 1299 Superleggera, Ducati has achieved off-the-scale style, sophistication and performance. Frame and swingarm, made entirely of carbon fibre just like the high-spec wheels, are unique to the 1299 Superleggera. The fairing – also made of carbon fibre – is another key element: but only one of many in an astounding bike that could only ever have been built by Ducati – a manufacturer with racing DNA.

And underneath that carbon fibre skin lies the highest-performing version of the Superquadro. Thanks to its 215 hp, the desmodromic engine on the 1299 Superleggera is the most powerful factory twin-cylinder ever built; it incorporates the ultimate levels of Ducati technology.

What makes the 1299 Superleggera even more exclusive is the new electronics package which uses a 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (6D IMU) to manage the incomparable array of electronic controls. This system has allowed us to improve the Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO) presented on the 1299 Panigale S Anniversario thanks to the introduction of Ducati Slide Control (DSC), which ensures even higher out-of-the-corner performance. The 1299 Superleggera is also the first ever Ducati Superbike to be equipped with Ducati Power Launch (DPL) and also features the Engine Brake Control (EBC) seen on previous versions.

Keeping the explosive performance of the 1299 Superleggera under control is also a newly calibrated Bosch Cornering ABS system that ensures matchless braking in complete safety.

The 1299 Superleggera has the word ‘exclusive’ written all over it, even when it comes to the number being made: only 500 such bikes are to be built. Together with the motorcycle, purchasers get a track kit which includes a complete Akrapovič titanium racing exhaust, a racing screen, plate holder removal kit, kickstand removal kit, machined-from-solid mirror replacement plugs, front and rear paddock stands and a bike cover.

Carbon fibre monocoque chassis uses the engine as a stressed member.

Carbon fibre monocoque chassis uses the engine as a stressed member.

Ducati 1299 Superleggera: unique features

Frame

 Carbon fibre monocoque

 Carbon fibre single-sided swingarm

 Carbon fibre wheels with aluminium hubs

 Carbon fibre rear subframe

 Aluminium tank

 Carbon fibre fairing

 Multi-adjustable Öhlins FL936 upside down 43 mm fork

 Multi-adjustable Öhlins TTX36 shock absorber with titanium spring

 Brembo MCS 19.21 radial front pump

 Brembo TT29OP1 brake pads with increased friction coefficient

 ID number on top yoke: 1/500

Engine

 Superquadro engine with 215 hp at 11,000 rpm and 14.9 kgm at 9,000 rpm

 2-segment pistons with a diameter of 116 mm to boost the compression ratio    and aluminium cylinder liners to reduce weight

 Lighter crankshaft with tungsten balancing pads

 Titanium con rods

 Sand-cast crankcase

 Increased-diameter titanium intake and exhaust valves

 Cylinder head with specially developed intake and exhaust ducts

 Camshafts with increased lift

 Complete all-titanium Akrapovič exhaust with high-mount dual silencer*

Superleggra looks great for any angle.

Superleggra looks great for any angle.

Electronics

 6D Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) by Bosch

 Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO)

 Ducati Slide Control (DSC)

 Ducati Wheelie Control EVO (DWC EVO)

 Engine Brake Control (EBC)

 Bosch Cornering ABS

 Ducati Power Launch (DPL)

 Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down

 Dedicated switchgear controls to adjust DTC, DSC, DWC and EBC during on-track use ad DPL activation

 Ducati Data Analyser + (DDA+)

 Lithium-ion battery

Race Kit

 Complete titanium Akrapovič racing exhaust with high dual silencer*

 Bike cover

 Front and rear paddock stand

 Plate holder removal kit

 Racing screen

 Kickstand removal kit

 Machined-from solid mirror replacement plugs

*Country specific

The lightness of carbon fibre

Every step of the design of the frame and swingarm was handled internally by Ducati, making full use of Ducati Corse experience in terms of calculation methods, material selection and test methods. During development, components underwent stringent final tests to ensure integrity under all possible conditions and each item underwent a quality control process similar to that used in MotoGP.

The Monocoque chassis double as the airbox.

The Monocoque chassis doubles as the airbox.

Carbon fibre component structural quality is ensured by three different NDI (Non Destructive Inspection) methods used in the aerospace industry:

 Active Transient Thermography is a leading edge NDI (Non Destructive Inspection) technology commonly used in Aerospace. It allows for continuous inspection of a given area ensuring 100% inspection coverage, and is used especially along complex shapes and edges

 Ultrasonic Phased Array is based on Pulse Echo technique that has the advantage of bi-dimensional visualisation. It is more detailed than standard testing procedures thanks to higher coverage and higher sensitivity

 Computed Axial Tomography is the most reliable NDI technique and consists of X-ray 3D inspection that ensures 100% volumetric analysis

These checks are made on every single manufactured part to verify their constructive quality.

The monocoque frame, made of high-strength carbon fibre and a resin system resistant to high temperatures, also has 7075 aluminium alloy inserts that are co-laminated into the composite structure. This construction technology has resulted in weight savings of 40% (-1.7 kg / -3.7 lbs) compared to the monocoque frame on the 1299 Panigale.

The single-sided swingarm – again made of high-strength carbon fibre and a resin system resistant to high temperatures with 7075 aluminium alloy inserts co-laminated into the composite structure – provides an 18% weight saving (-0.9 kg / -2 lbs) compared to its aluminium counterpart on the 1299 Panigale.

Moreover, the 1299 Superleggera features a carbon fibre rear subframe, similar to the one used on the 1199 Superleggera, plus carbon fibre fairing, front mudguard, rear mudguard and exhaust heat guard.

The cutting-edge wheels of the 1299 Superleggera are also made of high-strength carbon fibre, with aluminium hubs screwed into the composite structure. Compared to their forged aluminium counterparts, these wheels lighten the bike by a total of 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs) and offer 26% less rolling resistance at the front and 44% less at the rear, resulting in nimbler handling. The 1299 Superleggera wheels mount Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres.

 Superbike suspension and brakes

The refined chassis set-up of the 1299 Superleggera is completed by Öhlins suspension and true Superbike-calibre Brembo brakes. The multi-adjustable 43 mm Öhlins FL936 upside-down fork on the 1299 Superleggera weighs 1.35 kg (3 lbs) less than the Öhlins fork on the Panigale R. At the rear, instead, the multi-adjustable Öhlins TTX36 shock absorber has a titanium spring that shaves off another 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) with respect to the steel unit fitted on the Panigale R.

A look at the braking system reveals two 330 mm Brembo discs up front, gripped by Brembo M50 monobloc calipers, with new TT29OP1 brake pads, controlled by a Brembo MCS 19.21 radial pump. At the back, instead, is a single 245 mm disc.

Light lithe and radical.

Light lithe and radical.

 The most powerful Superquadro ever

A whopping 215 hp at 11,000 rpm and 14.9 kgm at 9,000 rpm. These are the incredible power and torque values delivered by the Superquadro twin cylinder engine that powers the 1299 Superleggera. To achieve such performance Ducati engineers have made profound changes to some of the main engine components, starting with the lightened crankshaft which has a larger crank pin and tungsten balancing pads. The con-rods, in titanium, are new, as are the 116 mm diameter pistons – now with just two segments as on Superbike engines – with machined crowns that raise the compression ratio to 13:1. Another important new development concerns the cylinder liners, in aluminium as opposed to steel as seen on the 1299 Panigale. With the addition of a lighter flywheel, the “engine core” (crankshaft, con-rods, pistons, cylinder liner, flywheel) is about 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) lighter than its counterpart assembly on the 1299 Panigale (-21.5%).

The cylinder heads have also been given an overhaul. The diameters of the valves, both in titanium, have been increased; they are now even wider than those used on Superbike competition bikes. The intake valves have a diameter of 48 mm as opposed to the 46.8 mm on the 1299 Panigale; the exhaust valves have a diameter of 39.5 mm (against 38.2 mm on the 1299 Panigale). Consequently, intake and exhaust ducts have also undergone development, improving fluid dynamics thanks also to new camshafts that offer both improved profiles and increased valve lift. This model has been the focus of intense performance and weight reduction research, and the cylinder heads are no exception: their weight has been cut by about 0.4 kg (0.9 lbs).

The 1299 Superleggera features a clutch with new slipper and self-servo system, giving heightened ‘feel’ and ride stability thanks also to the use of a new forged aluminium clutch basket.

Increased performance has, naturally, required the adoption of technical solutions to ensure reliability and compliance with noise emissions standards. Numerous parts of the twin-cylinder engine have been modified: for example, the crankcase is now sand-cast and the new timing system features a “silent” chain.

Overall, then, in terms of weight, the Superquadro, is 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs) lighter than the engine on the 1299 Panigale.

The intake system on the 1299 Superleggera has also been revised. It mounts a high-permeability, larger-surface P08 Sprint Filter of SBK derivation. The throttle body features new aerodynamic throttle openings with a profile designed to improve airflow while intake horn heights have been optimised for each cylinder head, unlike the 1299 Panigale which has horns of the same length.

Lastly, the 1299 Superleggera has a complete all-titanium Akrapovič exhaust with a high dual silencer, just like the one on the official Panigale that competes in the World Superbike championship*.

The Superquadro that powers the 1299 Superleggera is not just the most powerful twin-cylinder road engine built by Ducati in its entire history: it’s also perfectly EURO 4 compliant and delivers 10 hp (+ 4.9%) and 0.2 kgm (+ 1.5%) more than the engine on the 1299 Panigale.

Moreover, the ultra-light lithium battery on the 1299 Superleggera saves 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs) compared to the unit on the 1299 Panigale.

For those aiming to use the bike only on the track, the 1299 Superleggera comes with a track kit that, as regards the engine, includes a complete Akrapovič titanium exhaust. This exhaust is 4 kg** (8.8 lbs) lighter than its road counterpart and boosts power by 5 hp.

*Country specific

**2 kg (4.4 lbs) for the OEM USA version

MotoGP electronics

The 1299 Superleggera is the first Bologna-built bike to be equipped with the new electronic package, which make full use of the 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (6D IMU). This electronic package includes DTC EVO, DSC, DWC and EVO and provides the rider with a bike control experience that comes extremely close to that of a MotoGP bike.HyperFocal: 0

 Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO)

The DTC EVO on the 1299 Superleggera derives from the system already presented on the 1299 Panigale S Anniversario and is based on an all-new algorithm that ensures faster, more precise intervention. The DTC EVO interfaces with the Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), constantly measuring the motorcycle’s lean angle and using it to accurately calculate the degree of intervention needed to ensure suitable rear wheelspin (according to the DTC EVO level setting) and so provide better handling.

Moreover, the DTC EVO also acts on the throttle body valves and controls spark and injection advance. In all situations in which fast intervention of the DTC EVO is not required, use of the throttle body valves ensures maintenance of optimal combustion parameters, ensuring more fluid engine response and intervention.

With simpler types of traction control, detection of rear wheelspin sees the system intervene to hold it in check. When optimal grip is re-established the system reduces intervention until spin reoccurs, and the cycle repeats. This produces a graph that shows intervention oscillating around a theoretical “ideal intervention line” that represents the traction limit. DTC EVO reduces the magnitude of those oscillations, making the system operate closer to the perfect intervention line. This is particularly advantageous in situations where grip changes, such as when the rear tyre becomes worn.

In addition to this enhanced intervention precision, when set to “1” or “2”, the DTC EVO adds a new function that lets the user ride the motorcycle at a level that would previously only have been possible for experts or pros. Now, when the bike is leaned over, the rider can use the throttle to request more wheelspin than that obtained with the normal intervention level, allowing the motorcycle to pivot around its front wheel and complete the cornering line. DTC EVO allows riders to do this while keeping safety parameters under control, effectively letting then ‘close’ the taken line with the rear wheel.

Ducati Slide Control (DSC)

The introduction of the 6D IMU has allowed Ducati Slide Control (DSC) – developed jointly with Ducati Corse – to be added to Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO). This new system provides the rider with further support by controlling the torque delivered by the engine as a function of the slide angle; its goal is to improve out-of-the-corner performance by preventing slide angles that might otherwise be difficult to handle. The DSC relies on the 6D IMU that provides the vehicle control unit with crucial information of motorcycle dynamics (such as lean angle, acceleration and much more). Thanks to this data – and depending on the user-selected level – the DSC extends the performance range of the bike for everyone, providing improved assistance under extreme riding conditions.

Like the DTC EVO, the DSC controls torque reduction by acting on the throttle body valves, decreasing spark advance and reducing injection. In every situation in which fast intervention of the DSC is not required, use of the throttle body valves ensures maintenance of optimal combustion parameters, ensuring more fluid engine response and intervention.

DSC has three different settings: switching from level 1 to level 3 results in easier control of slide angles that would otherwise be difficult to handle. DSC intervention levels can be changed by going to the menu, from where you can also set the DTC EVO and DWC EVO values. It’s also possible to set direct DSC control via the Up and Down keys on the left handlebar. The DSC setting is always shown on the display.

 Ducati Wheelie Control EVO (DWC EVO)

The 1299 Superleggera also comes equipped with the latest version of Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC). This system – again with the EVO tag – has been overhauled in terms of both controller structure and algorithm, providing a closer link with the rider’s needs. This is an evolution of the system that equips the 1299 Anniversario.

 Ducati Power Launch (DPL)

Another new feature on the 1299 Superleggera is Ducati Power Launch (DPL), the first time it has appeared on a Panigale. This 3-level system ensures lightning-fast starts, letting the rider focus on releasing the clutch. Once set, the rider simply engages first gear and opens the throttle. During the first stage of moving off, while the rider is modulating clutch release, the DPL stabilises the engine at optimal revs as a function of the selected level. In the second phase, when the clutch has been fully released, the DPL controls torque delivery to give acceleration that matches the chosen level. The DPL makes use of the DWC functions and always keeps DTC active to ensure complete safety at all times.

Automatic disengagement of the system occurs above the end-of-start speed, or once third gear is selected. To protect the clutch, a specially developed algorithm allows only a limited number of consecutive starts. The number of ‘launches left’ returns to its normal status once the user rides the bike normally.

The DPL has three different levels, set by simultaneously pressing the Up and Down keys on the left handlebar. Level 1 favours high-performance starts, level 3 is safer and more stable.

Bosch Cornering ABS

The 1299 Superleggera also features a revised Bosch Cornering ABS system. First of all, it has been recalibrated to take into account the new revolving mass represented by the ultra-light carbon fibre wheels; secondly, it has been equipped with a new operating logic that ensures safer, more effective braking when cornering. This latest system version offers improved ABS control when the motorcycle is leaned over, ensuring better performance in terms of both attainable deceleration and safety.

 Engine Brake Control (EBC)

The EBC (Engine Brake Control) system has been developed to help riders optimise vehicle stability under extreme turn-in conditions in MotoGP and Superbike championship races by balancing the forces applied to the rear tyre under severe engine-braking conditions. The EBC monitors the throttle position, selected gear and crankshaft deceleration rate under heavy braking and administers precise Ride-by-Wire throttle openings to balance the torque forces acting on the tyre. There are three EBC levels. Set via the 1299 Superleggera control panel, they are automatically integrated into its three Riding Modes to provide riders with even more incredibly efficient assistance.

 Ducati Data Analyser+ GPS (DDA+ GPS)

Lastly, the 1299 Superleggera is equipped with the Ducati Data Analyser+ GPS (DDA+ GPS) as a standard feature. This system, which includes software (also for Mac users) and a USB-ready data retrieval card, allows assessment of both motorcycle and rider performance by showing specific info channels in graph form. The DDA+ GPS is a latest-generation Ducati Data Analyser system with a GPS function that automatically records lap times when the bike crosses a circuit start/finish line. As the rider crosses the finish line he presses the beam flasher button and the highly innovative system logs the coordinates of that position and then automatically logs each lap time as the motorcycle completes the lap.

An essential piece of equipment for track use, the DDA+ records numerous channels of data including throttle opening, vehicle speed, engine rpm, gear selection, engine temperature, distance travelled, laps and lap times. There is also a dedicated channel to record the torque reduction – depicted in graph form – requested by the systems that make up the new electronics package. At the end of a ride or track session, the data can be downloaded for comparison and in-depth analysis of rider and motorcycle performance.

2017 Ducati 1299 Superleggra vital statistics.

Dry weight
156 kg (343.9 lb)

Kerb weight
167 kg (368.2 lb)

Power
158.1 kW (215 hp) @ 11,000 rpm

Torque
146.5 Nm (108,0 lb-ft) @ 9,000 rpm

Words Geoff Dawes and Ducati Motor Holdings spa © 2016. Images and Video courtesy Ducati Motor Holdings spa.