Author Archives: Geoff Dawes

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.

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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,. It allows the reader to look back in time, from the late 1950’s to the 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.

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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 Superleggera

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

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

In 2014 Ducati introduced a very special version of its Panigale with the beautifully executed 1199 Superleggera (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 Marchesini 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 Superleggera boasted an outrageous power to weight ratio reputed to be the best of any production motorcycle. Only 500 of 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 Superleggera. 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 subframe 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 Desmosedici 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 Desmosedici 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 fantastic 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 an 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 conrods

 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.

Superleggera looks great from 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 exceptions: their weight has been cut by about 0.4 kg (0.9 lbs).

The 1299 Superleggera features a clutch with a 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 makes 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 wheel spin (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 leant over, the rider can use the throttle to request more wheel spin 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 about 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 leant 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 Superleggera 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.

 

Honda Celebrates 50 Years Of MotoGP

Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez pose with the 1966 Honda RC181 and the 2016 RC213V.

Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez pose with the 1966 Honda RC181 and the 2016 RC213V at Motegi in Japan.

It was perhaps fitting that Marc Marquez collected his third MotoGP World Championship at Honda’s own circuit at Motegi in Japan, as 2016 celebrates 50 years since Honda first entered the premier class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

What is also appropriate is the fact that Marquez achieved this on the recalcitrant 2016 RC213V. Although an improvement over the 2015 edition, a change to the new Michelin control tyres as well as the new control software, tossed in, even more, variables for the Repsol Honda team to equate. But the key this year to Marquez’s success has been his determination to finish every race and has shown the kind of maturity, at just 23 years of age, that no doubt is worrying to his rivals. Honda’s first foray into the 500cc (MotoGP) class with the RC181, coincidentally suffered handling issues as well.

Honda's weapon of choice to enter the 500cc war.

Honda’s weapon of choice to enter the 500cc war.

Honda, of course, was the first Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to enter into the Grands Prix in 1959 at the Isle of Man TT in the 125cc category. After considerable success in the lower capacity classes, Honda then took the plunge by entering a 500cc machine in the premier class for 1966. Although rumours in the paddock suggested that like the multi-cylinder four-strokes Honda had produced in the smaller capacity classes, the 500cc machine could potentially have a six-cylinder or even a V-8 power plant.

However, it was a more conventional transverse air-cooled four-cylinder engine, with twin overhead camshafts and four-valves per cylinder, that fronted the grid. The RC181 boasted a very competitive 85hp at 12,000rpm and weighed in at 154kg using the engine as a stressed member. It was entrusted to Rhodesian, Jim Redman, Honda’s six times world champion (two 250cc and four 350cc class titles) to take on the might of MV Agusta and the talents of its rising star Giacomo Agostini.

Honda used the engine as a stressed member for the chassis of the RC181.

Honda used the engine as a stressed member for the chassis of the RC181.

Redman took the RC181 to a stunning victory on debut at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim and followed that up with a win at the next round in Holland at the Dutch TT. Honda had also enticed its former 250cc World Champion, Mike Hailwood, back to the fold, and although his priority was to be the 250cc and 350cc categories, Hailwood rode the new machine for the first time in Holland and was leading the race when a false neutral caused him to crash. Nonetheless, it appeared MV Agusta’s monopoly on the class was about to end.

The RC181 though flattered to deceive, and Redman crashed in atrocious conditions during the next round at Spa in Belgium. He badly broke his arm and promptly retired from racing, leaving Hailwood to try and retrieve the championship challenge. Although Hailwood notched up three wins in Czechoslovakia, Ulster and the Isle of Man and a second place in Finland, mechanical problems at the other four rounds handed the riders title to Agostini and the new three-cylinder MV Agusta. Honda was left with the consolation of winning the manufacturer’s trophy with a motorcycle that Hailwood could only describe the handling as, “Bloody awful!”

Hailwood's Honda wore the number 1 plate in 1966 after winning the 500cc crown for MV Agusta in 1965.

Hailwood’s Honda wore the number 1 plate in 1966 after winning the 500cc crown for MV Agusta in 1965.

Both Honda and Hailwood returned for the 1967 season with an updated RC181. The off-season saw the Honda now developing a healthy 93bhp at 12,650rpm with its weight reduced 13kg to 141kg with the extensive use of magnesium in the engine. Mike had flown to Japan during the off-season to test the 1967 machines and was horrified to discover the promised new chassis for the RC181 was non-existent and demanded to take an engine back to England to have a chassis built in Europe that might solve the severe handling problems.

The Japanese though refused to let Hailwood race the new chassis in the Grands Prix, but instead “beefed up” the existing RC181 frame which used the engine as a stressed member. Mike did enter the HRS (Hailwood Racing Special) at some non-championship races and even practiced on it for the first Grand Prix of the season at Hockenheim but reverted to the factory RC181 for the race and was leading when the crankshaft broke handing Agostini the win.

Hailwood (left) and "Ago" prepare to do battle on the starting grid.

Hailwood (left) and “Ago” on the starting grid as they prepare to do battle.

The next race was the TT at the Isle Of Man, a race that became one of the all-time classics in Grand Prix racing history. During their titanic struggle, the lead swapped back and forth for five of the six laps of the 37.5mile course (60.3km) until the chain broke on Agostini’s MV. Hailwood cruised to victory and had set a new outright lap record of 108.77mph (175kph), which stood for almost a decade.

The next weekend Agostini and the improving MV outpaced Hailwood and the Honda at Spa in Belgium, and at the Sachsenring in East Germany, gearbox problems forced Mike to retire with Agostini claiming victory. The Brno circuit in Czechoslovakia was next with Hailwood finishing 17.8 seconds ahead of his nemesis on the MV Agusta triple. But a fall at Imatra in Finland on a wet track shifted momentum once more to Agostini.

The roles were reversed again at the Dundrod circuit in Ulster with ‘Ago” retiring and Hailwood winning. The whole season now pivoted on the penultimate race of the season at the Nations Grand Prix in MV Agusta’s own backyard at Monza in Italy. At last, it looked like Honda would achieve their ambition as Hailwood led Agostini by 16 seconds with three laps to go only to have certain victory stolen from him by a gearbox that became stuck in top gear. Agostini flashed by to win by 13.2 seconds and take the title a second year in a row.

Although Hailwood won again at the final round at Mosport in Canada, beating “Ago” home by a massive 37.7 seconds, it was of no avail. Both riders had accumulated five wins apiece, but “Ago” took the title due to three-second place finishes to Hailwood’s two. There was no consolation prize for Honda either as MV Agusta also took home the manufacturers title.

Hailwood chases "Ago" in 1967.

Hailwood chases “Ago” at the Dutch TT in 1967.

Honda withdrew from the Grands Prix at the end of 1967, but this was just a prelude of what was to come. The Japanese company returned to the premier class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in 1979 with the ill-fated NR500 four-stroke racer and won the first of their many rider’s titles in 1983 with Freddie Spencer and the NS500 two-stroke.

Those frustrating seasons of 1966 and 1967 for Honda, must now seem a lifetime away. As this is written, the Japanese manufacturer has accrued a staggering 279 race victories and 39 riders and Constructors World Championships.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2016.Images courtesy of Honda and http://www.formulamoto.es.

YouTube Video courtesy of Pathe.

 

A Herd Of Goats

Valentino Rossi on his way to pole position at Jerez.

Valentino Rossi about to claim pole position at Jerez.

The recent return to form by Valentino Rossi since re-joining his former team at Yamaha has been quite extraordinary. After two seasons in the wilderness with Ducati (2012-2013) and a change of crew chief from Jeremy Burgess to fellow Italian Silvan Galbusera, Rossi is back once more to his winning ways. A single win and four third-place podiums helped Valentino clinch fourth place in the 2014 MotoGP World Championship, which by anyone’s standards was a great achievement. The momentum continued into the 2015 season with four wins and Rossi finishing off the podium only three times to take second place in the championship by a mere 5 points, in what became a contentious world title win for Jorge Lorenzo.

What makes Rossi’s performance even more remarkable is his age. Valentino turned 37 years old earlier this year showing his hunger for victory and love of the sport has not waned.   Yamaha must think so as they have agreed to a two-year extension of Rossi’s contract keeping him with the factory team until 2018.

Nonetheless, Rossi’s renewed competitiveness has swung the spotlight of public attention once more onto the subject of who is the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) in the sport of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Giacomo Agostini on his way to winning German GP at the Nurburgring.

Giacomo Agostini on his way to winning German GP at the Nurburgring.

There are of course the cold facts that statistics tend to present. The great Giacomo Agostini is still the most prolific Grand Prix winner with 122 wins to his credit while Rossi is still chipping away on 114 with the potential to equal or beat this record. Agostini has also won 8 MotoGP (formerly 500cc) world titles to Rossi’s 7 so far. “Ago” has also won 7 350cc world championships giving him a total of 15 world titles to Valentino’s 9 (a 125cc title in 1997 and 250cc title in 1999 with Aprilia). Agostini has also won 10 Isle of Mann TT’s, the only non-British rider to do so. Rossi though has won world titles in three capacity classes to ‘”Ago’s” two.

Detractors of Agostini’s accomplishments like to point out that during his domination of the Grand Prix that he had superior multi-cylinder four-stroke machinery of the MV Agusta factory team at his disposal with mainly outdated British four-stroke singles to contend with. That is to a degree is true but ‘Ago” still had to deal with the likes of Mike Hailwood, Jim Redman and Phil Read as either teammates or factory supported Honda riders along the way as well as the ever-improving Japanese two-strokes that were gaining traction in both the 350cc and 500cc class during his career. And indeed it was Agostini in 1974 that won the first MotoGP (500cc) riders title on a four-cylinder two-stroke; a first also for Yamaha and Japan. Interestingly it was Rossi that won the last two-stroke World Championship and the first for the new 990cc four-strokes with Honda in 2001 and 2002.

Both “Ago” and Valentino have similarly won championships in the premier class with two different manufacturers and are part of an elite group of five that have done so in the sixty-seven-year history of the championship. The others are Geoff Duke, Eddie Lawson and Casey Stoner.

Five times World Champion Geoff Duke on the Gilera.

Five times World Champion Geoff Duke on the Gilera.

It should also be pointed out that Giacomo’s 122 Grand Prix wins were accrued over thirteen years from 186 starts, while Rossi has been in the Grand Prix for twenty years and accumulated his 114 (as this is written) wins from 341 starts.

Another relevant point is the danger factor. Grand Prix motorcycle racing has always been a hazardous sport, and even this year the paddock grieved another fatality when Luis Salom suffered a fatal crash in free practice for the Moto2 race in Catalunya. But during Agostini’s career in the 1960’s and early 1970’s fatalities were commonplace and many of the circuits were considered deadly. Surprisingly “Ago” was quoted as saying that his favourite tracks were the Isle of Man TT, the old Nurburgring, the old Spa, Opatija and the old Brno circuit, the five most deadly tracks in Grand Prix motorcycle racing history. Remember too, that it was during this period that the “pudding basin” helmet was considered standard “safety equipment”.

Greatness though is not necessarily statistics but perhaps the perception of the groups of fans who love the sport and have lived through different eras. Take Geoff Duke, for example, a six-time World Champion (two 350cc and four 500cc titles) during the sports infancy in the 1950’s, notching up a number of firsts. He was the first man to win two titles (350cc and 500cc) in the same season (1951), the first to win 3 consecutive 500cc titles (1953, 1954 and 1955) and also the first to win MotoGP (500c) titles with two different manufacturers (Norton and Gilera).

And what of John Surtees? Surtees won the premier 500cc Grand Prix crown on four occasions, (1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960) and the 350cc G.P. title on three times (1958, 1959 and 1960) for a total of seven championships on two wheels. Surtees then clinched the Formula One car title at the last race in Mexico in 1964, the only person ever to win the premier class on two wheels and four.

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

Surtees rides his MV Augusta to victory at the Isle of Man.

But to many Mike Hailwood remains a true icon of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Equal to Rossi with 9 world championships in three different classes (three 250cc, two 350cc and four 500cc) during a ten-year career with 76 wins from 152 starts in the late 1950’s and 1960’s that included 14 Isle of Man TT victories. Remarkably after an 11-year break from motorcycle racing, Hailwood returned to the Island and won the F1 TT in 1978 and the Senior TT in 1979.

The list goes on with names like Phil Read. A 7 times world champion in three classes (the 125cc in 1968, the 250cc in 1964, 65, 68 and 1971, and the 500cc 1973 and 1974) he accumulated 52 wins from 152 starts, again during the dangerous days of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

But if dominance was the criteria for being a G.O.A.T., then one needs to look no further than Mick Doohan. During a 10-year career between 1989 and 1999, Doohan won 54 500cc Grand Prix and achieved 95 podiums from 137 starts with five consecutive World Championships (equalled only by Rossi).  In 1997 Doohan amassed an astounding 12 wins and 2-second places from 15 races. This has only been surpassed by the youngest rider to win a MotoGP World Championship, Marq Marquez, with 13 wins, but from 18 races, on the way to his second World title in 2014. Add to this the fact that Doohan’s superiority occurred after he had sustained debilitating injuries to his left leg during practice for the Dutch TT at Assen during what should have been a dominant season and a convincing first world title.

So indeed the argument for the greatest of all time will continue between fans and journalists alike, on the Internet, in pubs and at racetracks around the world, revealing the genuine passion we all have for what is the greatest of all motorsports.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2016 Images courtesy http://www.crash.net, http://www.metzeler.com, http://www.theguardian.com.

The 2016 McLaren Vale Vintage Classic

1920's Citroen 5CV on display at Lecconsfield Winery McLaren Vale.

1920’s Citroen 5CV on display at Lecconsfield Winery McLaren Vale.

For those who enjoy the sight, sounds, and smells of classic cars there is no better environment to appreciate them in than the annual McLaren Vale Vintage Classic. Held for the 11th time on the Sunday 16th of April 2016, this prestigious wine region of South Australia, with its moderate Mediterranean climate and diversity of soil in its rolling hills, celebrated the final days of the grape harvest with this exceptional event.

Part of the over 500 vehicles that paraded in McLaren Vale.

Part of the over 500 vehicles that paraded in McLaren Vale.

The fun began on Saturday evening with a dinner at the Serafino Winery for participating entrants in the event. The winery was also the staging ground for the over 500 vehicles entered in a parade that took place just after 11 a.m. on Sunday. The streets of the town of McLaren Vale were lined with onlookers; families with their young children and baby boomers who may have owned one of the diverse numbers of vehicles “back in the day”.

When the parade was completed for this multi-award winning event, the crowd of over 20,000 admirers dispersed and the numerous car clubs assembled at their allocated winery allowing themselves and the public to enjoy live music, great food, exceptional wines and a chance to see these wonderful classic vehicles up close.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2016. Photographs Geoff Dawes © 2016.

Below is a link to a map of the McLaren Vale wine region.

https://www.google.com.au/maps/@-35.2277921,138.5461075,15.07z

The 1982 NS500 and 1984 NSR500 Grand Prix Racers.

 

The Honda NS500 V3.

The Honda NS500 V3.

When Honda made the decision to return to the premier class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in 1975, it did so with a great deal of optimism. The Japanese company had withdrawn in 1967 for numerous reasons (see the Honda NR500 story) yet when it officially announced its return in 1977 the 500cc Grand Prix landscape had shifted dramatically. The two-stroke racing engine reigned supreme; even the four-stroke Grand Prix racers of the mighty MV Agusta team had withdrawn in 1976 leaving a two-stroke monopoly on the class. Honda’s Japanese rivals, Yamaha and Suzuki, had by now both won 500cc world titles, Yamaha winning Japan’s first 500cc World Championship with the great Giacomo Agostini in 1975 and Suzuki winning titles in 1976 and 1977 with the talented Barry Sheene. This must have been a severe “loss of face” for Honda who pioneered Japan’s first foray into Grand Prix racing.

And the decision by Honda to build a four-stroke racing engine within the limitations of the regulations was a bold one. Honda’s approach reflected the philosophy of the companies’ founder, Soichiro Honda, a stalwart of the four-stroke design. However, the plan documents for Honda’s “New Racing” engineers stipulated three years to win the world championship. By 1982 it was clear that the four-stroke racer was unlikely to get on even terms with the two-strokes. In a racing sense the oval piston eight-valve NR500 V4 was indeed a failure, but as a technical exercise, it was an outstanding achievement.

But regardless of Honda’s aversion to the two-stroke engine, it did have experience with the concept going back to 1974 with the release of the highly successful Honda Elsinore CR125 and CR250 motocross racers. Veteran engineer Shinichi Miyakoshi, who had designed four-stroke GP machines for Honda that dominated Grand Prix racing in the 1960’s, was assigned to the task of developing Honda’s first two-stroke GP racer. The experienced Miyakoshi had been designing two-stroke engines for the motocross group within Honda, which proved to be invaluable to the gestation of the new two-stroke NS500 Grand Prix racer.

Spencer in action on the NS500 V3.

Spencer in action on the NS500 V3.

In June 1981 Miyakoshi visited the Dutch TT at Assen in Holland. There he noted that the fastest of the 350cc GP machines would have qualified on the second row of the grid for the 500cc race. Hence the concept for the NS500 became one of a compact and light machine with a small frontal area of a 350cc GP racer. The engine would be designed for usable power and optimum control, not top speed. A compact V3 layout was chosen using reed valves for smoother power delivery and easier starting (push starts were mandatory at that time). The idea was to have a machine with total balance, and again Honda would utilise its motocross experience for the suspension of the NS500. Interestingly the V3 engine configuration had been used before. German manufacturer DKW had employed it in the 1950’s for its 350cc GP racer. The NS500 also used similar engine architecture to the DKW with two upright cylinders, but unlike the DKW the third cylinder pointed downwards at 112 degrees instead of the more conventional 90 degrees of the DKW.

DKW's air-cooled 350cc V3 two-stroke engine.

DKW’s air-cooled 350cc V3 two-stroke engine.

Another significant part of the NS500’s rationale would be its ability to maximise its tyre wear. Racing slicks at this time were still using bias belt construction, and the harsher power characteristics of, the more powerful rotary valve engines from Yamaha and Suzuki punished the tyres, particularly towards the end of a Grand Prix. The more agile Honda would be able to maintain higher corners speeds for longer, which would negate to a certain degree its lower top speed down the straights.

The NS500 debuted in 1982 in the hands of reigning 1981 World Champion, Italian Marco Lucchinelli, whom Honda had lured away from Suzuki. Korean born Japanese Takazumi Katayama was again part of Honda’s 500cc rider line-up alongside the promising 20-year-old American Freddie Spencer who was promoted full-time to the Grand Prix squad.

It was not until the seventh race of the season in Belgium at the Spa Francorchamps circuit that Honda tasted victory. The win was Honda’s first in15 years and remarkably it was at a circuit renowned for its high speed. And it was “Fast” Freddie Spencer that had ridden the NS500 to victory, his main opposition suffering tyre and mechanical problems. By the end of the season, Spencer had won two races (Belgium and San Marino) and achieved three podiums. Katayama also won the Swedish Grand Prix, but this was just a taste of what was to come.

Spencer chases Takazumi both on the NS500.

Spencer chases Takazumi both on the NS500.

The 1983 season saw an epic battle between “King” Kenny Roberts and “Fast” Freddie Spencer. At the penultimate round in Sweden Spencer had claimed a forceful victory with Roberts running off the track before finishing in second place. In the twelve round race series, it was Spencer that had accumulated six race wins to Robert’s five. If Roberts won at the last round in San Marino Spencer would have to finish second to claim the championship. Indeed Roberts won in Italy, but despite slowing tactics by “King” Kenny in an attempt to put his teammate Eddie Lawson between them, Spencer was still able to finish in second place claiming Honda’s first 500cc World Championship by two points.

Although the lateral thinking behind the V3 triple had borne the fruit of victory, it was clear to Honda that with the introduction of radial racing slicks and the limitations of the Honda’s V3 engine architecture that a V4 would be needed against the more powerful opposition from Yamaha and Suzuki for the 1984 season. Honda decided to enter the power war, but again in typical Honda fashion.

In contrast to the twin crankshaft OW76 Yamaha V4 and the twin crankshaft Suzuki RG500 XR45 square four, the 1984 Honda NSR500’s 90-degree V4 used a single crankshaft as this design reduces frictional losses to maximise horsepower. But if anything it was the chassis of the ’84 NSR500 that pushed the envelope.

Honda had been supplying its four-stroke RSC1000 endurance-racing engine to the avant-garde ELFe endurance racer. With the financial backing of the French oil company ELF and Honda itself, Andre de Cortanze and his team had devised a radical alternative to the conventional motorcycle chassis. Using a single-sided swingarm at the rear for quick wheel changes, the front also boasted twin swingarms utilising a steering system that could loosely be described as hub centre steering that again allowed the front wheel to be removed from one side. The objectives of the ELFe were “reduced weight, lower centre of gravity, improved anti-dive under braking and elimination of a conventional chassis”.

Freddie Spencer and the innovative NSR500 Honda.

Freddie Spencer and the innovative V4 NSR500 Honda.

The lower centre of gravity of the ELFe was achieved by mounting the fuel tank under the engine with the exhaust exiting over the top of the engine. It should also be noted that English endurance race team Mead and Tompkinson preceded the ELFe with their creation nicknamed “Nessie” in the mid-1970’s which used Difazio hub centre steering and the same under engine fuel tank and above engine exhaust layout. But it was the ELFe that the Honda engineers took inspiration from. Although retaining a conventional suspension layout, the lower centre of gravity of the ELFe underslung fuel tank was deemed a desirable asset.

The NSR500 first appeared at the 1984 Daytona 200 in Florida, and the initial result was promising with Freddie Spencer setting a lap record of 116.87mph (188.08kph) in qualifying to take pole position. During the race though, tyre problems and a slipping clutch relegated Spencer to second place behind Kenny Roberts. But two weeks later at the opening round of the 500cc World Championship at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa disaster struck. During practice, another innovation of the NSR500 V4, its carbon fibre composite rear wheel, collapsed causing Spencer to crash and sit out the race.

The reigning World Champion bounced back, however, to win the Italian Grand Prix at Misano on the V4. This was then followed by another crash while leading the fifth leg of Trans-Atlantic Challenge races at Donnington. This forced Spencer to miss the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama, returning to compete at the Austrian Grand Prix at the Salzburgring. It was apparent to the spectators watching the race that the NSR500 V4 had handling issues, especially under power exiting the esses onto the main straight. Indeed Randy Mamola on the factory Honda NS500 V3 allowed his team leader through to take second place behind championship leader Eddie Lawson infuriating the crowd who showed their dislike by booing Spencer and Mamola on the slow down lap.

Spencer's chief engineer Erv Kanemoto and mechanic George Vukmanovich walk the V4 NSR500 back from the pits in Austria.

Spencer’s chief engineer Erv Kanemoto and mechanic George Vukmanovich walk the V4 NSR500 back from the pits in Austria.

Freddie by now was getting desperate to bridge the points gap to Eddie Lawson and demanded the NS500 V3 for the next race at the Nurburgring. A mad dash was made to take Marco Lucchinelli’s NS500 out of mothballs in time for the race which Spencer duly won on the V3. This was a bitter pill for Honda to swallow and an embarrassment to a company where new is seen as better. The problem lay with the underslung fuel tank, which by lowering the centre of gravity also affected weight transfer under braking and acceleration which was not generating enough force onto the front and rear tyre, thereby reducing grip. Heat build up from the over the engine exhaust system was also a problem as it heated the air going into the carburettors. The positioning of the expansion chambers themselves also made it difficult to check and change spark plugs and to undertake fine-tuning of the carburation, all crucial to a two-stroke racing engine within the time limitations of the practice sessions.

Spencer somehow went on to win the next two Grand Prix on the V4 at Paul Ricard in France and Rijeka in Yugoslavia. The next race was the Dutch TT at Assen. After practicing on the V4, Spencer decided to switch to the V3 for the race after practice had finished. This was scuppered by the supplementary regulations, and Freddie was forced to start on the V4. A broken spark plug cap put an end to Freddie’s race as the title began to slip further from his grasp. Again Spencer opted for the V3 for the Belgium GP at Spa and won the race. Then once more fate played a hand with Freddie crashing at an international meeting at Laguna Seca in California. The crash re-broke an old fracture Spencer had suffered two years before so the reigning World Champion would miss the three final races of the season at Silverstone in Britain, Anderstorp in Sweden and the San Marino GP at Mugello in Italy. This effectively handed the riders World Championship to Honda’s arch-rival Yamaha and gave Eddie Lawson his first world title. Honda did have the consolation of winning the manufacturer’s trophy, but this was more due to the number of factory supported and privateer riders competing on the NS500 V3.

Randy Mammal on the NS500 V3 leatds Eddie Lawson on the Yamaha V4 Yamaha, Ron Haslam V3 Honda and Spencer V4 Honda.

Randy Mamola on the Honda NS500 V3 leads Eddie Lawson on the Yamaha OW76 V4 , Ron Haslam Honda NS500 V3 and Spencer on the Honda NSR500 V4 in Austria.

It would be unfair to say the 1984 NSR500 was a disappointment; the V4 did win three GP’s and a podium second place. Considering Spencer only contested 6 of the 12 rounds (missing 2 races through mechanical problems and a further four races through injury) fourth place in the rider’s championship was quite a remarkable achievement for Freddie.

Spencer also won 2 GP’s on the NS500 V3 while Randy Mammola won 3 GP’s and accumulated 5 podiums also on the V3 Honda. Which begs the question, would Spencer have defended his title had he campaigned the proven NS500 V3? Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing, and one has to admire Honda for empowering its engineers to look for new solutions with the 1984 NSR500. The single crankshaft V4 engine, however, more than lived up to Honda’s high expectations and the NSR500’s that followed, utilising a more conventional chassis, became the most successful 500cc machines in Grand Prix racing history.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2016. Photographs © Geoff Dawes 1984 and courtesy of http://www.blogs.yahoo.co.jp, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org, http://www.s307.photobucket.com, http://www.southbayriders.com.

Below is a short documentary about the NS & NSR 500 Grand Prix racers courtesy of Honda.

Archives: The Classic Adelaide Rally

The1997 Classic Adelaide winning 1969 Ford GT HO of Hogarth and Walters.

The1997 Classic Adelaide winning 1969 Ford GT HO of Hogarth and Walters.

For eleven years, from 1985 to 1995, the city of Adelaide in South Australia was host to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. Held in early November, it was, for the most part, the last race of the season and the teams and drivers enjoyed its “end of school year” atmosphere and many would holiday in Australia before returning to Europe. The race was a popular one with the Formula One “circus” and three times won the Formula One Promoters’ Trophy as the best run Grand Prix of the season.

The momentum started to gather for Australia to host a Grand Prix when Australian Alan Jones won the 1980 Formula One driver’s championship. The races were being televised, and the ratings were good. Rumours started emanating from the eastern states of Australia of a willingness to hold a Grand Prix event. But it was the South Australian Labor Premier, John Bannon that took the trouble to fly to London and meet with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and secure the race for Adelaide.

The State Bank collapse in 1991 and Bannon’s resignation in 1992, plus the political infighting over the cost of staging the Grand Prix, saw Ecclestone award the race to Victoria and it has been held at Melbourne’s Albert Park since 1996.

The loss of the Formula One Grand Prix left a large vacuum in the major events calendar for Adelaide causing the State Government to support a number of other events in an effort to fill the void. One such event was the Classic Adelaide Rally, a competitive meeting on closed country bitumen roads that showcased different regions around Adelaide and attracted competitors from Australia and overseas and also some extremely rare and exotic machinery. It also catered for non-competitive entries that could take part in the touring category to enjoy a uniquely South Australian experience.

The first event took place in 1997 and ran until 2009 although it was revived briefly as part of the Targa Australia series. The rally though is about to be resurrected once more as an essential part of the Adelaide Motorsport Festival. The festival was first staged in 2014 at the home of Adelaide’s Formula One racetrack Victoria Park. The event was a great success showcasing Australia’s motor racing heritage including some significant Formula One cars.

The Sporting Car Club of South Australia, with the help of the State Government, is responsible for putting this exciting event together and this year the Adelaide Motorsport Festival and Classic Adelaide Rally will be held over four days from Thursday, October 15th to Sunday, October 18th, 2015.

In 1997 I covered the inaugural Classic Adelaide Rally for English publication Classic and Sports Car, and its revival has prompted me to delve into the archives and publish my article and photos for MotoVue below.

The Ferrari 246GT of Angliss and Mcmahon tackle the Paris Creek hairpin.

The Ferrari 246GT of Angliss and Mcmahon tackle the Paris Creek hairpin.

*                        *                         *

Bruce Hogarth and co-driver Bruce Walter have won the inaugural Classic Adelaide Rally held over the 6th to 9th of November in South Australia.

The FIA sanctioned event attracted nearly 100 entries and covered some 1000km of bitumen road with 300km of closed special stages over four days. Competitors left race headquarters at Adelaide’s Hilton Hotel each morning before completing a loop of some of South Australia’s most demanding hills roads. This included visits to the sites of former road circuits that have held an Australian Grand Prix such as Victor Harbor (1937), Lobethal (1939) and Nuriootpa (1950) before returning to Adelaide’s Victoria Park Racecourse to complete a Super Special Stage on the remains of the Formula One Grand Prix circuit.

It was Hogarth though who drove his hairy-chested 1969 351 cubic inch V8 XW Ford Falcon GT HO to victory on the last day of the event to beat overnight leaders and Panama to Alaska winners Rick Bates and Jenny Brittan who crashed their 1971 Porsche 911 out of contention on the final Paris Creek stage. Hogarth and Walter, however, had been strong contenders for outright honours during the four days of the event consistently running in the top three. Chris Stephen and Adrian Mortimer claimed second place outright 27 seconds behind the leaders in their 1964 Iso Rivolta with Tom Barr-Smith and Mark Barr-Smith third 1 min and 05 seconds adrift in their 1964 BJ8 Austin Healey Rally.

Ritter and Ruess tackle the special stage in their 1952 Pan Americana winning Mercedes 300SL prototype.

Ritter and Ruess tackle the special stage in their 1952 Pan Americana winning Mercedes 300SL prototype.

But the event was marred by a number of accidents one of which claimed the life of former F1 Grand Prix Board Chairman Ian Cocks who was 5.7km into the 22nd stage and holding third place overall when he failed to take a corner on the Mt. Bold road. Mr Cocks’ 1967 Porsche 911S hit a tree and rolled over before catching fire. His 19-year-old daughter and co-driver Chantel Cocks were pulled from the wreck by spectators and taken to hospital suffering from severe burns. It was her first competition event.

Mr Cocks was an experienced rally driver and had recently completed the Panama to Alaska Rally. He was also an advisor to the directors of the Adelaide Classic Rally, an event that many had hoped would fill the void left by the loss of the Adelaide Formula One Grand Prix which was also held in early November.

Sherman and Walkley attack the Paris Creek hairpin.

Sherman and Walkley attack the Paris Creek hairpin in their 1964 Aston  Martin DB4.

Although the event had secured naming rights sponsorship from Ansett Air Freight and had captured television coverage by German Sports TV Network DSF, most of the support for the rally has come from the State Government through the Major Events Corporation via the South Australian Tourism Commission. The Premier Mr Olsen would not comment whether the Government would continue to support the event until a full investigation had been completed into the accident.

Chairman of the organising body, Rally and Motorsport S.A. and well-known rally driver, Dean Rainsford, described the tragedy as “our worst nightmare.” However three international teams of Tony Brooks and Baron Otto Reedz-Thott driving the 1957 Le Mans-winning D-type Jaguar, Ditter Ritter and and Micheal Ruess competing in the 1952 Pan Americana winning Mercedes 300SL Proto and Paul Vestey and Doug Nye in the Le Mans class winning 1966 Ferrari 365GTB, had nothing but praise for the event, comparing the organisation as the best they had encountered anywhere.

Vestey, who has competed in similar events in Europe and America commented, “ This is the first time we have encountered the use of Grand Prix type Medical Intervention Vehicles anywhere for this type of event.” Well-known motoring historian Doug Nye summed up their feelings by describing the Adelaide Classic Rally as, “Mind-blowingly fantastic.”

Words Geoff Dawes © 1997/2015. Photographs by Geoff Dawes © 1997. Published in the February 1998 issue of Classic and Sports Car

Here is a link to the 2015 Classic Adelaide Rally: http://www.classicadelaide.com.au

The Peterborough Motorcycle and Antique Museum

Museum Hall

There is something reassuring about museums, be they public or private collections, as they offer an open window into another time that can be shared by all. The curators and private collectors are the gatekeepers of worlds past, and this is never more true when it comes to motorcycle collections.

I was fortunate enough to visit the Peterborough Motorcycle and Antique Museum recently, which is situated in the mid-north of South Australia. Peterborough is approximately 260km north of the city of Adelaide and a pleasant three-hour drive on the A32, which is part of the Barrier Hwy to Broken Hill.

1962 50cc Malanca made in Italy.

1962 50cc Malanca made in Italy.

Located on the comer of Kitchener and Jervois street, just off the main road, the museum is housed in a former historic Baptist Church and offers bed and breakfast accommodation in the separate Tennyson Hall, which was built in 1913 as a men’s prayer room.

Ian and Belinda Spooner opened the museum in 2008, and as well as housing numerous interesting antiques, the majority of space is taken up by Ian’s collection of motorcycles, many of which have never been seen or heard of in Australia.

Ian started buying motorcycles in his teens, and although the word “collector” was not mentioned, he simply admitted that he “couldn’t get rid of anything”. And Ian continues to add to his inventory to the point where the church hall is putting some constraint on how much can be displayed.

The 1927 France GP racer.

The 1927 France GP racer.

The first thing that is noticeable about the exhibits is the large number of impressive small capacity European made two-strokes from the 50’s, 60’s, and 1970’s. This is offset, to a degree, by machines like the 1981 1000cc Laverda Jota triple and a 1971 Honda 750 automatic, which was sold in the U.S. but never made its way to Australia. Ian also has on display several French vintage racing motorcycles in the shape of a very rare 1921 Yvels with a 250cc Villiers racing engine and a France which used a 350cc Jap engine.

Another fascinating machine is a recreation of a 1939 water-cooled and supercharged 250cc Benelli Grand Prix racer. The replica was literally hand built by a nautical engineer over 15 years, using a four-cylinder 250cc Yamaha engine as the basis for the powerplant.

1939 Supercharged 250cc Benelli GP replica.

1939 Supercharged 250cc Benelli GP replica.

Also on display is a collection of motorcycle memorabilia in the shape of photo’s, posters and signs. But one item that did catch my eye was a set of white leathers hanging on the wall. I recognised these as belonging to 5 times 500c Grand Prix winner Dutch rider Wil Hartog.

Hartog came to Australia for the Swan International Series in the late 1970’s bringing with him the daunting Suzuki RG680cc racer. A round of the series was held at the Adelaide International Raceway, and during unofficial practice I witnessed Hartog lose the front on the approach to the speedbowl, which unfortunately broke his collarbone and ended his series campaign. Hartog gave the leathers to a friend of Ian’s with whom Hartog had stayed while in Adelaide.

Grand Prix star Wil Hartog's leathers, complete with scuff marks on the left shoulder.

Grand Prix star Wil Hartog’s
leathers, complete with scuff marks on the left shoulder.

Ian’s enthusiasm for his motorcycles and displays is contagious, and he takes the time to talk to his visitors about the many exhibits on show.   For me, the museum was well worth the trip alone, but the town and surrounding area also have a lot to offer.

Peterborough was once an important regional railway hub and the Steamtown Heritage Museum displays steam trains and carriages of this bygone era with the added attraction of a sound and light show. At Hallet on the A32, there is the opportunity to visit Sir Hubert Wilkins birthplace. The Famous South Australian was a celebrated war photographer, aviator and polar explorer and there is, of course, the historic former copper mining town of Burra to explore while just thirty minutes away is Clare with its world-class wineries and excellent food.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2015. Photographs Geoff Dawes © 2015.

Below is a link to the Peterborough Motorcycle and Antique Museum website and to google maps for the Adelaide to Peterborough route.

http://www.pbmcm.com.

https://www.google.com.au/maps/dir/Adelaide+SA/Peterborough+SA/@-33.9337835,137.6770105,8z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x6ab735c7c526b33f:0x4033654628ec640!2m2!1d138.5999594!2d-34.9286212!1m5!1m1!1s0x6abe88d93d6470cb:0x4033654628edc10!2m2!1d138.8375877!2d-32.9733335!3e0

Ewald Kluge, DKW and the Lobethal TT

I’ve published this article from February 2014 again as I recently found an excellent documentary on the Lobethal races by Tony Parkinson produced in 2008. Tony has been kind enough to allow me to embed the video at the bottom of the page. Many thanks, Tony. 

In August 2013 that most famous of road racing circuits, the Isle of Man, celebrated its first Classic TT as part of the Festival of Motorcycling. With a burgeoning number of classic events around Europe, it was perhaps a long time coming to this historic racing venue. The event featured racing machinery from the 1950’s to the 1990’s, but perhaps more interesting was the presence of a pre World War Two German DKW SS 250 supercharged two-stroke, that was ridden on a parade lap by former 250cc Grand Prix winner Ralph Waldmann.

Two time European Champion Elwad Kluge.

Two time European Champion Ewald Kluge.

Brought to the Island by Audi Heritage to celebrate its historic victory in 1938, it was a recreation of the machine that Ewald Kluge used to become the first German, and only the second foreigner, to win a TT.  DKW was the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world during the 1930’s with a research and development department that boasted 150 employees.  DKW also produced cars and in 1932 merged with three other German car manufacturers Audi, Horch and Wanderer to become part of Auto Union, which was represented by the four linked circle insignia that the Audi brand still uses today.

DKW’s only produced two-stroke motorcycles at that time, and in the 1930’s the technology was still in its infancy. But thanks to the innovative genius of Ing Zoller, DKW came up with a unique design that used a split single layout with tandem piston bores that utilised a common combustion chamber and articulated connecting rods. A third piston was housed in a pumping chamber or ladepumpe (supercharger) mounted horizontally to the front of the engine crankcases.  This forced the air and fuel from the Amal TT carburettors, which was inducted via a rotary valve, to be pressurised in the main crankcases. The end result was a big jump in power and also fuel consumption. With the megaphone style exhaust fitted it also had a reputation as one of the loudest racers of its era.

Engine diagram of the DKW SS 250 two-stroke engine.

Engine diagram of the DKW SS 250 ladepumpe (supercharged) two-stroke engine.

There is no doubt about the Nazi influence on the German Automotive industry prior to the Second World War.  Hitler bankrolled the racing efforts of the Silver Arrows, supporting Mercedes and Auto Unions dominance of Grand Prix motor racing.  It was all part of Hitler’s plan to show the world the technological superiority of Nazi Germany. The Nazi’s had infiltrated most aspects of German life and in 1932 set up the N.S.K.K. or the Nationalist Socialist Drivers Corps which “Nazified” the driving associations and clubs. It made it almost impossible for the national racing heroes of the era not to be associated with the Nazi’s.

Ewald Kluge was a member of the N.S.K.K. and became the Lightweight (250cc) European Champion in both 1938 and 1939 (which was the forerunner of the Moto2 world championship). From 1936 to 1939 Kluge was also a four-time German National Champion. But 1938 was his most successful year taking the European crown and the German road racing and Hillclimb titles. Out of fourteen events he entered, he won 12 and was second twice attaining the “Champion of Champions “ accolade that was only granted to those who achieved the highest possible number of points.

Kluge in action at the Isle of Man Lightweight TT.

Kluge in action at the Isle of Man Lightweight TT.

But Europe was not the only place that Kluge and DKW were to compete.   In 1937 the sleepy Adelaide Hills town of Lobethal in South Australia hosted the inaugural South Australian TT on a road circuit that compared favourably with those in Europe.  Enticed by the Lobethal Carnival Committee the DKW team was to tour Australia taking in events in other States as well. Officially it was called a cultural and sporting exchange. It may also have helped that there was a strong German influence in the area with immigrants settling in Lobethal and nearby Handorf in the mid-1800’s.

The circuit itself was on sealed public roads and eight and three-quarter miles in length (14.082 km) running in a clockwise direction and took in the towns of both Lobethal and Charleston. It was almost triangular in shape and featured hairpins, s-bends, fast sweepers and flat out straights with changes in elevation that ranked it as one of the best road courses of the time anywhere in the world.

Les Friedrichs is re-united with the works DKW in 1988.

Les Friedrichs is re-united with the works DKW in 1988 at the  Lobethal  TT recreation.

Baron Claus Von Oertzen managed the DKW team and his vivacious wife Baroness Irene Von Oertzen also accompanied him to Australia.  It was quite a shock to the locals when the teams van, plastered in swastikas, arrived in the township.  There were also rumours that a British Special Intelligence Service agent was shadowing the team as pre-war tensions began to rise.

The Baron had chosen a local rider, Les Friedrichs, to be Kluge’s co-rider and although this would be Friedrichs first road race he had outstanding credentials in other motorcycle sports. The choice was a good one and in the Lightweight (250cc) TT, Friedrichs followed home his team leader Kluge for a stunning 1-2 victory.  Kluge then went on to win the Junior TT (350cc) with his 250cc machine; such was the technical advantage of the German racer.

The grid lines up for the start of the 1988 Lobethal TT recreation.

The grid lines up in the main street of Lobethal for the start of the 1988 TT recreation.

Because of the success of the races, the following year the Auto Cycle Council of Australia endorsed the Lobethal event to be run as the Australian TT.  Racing car events were also held on the circuit, and the popular road course hosted the Australian Grand Prix in 1939. The Lobethal TT was held on the December Boxing Day holiday and the DKW team, as part of their tour, contested several interstate events in early 1938.

The team had planned to return again at the end of 1938 and Kluge left behind his practice bike. This was a 1936 model works URe 250, which was left in the care of the Victorian DKW importer who was waiting for the arrival of a 1938 SS 250 production version of the factory machines. DKW was the first manufacturer to sell a production version of their “works” racers to the public.  However, the team did not return due to the onset of the Second World War.

Kluge was called up for military service in 1940 and was captured by the Russians and not released until 1949 due to his association with the Nazi’s.  At the age of 44, he returned to competition but suffered a serious high-speed accident at the 1953 Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring, which ended his career.  Ewald Kluge was only 55 years old when he passed away in 1964, leaving a remarkable racing legacy.

The 1936 works racer left behind by Kluge in 1938.

The 1936 works racer left behind by Kluge in 1938.

After the war road races were held at nearby Woodside and in 1948 racing returned once more to Lobethal until the South Australian State Government banned racing on public roads and brought to an end any thoughts of resurrecting the Lobethal TT.

The ex Kluge machine was discovered again by Eric Williams in 1960 who retrieved it from the side of a house in St. Peters in Adelaide where it was found lying and slowly rusting away. The engine had blown up in a big way at the Sellicks Beach races.

Williams then spent 17 years restoring the machine, and it made an appearance in 1988 at TT88, which recreated the Lobethal TT as part of South Australia’s sesquicentennial. The TT reunited the DKW racer with a 78-year-old Les Friedrichs who performed a parade lap of the circuit stunning the onlookers with a cacophony of ear-shattering sound emitted by the exotic little racer.

Jewel like high tech two-stroke engineering in 1936 from DKW.

Jewel-like high tech two-stroke engineering in 1936 from DKW.

Williams sold the DKW in 1992 for $50,000 (Aus), a record for a vintage machine in Australia. Steve Hazelton outbid the American Barber Museum to keep the rare works racer in Australia, but 20 years later decided to put the DKW up for sale again.  Hazelton was extremely disappointed to receive very little interest from within Australia for this exotic ex-works racer.

It would no doubt be reassuring to Kluge, that Audi Tradition continues to honour his racing achievements and that of the DKW works team.  And although the roads around Lobethal are no longer used as a racing circuit, motorcyclist from all over Adelaide ride the course regularly to enjoy what was once one of the worlds great road racing circuits.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2014. Photographs Geoff Dawes (C) 1988. Images courtesy of http://www.audimediaservices.com. Diagram www.motorradonline.de.

Below is a link to a map of the Lobethal TT course. https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=201984503616328999196.0004d09b2905e2b5ca5e4

A Motorcycling Legacy

Rex Tilbrook 's stand at the 1947 Royal Adelaide Exhibition.

Rex Tilbrook ‘s stand at the 1947 Royal Adelaide Exhibition.

Over one hundred years ago, on the 2nd of May 1915, Rex Patterson Tilbrook was born in Prospect South Australia. He would grow up to become an innovative engineer, designer and fabricator, who produced high-quality motorcycle accessories, motorcycle sidecars and eventually his own pioneering range of motorcycles and racing machines.

But surprisingly it was the motorcar that played a significant role in his early life. After leaving school at the age of 16, Rex found work at a local garage where he made a close study of his customer’s vehicles. Being mechanically gifted, he decided to build a car of his own from an old G.N. cyclecar chassis fitted with an 8h.p. air-cooled V-twin engine that he bought for $6. When the car was completed Tilbrook decided it was time to further his mechanical education. The then 19-year old put the G.N. up for sale to help fund a ticket to sail to England. In 1935 Rex arrived at the world famous Brooklands motor racing circuit in Surrey and quickly established himself as a skilled engine tuner and fabricator. It didn’t take long for his services to be so much in demand that he was able to open his own workshop where his specialist exhaust systems were highly sort after.

In November 1938 after four successful years at Brooklands, Tilbrook returned home to Australia. The papers described him at the time as an “experimental engineer and driver”, and he had brought something rather special back with him from the UK. It was Maserati 6CM 1.5 supercharged monoposto which he intended to use at the Australian Grand Prix to be held at Lobethal in South Australia on January the 2nd 1939. Unfortunately, he was unable to have the car released from customs in time, although Tilbrook did plan to return to race the car in the European Grands Prix. In the meantime, the storm clouds of World War 2 gathered.

One of the Tilbrook sidecar designs outside the Kensington factory.

One of the Tilbrook sidecar designs outside the Kensington factory.

When war broke out later that year Tilbrook became involved in the munitions industry, but his creative mind did not rest, and he built an electric scooter in 1941 which could travel at over 40kph and recharge the batteries when free-wheeling down hills. Rex also came up with the first of his innovative motorcycle accessories, a universal pillion footpeg. By 1947 Tilbrook had moved into a new workshop at Bridge Street in Kensington where he produced a greater range of accessories and spare parts often sought after to restore war-damaged army surplus motorcycles and the first of his beautifully made sidecars.

It was also in 1947 that Tilbrook took up a stand at the Royal Adelaide Exhibition, held by the South Australian Chamber of Manufacturers to encourage a post-war business recovery. Rex had come up with the novel idea of building a complete running 250cc motorcycle, of his own design, on the stand inside the 54 days the exhibition was open. Starting with the engine, which was based on a pre-war two-stroke Zundapp design, Tilbrook had the engine castings made locally and machined them on his stand. The engine was completed in 28 days. Only a handful of items, such as primary chains, tyres and spark plugs, were not manufactured on the spot. The bike featured a 20amp generator that enabled starting with a flat battery, while other innovations included hydraulically damped telescopic front forks with air caps.

The 250cc machine though was never put into production, with Rex turning later to the more readily available British Villiers 125cc and 197cc two-stroke engine units. Tilbrook would also first try out his many futuristic ideas in competition by building several 125cc racing machines in 1949.

The 125cc racing bikes were loosely based on the Villiers engine with the bore and stroke being changed to 52x58mm. Methanol fuel was used and delivered through a two-stage system utilising Amal TT carburettors. A smaller 1inch carby was fully opened at half throttle with a 1 3/16inch unit taking over until full throttle was reached. The cylinder head was designed and cast by Tilbrook and a heavily revised barrel sporting two inlet, two exhaust and four transfer ports brought about combustion with the help of a BTH magneto running at half engine speed to provide the spark. The original three-speed gearbox was replaced with a four-speed unit also developed by Rex. Useful power was made between 5,500 and 8,400rpm, which was sufficient for a top speed of around 90mph (145kph).

Alan Wallis, the Tilbrook mechanics and Rex Tilbrook with 125cc racers.

Alan Wallis, the Tilbrook mechanics and Rex Tilbrook with the 125cc racers.

The well-presented Tilbrook race team consisted of Rex and Alan Wallis as riders with two mechanics suitably dressed in blue overalls that gave an air of professionalism. Over the ten years, the racers were developed, they accrued numerous race victories in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and NSW, with many of the ideas and innovations developed being carried over to the road going models.

When the Tilbrook roadsters finally started to trickle into production in 1952, what set them apart from other Australian produced machines was (with the exception of the engine/gearbox and Lucas lighting set) that everything else was made in South Australia. Also, the Tilbrook had a unique appearance utilising a combination of features that were best suited to Australian conditions. This in many ways made the Tilbrook radically different.

A key feature was an 18lt fuel tank for extended distance Australian touring, a large flared front mudguard and a combined rear mudguard and seat assembly to protect a rider from mud and dust of the many unsealed roads. At a time when few motorcycles had rear suspension, and lightweight machines had primitive, limited travel telescopic front forks, Rex used a rear cantilever swingarm with twin underhung springs below the gearbox and a radial front suspension that provided superior handling to a comparable imported model.

But the innovation didn’t stop there; the front and rear wheels were interchangeable and sported full width finned aluminium hubs with 37mm wide brake shoes working against shrunk in cast iron linings. This provided a superior coefficient of friction when braking and the finned hubs made brake cooling more efficient without a hint of brake fade that plagued the more commonly used steel drums of other manufacturers. All models had steering dampers as standard, which generally was an option on larger machines of the day. A useful chrome tank rack was also provided, and the Tilbrook used a round 80mph (128.7kph) speedometer with odometer and trip meter mounted above the headlight compared to the more common D shaped gauge of other lightweights.

The beautifully made Tilbrook roadster.

The beautifully made Tilbrook roadster.

A comprehensive tool roll was provided in a large compartment under the press-stud fixed seat and was extensive enough to totally disassemble the whole motorcycle. There was also a puncture repair kit with plenty of room for any other spares an owner might feel necessary. A tyre pump was also provided and this fit under the seat mudguard assembly. At a time when black was a predominant colour, the Tilbrook was a striking red with lashings of cadmium and chrome plating presenting a high-quality standard of finish.

It’s believed that around sixty of the 125cc and 197cc roadsters were produced before motorcycle production stopped in the late 1950’s. The market was shrinking with cars becoming cheaper, and motorcycle production became the least profitable part of the business. The accessory, spare parts and sidecars continued although in later years Tilbrook survived by concentrating on contract work, making special manufacturing machines and general engineering. The factory finally closed its doors in 1976. Rex Patterson Tilbrook passed away in 1997 leaving behind a quite remarkable motorcycling legacy.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2015 Images courtesy http://www.therisingsun.com.au, http://www.dropbears.com, http://www.ma.org.au