Category Archives: Motoracing

Archives: The Great Wings and Wheels Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kent Patrick’s magnificent Type 37A Bugatti.

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

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

Colin Pay taxies his Supermarine Spitfire MK V111.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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,  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.

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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

Superhuman

In a recent interview with U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, the most successful design engineer in F1 history made quite a thought-provoking statement. Adrian Newey commented, “If you watch a sport – it doesn’t matter what sport – you want to come away with a feeling those guys are special. If you watch MotoGP you think those guys are just superhuman. You just don’t get that with the current breed of F1 cars.”

The most successful design engineer in F1 history.

Adrian Newey the most successful design engineer in F1 history.

Newey who is unenamoured with the tightly controlled regulations currently in force in F1, believes they are so constrictive that, “the regulations design the cars.” Even as recently as two races ago in Germany the FIA outlawed FRICS, a front and rear interconnected hydraulic/mechanical suspension system which some teams had been using since 2010.

So disappointed is Newey with F1 he is stepping back from hands on involvement at the end of the season with the Red Bull Racing F1 team and has signed a new deal, where from next year he will be involved in Red Bull Technologies special projects, one of which is believed to be Britain’s America’s Cup challenger.

Newey, of course, has always had an uncanny ability to exploit the “grey” areas of the regulations on his way to designing F1 cars for the Red Bull team that have won four constructors and four drivers world championships between 2010-2113.

Four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the RB10.

Four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the RB10.

But as justified as the analogy between F1 and MotoGP is the ongoing homogeny in technical terms for Grand Prix motorcycle racing is to a degree mimicking F1 and is of great concern for the “purity” of the sport. Let’s not forget that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone created Two Wheeled Promotions to form a joint venture with Dorna Sports in the early 1990’s to acquire the commercial rights to the motorcycle Grand Prix from the FIM. Ecclestone sold his companies interest to Dorna and its CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has often looked to F1 for inspiration, “to improve the spectacle.”

We now have a situation in MotoGP where, just as in F1, there are colour coded control tyres, a freeze on engine development for the “factory” machines during the course of the season and a limit on the number engines available, which for 2014 can only consume a meager 20 liters of fuel per Grand Prix. In 2016 it will be mandatory for all the MotoGP teams to use a Dorna supplied ECU and software.

One major difference, however, is the use of traction control in MotoGP. Banned initially in F1 in 1994 and backed up with the introduction of a standard FIA ECU in 2008, some MotoGP riders and a proportion of the fans are against these electronics as well, as it’s seen as an artificial enhancement of a rider’s ability. But it is also a concession by Dorna to maintain motorcycle manufacturer involvement, who have to justify the enormous expenditure required to go Grand Prix motorcycle racing and who have traditionally seen MotoGP as part of their research and development programs that filters new technology down to their road bikes.

F1 like colour coding of MotoGp tyres.

F1 like colour coding of MotoGp tyres.

The same is true of the new regulations in F1 with the return of a smaller capacity 1.6litre fuel-efficient turbocharged V6 engine that use a more complex hybrid energy recovery systems. Again, if the changes had not happened Renault and Mercedes may have withdrawn from F1, as they too have to justify the massive expenditure to go racing to their respective boards and shareholders by developing technology that is relevant to the road cars they build and sell. Nonetheless, the true racing person that Newey is, he describes F1 as becoming an “an engine formula.”

However, regardless of electronic rider aids and constrictive regulations, MotoGP racers by the very nature of motorcycle design are themselves “part of the machine”. Where they place their body weight under braking or going around a corner and accelerating out of a corner has a major impact on lap times. Indeed MotoGP racers use everything available to them to go as fast as they can, carving angles of lean through bends that defy the laws of physics, and dragging not just their knees but also their elbows on the tarmac.

They also, thankfully, have no radio hookups with the pits and a team of technicians reading telemetry telling them what to do, only pitboards and their own judgment for tactical use of their fuel and tyre consumption over the course of a race.

Jorge Lorenzo becomes airborne trying to avoid backmarker James Ellison.

Jorge Lorenzo becomes airborne trying to avoid backmarker James Ellison.

Also, these racers are not strapped tightly into a safety cell with only a low percentile chance of serious injury should they crash, as is the case in F1. And regardless of the current technology MotoGP riders do crash regularly, and often spectacularly, suffering abrasions and broken bones. Ask Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow to name a few. No matter what the technical regulators do to the sport of MotoGP, that innate, spectacular and highly dangerous involvement of the motorcycle racer themselves does indeed make them “superhuman.”

Words Geoff Dawes © 2014.  Images courtesy http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk, http://www.nhatnet.com, http://www.vroom-magazine.com, and http://www.zigwheels.com