Category Archives: Motorcycling

Santiago Herrero and the amazing monocoque Ossa

Herrero becomes airborne at Ballaugh Bridge on his way to third place at the 1969 Isle Of  Man 250cc Lightweight TT on the monocoque Ossa.

The 2017 MotoGP season once again saw Spanish riders dominating the Grand Prix grid. Ten of the regular twenty-four racers were Spanish, and for the past six consecutive seasons, a Spaniard has won the MotoGP World Championship.  The junior Grand Prix classes of Moto2 and Moto3 also have a healthy representation of Spanish talent, and it’s also a Spanish company, Dorna Sports, who hold the commercial rights and play a major role in shaping the series. So it comes as no surprise that the popularity of the sport is so high that four of the eighteen races are held in that country.

Although Salvador Canellas won Spain’s first Grand Prix victory in 1968 contesting the 125cc class at the Spanish Grand Prix, it was a 17 year Angel Nieto who competed in his first Grand Prix in 1964 in the 50cc class that would spearhead Spain’s assault on the World Championships. It was the beginning of a stellar career, one that ended with Nieto reaching an elite level with 13 World Championships., six in the 50cc class and seven in the 125cc class, a figure only bettered by the great Giacomo Agostini with 15 World Championships.

However, it was a rider by the name of Santiago Herrero that looked most likely to win Spain’s first World Championship. Born in Madrid on May 2nd, 1942, Santiago bought his first motorcycle at the age of twelve and in 1962 obtained a racing licence. Initially competing on a Derbi Gran Sport and acting as his own mechanic, Herero then started racing a 125cc Bultaco Tralla.  This brought him to the attention of Luis Bejarano the founder and owner of Spanish brand Lube motorcycles.

Bejarano offered Santiago a position in his competition department and in 1964 Herrero repaid that confidence by finishing in third place on a Lube Renn in the Spanish 125cc Championship and then backed up the result with a second place in 1965. Difficult financial times under Franco’s reign saw the Lube marque go out of business. Santiago decided to work for himself and opened a motorcycle repair shop in Bilbao.

Herrero continued to compete as a privateer racing the Lube Renn a Bultaco Tralla and TSS in national events.  At the end of 1966, he was approached by another Spanish manufacturer Ossa. Founded by Manuel Giro the company had survived the difficult times of the early 1960’s and thanks to the engineering genius of Manuel’s son, Eduardo, the company had developed road racing aspirations having already tasted success in endurance events.

Some early shakedown runs on the monocoque Ossa. Note the Telesco forks and front brake from the 230cc Sport.

It was the dream of winning the 250cc World Championship that inspired Eduardo to start design studies for a new Grand Prix challenger in 1966, and he even considered taking on Yamaha’s RD05 with his own two-stroke V4, but the cost was beyond the budget at his disposal.

The answer was to build a simpler solution using the proven philosophy of lightweight, a small frontal area and engine reliability combined with outstanding handling.  Following company ideology, the engine would be a single cylinder two-stroke of 249cc with a bore and stroke of 70x65mm.  But unlike the piston port road models, a more accurate rotary disc valve was used for induction, which was fed by a massive 42mm Amal carburettor.   An equally enormous expansion chamber exited on the left side of the engine, and a beefy air-cooled seven-fin barrel and cylinder head gave the illusion of a much bigger engine. Ignition was by an electronic Motoplat unit while the gearbox used six gears and was engaged by a dry clutch.

But it was the chassis that moved away from convention. Unique for the era was its welded monocoque construction of magnesium and aluminium sheets that incorporated the fuel tank. The engine was mounted from a lug welded behind the steering head to another lug cast into the cylinder head, the chassis then swooped down and attached to the rear of the crankcases and incorporated the pivot point for the chrome molybdenum steel swingarm.  Initially, oleo-pneumatic shock absorbers were used with proprietary Telesco front forks while the front brake of the road going 230cc Sport model was utilised.

The 97.5kg racer produced 42bhp at 11,000rpm and boasted strong torque from as low as 6,500rpm. Nonetheless, it still gave away over 20hp to the Yamaha V4’s.

The innovative Grand Prix racer had its first trial by fire at the 1967 Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuich Park and was ridden by Ossa factory rider Carlos Giro. Although sixth place was encouraging, Giro was a lap down to Phil Read on the Yamaha V4. Eduardo knew that on a tight circuit that should have suited the Ossa, they really needed to be further towards the front.

Meanwhile, Herrero continued to help with development work on the G.P. racer while contesting the 250cc National Spanish Championship eventually becoming the 1967 Champion. However, politics were about to come into play with the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme issuing new regulations, which would limit the number of cylinders, gears and minimum weight for the different capacity classes from the 1969 season. The governing body of motorcycle sport was attempting to curb the costly technology war that was being waged between the Japanese factory teams and level the playing field for the European manufacturers.

Honda withdrew after the 1967 season followed by Suzuki although Yamaha continued on with factory team until the end of the 1968 season. This would give Ossa a better chance of Grand Prix glory although they still had to deal with the V4’s of Read and Ivy during the 1968 season.

A good view of the unique chassis, engine and dry clutch.

The first Grand Prix of the year was the German round at the Nurburgring, a high-speed circuit more suited to the Yamaha V4 of Ivy and Read. Herrero, though, managed a creditable sixth place a lap down. Next was the Spanish round at Montjuich Park where Herrero qualified 5thand actually led the race but was let down by the oleo-pneumatic rear shocks that failed causing him to crash on lap 8. These were discarded and eventually replaced with British Girling shock absorbers. Some consolation was found for Ossa though, with their second-string rider Carlos Giro coming home in fourth position.

Next was the TT at the Isle of Man with Herrero finishing in a commendable 7thplace for his first time at the island, with Ivy taking the win and Santiago named as the top rookie for the class. Ossa, however, tasted victory for the first time at the TT in the 250cc production race.  English Ossa importer Eric Houseley had entered a 230cc Sport for Trevor Burgess in the event, who rode it to victory over the demanding 60.7Km  (37.73 miles) mountain course.

Herrero scored another 6thplace at the Dutch TT at Assen, which was again won by Ivy on the V4 Yamaha, and followed this up with a 5thplace at the hi-speed Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Herrero, unfortunately, suffered a DNF at the next round at the Sachsenring in East Germany and also missed the next three Grand Prix’, but returned for the final race of the season, the Nations Grand Prix at Monza in Italy. Herrero claimed an outstanding 3rdplace on another high-speed circuit, which was won by Read ahead of Ivy on their V4’s. Read pipped Ivy to the World Championship with Herrero a credible 7th place.  Ossa also secured a well deserved fourth place in the Constructors World Championship.

Development of the Ossa racer continued and by now sported Italian Ceriano front forks and four leading shoe front brake with British Girling shock absorbers at the rear. This increased the weight of the machine from 97.5kg to 99.6kg but the improved handling and braking more than made up for the additional weight.

The massive 42mm Amal carburettor. The fuel was inducted via a rotary disk valve.

Although Yamaha withdrew works entries for the 1969 season they had been developing the parallel twin cylinder TD2 two-stroke production racer that was made available to privateers. Dutch Yamaha importer, Yamaha NV entered the talented duo of Rod Gould and Kent Anderson on TD2’s. The East German MZ factory was also a threat with their fast but fragile rotary disc valve two-stroke twins, while the Italian Benelli factory had their works four-cylinder four-stroke racers to compete with, in a last-gasp chance to win the title before the rollout of the new regulations made them redundant for the 1970 season.  The pundits favourite for the championship that season was Benelli’s Renzo Pasolini who had won seven races in the Italian season openers. This would in no way be an easy campaign for Herrero and the Ossa.

The first race of the 1969 season was the Spanish round held for the first time on the tight and twisty Jarama circuit near Madrid.  In wet and drizzly conditions, and much to the delight of the partisan crowd, Herrero won his and Ossa’s first Grand Prix. It was Spain’s first win in the 250cc class – Herrero becoming only the second Spaniard to win a Grand Prix.  Sweden’s Kent Anderson finished second on his importer supported Yamaha twin nearly 25 seconds behind.

Next was at the West German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.  Pasolini, unfortunately, suffered a crash in practice, which was severe enough to put him out for three Grand Prix’.  Kent Anderson went on to notch up the first win for the TD2 while Herrero suffered a DNF with ignition failure. Santiago bounced back at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, winning the race and leading home second place man Rodney Gould on his Yamaha twin by nearly 42 seconds with Kent Anderson third.  Benelli by now had drafted privateer, Australian Kel Carruthers, and Phil Read into the team for the next round at the Isle of Man.  It was Herrero’s second visit to the TT and experience no doubt helped him to an outstanding third place behind Carruthers on the Benelli and Frank Perris on a Suzuki.

Meanwhile, the Ossa factory continued development of the 250cc racer by water-cooling the head and block of the engine, which reputedly enabled it to produce 48bhp at 10,500rpm. This version made an appearance at the Dutch TT round; Herrero though chose to stick with his tried and tested air-cooled engine.

The water-cooled version of the 250cc Ossa.

Pasolini returned at Assen and duly went on to win the Dutch TT.  His new teammate, Kel Carruthers was second with Herrero an excellent third place 26 seconds behind the two works Benelli’s.  Up next was the Belgium Grand Prix at the ultra-fast Spa-Francorchamps. Santiago underlined that he was a real contender for the championship, winning by a mere half a second from Rod Gould on his Yamaha but almost ten and a half seconds ahead of Carruthers on the Benelli. In fact, Herrero’s average race speed was faster than second placed man Percy Tait in the 500cc category!

Things were hotting up with Pasolini winning again in East Germany at the Sachsenring with Herrero in second place a mere three-hundredths of a second behind with Rosner on an MZ in third. Czechoslovakia was next at the Brno circuit, and it was here Santiago’s championship campaign began to falter.  Herrero’s Ossa suffered engine failure while Pasolini won again with Gould in second and Carruthers in third.

Two weeks later the “continental circus” moved on to Imatra for the Finish Grand Prix. Pasolini had the misfortune to crash again putting himself out for the rest of the season. Herrero, however, could only manage sixth place, but more importantly, Carruthers finished fourth and Kent Anderson took his second win of the season. The pressure was starting to mount on Ossa’s challenge.

The trip to Northern Ireland for the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod must have been a pensive one for Santiago. He knew only the best seven results would count towards championship points and he needed at least one more good finish. It may have been self-imposed pressure to do well in the wet and rainy conditions that caused Herrero to crash, sadly breaking bones in his left hand.  Carruthers notched his second win on the Benelli with Kent Anderson on the Yamaha third.

Three weeks later at the Nations Grand Prix at Imola, Herrero, with his hand and forearm in a splint, could only manage fifth place. The championship was slipping away. Yamaha had drafted Phil Read on a factory-supplied twin to help Anderson in his title bid and duly won the race from Carruthers on the Benelli with Anderson in third place.

Only one week later was the final race of the season; the Yugoslavian Grand Prix on the Adriatic street circuit of Opatija. For Herrero to have any chance to take the championship it had to be a win or nothing and poor results for his adversaries.  Unluckily it ended with another crash for Santiago. To help Carruthers in his title bid Italian rider, Gilberto Parlotti was brought into the Benelli team.  It would prove to be a masterstroke as Carruthers won the race followed home by Parlotti with Anderson in third.  The final tally on adjusted Championship points was Carruthers, in first place on 89, Anderson, in second place on 84, and Herrero,  in third place on 83.  Ossa also claimed third place in the Constructors Championship.

Arm in a splint, Herrero is distraught after crashing out of the Yugoslavian Grand Prix.

Nonetheless, 1969 was a season of accomplishment for Herrero and Ossa. Santiago had won his third consecutive 250cc Spanish National Championship. He had also been drafted into the Spanish Derbi team in the 50cc class of the World Championship finishing 7th in Holland, 2ndin Belguim and 2ndin East Germany. His results helped his friend Angel Nieto to his first 50cc World Championship and Spanish manufacturer Derbi to their first constructor’s title. Although only entering three 50cc Grand Prix’, Herrero finished 7thin the championship.

Herrero and Ossa entered into the 1970 season with a certain amount of optimism. Pasolini and Benelli would concentrate on the 350cc class due to the regulation changes that only allowed machinery with a maximum of two cylinders to compete in the 250cc category. Santiago still faced stiff competition from an armada of private, dealer and importer supported Yamaha’s and MZ could still be a threat, even though the OSSA was by now making 45bhp in air-cooled form.

Herrero’s season got off to a shaky start with mechanical problems causing his retirement from the West German Grand Prix at the torturous Nurburgring. Santiago then put in one of the rides of his life in the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.  Herrero crashed while pushing too hard to try and make up for the speed differential between the Ossa and the Yamaha’s.  He remounted his battered machine and in a superhuman effort fought his way up to second place setting the fastest lap of the race.  Next was the Adriatica Grand Prix at the Yugoslavian seaside town of Opatija. Santiago once again proved he had the makings of a World Champion winning the race by four seconds from Kent Anderson with Rod Gould in third.  Herrero led the Championship by two points as the “continental circus” headed once more to the Isle of Man.

Santiago Herrero.

Although Yamaha’s TD2 had proven fragile at the TT the previous year, a season of development and the sheer number of competitors racing them put the odds against success for Herrero and the Ossa.  In the early stages of the race he could only manage fifth place and while pushing too hard took the slip road at Braddan Bridge. Santiago dropped the bike breaking the screen. He restarted and by the last lap had clawed his way up to third place. As Herrero tried to take the fast but difficult double left-hander at the thirteenth milestone before Kirkmicheal, a section of melted tar put the OSSA into a wobble and a slide that he was unable to recover. Stanley Woods was following Herrero and witnessed the accident before becoming entangled himself trying to avoid man and machine, ending up with a broken ankle, leg and collarbone.

Santiago suffered severe head and internal injuries and was airlifted to Douglas but passed away two days later.  Manuel and his son Eduardo withdrew Ossa from racing; his death had devastated the factory.  The impact of his accident saw Spanish riders and the Spanish Federation, the RFME, boycott the TT for twenty years. Spain had lost one of its pioneer’s of Grand Prix racing and an outstanding developmental rider. Few would disagree that Herrero could have one day been a World Champion.

Word Geoff Dawes © 2018 Images courtesy http://www.alcherton.com, http://www.progress-is-fineblogspot.com.au, and http://www.pilotes-muertos.com

 

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Vale Angel Nieto 1947 – 2017

 

Nieto on the 125cc Garelli.

2017 has been a sad year for the sport of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. The passing of the incomparable John Surtees in March and the tragic road accident that unexpectedly claimed the life of Nickey Hayden in May have left a void in the eras these two great former World Champions represented.

Now the recent death of Angel Nieto, again to a tragic road accident, has created another significant loss. His achievements paved the way for a sport that is now dominated by his countrymen.

Nieto passed away as a result of brain damage caused by a car that hit his quad bike on July 26th. The 70-year-old hit his head on the ground while travelling at low speed while traversing a roundabout on the Island of Ibiza. He was placed in an induced coma, but his condition worsened, and he died on the evening of Thursday the 3rd of August.

Nieto was the first Spaniard to compete in the motorcycle Grand Prix. Over a career that spanned 22 years from 1964 to 1986, he achieved 90 wins and 139 podiums from 186 starts. He won six 50cc World Championships and seven 125cc World Championship for a total of 13 titles, second only to Giacomo Agostini with 15 championships in the 350cc and 500cc class. Nieto won his six 50cc World Championships with Derbi, Kreidler and Bultaco. His seven 125cc world titles came with Derbi, Kreidler, Minarelli and Garelli.

Nieto was also awarded the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Civil Merit in 1982 and the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Sports Merit in 1993.

Words © Geoff Dawes 2017. Images courtesy http://www.motogp.com and http://www.biogratiasyvidas.com.

Mike Hailwood’s Isle of Man TT return

A triumphant return. Mike heading for victory in the 1978 F1 TT.

It was acclaimed as one of the greatest comebacks in motor racing history. After more than a decade away from the most deadly of all motorcycle road racing circuits, the Isle of Man TT, former 9 times motorcycle World Champion, Mike Hailwood, returned to the Island riding an NCR Ducati, to win the 1978 Formula 1 TT. As if to underline he had lost none of his skill and versatility, Hailwood competed the following year again to win the Senior TT on a works Suzuki RG500 two-stroke Grand Prix racer. After his fairy-tale comeback, the 39-year-old then hung up his helmet for good.

2018 will be the fortieth anniversary of Hailwood’s remarkable return to the Island, but it was in 1977, forty years ago in Australia, that a chain of events put in motion Mike’s reunion with motorcycle racing and the TT.

After limited success in car racing, a crash at the 1974 German Grand Prix ended Hailwood’s Formula One car racing career. The collision caused compound fractures of Mike’s left knee, but the right leg sustained a shattered heel, and the ankle was pushed down and compacted. It became clear that the doctors couldn’t repair his right foot even after extensive surgery and rehabilitation. Mike and his family decided to move to New Zealand where he went into a partnership with Mclaren Marine.

Hailwood quickly became restless in his adopted country, and when in 1977 he was invited to be the guest of honour at a historic race meeting “over the ditch” in Australia, it was just the medicine Mike needed.

The All-Historic meeting was held at Amaroo Park in New South Wales, a circuit well known around the globe for its annual 6 Hour production motorcycle race. It was at this meeting Hailwood met and raced against Australian Jim Scaysbrook. Jim had competed successfully in dirt track, reliability trials, desert racing and speedway, and was the first Australian to race in the AMA Motocross series in 1973.

The main event for motorcycles was the Keith Campbell Memorial unlimited race. Scaysbrook won the race on Alan Puckett’s 7R AJS fitted with a Seeley 630cc G50 engine with Hailwood in second place on the ex Kel Carruthers 500cc Manx Norton owned by motorcycle dealer Barry Ryan. Over the course of the Australia Day weekend, the two men became good friends.

Mike was also mates with Sydney radio broadcaster, Owen Delaney, whom he had met in New Zealand. Delaney offered to sponsor Hailwood to come back for the historic race at the Easter Bathurst meeting. Mike would ride Barry Ryan’s ex-Kel Carruthers Manx Norton again and Jim the Alan Puckett 7R AJS. The event had previously been referred to as a historic machine demonstration but was officially upgraded to full race status for the 70 odd entrants. Scaysbrook won again at Mount Panorama, with Hailwood in second.

Jim Scaysbrook left, and Mike Hailwood prepare for the 1977 Castrol 6 Hour production race.

Hailwood returned to Australia once more for a historic meeting at Winton to pilot Charles Edmonds Manx Norton and was enjoying racing again so much that Delaney started to put together a deal to have Hailwood and Scaysbrook team up for the October Castrol 6 Hour production endurance race.

It was again a turn of events and a casual conversation that contrived to bring Hailwood back to the Isle of Man. In August 1977 a couple of months before his Castrol 6 Hour debut Mike attended the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. It was the first year the British Grand Prix was held on the mainland due to the top GP rider’s boycott of the Isle of Man TT because of the deadly nature of the street course. In the paddock at Silverstone for an F1 TT support race was Steve Wynne, owner of Sports Motorcycles in Manchester. Wynne had entered his rider, Roger Nicholls, several months earlier at the Isle of Man TT on an NCR (the unofficial factory race shop) Ducati 860cc endurance racer.

Wynne was still seething over Roger Nicholls loss to Phil Read in the first-ever F1 TT, which was in effect a single race World Championship. Read, a seven-time World Champion was making a comeback to the Isle of Man and Honda Britain, wanting to cash in on the publicity, provided a special “works” endurance 820cc racer. The F1 TT race was to be held over five laps but was run in wet wintery conditions. Although Read led for most of the race, Nicholls needed only one fuel stop on the Ducati to the Honda’s two. At the halfway stage the race officials decided to shorten the five lap race to four, which Honda got wind of, but the officials did not inform the other competitors. This threw race tactics out the window and allowed Honda to dispense with the last lap fuel stop handing Read and Honda the win from Nicholls by under forty seconds.

Hailwood was introduced to Wynne in the paddock, and according to Steve, it was a coming together of two upset parties. Wynne because he felt cheated out of the F1 TT title, while Hailwood had been snubbed by Honda when he’d approached them for a ride in the 1978 season. A short conversation and a handshake were all it took for the wheels to be set in motion for Hailwood’s come back to the Island on a Wynne prepared NCR Ducati. Although Mike had initially offered to ride for free under an assumed name, his longtime friend and manager, journalist Ted Mcauley, convinced Hailwood to “go public” on his comeback. A formal single page agreement was typed by Wynne to make it official, and Hailwood was to be paid the princely sum of one thousand pounds.

Back in Australia preparations were also being made for Hailwood and Scaysbrook’s appointment with the Castrol 6 Hour production race. Owen Delaney through had a friend by the name of Malcolm Bailey who owned a motorcycle wrecker called Moreparts. Not surprisingly they arranged the purchase of a Ducati, and Scaysbrook, through his contacts in advertising, found sponsorship in the shape of Snack Potato Chips.

Unfortunately, the 1976 model Ducati 900SS purchased used a right foot gear shift, which was not ideal because of Hailwood’s injured right ankle from his Formula One car crash. The 900SS was sold and replaced with a 1977 square case 750SS, which had a left foot shift. The main weakness with the Ducati was its ground clearance around the mainly right-hand corners of Amaroo Park that caused the front header pipe to continually drag on the ground.

The Moreparts team qualified well but were handicapped by the Le Mans style start because the Ducati had to be kick-started, while the competition just pushed a button. Jim and Mike though managed to pick their way through the field finishing sixth outright and second in the 750cc class. A pretty good achievement considering Hailwood insisted he would only compete in the race “just for fun”.

The Moreparts team sponsors, Snack foods, had South Australia targeted next as part of a national campaign to launch their new potato chips brand, so in March 1978 the team were entered in the Adelaide 3 Hour production race at Adelaide International Raceway. This would be only Mike’s second event on the V-twin Ducati. A practice crash by Scaysbrook saw an all-nighter to rebuild the Ducati for the race using parts offered by the Ducati Owners Club from their own bikes.

Hailwood on the Ducati 750ss at the 1978 Castrol 6 Hour production race.

During the race, Jim and Mike almost ran out of fuel during their stints, both times somehow managing to get back to the pits. Unfortunately during the rebuild oil had only been replaced in one of the damaged fork legs, which bottomed out under heavy braking locking up the front wheel. A top ten finish in the race was quite an achievement for the duo.

The Easter Bathurst meeting was next on the calendar with Jim riding the Ducati in the 750cc production class while Mike was entered on the Milledge TZ750 Yamaha in the unlimited category. Jim had arranged the ride for Hailwood after Bob Rosenthal, the bike’s usual rider, elected to miss the Bathurst meeting. It would be timely preparation for the TT as Mike had also secured, thanks to Mcauley, Martini sponsored Yamaha’s for his TT return.

Bathurst was of mixed fortunes for the pair, with Scaysbrook winning the 750cc production race on the Ducati and setting a new lap record for the class, while, in atrocious weather, Mike finished 9th in the unlimited race having had to pit twice with fouling spark plugs.

Now it was the TT that beckoned. Wynne had successfully secured three of the NCR 860cc Ducati endurance racers. One each for Hailwood, Nicholls and Scaysbrook but received them from the factory in the third week of April with little time to prepare for the TT, although they were able to test at Oulton Park and Donnington Park before shipping the bikes to the Isle of Man.

Pat Slinn, who was the service and technical manager for the UK Ducati importer Coburn and Hughes, was also acting as a technical liaison for Sports Motorcycles with the Ducati experimental department and NCR. Pat knew first hand how much hard work Ducati had put into Hailwood’s F1 racer. Slinn, “Franco Farne’s experimental department at the Ducati factory in Bologna completely rebuilt the F1 rolling chassis after it was initially built by NCR, this was because they wanted everything to be absolutely spot on. Mike’s engines were built by (senior engine technician) Guiliano Pedretti, where I saw one engine being built and I watched it being power tested.” Pedretti prepared three engines for Mike’s F1 TT machine one of which was earmarked for the race and produced more power than the other two. Farne and Pedretti were then sent by Ducati to the TT to look after and prepare Hailwood’s bike for the F1 race.

Mike also had the Martini sponsored Yamaha’s at his disposal. Known as Team Hailwood Martini, Mike had a production TZ 250 for the Junior TT, an ex-Agostini OW20 for the 500cc Senior TT and a production TZ750 for the 1000cc Classic TT. Turning the spanners for the Martini Team were Mike’s former mechanic Nobby Clark and respected technician Trevor Tilbury.

The first event of the TT meeting was the F1 race which was increased to six laps that year. The crowds of spectators had swollen thanks to Hailwood’s comeback, although there was some trepidation in the minds of the fans. Could Hailwood still do it? What if he got hurt or even worse? The spectators knew Mike was putting the substance of legend on the line. And it wasn’t just Read riding a factory Honda, TT regular and a winner of two 1000cc Classic TT’s John Williams was on a second factory Honda, while Tom Herron, Tony Rutter and Helmut Dahne were on works supported dealer entries.

Read led the 63 competitors away for the six-lap 226.38 mile (364.32km) race. But all eyes were on the number 12 Ducati starting from the fifth row (Mcauley had requested the number 12 from the A.C.U. as it represented the number of Hailwood’s TT victories). The grandstand crowd rose and applauded as Mike set off in pursuit of Read.

From a standing start, he logged a new lap record of 109.87mph (176.8kph) taking 90 seconds of Read’s existing record. Hailwood, who was ahead on time, chipped away at Read’s lead until they were on the road together going over the Mountain. Hailwood was 100 metres ahead as they came down the Mountain and headed for a fuel stop. They pitted together with Read getting away first and Hailwood in close pursuit. Soon Mike was on Read’s wheel tracks pushing the Honda along. Blue smoke started to appear from the Honda’s exhaust on the down changes and with 64 miles (103km) to go the Honda expired, and Read’s race was run. To the roar of the crowd, Hailwood took the checkered flag and another TT victory. On his way to the token TT F1 World Championship, Hailwood had also set a new lap record of 110.627mph (178.037kph) for the class.

Read later admitted he had over-revved the Honda to try and stay ahead of Hailwood, but unbeknown to Mike when he shut the Ducati’s throttle off crossing the line a bevel gear failed. A hundred metres earlier and it would have been John Williams on the other factory Honda that would have won the race. It was a fairytale come true for Hailwood, Wynne, and the Ducati factory.

Hailwood hunts down Read in the 1978 F1 TT.

Unfortunately, the other three TT races Team Hailwood Martini had entered weren’t to be so successful. In the Senior TT, a steering damper on the OW20 TZ500cc Yamaha broke causing Hailwood to stop at Ramsay to try and effect repairs before returning to the pits and putting himself out of contention. In the Junior TT Mike finished in 12th place on the production TZ250 and in the 1000cc Classic TT, a faulty crankshaft failed on the TZ750 ending his race. Such is the fickleness of the TT.

Mike had agreed to do some TT F1 races in England, as part of the MR TOPPS/ACU TT F1 British Championship series and the British Grand Prix TT F1 support race. Post TT was Mallory Park a tight short circuit not suited to the Ducati. Showing skill and patience, Mike eventually romped home to victory beating again many of his TT rivals and in Wynne’s opinion a more significant triumph than the TT win. Donnington Park was next, but Hailwood crashed out of the race while in the lead, although he set an identical lap record to the eventual winner Roger Marshall on a Honda. At the British Grand Prix TT F1 support race, the Ducati was out powered on Silverstone’s high-speed straights.

John Cowie on a Kawasaki won the race, but Mike still managed a third place podium. However, Hailwood still had unfinished business in Australia

With new sponsorship from Australian clothing manufacturer Golden Breed, the now outclassed Ducati 750cc SS was entered in the October 1978 Castrol 6 Hour production race. Teamed once again with Jim Scaysbrook things didn’t start well when Mike crashed during Thursday practice. A rebuild was required, and once more it was local Ducati owners that helped out with spare parts. A new rule that year required a nominated reserve rider. Stu Avant was the rider, and he was obliged to practice on the Ducati. Unfortunately, Stu crashed the bike again, which necessitated another rebuild. On Saturday during qualifying, Mike put in one lap, and the engine blew a big end bearing.

Another rebuild, but by race day they still hadn’t qualified to compete in the race, but the officials wisely decided to turn a blind eye and allowed them to start. Mike did the first stint and was practically last away at the Le Man’s start because of his injured ankle and having to kick-start the Ducati. Hailwood had them into the lead of the 750cc class when he handed over to Scaysbrook. Ten laps later, after such a promising start, the Ducati slid out from underneath Jim in The Loop, and their race was over.

This wasn’t the end of Mike’s production racing adventures in Australia though. He teamed with Scaysbrook again for the Adelaide 3 Hour in early 1979 on Jim’s own Honda CB900FZ. But fate was against them once more; a loose number plate had the duo black-flagged, but they managed to resume the race after repairs had been made and finished a creditable 10th place.

However, Mike was not done with the Isle of Man TT yet and entered again in 1979 on a Sports Motorcycle supplied factory NCR Ducati’s in both the TT F1 race and the 1000cc Classic TT. He was also entered in the 500cc Senior TT on a Suzuki GB RG500. But the alarm bells started ringing for the Sports Motorcycles team at a test session and press conference at Misano in Italy for the NCR Endurance Racing Team. Mike’s TT F1 machine was unprepared and sported a gear-shift the reverse of what Ducati knew Hailwood required. The problem was Ducati’s ongoing financial situation, which was controlled by an Italian Government holding body EFIM who would only supply a budget for the Endurance Team.

Mike went out and tested the cobbled together machine only to select a false neutral and instinctively hit second gear instead of fourth. The resulting high side crash gave Hailwood three broken ribs and a badly bruised arm only two months out from the TT. In the meantime, a financial compromise was found with Ducati to pay for the racers by invoicing the British importer Coburn and Hughes who would then invoice Sports Motorcycles for the machines.

Hailwood on his way to victory during the 1978 F1 TT.

During practice for the F1 TT, it became clearly apparent that the NCR Ducati handled woefully. It no longer used the Daspa frame of the 1978 machine, and the FIM had tightened the TT F1 regulations, which now required the use of production crankcases instead of the special sand cast ones of the previous year. Hailwood also told the team the engine was less potent than the ’78 unit. Something needed to be done. The Sports Motorcycles team decided to send for Roger Nicholls 1978 TT F1 Ducati racer, which was masquerading as Hailwoods TTF1 winning bike on display in the Luton showroom of the Ducati importer Coburn and Hughes. The idea was to transplant the 1979 engine into the 1978 chassis.

The bike arrived midday Thursday of practice week, and the engine was installed into the frame, but there were problems with fitting the exhaust system of the ‘78 bike plus numerous ancillary parts that needed new brackets made. Finding enough steel in the early hours of the morning was a problem, but fortunately, a supply was found at the back of the workshop which was the generator room of the Palace Hotel where old furniture was stored, including some steel bed frames. After a mammoth effort, Hailwood had something that represented a competitive motorcycle to defend his and Ducati’s title on. It was aptly nicknamed the “Bedstead Special” by MCN journalist Peter Howdle who knew how much work had gone into preparing Mike’s bike.

It has gone down history that Hailwood finished fifth in Saturday’s F1 TT, although he had somehow managed to claw his way up to third on the recalcitrant Ducati at the halfway mark. On the final lap of six, plunging down Bray Hill, Mike lost fifth gear. The over-revving engine then cut out. Hailwood stopped at Hillberry to find vibration had broken the bracket holding the battery, which came adrift disconnecting the wires. Mike reattached the battery, shoved it back into the bike to limp home fifth.

But Hailwood’s big moment was to come in Monday’s Senior TT. Riding a Suzuki RG500, he became only the third man to lap the Island in under 20 minutes on his way to victory setting a new lap record of 19m 51.2s at an average speed of 114.02mph (183.497kmh). It was a victory that confirmed what everybody knew, Hailwood was still master of the Island.

In preference to the NCR Ducati that was supplied for Friday’s 1000cc Classic TT, Hailwood decided to use the Suzuki RG500. It became a race that many would compare to the epic battle between Mike and “Ago” in the 1967 500cc TT. His main opponent was Glaswegian Alex George aboard the “works” 998cc Honda, and it would become a two horse race with the other riders becoming extras as the drama played out.

Mike’s Suzuki had been rebuilt overnight after a minor fault was discovered, but it was George who led by 9.2 seconds after lap one of the six-lap race. Hailwood closed the gap to 4 seconds on the next. After posting identical lap times at the halfway stage, it was Honda works team efficiency and the advantage of a quick filler that sorted out the pit stops. It was also the first time at midpoint a TT had taken under an hour. George led by 4.2 seconds, but by lap 5 Hailwood had taken the lead by a mere four-fifths of a second and still held an advantage on the last lap at Ballacraine, but at Ramsey, he was behind again. George had come back from behind and maintained his lead to take the win by just 3.4 seconds. Hailwood had announced that it would be his last TT and although he did so without achieving another victory, the fans were not disappointed.

Mike on the Suzuki RG500 during the 1979 Senior TT.

Hailwood was pencilled in once more to take in the post TT races at Mallory Park, which was part of the Forward Trust/MCW TT Formula 1 Championship but decided to look for more competitive machinery than the NCR Ducati. A Paul Dunstall Suzuki was his choice, but brake issues saw Mike withdraw from the running. Donnington Park was the next round and Mike’s last race. A crash in practice saw him heading for the hospital with a broken collarbone. After having pins inserted he checked himself out against Doctors orders on race day and returned to the track to be driven around the circuit to say goodbye to the thousands of fans who had come to see him.

By then Hailwood had moved back to England and had opened a motorcycle dealership in Birmingham with friend and former 250cc World Champion Rod Gould. Only two years later in 1981, the sad epitaph to this colossus of motorcycle racing was written. A tragic road accident claimed Mike and his 9-year-old daughter Michelle’s lives. His son, 7-year-old David, was also in the car but survived with minor injuries.

In 1968 Hailwood was awarded an M.B.E. in the Queens Honours List for his services to motorcycling, and he also was awarded the Seagrave Trophy in 1979 in recognition of his two TT wins in 1978 and 1979. Mike became a Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme “official legend” in 2000 and was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame that same year. 2001 saw Mike’s induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Hailwood had also been awarded the George Medal for bravery after pulling Clay Regazonni from his burning F1 car at the 1973 South African Formula One Grand Prix.

During a Grand Prix career that spanned 10 years from 1958 to 1967, Hailwood won 76 Grand Prix and claimed 112 podiums from 152 starts.  He was World Champion 9 times scoring three  250cc World Championships, two 350cc World Championships and four 500cc World Championships. He was also the first rider to win four consecutive 500cc World Championships. Mike won a total of 14 Isle of Man TT’s before retiring permanently from the sport.

“Mike the bike” M.B.E. G.M.; to many the greatest motorcycle racer of all time.

Words © Geoff Dawes 2017. Images courtesy of http://www.ducati.com http://www.motorycleclassics.com, http://www.pinterest.com,www.rezbikes.com, http://www.roadtrackanddriver.blogspot.com.au. Videos courtesy Youtube and Vimeo.

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 exciting 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 sideshows, 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, few would dispute this claim. Genuinely 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 finish 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 vast crowd were suffering from a severe case of nostalgia overload, as the meeting started to wind down.  The final runs of the top ten entrants were held for each class – although it would be the fastest pass 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 fantastic machinery compete against each other and in doing so contribute toward a very worthwhile cause.

 

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

Vale Nicholas Patrick Hayden

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vale John Surtees

Surtees in discussion with “Il Commendatore” Enzo Ferrari.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.