Among the many useful jobs carried out by the Secretary-General of the FIM is the publication of a most comprehensive booklet containing all the recognised motor-cycle records ever recorded. The latest issue, which has been brought up to date to the beginning of this year, is a most useful reference for anyone interested in fast motor-cycling. Similarly, for those interested in the International Road Racing season, the FIM Annuaire is a small pocket book full of most useful data, with a comprehensive racing calendar as its main part. Both of these are obtainable from the Secretary.
As each racing season progresses it becomes more noticeable that public support in racing is still very much on the increase, and the result of this popularity is a keen interest taken by radio, television and film people. Crowds seem to be getting larger and larger and, while this enthusiasm for the sport is most gratifying, it brings in its wake certain disadvantages. One is the need to provide much stricter control of the public whilst watching the racing, and to the dyed-inthe-wool enthusiast this can be most irritating. I had an example recently when attending a scramble at which, not so long ago, one rode into the venue at leisure, leant the model on a convenient tree and joined the lads to watch the fun. Now one is shepherded along by cordons of police. Organised car parks and their suffering attendants are evident, and the enjoyable air of freedom usually associated with a scramlde event is sadly missing. In some ways the days when motor-cycle sport was limited to the minority were preferable : the present era of widespread popularity among the general public may bring benefits in the way of tolerance and support from “the powers-that-be” and great financial backing, but it brings the inevitable “organised-control” in its wake.
Shortly after my remarks appeared last month about the drab appearance of English racing machines in comparison with the Italian models, I happened to pay a visit to the Francis Beart establishment. Although Beart is fully fully occupied in making Norton engines go quickly for the Formula III cars–a sacrilegious use of a good engine in some people’s view, he still spends plenty of time on his own racing machines, and it was good to see his two special “Featherbed” Nortons being built up for the Irishman McCandless to ride. Of particular interest was the fact that his machines are finished in a vivid, but not gaudy, green paint, backed off by polished dural and aluminium. Altogether the Beart machines present a most attractive appearance and show that a racing machine can be made to look a show piece quite easily.
This matter of colours for motor-cycles is one that has now become established among manufacturers, such firms as Triumph, BSA and Sunbeam offering a range of machines that do not involve the sombre black beloved for so long by the English motor-cyclist. There is no doubt that an all-blue Triumph Thunderbird sidecar outfit can look just as pleasing to the eye as a modern car painted other than black.
Easter will naturally see the commencement of the road-racing season and, at home, Cadwell Park will undoubtedly be as popular as ever, and it holds hopes of a great future now that the circuit is being lengthened. The first big event in this country takes place on April 19th, when the BMCRC hold their annual race day, this time at Silverstone, as Goodwood is too full of car meetings. The meeting will cover every type of event from 125 cc to sidecars and will provide an opportunity for the “works” machines of this country to have an early try-out.
One hears already that the Porcupine AJS is going better than ever before, while Nortons are said to be surrounded by an air or quiet confidence. Both teams are using a rider from “down-under” and they will probably be in action at Silverstone. The stocky little Ken Kavannagh is on a Norton and Rod Coleman on the Ajay. Some may think that the inclusion of these riders from the Dominions in deference to English riders may be merely a gesture towards the Empire, but I can assure anyone who studies riding that they are both riders with remarkaltle ability, though in their amusing Southern way each thinks the other is quite useless.
The BMCRC are using the full outer circuit at Silverstone for this first outing and it will constitute a very fine National GP. Later in the year the club are running a meeting on the inner circuit, up to now retained exclusively for car clubs. This meeting will be closed to Bemsee members only, but should still be very entertaining.
The first clash of the rival “works” teams of Italy and England will be at Berne on May 18th, on the occasion of the Swiss GP, and by that time they should all be in fine fettle and ready for a real battle. Gileras will be using a new version of the fabulous “four.” MV have been trying numerous suspension experiments, but Guzzi have announced the complete withdrawal of that delitfully untidy machine the 500-cc Bicilindrica. It is a pity that these machines will not be raced again for, although in some ways they were the most ungainly looking machines ever conceived, they were also extremely functional and left a deep impression, rather like some of the pre-war Brough Superiors. The Guzzi concern are concentrating on the 250-cc class with Fergus Anderson, Enrico Lorenzetti and Bruno Ruffo forming the team. As a team pair, the first two take a lot of beating, for many is the time I have seen them in deep discussion in some quiet corner and you can be assured that they are dispensing some very deep track-craft.
After the efforts on the part of the Daytona Beach race organisers to prevent the “Featherbed” Manx Nortons from competing, and, it seems, the rule kept out Harley-Davidson’s most potent machine, it is rather ironical that Norton machines won the event anyway, using plunger-sprung models. It is significant. that a twin BSA made fastest lap at over 88 mph for one hears all sorts of rumours about the power being produced at the BSA factory and, while there is no sign of a “works” BSA team appearing in the 500-cc international class, there are some very powerful engines being supplied to various people.
I had an opportunity recently to try one of the latest touring BMW machines, the R66 model, and though I was greatly impressed by its touring qualities, I felt they could not be taken beyond anything but touring. The traditional BMW smoothness, silence and cleanliness were all present and many practical features, such as a green indicator light in the body of the headlamp that glowed when the correct neutral was selected, and complete enclosure of the carburation system. But if one tended to assume the machine to be a sports model as distinct from a touring one then the handling left much to be desired, as did the gearchange, inevitably, on an engine-speed gearbox. Outwardly the finish appeared excellent but closer inspection revealed it surprishig number of things that had been made by a German blacksmith, the footbrake pedal being one in particular.