THE past month has been one of intense activity among both private owners and works equipes, for there have been three classic events on consecutive weekends. While it would appear to be rather too much for the manufacturers’ teams to do justice to three Grand Prix events, it is not, really so bad. Among English manfacturers the feeling is that once they are on the Continent with their vans, machines, mechanics and riders it is better to get it all over with in one concentrated effort, rather than a lot of travelling to and fro across the channel, which not only wastes time but is very costly. With the three recent Grand Prix events it was a pity that they were arranged in the order Belgium, Holland and France for it meant covering 300 miles of road between Francochamps and Assen twice. It would have been far more considerate to have started at Assen, working down through Belgium to the south of France for Albi, the third event. This would have assisted the Italian teams as well, on the question of travelling, and, after all, at the moment it is only the English and Italian teams that need be considered when making arrangements. If the private owner attends a Grand Prix race he must expect to put up with what he gets, for whereas the little circuit races are usually reckoned to be reserved for his amusement the big events are essentially for “works” riders.
Ideal circumstances are seldom achieved, but what would appear popular among team chiefs would be to have Grand Prix events in pairs with sufficient time in between, three weeks being a minimum, to make it worth while returning to the factory. Naturally, prevailing local conditions would be the biggest difficulty to achieving this alteration, for to ask Albi to put their race on earlier to coincide with Barcelona, and Berne to retard their event to the week before or after Monza would no doubt arouse as much protest as asking the A.C.U. to hold the T.T. in August the week before the Ulster G.P. The only races which are ideal at present are the Belgian and the Dutch, which are reasonably close on distance and on consecutive weeks. Assuming everyone was reasonable and in agreement, to consider only the sporting side we could have Barcelona and Albi to open the season before it gets too hot in the south, then the Belgian and Dutch after a reasonable break, followed by the T.T. and the Ulster, together, to get all the boating over and done with, and the Swiss and Italian events to wind up the season. That would be all right if the sport was the only angle to consider, but when you realise that. some countries have certain times of the year for drawing big crowds, and other countries have traditions that are so old they are relactant to change, to say nothing of the difficulty of fitting all the smaller races in to comply with local by-laws, etc., you realise what an enormous task the arranging of the international calendar amounts to.
Having the Belgian, Dutch and French G.P. races in succession had only one real drawback and that was the distance of approximately 800 miles between Assen and Albi with only three days to do it and in that time to have to prepare the bicycles for the first practice period. Of all the “works” teams Veloeettes and M.V.s appeared to suffer the most from the mechanical point of view, the former just managing to scrape some bicycles together for the third event, while the latter had to give Albi a miss. Strongest team appeared to be Gileras, who were as powerful at the third race as at the first, their three riders having two machines apiece for the practice periods in France. Geoff. Duke’s “double” in Belgium, first 500-c.c. Holland and first 350-c.c. in France were as to be expected from a national champion, while Bill Doran’s stolid plugging away with both classes of A.J.S. was indeed valiant; but the man who really made an impression over the three races was young Alfredo Milani, with second in the Belgian and Dutch events and a win at Albi. all on the 500-c.c. Gilera Four. When he first gave up sidecar racing last year at Monza and rode in the “works” team he gave the impression that he was going to justify the change and this year he has given the proof, for we must not forget that, although Masetti won the first Grand Prix at Barcelona, it was Milani who was uncatchable until mechanical trouble put him out of the race, and had he won he would now be ahead of Duke on points for the World Championship. As it is he is a comfortable second behind Geoff with 20 points to the leader’s 26.
So much for the Grand Prix. The private owners, although unable to expect much success in a classic race can nevertheless show good form and doubtless catch the eye of team chiefs, as for example, C. W. Fetch’s inclusion in both the Dutch and French official A.J.S. teams. The riders who have really impressed have been those from the Dominions, W. R. Amin for Southern Rhodesia and the three New Zealanders. Perry, Coleman and Mudford. Only four riders from “down under ” have supported the past three classics, but all have performed well, especially young Rod Coleman, who has invariably had to race on his own as he was too fast for the other “independent” riders and too slow for the “works” boys; but nevertheless he has always ridden remarkably well and along with his fellow Dominions has outshone the average home produced “independent.”
It is most unfortunate that progress of any sort must inevitably result in loss of life, and in the tragic deaths of Dario Ambrosini and Claudio Mastellari, Italy has not only lost two first-class riders but also two very friendly and sporting men, loved by all who frequent continental racing. Ambrosini was known to many English by his 1950 win and 1951 second place in the 250-c.c. T.T., and many thousands heard him over the radio after the T.T. His fatal crash on the latest Benelli during practice at Albi was mourned by everyone for he was the 250-c.c. World Champion, both by ability and popularity. Mastellari was one of those “private” riders and an excellent tuner, always racing week in week out throughout Europe and inevitably among the leaders with his Albatross Guzzi. The news of his crash in Germany, at Rund und Schotten durittg practice, was received by us at Albi at the same time as the news of Ambrosini, and for those of us who travel to all the races it was indeed a great shock to lose two such popular riders at the same time.
Now that the month of July is over with its fever-heat of racing we have a little rest until the Ulster G.P., and in September the Monza meeting to round off this year’s World Championships. On August Bank Holiday the A.C.U. holds its International race meeting at Thruxton and it is unfortunate that Italy has a national championship meeting on the same day, thus preventing any Italian riders coining to England. However, it is hoped that Belgian, French and Swiss riders will be present..