FI RST let me apologise and say “how wrong one can be ” ; I refer to my remarks last month that I did not think that Moto-Guzzi would take the T.T. success in the 350-c.c. class very seriously, suggesting that they had enough to do in the 250-c.c. and 500-c.c. classes. No sooner had those words been sent to the printers than Guzzi more or less confirmed that they were going to make full 350-c.c. machines. This they did and, ridden by those two old-stagers Anderson and Lorenzetti, the 350-c.c. Guzzis played havoc with the races for that capacity at both the Dutch T.T. and the Belgian G.P., so much so that Guzzi now leads in the 350-c.c. World Championship. While it is not the first time that this Italian make has entered the 350-c.c. class, for they tried a reduced version of the old 500-c.c. twin a few years ago, rather unsuccessfully, it is the first serious attempt. This year the World Championships are certainly livening up, for a British win in the 350-c.c. class at Assen and Spa has been a foregone conclusion for many years and it was merely a question of whether A.J.S., Norton or Velocette would win, later to change to one of A.J.S. or Norton, and at the beginning of this year it looked as though Norton could not help winning. Now Norton have had to try to be in the running. At Assen Lorenzetti succeeded in beating the complete teams of British riders, finishing 23 seconds in front of Ray Amm, the leader of the Norton equips. In motor-cycle racing 23 seconds can be considered a complete walk-over, a ” tight ” race being in the order of a few seconds. To complete the Dutch victory, Lorenzetti also put in the fastest lap. In Belgium, on the magnificent Francorchamps circuit, it was Anderson’s turn to win, though only just, from Lorenzetti, while the nearest Norton was again Ray Amm, this time 16 seconds behind in third place, but some honour was regained by putting up the fastest lap. So we have had two more rounds in the 350-c.c. class, both won by Moto-Guzzi, who did not give the impression at the beginning of the season that they even knew the class existed; furthermore the machines are enlarged versions of the well-tried 250-c.c. Gambalunghino and there, no doubt, lies the answer to a great deal of their success. In general, the average racing motorcycle is far too heavy and far too large, presenting too much frontal area and almost certainly losing a degree of handling by its weight. Consider the two leading English racers, the works Norton and A.J.S.; unless you are very knowledgeable and understand about the lengths of vertical chive-shaft to the o.b.c. or megaphone sizes, or carburetter sizes, it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish between a works 500-c.c. Norton and a 350 c.c. from the same factory. While the difference between the works 500-c.c. A.J.S. and the 350 c.c. is obvious, one being a twin and the other a single. Some idea of what I am getting at can be gained when I say that I saw a factory A.J.S. rider about to go out for practice on what I assumed, from the near side, to be a new Matchless 500-c.c. twin. On going round to the other side I was horrified to see that it was one of the works 350-c.c. three-valve A.J.S. singles. In other words the British idea of a racing machine, so far as the majority of components are concerned, is the same whether it be a 350 c.c. or a 500 c.c., and obviously that cannot be correct, either one is too large or the other is too small. Personally I feel the British 350s are all far too big, and have said so many times. Guzzi have now beaten us on two occasions with a machine that is difficult to distinguish from their 250-cc. models. Now clearly they cannot be correct either, to have a 250 c.c. and a 350 c.c. of the same proportions must still mean that one of them is wrong, and at the moment I am not going to say which, but at least they are nearer the ultimate than we are, for they are tackling the problem from the right end. Don’t imagine they are perfect, for, as I mentioned earlier, they tried out, some years ago, a 350-c.c. twin that was a small version of their 500-c.c. model and it was so awful, as can be imagined, that they soon dropped the idea. That was a perfect example of starting from the wrong end. If time and money were of no importance it would be interesting to see the perfect team of works racers, from 125 c.c. to 500 c.c., all built to the limits of stress and strain imposed by the size of engine. The nearest approach today is the range of 125, 250 and 350-c.c. D.K.W.s, but they have a long way to go and to date have not figured at all well in the championship races. Reverting to the other classes at Assen and Spa, as is usual and inexplicable, the Dutch run every possible solo class but no sidecars, the Belgians only 350 c.c. and 500 c.c. and a very good sidecar
race. In Holland, young Werner Haas repeated his brilliant T.T. performances, coming up to every expectation of last year, by winning both 125-c.c. and 250-c.c. classes, the former with ease and the latter by a hairsbreadth from the old ” fox ” Anderson. His N.S.U. machines, of very unusual character and most peculiar to look upon, are certainly efficient, while his riding speaks for itself. Ever since the N.S.U. world record runs by Wilhelm Herz on the supercharged N.S.U. twin, when the publicity department of that firm produced a booklet about the preparation, with a space to fill in the new record, before the attempt, I have had the greatest respect for N.S.U., and their defeat of the Italians in both 125 and 250-c.c. classes has not come as a surprise. Following Haas in the ” tiddler ” class were Ubbiali and Sandford on the twin o.b.c. M.V.s, while behind Anderson, in 3rd place in the 250-c.c. class, was Reg. Armstrong, also riding an N.S.U. This was particularly interesting in view of his engagement on a 500 with Gilera and gives just one more instance of the acute lack of top-flight riders, now that so many firms are taking racing seriously. As last year, Norton’s win in the T.T. was purely the outcome of specialised knowledge which helped them not at all on the other circuits of Europe, Solitude excepted, and this year looks like being the same. Amm won the Senior T.T. but since then Gilera have won both of the big races, in Holland and Belgium, the first going to Geoff Duke on the Italian four-cylinder machine, winning comfortably and showing that he is still well at the top, while second was Reg. Armstrong, also Gilera-mounted. At Francorchamps the story was nearly the same, this time Duke and Milani having a battle for the lead, ahead of the rest, until the Englishman’s bicycle gave trouble just before the end, leaving Milani and the Gilera Four unchallenged for first place. The results of these two races were more or less as expected but, just to show that the single-cylinder machine is not right out of the picture, Aram beat Armstrong for second place at Spa, while in Holland he made the fastest lap. Moto-Guzzi, with their very advanced and beautiful 500-c.c. four-cylinders got nowhere at all with them in either the Dutch or the Belgian event, and it is beginning to look as though this machine is going to prove a deception. On paper, and to look at, it is far in advance of anything yet, and in the right direction, but it doesn’t seem to go. If it was not for the fantastic performance it made at Hockenheim Ring in May, with a lap record at 108 m.p.h., one could almost begin to decry the publicity put out about this bicycle, but as it is one must be content with saying that it is not yet ripe for victory, but that when it is . Of course, it could be that my remarks last month had some bearing on the matter. From being supreme in the 250-c.c. class and having a potential world beater in the 500-c.c. class, they have changed their position entirely, to champions of the 350-c.c. class.
In Belgium we saw the first round for the Sidecar Championship and once again this class was dominated by Oliver and Smith riding Nortons. With Gilera out of the running, it was the turn of B.M.W. to take up the attack on what appears to be the unassailable position of the English, but it was to no effect and their number one rider, Wiggerl Kraus, could do no better than third, and that only one second in front of Marcel Masuy, the Belgian champion, who was having the loan of a works Norton engine for his “Featherbed.” Oliver and Smith appear to be in a class of their own when they really start trying and have works engines, for up to now on the small circuit meetings Oliver has been using a very old works engine and Smith a normal Manx engine, with the result that the B.M.W. boys have pushed them once or twice. At Spa they both got down to the job seriously and the Germans never approached them. Although Nortons can do little about the opposition in the solo classes, in the three-wheeler class they can rest content, thanks to Oliver and Smith.
After the Dutch and Belgian races on successive weekends, there has been a few weeks’ rest and the battles recommence on August 2nd, when the French G.P. will be fought out on that short, but beautifully-prepared, course at Rouen—Les Essarts, where riding will come into its own and machine power will not be of primary importance, although acceleration in the middle ranges will play a great part.