By G. L. HACK
Whose varied activities in the Rudge works include the development of their racing machines, with what success our readers well know.
Mr. John Pugh and Mr. Hack, wIth Ernie Nott and the Rudge with which he won the last 200 miles race.
The question asked above is a very difficult one to answer and discussion on the point usually bring dut the advantages and disadvantages involved without assessing the cash credit or debit of any of them.
The three main advantages of racing to the manufacturer, as the writer sees them, are, the intensive development that must be carried out, the publicity that will be obtained from a successful season and the improvement of the esprit de corps of the company as a whole.
The disadvantages are the heavy expenses which will necessarily be incurred, the risk of failing badly in a race or even a whole season of race with a negative influence on sales, and the danger of over concentration on one type of machine.
Let us analyse the foregoing considerations carefully.
Obviously no manufacturer is going to participate in racing without doing his best to win and therefore whether he is new to the game or an old hand he is forced to sit down and take stock of his machine, and a number of pertinent questions present themselves, some of which cannot be satisfactorily answered. If the machine could speak we might hear a conversation with its maker something like this :—
MANUFACTURER : Is your engine reliable ?
MACHINE: Fairly, if handled gently, but when she gets revving the crankcase sides resemble a pair of bellows, and the valves bounce enough to deafen one.
MANUFACTURER: Is she fast enough ?
MACHINE: For a London funeral—yes, but something on two wheels went past me the other day like a shot out of a gun. 100 m.p.h. is what the Doctor orders on petrol-benzol.
MANUFACTURER: Hum ! What about the frame and bicycle parts generally ?
MACHINE : Wonderful up to 70 m.p.h., but wobbles like the dickens over 85 and bucks as well. What’s more, two and a half inches of fork movement will finish me at Ballig on the first lap, that is if the brakes are good enough to stop me hitting the wall at Quarter Bridge, which I doubt. The brake drums are no bigger than two ounce tobacco tins.
MANUFACTURER : Is there anything right at all ?
: Ye-es, the transfer on the tank is very pretty, but even that won’t show when the gate change is put in the proper place.
(Exit the manufacturer.)
To be serious again, every single item on the machine must be searchingly criticised from the points of view of efficiency, reliability and utility. There is no time to lose either if the work is to be done thoroughly. I used the words intensive development at the beginning of this article advisedly. There is nothing like a T.T. to get the product finished by a certain date. Time and Tide wait for no man—neither do Tourist Trophies. So that racing ensures a complete review of the design every year and guarantees a thorough testing of all modifications in the same year—at a cost.
Now no firm can live without development and very active development at that, from which it follows that any firm wishing to survive will maintain an experimental staff. Further the satisfactory behaviour of one test model is no criterion of the performance of thousands of production models. It is essential that a number of models preferably built up at intervals from castings and forging’s from different batches shall be thoroughly tested before there is reasonable certainty of a trouble free production.
So far then sound development and racing run on identical lines and expenditure will be similar for both, but while ordinary development schemes may legitimately stop at this point racing costs are increased first by transport and hotel expenses necessarily incurred in sending men and machines to race in the Isle of Man, Germany, Czecho-Slovakia and elsewhere, and secondly in the provision of cash prizes to riders for successes that may be gained. The only thing to offset this additional expense is the publicity gained, and the assessment of the cash value of this publicity is a knotty problem which the writer prefers to leave to brighter intellects than his. This much may be said, that the success on the continent of British machines as a whole is largely responsible for the excellent reputation they hold there and therefore racing has benefited the British Motorcycle Industry as a body, but because the export market is exploited just as much by firms who do not race it may well be that firms who do race are not reaping their just reward and that the expenses incurred represents too great a tax on the machines sold.
There is indeed a lot to be said for the production of what would be called “The British Racing Motorcycle ” produced and entered in all foreign events by the co-operative efforts of the whole industry, and embodying the best features of modern practice regardless of its “office of origin” but it is to be feared that the difficulties of such co-operation render the suggestion impractical.
In conclusion one advantage and one disadvantage of racing postulated at the commencement of this article merit a little consideration.
In our school. days great stress was laid upon esprit de corps which may be defined as pride in the school and pride in being a unit of it. We want the same spirit in our manufacturing concerns and racing can make a great contribution towards it. If competition managers will drop the attitude of “see how clever I am” and make everyone with whom they come in contact feel the essential nature of their part in the racing performance it will soon be reflected in the work turned out.
After any event reports are posted up in the office and works of my company so that employees get first hand information of their colleagues efforts and the writer feels bound to say he is amazed at the interest and goodwill evoked. Goodwill is a nebulous item in the balance sheet perhaps, but a very real factor in the successful administration of a works.
The charge of over-concentration on racing types is often levelled and demands an answer. At first sight the charge appears justified having regard to the unfulfilled demand for the ideal utility machine and the wholesale prosecutions of noisy or dangerous driving of motorcycles.
While it is true the ideal machine has yet to be designed wonderful studies in efficiency and controllability have been made and racing practice has almost always been the inspiration. It is not sound criticism to condemn the very thing that has transformed a toy (and that a quite dangerous one), into a useful and reliable servant of man.
Finally a word as to the type of racing a manufacturer should undertake.
In the writer’s opinion road racing is the only one really worth while because it forms the most comprehensive test of the machine. Engine, gearbox, clutch, brakes and frame get the most severe treatment it is possible to give them in service and further, road racing secures the most publicity. Track racing as carried out at Brooklands or Montlhery can be made a much more exact science as the human element is not such a powerful influence and therefore it has its place as a comparison of power output and reliability of engine. Other forms of racing may be more spectacular but do little to develop the motorcycle as everyman’s transport.
It is feared that this article has followed much the same lines as many discussions on the subject the writer has participated in, that is the pros and cons have been elaborated without a definite answer revealing itself but reviewing the foregoing he feels confident that road racing has been worth while and that a substitute for it has yet to be found.