Although it is only the second month of 1953, the new season of road racing is fast approaching and in the International Calendar there are more events than ever. Many weekends offer as many as three International road races on the same day, while on a number of occasions France has two events on the same day. While appreciating that Europe is a large place and there is plenty of room for all the races, the number of riders available is not so very large, and I fear some of the meetings are going to suffer from small entries. However, it will mean that more of the regular Continental-going riders will figure in the awards, which is the main thing.
As far as the classic meetings for the World Championships are concerned, a new angle appears in that the first round will be the T.T. in the Isle of Man, due to the Swiss Grand Prix moving back to August and the Spanish Grand Prix remaining in October, as last year. Now the T.T. has never attracted full-scale Continental works support, and there is no real reason why it should this year, which means that the first time that free-for-all inter-factory battle takes place will be in Holland at the end of June.This, of course, gives everyone much more time for preparation than ever before, almost too much, I feel, so there is no excuse for any team being unprepared. It is almost certain that someone will not be ready by then, for any team manager will agree that if they were given a year to prepare for a given race, the whole racing department would be working at full pressure the night before the race. It is just one of those things about racing; like development, you can never sit back and say "we are ready." The nearest you can get is to say "we are ready with what we have got, but we have already thought up a better idea which may be ready for the next meeting."
In the "big-boys" class, competition is going to reach a pitch that may need controlling a little, for Gileras now have Reg Armstrong and Dickie Dale supporting Masetti and young Milani; M.V. Agusta, whose four-cylinder appears to have shaken off the last bug with a rather shattering result, have supplemented Graham and Bandirola with Cecil Sandford and Carlo Ubbiali, both of whom know their way round on 125-c.c, machines and are now being weaned on the big ones; while Moto-Guzzi obviously have no intention of altering their very sound trio, Lorenzetti, Anderson and Ruffo. All Moto-Guzzi have to do is to make their in-line, water-cooled four-cylinder raceworthy and join battle. In their usual conservative way they say that 1953 will only be a try-out year for their machines, but I feel we shall see the Guzzi "four" well up at the front. Then, from Italy alone, we have eleven four-cylinder machines with top-line pilots and, though they do not have an official outing until June 10th, in the Isle of Man, or more probably June 27th in Holland, you can be sure that they will all be raced very soundly before either of those dates. That is one thing the Italians believe in, and frequently run their works bicycles in national events, believing that testing under racing conditions is the best way. From Germany, the B.M.W. team will be appearing in full force in the classic events, with Georg and Hans Meier, Baltisberger and Zeller on solos, shaft-drive almost certainly, but just how the multiplicity of cylinders will be arranged is not yet revealed. In addition they will have Kraus on sidecar. Also from Germany it looks as though N.S.U. may be out in the "big" class, with their narrow Vee formation four-cylinder, but whether the 250-c.c. N.S.U. team riders will handle it is not yet known. The Horex concern is another German factory that is obviously working away on something and a full team of 500s will probably appear from them.
Here at home there are two very strong schools of thought, one being that England is about to lose her supremacy in this class, and the other that she will easily hold her own. Personally, I am of the opinion that she has already lost her supremacy, but that 1953 will see a good struggle to regain it. At present Nortons are our only hope, the A.J.S. Porcupine being outclassed, and last year the Birmingham concern only won two events, the T.T. and the German G.P., both events lacking full support from the opposition. In the other events, which were won by the Italians, the single-cylinders fought gamely, but it was a losing battle. Now no one is going to convince me that Nortons are going to sit back and be content with fourth and fifth places with the old singles, and, equally, no one is going to convince me that they are not working on a four-cylinder, which can almost be guaranteed to be raced in the Isle of Man. I can be convinced, however, that the new Norton "four " will not win any races this coming season, for if it doesn't need a season to sort out the bugs, then Joe Craig and his men will have worked a miracle. When I say win a race, I mean against full opposition. Riding the Nortons this year are Kavannagh, Amm and Lawton, and though this does not seem a particularly powerful combination it does combine all the necessary qualities required by a works team, and by the time the "fours," or" twins" should my guess be wrong, are matured, these three have the makings of worthy successors to past Norton world-beating teams. Kavannagh can be relied upon to press the opposition as hard as is humanly possible, while Amm has shown that he can ride as fast as Duke, though not with the same effortless ease, and Lawton looks like turning into a wily fox. By sheer chance Lawton was lent a works bicycle last year at the German Grand Prix and showed a very intelligent approach to his first ride on a fast machine, when more experienced riders were making fools of themselves. Being number three in the team he has the rare ability of being able to accept the fact with intelligence, content to sit behind number two rather than ride alongside, just to show he is as good. It is to be hoped that these three will be allowed to ride the new Nortons in some events before the classics begin, and similarly, if Cyril Smith is to have one for the first sidecar classic at Francorchamps, let's hope he is allowed to try it out in a national race first—the B.M.C.R.C. Silverstone, for example. The A.M.C. concern have been keeping pretty quiet this winter and with team manager Matt Wright giving up the racing department in favour of Fred Neill, one wonders what the team riders, Doran, Coleman and perhaps Sherry or Brett, will be using for the big races. It is thought it will be a factory version of the new G45, which would not be a bad idea at that. This means that the Porcupines would be pensioned off, in which case it would be a good idea to hook a sidecar on and use them in Class B. Let us hope they won't be disposed of and be bought up by the Formula lll car folk, because they are still quite good motor-cycles.
While dealing with the various teams the name of Duke has not been brought in, for the simple reason that he has retired from the 500 class and, as is well known, will be racing Aston-Martin cars. He does not intend to forsake two wheels altogether, however, for he is said to be going to ride an English 250 c.c. machine. Now first thoughts suggest this to be a Velocette, but that is not so, and tying up various rumours suggests that it might be a B.S.A. This sounds surprising, for this factory have not entered racing officially in this present era, but they have done an enormous amount of racing development under the cloak of Clubman races in the Isle of Man, races at Daytona and unofficial support of various private owners in the national events. If B.S.A. are at last going to come out into the open and admit to a racing team backed by the factory it will be a popular move, for the present under-the-counter attitude to racing does not go down well. I have no doubt that if B.S.A. are going to have a go at the 250 c.c. class, it will be a good go, and there is no better rider, but the all-conquering Guzzi trio will want some beating, and now that Lomas has joined N.S.U. to team up with Haas, that concern are going to prove very dangerous to the red machines. It is certain that had Bill Lomas been on the N.S.U. twin in the last 250 Championship race at Monza, the Guzzis would have been severely trounced. The 350 class has for years been an English national category, but it looks as though this year will see D.K.W. well to the fore with their three-cylinder two-stroke of diminutive size, and Wunsche and Kluge, although having been racing since well before the war, can be guaranteed to show a clean pair of heels to most people, and the D.K.W. will certainly help them to do it.
Among the solos this leaves us only the "tiddlers," and this category was fast becoming an Italian monopoly, but once more it is Germany who is going to stir it up. The "double-knocker" N.S.U.-Fox and the single-cylinder two-stroke D.K.W. are clearly out to have a real go this year. We in England are still at the stage where we think in terms of "hotting-up" a production unit to make a 125-c.c. racer and have about as much chance of getting anywhere in this class as we would have if we did not compete at all. The wild and woolly old sidecars are about the only sure hope we have for this season. Cyril Smith, last year's Champion, will be works-supported by Nortons and can see off most people, while Eric Oliver, the only man to make a World Championship hat-trick, is sticking to the home products, to the relief of everyone in the sidecar game, for if he were to ride a Gilera it would be the end. B.M.W.s will provide quite a bit of opposition, as will Gileras if they can find another rider or two to support Merlo, while it is possible that N.S.U. will be in the three-wheeler class, the rider no doubt being Hermann Bohm. If the N.S.U. directors have any savvy they will sign up Haldemann as well, just in case their new " four " turns out to be a winner.
As you can see the immediate future holds much in store, but every year about this time it is the same, and many machines and ideas do not materialise, or else progress is slow, but I have a feeling that with June, the first month of the classics, there will be more teams ready and willing than ever before. As far as the classic races themselves are concerned, the nine to count points are the T.T., Dutch, Belgian, German, French, Ulster, Swiss, Italian and Spanish Grands Prix, in that order. Most interesting are the changes of venue for the French and the German races, the former going from Albi to Rouen and the latter from Solitude to Schotten. The French move is a very good one, for the Albi circuit finishing line is much too dangerous for a Grand Prix, whereas the Rouen circuit is going to call for some brilliant riding to get through the series of downhill swerves after the finishing straight, and the circuit was widened and resurfaced last year. Concerning the German change, one can only assume that the D.M.V. and A.D.A.C. organisers are suffering from brain trouble, or else there is some deep financial problem involved. Solitude is a tricky course, agreed, but a good rider-circuit and has a good Grand Prix layout, the surface being the only doubtful point. Schotten, on the other hand is a narrow, unnecessarily twisty circuit that has become known as a "killer" among the regular Continental circus. In the last two years it caused the loss of Mastellari and Van Ryswyck, the forced retirement from racing of Ergé, and last year caused the downfall of Geoff Duke. Already the sidecar class has been banned from the circuit due to its narrowness, and yet the Germans insist on holding their classic event there. If I was a manufacturer I would straight away announce my boycotting of the German Grand Prix. Not so very far away Germany have one of the finest circuits the world is ever likely to see, and that is the Nürburgring, up near Bonn. It is a circuit that can only be described as fantastic, but nevertheless the accident rate is very low and it is good enough for the German Car Grand Prix, and has been for many years, so it should be good enough for motor-cycles. Quite why the Solitude circuit, near Stuttgart, has been abandoned is not quite clear, but one cannot help feeling that it is something to do with matters not directly connected with the riders. The other classic circuits remain more or less the same, the T.T. is merely the Isle of Man and always has been, the Dutch and Belgian circuits are near perfection, though I should like to see sidecars in Holland, the Swiss circuit at Berne I hope will never be altered, while the Ulster should be but probably won't be. The Spaniards are almost certain to use the delightful Monjuich Park with probably a further permutation of the intricate system of roads at their disposal.
If each season does not prove to be more interesting than the last, each one has started off with a chance of being so, and 1953 is no exception.