THE T.T. this year must surely have dealt the severest blow to accepted progress in design for many a year. The performances put up by Bell and Duke on the rehashed single-cylinder Nortons are absolutely staggering, even when allowance is made for the riders’ ability. The single-cylinder motor-cycle engine for racing purposes in the 500-c.c. class had at last reached the stage, in this country, of being considered obsolete, when the first three places in the Senior T.T. were taken by single-cylinder machines.
It is difficult to draw any really definite conclusion from a T.T. race, for riders do not compete against each other, but against time, and there is no doubt at all that a massed start race will produce just that little extra from a rider, or should one say the rider will extract a little more from his machine. What is going to be interesting is the Belgian G.P. on July 2nd, for the Spa-Francorchamps circuit has been considerably improved with a view to raising the race speed, which already stands at over 90 m.p.h.; so here with a massed start and official “works” entries from Italy, we should see racing of the highest order. It is a pity that only two countries can field “works” machines for the Grand Prix races, though, next year with the entry of German machines into International racing, there should be some really interesting battles, for already B.M.W.’s have started racing unsupercharged experimental models in their national events.
The question of ” works ” machines raises many difficult problems, one for example being the business of trying the machines under racing conditions before entering in a T.T. or G.P. Entering for small circuit events with one “works” machine which runs away with the race from all the private entrants cannot be very satisfying for anyone, especially the other riders. The gesture made by Alfa-Romeos when they competed at Silverstone, of lending one of the cars to Reg. Parnell, could well be followed by A.J.S. or Norton. If, for example, a factory team want to try out two machines in a small event where there is no opposition, then what better publicity could they want than to loan one of the machines to the national champion of that country, and they would still be certain of finishing first and second. There are many riders in the smaller countries where there are no motor-cycle factories with racing teams who could amply do justice to the loan of a “works” machine for a circuit race. Riders like Auguste Goffin and Leon Martin of Belgium, Jean Behra or George Monneret of France, George Cordey of Switzerland, and de Ortueta of Spain could all ride a “works” motor-cycle without disgracing themselves or the machine, and yet their chances of a “works” ride are practically nil, for none of the countries mentioned are building Grand Prix machines at present. This idea has been tried by Nortons in a small way when the Australian riders Harty Hinton and George Morrison were loaned “works” machines for last year’s Ulster G.P., and I am sure that the resulting publicity for Norton Motors in Australia must have been very good. Obviously, one does not expect a factory to lend a machine to any Tom, Dick or Harry, but there are riders to whom this gesture could be made with a gain to all concerned, and any chef d’equipe of a racing team must be capable of picking out a sound rider.
Racing in Germany is now in full swing, with meetings nearly every weekend, and at the bigger meetings factory entries from B.M.W., N.S.U. and D.K.W. are competing regularly. It is interesting to see that most of the pre-war “works” riders are still running and are still winning. For the past two seasons Georg Meier, who won the 1939 Senior T.T., has reigned supreme with the blown o.h.c. B.M.W., supported by his teammate Ludwig Kraus, but now Heiner Fleischman, of pre-war D.R.W. fame, is proving a serious challenge with the new blown twin-cylinder N.S.U. Other prewar riders who are competing with regular success are Herman Muller, Seigfried Wunsche and Ewald Kluge. While these riders are supreme in Germany with their supercharged alcohol machines, it remains to be seen whether their riding ability is still of a high enough order to compete in the International unsupercharged field with the same success. My feeling is that they will be quite capable and that we shall see many of the old names on the top again in the same way that many of our pre-war stars are still at the top, even though “fresh-men” of the Dale and Duke class are making things very difficult for them.
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If a rider in a small event has a machine that is considerably faster than all others, should he romp away to win by a large margin or should he limit his speed on straights to that of his rivals and provide an apparent race for the public? That is a question that keeps arising and it is one which cannot be answered satisfactorily; for if he takes advantage of his machine and has a runaway win no one is very pleased. The other riders say it was the machine that won and not the rider, the public are not very impressed by one rider running alone, and the organisers feel their race has been spoilt. The rider is not very satisfied, even though he has won, for riding alone is very dull. On the other hand if he keeps his machine down to say 1,000 r.p.m. below its maximum and plays with the other riders for the sake of supplying a spectacle for the public and at the same time pleasing the organisers, the other riders are still not satisfied for they feel they are being made to look foolish. If the rider of the fastest machine can still win by gaining on the corners and not taking advantage of his superior speed on the straights it will be more satisfying and interesting for him to ride so. But then the purist arises and says that that is not racing, that is a circus act for the benefit of the public and that racing should be for the benefit of the rider. The only real answer is to keep away the rider of the very fast machine; but that is quite impossible. So where does the answer lie? There is one particular rider in continental events who frequently has this difficulty arising through no particular fault of his own and he takes the first way out, giving the impression of a hard-fought race, which the keen student of racing knows is not true; but for every keen student watching the race there are perhaps two or three hundred of the lay public who only believe what they see, so that he feels justified in pleasing the majority, and after all it takes a great deal of brain and cunning to “stage” a race really well, as can be seen from those occasions when riders endeavour to do so, but fail.