Chain chatter, July 1951


AT the spring conference of the F.I.M., held in Stockholm, sixteen countries were represented and the position of the new President of the Federation went, by vote, to Monsieur A. Perouse, of the French Federation. Italy’s Johnny Lurani, well known wherever internal-combustion engine sport takes place, was elected fifth Vice-President of the F.I.M. Lurani is undoubtedly one of the more active members of the International world, and immediately after the Congress had finished he flew to Berne to officiate at the Swiss G.P.

Among the points arising from the Congres.s were an attempt to sort out the 1952 World Championship calendar, and various technical matters concerning road-racing machines. So far this season there have been two grumbles about the calendar, first. the Spanish G.P. happened before everyone was ready, or so the English manufacturers said, and secondly the Swiss G.P. clashed with the long T.T. practice period. The latter point was alleviated somewhat by the Swiss organisers providing air transport, immediately after the Berne races finished, to fly those people and machines intended in the T.T. direct to the I.O.M. The provisional 1952 calendar attempts to sort out this problem and the first “classic” event is on May 11th, 1952, in Spain, so there can be no excuse for anyone not being ready in time ; ten months’ notice of an event should be enough for anyone, even the English! Another date problem that is almost impossible to solve is the clashing of a motor-cycle “classic” with a motorcar “classic,” as is happening on the day these notes appear, July 1st being the date for the G.P. d’Europe for cars at Rheims, and the Belgian G.P. for motor-cycles. While this sort of clash is not serious it does cause difficulties behind the scenes, an example of which is the ease of the Ferodo Service Van, that wonderful travelling workshop that does its utmost to stop, literally, the fastest cars and motor-cycles. Which racing fraternity is going to have the benefit of its services is not known at the time of writing, but someone is going to be unlucky. Just one of those things that the average racing follower is not affected by, but which is very important to competitors. An important new regulation brought out by the Spring Congress is the limitation on the amount of streamlining allowed on road-racing machines. A regrettable limitation to design, but a very practical and necessary one, nevertheless. Anyone who was at Monza last year for the practice periods where some pretty devilish devices were tried out in an endeavour to cheat the wind, will agree that ease of entry on to the machine is a must for a mass-start race, while, similarly, a reasonable limit on projections fore and aft is a very practical regulation. The 1951 International Six Days Trial being organised by Italy is to be based at Varese, and no doubt a set of road-racing tyres and gear-ratios will be of undoubted value to competitors if the sporting Italians are allowed a free hand over the question schedule speeds.

That the T.T. races for 350 c.c. and 500 c.c. machines were sweeping successes for the English is no more surprising or meritorious than the Italian “sweep” in the 125 c.c. and 250 c.c. classes, but what was impressive was the individual performances which were wonderful demonstrations of what we can do. Geoff Duke’s prowess, so obviously greater than anyone of the present age, goes without saying; while it was nice to see Tommy Wood give such an impressive demonstration on his 250 c.c. Guzzi. Always after a close finish in the I.O.M. I wonder what the outcome would have been had it been a mass-start race and not a “time-trial.”  Having seen Tommy and Ambrosini scrapping wheel to wheel on various Continental circuits, I should have liked to have seen them together on their last lap of the T.T., instead of 1 min. 50 sec. apart on the starting lime. When riding in close company a star can always pull-out just that little extra, While two stars “playing bears” is never dull. After all, there is more to racing that fast cornering, that subtle thing described as “trackcraft” is it very important part of racing and it is one thing that the T.T. does not encourage, with its time-interval starting.

After much finger-croasing over the matter of the 125 c.c. class, there is no doubt that it was successful, and the enormous superiority of the Mondials (and Morinis, had they been there) can be blamed largely on officialdom in this country, especially in the A.C.U., who have taken over three years to acknowledge this class officially, thereby discouraging manufacturer interest. Even so, those English entrants and rider’s who did give support put up a reasonable show and deserve great priase.

A noticeable trend in this I.O.M. orgy of speed was the practical appreciation shown by certain manufacturers to private owners who have done so much for the industry out of their own pocket. Particularly pleasing was to see C. W. Petch have a try-out on a “Porcupine” A.J.S. has done as much for Plumstead as anyone, in the way of good publicity, with his nunerons Continental successes on his 7R. A.J.S.  Equally, Jack Brett, Harry Hinton and Chromie McCandless all deserved, and justified, their rides on “works,” Nortons.

At a recent National motor-cycle meeting at the Nurburgring in Germany, I was able to see that country’s very latest in the way of F.I.M. regulation machines, i.e., unblown and B.M.W.s, N.S.U.s and D.R.W.s and while they are all still very new and experimental, they proved very interesting. The Germans say quite frankly that none of the machines are ready for International racing. At all events, not this year, maybe in 1952. My personal impression was that they were as well prepared and as ready for the fray as many existing “works” teams. I couldn’t help feeling that when the German factories do enter the “classics” they will do so in a big way and in it way that will be felt. At the moment they lack new young riders of the Duke, Armstrong, Sandford calibre, but there is no reason why they have to use German riders. If English, French and Italian drivers were good enough for their pre-war Grand Prix car teams there is no reason to suppose that their motor-cycles may not be ridden by “foreigners.”

It was very interesting to watch the flow of traffic going to the Nurburgring at a rate of 70 vehicles per minute over a period of hours. During one “count,” 40 of the 70/minute were motorcycles and 95 per cent, were German motorcycles, mostly new ones.  I did see one English motorcycle, a KSS Velocette, ridden by two English army lads! The output of German 125 c.c. and smaller machines would appear to be quite exceptional, while new B.M.W., N.S.U. and Horex machines went by in great numbers. 

By the time these notes are being read the Belgian G.P. will be taking place on the magnificent Francorchamps circuit and we shall be seeing the first round of the World Championship in which every factory has its “big guns” out.  The first race this year from which definite conclusions can be drawn, providing the weather keeps fine, for racing in the rain is never a very fair test, either of man or machine.