Chain Chatter, July 1953
Without any manner of doubt the big happening of the past month was the T.T., the outcome of which contained many surprises and many disappointments. This year the T.T. was truly International, having Continental entries of both riders and machines, and did more than justice to its position as the opening of the World Championship series. Perhaps the most important thing was the vast increase in lap speeds, not only by known fast bicycles, but by those that were thought to be reaching their limit. The 350-c.c. event, normally the private province of Norton and A.J.S. works machines, was this year enlivened by the presence of lone Guzzi, M.V. and D.K.W. machines, and Anderson on the 320-c.c. Guzzi single rode a brilliant race to finish third behind the Nortons of Amm and Kavannagh. This Guzzi was by no means a specially prepared model, but was an experimental bicycle of some age, built out of a 250-c.c. model. After using it to win a rare on the very fast Hockenheim Ring, Anderson felt sure it would justify itself in the I.O.M. and the result speaks for itself. It is most unlikely that it will encourage Guzzi to make an effort in this class as they have more than enough on their plate with the 250-c.c. and 500-c.c. models. The Southern Rhodesian rider Ray Amm scored a brilliant and popular victory, and when it is realised that his fastest lap was higher than the pre-war 500-c.c. record, it makes one realise what remarkable progress the modern racing motor-cycle has made.
The speeds of the 500-c.c. class defy all description and the first lap record by Duke on the four-cylinder Gilera, of over 96 m.p.h. front a standing start, while shattering was not a surprise as for years people have been saying that an Englishman of the right ability on an Italian bicycle would be uneatchable. Duke emphasised this point even more by a lap at over 97 m.p.h., building up over a minute lead and then ” stepping-off ” on a relatively slow bend and splitting the fuel tank. It seemed that the answer to I.O.M. record laps was an English rider on an Italian machine, but the Colonial lad on the ” prehistoric ” Norton had been overlooked. Amin replied to Duke’s retirement with a lap itt 23 min. 15 sec., a new all-high with a speed of 97.41 m.p.h. that anyone would have said was impossible on a single-cylinder 500 machine. Even after a slight crash on the last lap, in which a footrest was wiped off, Amm came home to another brilliant victory, for the second time in the week, with all records to his credit, having achieved what many thought only Duke was capable of doing ; that is, winning the 350 and 500 events in the I.O.M. in the same year. No one will say that MIMI’S riding is text-book stuff, but he has undoubted ability and skill and the inward urge that makes a winner. Last year, after his magnificent ride in the Belgian G.P. in which he clung on to Duke’s rear wheel, in the Norton-Gilera duel, throughout the race, many thought it was a flash in the pan, but this year’s T.T. performances prove otherwise. On Grand Prix circuits it is unlikely that Nortona will prove fast enough, but after Amm’s record lap it seems that the 1953 hash of the ” old-faithful ” is not so slow after all. Following Antra home and fully justifying a last minute entry into the works team for this year came Jack Brett, a good solid trier and a fast rider, while third was the first multi-cylinder, the Gilera of Reg Armstrong who, but for having to stop and put a chain on during the last lap, would probably have been second. It was during the 500-c.c. event that the unfortunate accident happened to Les Graham, on the M.V. four-cylinder, in which he lost his life, a most regrettable disaster, for he was one of the most popular figures in first-line road racing. This incident together with the deaths of three lesser-known riders caused a quite unnecessary uproar in the more irresponsible daily papers, whose only interest is sensationalism. It is this daily paper attitude to our sport—which everyone who faces the starter’s flag knows is dangerous and no one is forced to race against his will—that causes our country to lag so far behind the Continental countries in every aspect of racing except that of the ” guts ” of its riders. Maybe it is this continual battle against the manses that makes our riders more determined than ever that we can be at the top. If one of our number is to pay the highest price in the collective effort towards victory no one with any foresight or knowledge of human nature is going to suggest that the time has come to stop. One might as well say that life itself should stop because this age of science has produced a dangerous environment. The sooner the sensational type of daily stops taking advantage of the more simple-minded among the public at the expense of those who find living worth while, even though it may be short, the better for the country as a whole.
Returning to the races and the technical progress made in the last few years, the 250-c.c. event was one of the most intriguing, for the first three machines to finish were the widest variety of ideas of the 250-c.c. racing motor-cycle. Fergus Anderson won a popular victory riding the latest Guzzi, with its pannier fuel tanks and bird-like front mudguard and cowling, and he was followed by the promising new German rider Werner Haas riding a 250-c.c. N.S.U. twin. The N.S.U. is not the prettiest of machines, but everything about it is functional and the German firm are really making a big effort this year. Third man to finish was Siegried Wunsche on one of the incredible little twin-cylinder, two-stroke D.K.W.s, built down to a minimum weight that has yet to be achieved by any other firm. Not so long ago the 250-c.c. class used to be an all-Italian affair, just as the 350-c.c. class was an all-English affair. Now things have changed, and with three different machines in the first three places, the 2S0-c.c. class takes on a new aspect and this start to the Championship series gives promise of an exciting future. Although the speeds set up by all the various classes were new records the most outstanding to my way of thinking was that in the 125-c.c. class. Unfortunately, the works Morinis and Mondials did not turn up, but M.V. and N.S.U. proved worthy rivals, victory going to Les Graham, the day before his sad accident in the 500-c.c. event. Once again Haas scored a second and Sandford on an MN. was third. Graham made fastest lap at 78.21 m.p.h. and this must surely he the highlight of the whole meeting for only a few years ago laps at this speed on a 350-c.c. Velocette, then at the height of its fame, were considered very good. That machines of only 125 c.c. reached these speeds is surely fantastic and showed that this class requires full factory support if success is the aim, and is no longer the province of the happy-go-lucky amateur.
The whole T.T. meeting was one of more and more speed, at a time when a limit seemed to be approaching and now the limit has been raised yet again. That there must be an all-time high is evident, but when and why is another matter ; many people feel the modern works 500 machine has reached a speed beyond the capabilities of but a handful of riders, which may be so, but surely while there are riders willing and capable, the limit has not been reached. Riding a factory five-hundred is not a task to be tackled lightly and calls for experience as well as dash. So many riders think there is nothins; in it but a matter of a handful of throttle, but that is not so, and all budding World Champions should note the example of John Store. This young rider is definitely a future star and when Norton’s lacked a rider to replace Syd Lawton, who injured himself in practice in the I.O.M., Storr was invited to take his place. He wisely turned down the offer, preferring to continue his season of Continental road racing, and my guess is that if he sticks to his contention he will become a far better rider in the long run, able to ride a works machine that offers him the best possibilities rather than rushing into the first opportunity with a very good chance of doing so before he is really ready for it.
At the time of writing, the second round of the Championships is about to take place in Holland, while the week afterwards the Grand Prix at Francorchamps takes place, and this year it looks like being the most exciting meeting of the year. This will be the first round in the sidecar class and already the German B.M.W. teams have been showing excellent form, that augurs well for this meeting.
Around the “circus” on the Continental circuits the meetings have been going on steadily and it is interesting that North Africa is figuring more and more in the rounds of the regular competitor. While this gives opportunity for visiting new places, it does mean a great increase in the travel problems and such a journey as Morocco to Nurburgring in a week, with a van and trailer, is no mean task, but the racer who rides for a living must take every opportunity available. If this expansion continues the state will soon be reached when races occur the whole year round, for there is a limit to the number of’ weekends available at the moment, and an increase in events can only mean an extension of the season; if that happens then racing will truly become a full-time job of work.