Without a doubt the most serious happening in the road-racing world recently was Eric Oliver’s crash at Bordeaux, which resulted in a broken leg. While the accident was serious enough in itself, more important is the loss of Norton’s chances in the sidecar World Championship, for at the time of writing the Swiss GP is due to take place and it should prove a walk-over for the Gilera team. Whether Oliver will be fit enough for the Belgian GP in July remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that if he is not the works sidecar outfit should be given to the Swiss rider Hans Haldernann. At the moment it is not known what Norton intend to do with the machine, but anyone who has studied sidecar form will agree that the Swiss rider is the only person to replace Oliver on the Continental circuits.
While on the subject of sidecar racing the Bemsee Silverstone meeting was most interesting, for PV Harris showed that a big-twin Vincent could be thrown about as well as a 500-cc Norton, and his performances with the works Vincent outfit were brilliant. Once again at Silverstone Duke showed his superiority over all corners in both 350 and 500 classes, and the following day rode in San Remo to win the 500-cc class there, but it must he admitted that he had little opposition. Shortly afterwards, at Codogni, he again won the 500-cc race, but this time only because Alfredo Milani stepped off when over half a minute in front of Duke. This Italian rider is a hot favourite for this year’s Championship, though Geoff’s riding is as superb as ever, but a man to keep an eye on will be Rod Coleman, the New Zealander, on the works AJS, for the new Porcupine from Plumstead is going extremely well and Coleman can ride as anyone who watched him last year will know.
Among the private owners who are keeping the British flag in front in the 350-cc class is a new-comer to the Continent, Syd Lawton, who has done well with a third place at Mittel behind the works AJS machines, a very convincing win at Montlhery and second place at Hockenheim in Germany. Keeping him company is Bill Patch, who is fast becoming one of the old hands at Continental racing and he has two wins so far, at Marseilles and Hockenheim, both on his 7R AJS. It is this type of rider who does as much for British prestige abroad as anyone, for while the Dukes and Dorans of the works category race and win once in each country, at the Grand Prix events, these private owners are at it every weekend all over the Continent and whether it is a Grand Prix or a village race, a British rider on a British machine receiving the chequered flag counts for a very great deal. While our riders are doing all they can to keep British products in the public eye, it is very noticeable on the Continent that the public eye is being distracted by the touring motor-cycles coming from Germany. The general appearance and finish of the new Horex, Puck and DKW make English motorcycles look very shabby, and public such as the Swiss care little about the size of the big-end rollers, they want a machine that glistens and sparkles and is pleasing to the eye. Present-day English machines, forced by Government restrictions to have painted rims and petrol tanks in place of chromium plate and comparatively inferior finish, are not appreciated on the Continent. Everyone will admit that the materials in an English motor-cycle are of the highest quality, but that is not a selling point. Sales figures may indicate that exports are still high, but the human eye on the roads of the Continent can easily see that German machines are increasing in popularity every day. Apart from all this, there is the question of after-sales service which counts for a lot and one frequently meets riders who complain bitterly of the lack of interest shown by British manufacturers once the machine has left the factory. It seems strange that such a state of affairs should exist when one of the basic principles of good business is to retain the interest of your customers and to satisfy him so that he will automatically advertise for you.
Apart from the increased strides made in production machines in Germany, the racing side is fast regaining its feet and at the first International meeting of the year in Germany, at the Hockenheim Ring, there was much of interest. The DKW concern showed that it had lost none of its pre-war efficiency and there were works machines, all two-strokes, in the 125-cc, 250-cc and 350-cc classes. Of particular interest was the new 350-cc DKW of three-cylinder layout. The three cylinders are placed on a common crankcase with the crankshaft across the frame, the outer cylinders are nearly vertical, while the middle cylinder lies horizontally, facing forwards.
Each cylinder has its own carburetter and exhaust system, and the whole machine is no bigger than the 250-cc twin-cylinder DKW. For its first time out it performed well during practice, but gave trouble in the race, The NSU firm, having abandoned the mobile gas-works four-cylinder 500-cc machines, produced very neat twin-cylinder twin-ohc, 250-cc bicycles which also showed good promise, while the twin-ohc single-cylinder 125-cc machines which appeared last year were going as well as ever. The greatest success for Germany at Hockenheim was in the 500-cc class for the new vertical twin Horex works machine had a very convincing win, showing a good turn of speed with a record lap at 104 mph. There were three works 500-cc machines running and all three have been entered for the Swiss GP, while a fourth is running in the sidecar class. This new works entry in the sidecar class is interesting as at the moment it is the only GP class that is not completely dominated by works entries. In all the other classes the private owner has little hope of finishing in the first eight and unless he is very good is usually in the way, but the three-wheeler private owner still has a chance of getting in the first four. From the works’ point of view the sidecar class is very open, while from the International point of view it always has the greatest number of countries represented.