I was rather gratified to read the latest news from the FIM, for it contained some new regulations for the specification of sidecar bodies for record-breaking purposes. Regular readers of this column will remember that a little while ago I had a moan about the existing regulations which permitted sidecars that did not even resemble a racing sidecar. Now the FIM have laid down that a sidecar must have provision for carrying a passenger, that this accomodation must lie between the sidecar wheel and the bicycle, a frontal area equal to an area of 40 by 30 cm must be presented and the body cannot be less than 40 cms wide and 80 cms long ; also, if ballast is carried, the provision of a space for a passenger must be maintained, though it may be covered. All this is most satisfactory and sensible, and really so logical that it was just a question of time before it became fact. It now looks as though one of may ambitions, to passenger on a world’s record attempt, may come true, even if it does mean being battened down in a covered “cigar” body, though I shall insist on a window in the front, just to see the end in sight. whichever “end” it might be. While appraising these new regulations I in no way deprecate the record machine built by NSU, in fact, that firm did more good for the sport than merely setting up a new “world’s fastest”–they stirred up the FIM on a matter that was clearly needing it. N.S.U. pulled off a “once-only” coup with the construction of their outfit, just as Cavvanagh, the Italian rider, did in 1947 when he built a banking sidecar that was not really a sidecar but a third wheel, and that like a bicycle wheel, and carrying his passenger on the pillion he rode the machine like a solo. It did not take the FIM long to wake up and make some sounder regulations, with resulting benefits to the Sport of sidecar racing. These “once only” occasions are very satisfying, for I recall achieving one when I was passengering with World Sidecar Champion Eric Oliver. We won the Swiss GP, which was a scratch event, leading from start to finish and including a pit-top for refuelling against a field of 30 outfits that went through non-stop. We decided it was a unique occasion and one that would probably never be repeated.
While still in the winter season of the sport, with the accent on trials, the recent annual event for sidecars only, the DK Mansell Trophy Trial, was run this year in the Stroud area, on February 10th. and so popular did the change from the North prove that an entry of 63 was received, of which 59 actually started. This must surely have been the greatest collection of trials three-wheelers assembled together for a very long time, and full marks must go to Frank Wilkins and his lady passenger who won the event on their Ariel outfit. It was this outfit less the driver, that I was privileged to borrow to win the Pressmen’s own trial last December.
For some reason this country seems to delight in getting out of step with the rest. While the rest of the European sporting world think in terms of kph, kilometres, road-racing, high-speed test tracks, Grand Prix races, etc, we are at variance, and now motor-cyclists themselves are encouraging this state of affairs by introducing a class for 200-cc machines in all manner of events when, internationally, this capacity class does not exist. Voices are always raised about the lack of good 250-cc machines in this country, while 125-cc machines might just as well not exist, and here we are sponsoring an in-between class for our national events. It does not seem very logical.
It is now only just over one month till the beginning of the new racing season and traditionally it will start at Pau, that attractive town at the foot of the Pyrenees. As last year, the solo events are for 250-cc, and 500-cc only, the 350-cc class being omitted. Many people think that this is because the English monopolise this category with a flood of AJS, Norton and Velocette machines, while the Continent can only produce one or possibly two Parilla machines. Against this the 250-cc is just as much an Italian monopoly, so the thought is, why do organisers prefer the Italian class to the English class, especially when both groups of riders will produce 500-cc machines for the big race ? It cannot be a financial matter, for it is well known that Italians demand higher starting fees than the average Englishman. It may be that more Italians will enter than English, but a sound thought was put to me recently, and that was that the Italians are better showmen than the English. Bearing in mind that a Continental circuit race, especially such as Pau, is run as a grand fete as much as a serious motor-cycle race, the Italians turn up with bright red machines, the riders, when not actually riding, and their hangers,on, invariably wear smart blue overalls, their womenfolk do justice to a fashion parade, and, taken all round, an Italian entry will ensure a background to the racing fitting to the occasion.
The English, on the other hand, start with machines painted a sombre black. they tend to wear their leathers all the time, or if not, change into dirty flannel bags or sometlang equally English, and are outstanding only when the starting flag falls. Admittedly that is the most important time to shine, but racing does have many aspects, especially on the Continent. Do not think that I am suggesting that our chaps should pansy themselves, I am merely quoting an idea given me, and a sound idea when thought about seriously. There does not seem to he any valid reason why our racing rnachines should not be painted the national green in the same way that English racing cars are coloured. The other aspects of the racing equipe I will refrain front passing comment upon.
Having just taken up some space on an anti-British subject, let me now make amends by quoting, though no longer news, that Geoff Duke won the “Sportsman of the Year” title, being voted winner over all other forms of sport, including those two national pastimes, football, horse-racing and cycling. I Geoff obviously deserves his win trorn the sportino angle, but more so, I feel, from the point of view that he does more than anyone to keep this country’s flag flying above all others. While winning the TT is meritorious from a British view point, his convincing wins in the great Dutch and Belgian Grand Prix races did far more good for this country and helped to keep the name of Great Britain in high respect throughout Europe. “L’Anglais, Geoff Duke” is a phrase that is international, and we must not forget that the most important part is the first two words “L’Anglais.” Of course, it is just as much “L’Inglese,” or “Der Englander,” but which ever it is it is Duke who has brought it about, and this country as a whole, not only the motorcycle fraternity, must be eternally grateful. Already the country has honoured one racing motor-cyclist, when Freddie Frith received lino OBE; whether an equal honour or greater is bestowed upon anyone else in our sport remains to be seen.
I was interested to read in a contemporary some notes about sidecar speedway racing in Australia, but rather distressed to discover that races are always run clockwise, making the passenger almost unnecessary. Also, the outfits used appear to have become as specialised as the solo machines: this is a pity, for this means that, as with solo racing on speedway, the machine is a freak built for one purpose. If Promoters were to insist that races were run in alternate directions, that is the first race clockwise, the second anticlockwise, and so on, then not only would normal racing outfits be suitable, but a wider range of riders would be available and that branch of the sport would tend to keep in step with the rest of motor-cycling sport, unlike the solo “shoulderboys” who hear no relation to the normal motor cyclist.
About a crouch
The Mayor of Coventry, Councillor Harry Weston, JP accorded a Civic Reception to the drivers of those Coventry-built cars which were successful in the Monte Carlo Rally. This led to a photograph from Rootes Motors, Ltd., reaching the Editorial desk. This photograph is of the Mayor showing Stirling Moss a picture of father Moss in his Brooklands’ Crouch of 1923. It would be pointless to reprodnce it, because all Mayors look alike, and we shall have plenty of other opportunities of showing you what Stirling Moss looks like. As for the Crouch, it would come out too small for you to see anything of it. But we were very interested to see father Moss so mounted. Moreover, our interest was held by the statement that in his 1923 Crouch AE Moss “attained a speed of 93.5 mph.”
It is a sad fact that unqualified historians usually exaggerate rather than diminish racing-car performances. A little research shows that the fastest lap ever achieved in a BARC race by this Crouch, which was a stripped sports model with side-valve 11/2-litre Anzani engine, was 84.84 mph. This is in itself such a splendid achievement it is a pity to exaggerate. The car no doubt did 90 mph or a little more when absolutely flat-out, but to quote such a peak-reading in round figures is unwise, and to take it to even the first place of decimals is absurd. It would have been fairer to father Moss to have the true race-winning average on the occasion in question, which was slightly more than 80 mph, a very different thing from a speed exceeding 93 mph.