Chain Chatter, May 1950

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by “Carrozzino”
With the rising popularity of road-racing, and especially short circuit road-racing, a number of complications are arising, or, to be more correct, have arisen. Immediately after the war the only short circuit course was Lincolnshire’s Cadwell Park and, with few opportunities for long-distance road-racing presenting themselves, most people went to Cadwell with fairly standard T.T. machines. But now the situation is different for there are many short circuits; Cadwell, Brands Hatch and Brough, to name but three; and there is also a sufficiency of longish road-racing events. With the increase in short circuit meetings it has become a reasonable proposition for many of the keener riders to build special short-circuit machines which are obvious developments from knowledge gained whilst riding production T.T. models. Machines have become lighter and smaller, and simplicity is the keynote. The result is there is now a more or less cut-and-dried specification for the “Short-circuit Special” and one begins to contemplate whether there is the possibility of this trend reaching its logical conclusion in a standard short-circuit model in much the same way that speedway machines have arrived at a logical and practical conclusion.
 
It is not without reason to suppose that the circuits and their organisations might reach a conclusion with a standard layout for a short circuit. Then it would only be a matter of time before the whole affair was run as a financial proposition under a “Short-circuit Control Board,” said Board being a subsidiary of the A.C.U. in the same way as the Speedway Control Board. The short-circuit racing side of motor-cycling sport is rapidly becoming a difficult “in-between,” with full-length road-racing of the Grand Prix type on one side and speedway on the other. Whether weekly meetings on the short circuits with the Brands Hatch Howlers’ fans endeavouring to out-shriek the Cadwell Crashers’ fans is a good prospect is a matter of personal opinion.
 
If this state of affairs is not to be reached then it is up to the organisers to make modifications; one of the simpler methods is longer races. If the grass-track practice of many short events of four or six laps is followed then speedway-type short-circuit racing is almost inevitable. On the other hand, if events are too long then the racing may become a poor imitation of Grand Prix racing, although at many continental meetings races of as many as 70 laps are held over circuits little over a mile long. If short-circuit racing is going to avoid becoming stale then some variety must be introduced. Already at Cadwell Park the ever-ingenious organisers have introduced 20-lap events, and a special meeting for machines using Pool fuel has been arranged. Other ideas of a similar nature must be introduced if the speedway atmosphere is to be kept out, always assuming that people want it kept out.
 
Another complication which many riders are having to face is the question of the fuel to be used for road-racing. In International events the situation presents no difficulty for the F.I.M. are agreed on the use of straight petrol only, having an octane rating of 80, but in our national racing it is not so simple for there is no regulation governing fuel, and the result is that some meetings stipulate Pool petrol only, while at others it is “carburant libre.” The real difficulty arises at Bank Holidays, the recent one being a good example, for on the Sunday there was a meeting with “carburant libre,” so obviously everyone wanted to use a methanol mixture, and the following day there was a meeting with the Pool only rule in force. With the Sunday meeting a “short-circuit” affair and the Monday meeting a pukka road race there would appear to be no difficulty as it would seem that two classes of riders were being catered for. But this is not the case for there are still a great number of riders who have machines that are suitable for both types of racing and they were faced with the problem of having to change the motor from “dope” to “Pool” overnight after a tiring day’s racing and with possibly a 100-mile journey facing them the next morning. For those fortunate few who can afford mechanics to do the work it is all right, but those people usually have two motorcycles anyway, so the occasion does not arise. It is the truly amateur rider who is affected most, and yet another problem arises from the keener amateur and that is the case of the chap who can only race at Bank Holidays due either to having to work or finance, or both. Naturally, when the holiday arrives he wants to indulge in as much racing as possible, and, assuming his interest is in road-racing, he views the possibility of riding on Sunday and Monday, but his difficulty arises not only from the Pool/dope angle but from the suitability of his machine. He has, perhaps, bought a secondhand T.T. machine, or if he is mechanically minded he may have built himself a “short-circuit Special.” Whichever is the case he cannot run at both meetings and consequently he is very dissatisfied because on one or the other day he feels there is some road-racing taking place from which he is barred.
 
It is possible that all these matters could be solved, not necessarily satisfactorily, by the introduction of the aforementioned “Short-Circuit Control Board,” making short-circuit racing a separate entity from road-racing. At present we have road-racing, grass-track, scrambles and speedway, and each is a separate branch of the sport of motor-cycle racing with very little overlapping. The question is, whether a fifth category is desirable, namely, short-circuit racing? Or will it arrive by a natural process of elimination!
 
Returning for a short while to the question of fuel for racing purposes, surely it is high time that at meetings with a “Pool only” rule in force the organisers should be allowed by the Ministry concerned to supply the necessary fuel, not necessarily free of charge, but free of coupons, set quantities of petrol being allowed for each rider. In all continental countries while petrol rationing was in force the race organisers supplied fuel for the riders. It is neither reasonable nor fair that competitors should have to license their racing machines in order to acquire the petrol for racing, especially when it is remembered that motor-cycle meetings are considered public entertainment, which means that a fat slice of the gate money goes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A little more give and a little less take would make a world of difference.