Chain Chatter by "Carrozzino", November 1952



Last month saw the finish of the road-racing season and with it the final round in the 1952 World Championship series, with individual solo honours being divided equally between England and Italy, with England taking the sidecar class for the fourth year in succession. The Spanish G.P., which concluded the Classic season, had races for 125-c.c., 500-c.c. solo and sidecar machines, and it was interesting that the three winners were not the World Champions. In the “tiddler” class Mendogni on the single camshaft Morini repeated his Monza win, finishing comfortably ahead of Graham and Sandford on two o.h.c. M.V.s; however, Sandford, by reason of his successes earlier in the season, was the resultant World Champion, but it was evident that Morinis have the superior machine in this category. The 500-c.c. event was a source of great joy to all sportsmen for it was won by Les Graham on the four-cylinder M.V. in just as convincing a manner as his previous win at Monza. Many people thought that the single-cylinder Nortons, which were pathetic at Monza, would come into their own on the twisty Barcelona circuit by reason of their better handling and the ability of the riders, but apart from Ken Kavannagh the team was just as outclassed as in Italy. Graham led from start to finish and by half-distance had so much lead that when he went onto three cylinders, due to a plug lead coming off, he was able to keep in front of Masetti, on a healthy four-cylinder Gilera, until the end. Kavannagh, who was third, approached the Gilera rider once when he was relaxing, but then Umberto opened up and the Norton did not worry him again. These last two G.P. races have proved conclusively that the four-cylinder machines from Italy are now unbeatable, however good our riders may be. By finishing second, and with Armstrong being nowhere in the running, Masetti annexed the 500-cc. Championship and it was indeed well earned. The past season has seen this lad riding with a great degree of cunning and making no mistakes, for he won the Dutch and Belgian races by letting the Norton team set the pace and using the extra power of his Gilera on the last lap, thereby giving himself and his machine a comparatively easy ride. His second places at Monza and Barcelona were well-ridden, intelligent races where he acknowledged the mastership of Graham and the M.V. and contented himself with a certain second each time rather than risk his neck and the bicycle by trying to catch the flying Englishman. This is the second time that Masetti has been 500-c.c. World Champion, the first time in 1950, was undoubtedly due to youthful courage and a fast machine, but this time it was due to those qualities that keep you at the top when around the 40-year-old mark, like Graham or Anderson, experience, wisdom and the ability to ride with the head instead of the opposite end of the anatomy.

The sidecar event in Spain was full of interest, as this category has been throughout the year. Eric Oliver proved beyond any doubt that he is the finest sidecar rider of the age, and won the race on sheer riding skill, but it was of no avail for the championship, for his early season accident prevented him riding in the Swiss and mechanical breakdowns caused retirements in the German and Italian races, so that he could not hope to be in the running. Happily, his place at the top of the championship was taken by another Englishman, Cyril Smith, who has put up brilliant performances throughout the season, his first in international racing, and who won the championship more on tenacity and guts than anything else. Admittedly a lot of Smith’s success has been due to other people’s bad luck, but he has had to fight for his title right to the end. Early in the year he showed his ability by chasing Milani on the four-cylinder Gilera all the way in the Swiss G.P., using a standard Manx Norton, and it was this that earned him a works engine for the following races. At the last race, in Spain, his frame broke on the first lap and he completed the 24 laps under conditions which would have caused most riders to retire. By finishing third, behind the Frenchman Drion, he gained sufficient points to come out on top, but only due to the misfortune of Ernesto Merlo, who retired just before the end with magneto trouble, when lying second.

As far as the other two Championships were concerned, Duke made sure of the 350-c.c. class long before his crash which finished his season, and Lorenzetti hammered home his 250-c.c. title by his brilliant finish at Monza last month. For the manufacturers, with the exception of the 350-c.c. class, the results prove very little, for M.V. are 125-c.c. champions, even though Morini have the faster machine; in the 250-c.c. class Guzzi deservedly won, but the new N.S.U. is much faster; Nortons are undisputed 350-c.c. champions, Gilera the 500-c.c. champions even though M.V. have now proved their four-oylinder the better machine. In the sidecar class Norton just pulled it off again even though Gileras have the most powerful machine; I will not say the best machine, for the handling of the Norton outfits is undoubtedly superior. While on the subject of manufacturers and the sidecar class it was interesting to see that Cyril Smith was at Barcelona with a works Norton-built sidecar on his rigid-Featherbed, in place of his Watsonian. This obviously indicates a lively interest in the sidecar category by Bracebridge Street and one that was long overdue. It is interesting that of the first six in the Championship, four were using Watsonian racing sidecars (with the exception of Smith’s last-race change) and the other two were Gilera-built.

So another road-racing season has finished, and with the last race being in October it has been a very long season, leaving less time than usual for preparing for next year. At the time of going to press the plans for the 1953 Championships are being laid and it is quite likely that there will be changes made which would affect the outcome very greatly.

As a change from racing it was nice to see the Maudes Trophy awarded again. This is an award given to the manufacturer who, in so many words, puts on the best “stunt” to prove his product during the course of the year; 1952 is the first time it has been awarded since before the war and B.S.A. have taken it with a very convincing demonstration of all-round capabilities. Three B.S.A. twins were selected at random from the production line and then ridden by factory riders, Norman Vanhouse, Fred Rist and Brian Martin, for 4,500 miles in 24 days. The route passed through ten European countries and included competing in the I.S.D.T. in which all three won gold medal awards. The finish was a speed test in Oslo, during which they were timed at 85 m.p.h. and there is little doubt that the team have won the trophy deservedly. It is to be hoped that this re-instituting of the Maudes Trophy will encourage more manufacturers to make attempts during 1953, for apart from the competitive angle, which is always interesting to the onlooker, a test which will pass A.C.U. scrutineering for qualification is not just a publicity stunt, but must have merit behind it. Nowadays a great many products are sold on loud-mouthed advertising, and this includes some motorcycles, but advertising by means of a test for the Maudes Trophy is something which can be taken seriously and it will weed out the imitations from the real thing.