Chain Chatter, September 1950
It is time the F.I.M. really got down to the job of straightening out the peculiar state of affairs that exists for the Classic events of the season for at present the variations between the events are large and undesirable. On one hand we have the T.T., as being the English Classic, with 37-34/4-mile lap, while on the other we have he recent Swiss Grand Prix at Geneva, with the absolute minimum of 3-3/4-miles to the lap, the figure (6 kilometers) at present laid down by F.I.M. rules. Both events are rated as classic and thereby the results count. for the World Championship series, and yet the machine which is suited for one event is not necessarily suitable for the other, while on top of this we have the Italian classic, which is due to be run this month, which takes place at Monza, which is not strictly a road circuit and yet the manufacturers teams battle for road-racing honours. Some degree of uniformity should be decided upon for any event which is going to be rated as a classic and many riders feel that a lap distance of about 10 miles (approximately 16 kilometres) is most satisfactory. Naturally an exact figure could not be fixed, but the present system of a minimum of six kilometres, with no maximum figure, is not good. If, for example, the figures of 15 and 25 kilometres were given as the limits there would be enough latitude for everyone to find a circuit and all would be of similar character, thereby helping the design of Grand Prix motor-cycles to get into some concrete form. A further stipulation that all courses. should be pure road circuits and not tracks, together with the excellent idea put forward recently by a well-known journalist that a small committee or ex-first-class riders should view the circuit before approval, would help to improve Grand Prix racing.
While the actual circuit is of major importance, another factor which is badly in need of attention is the question of the form a Grand Prix or Classic event should take. At present the ruling for the World Championships demands but three events for any one class to make eligible for a Championship, but this is not, enough, for if’ a rider has a breakdown in one event he has little chance of making up for it on the other two. There is no valid reason why very classic should not run races for every Championship class, namely 125 c.c., 250 c.c., 350 c.c., 500 c.c., and sidecar. At the moment, for example, one classic will run a 125-c.c. event and another will not; if the F.I.M. ruling stated that any event which did not cater for all classes could not be considered a classic, it would ease the lot of both riders and manufacturers, whether they be private or commercial, for not many people are prepared to build a machine to run in three out of the seven classics, whereas if it was definite that seven events of major importance would take place each year then it would be more encouraging. Many people might say that some of the existing classics would not attract sufficient entries in some of the classes, but surely it is up to the organisers to make their events sufficiently interesting to attract as many entrants as any of the other big meetings; if, for example, you can attract 20 entries in the 125-c.c, class in Holland, then there is no excuse for not attracting something like the same number for the same class in England. If the organisers are not capable of doing so, either financially or intellectually, then they can hardly be considered to be in the Grand Prix organising class, and should wait until such time as they are before applying for a date on the International calendar for a classic event to count for the World Championship.
As far as the distance for each race is concerned, the present low-limit of 62.1 miles (100 kilometres) is reasonable enough, but as with lap distance, no upper limit is provided, consequently out of the seven classic events three require pit-stops for refuelling, the result being freak fuel containers which really serve no purpose, apart from making the machine more difficult to ride and raising the danger factor of Grand Prix racing, and as this factor is already far too high, surely it would be better to fix a maxinturn length limit to the races at a figure that any normal machine can complete without the need for overload tanks and such artifices. With the the next F.I.M. congress already in view, now is the time to begin to sort out these details, which clearly need attention if Grand Prix racing is not going to be allowed to deteriorate. At the present time there is probably more interest in Grand Prix racing, by manufacturers, than ever before, so that it is all the more important that the people who look after the administration of the sport, namely, the organisers of events and the F.I.M., should not be found wanting at this critical stage. Let us push sentiment and tradition a little to one side and make changes that will improve the game.
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It has long been recognised that the French have a love of the fantastic where racing is concerned, witness the Bol d’Or and the Monaco Grand Prix car events, and the Italians are noted for their ability to race anything which is propelled by an internal combustion engine, but the recent inclusion of a class for motorised push-bikes not exceeding 50 c.c. in the Mont Ventoux hill-climb must surely be considered the absolute limit. When Italy began to build Vespa and Lambretta 125-c.c. scooters in vast numbers, it was obvious that sooner or later races would be staged with them, and then when they built 48-c.c. machines that were mid-way between a very sturdy auto-cycle and a small motor-cycle, called Motonis, it was not surprising to find that most Italian national events included a class for these vehicles, and the racing was furious if’ not fast. Again, when sidecars began to appear on scooters it did not need much encouragement for yet another class, but a class for push-bikes with motor attachments a little beyond the most uncontrollable imagination. However, the French did not agree and went the whole hog and made the ‘ flutter machines” climb the 13-1/2 miles and 121 corners of the already unbelievable Mont Ventoux. The fastest time recorded was 38 minutes 16 seconds, and when you consider that half that time is considered pretty good on a pukka racing 350-c.c, machine the accomplishment of the “cyclists” is quite incredible, and if you have seen some of the gradients on the climb then it is even more so.
While on the subject of’ hill-climbs, though one of a very different nature, it is a pity that a few personal jealousies among certain quarters of our national body will prevent the motor-cyclists going to Shelsley Walsh to defend the record, set up last year by George Brown on the 1,000-c.c, Vincent, when the September meeting takes place. It is too late now to be bitter about the loss of such an excellent event, but on no account must it be missed next year , assuming the Midland Automobile Club put out another invitation. Combined car and motor-cycle meetings have been normal practice for so long in Continental circles that it seems strange that they are not more popular in England. After all, the organisers’ main aim is to attract as many spectators as possible in order to defray expenses, and if a combined meeting will attract a crowd of motor-cycle enthusiasts as well as a crowd of car enthusiasts then the profits should multiply accordingly, and it would be a nice thing if riders and drivers could benefit by this increase by having expenses such as entry fees and accommodation expenses reduced.
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At the end of the month, the B.M.C.R.C. meeting at Silverstone should provide a most interesting spectacle, for event 7 on the programme is a handicap race for solos and sidecars mixed. It is, of course, to count for the fabulous Mellano (Hutchison 100) Trophy and the idea of solos and sidecars running together is not new, for it was a regular happening at Brooklands before the war, both on the Outer Circuit and the Mountain Circuit, but running together round Silverstone’s perimeter is a very different thing, with its many bends. It is natural enough that our premier racing club should take this bold step and it is hoped that it will prove both interesting and successful, but havilig had experience or being in a sidecar during practice in which solos were also running, I feel it is more likely to be interesting rather than successful. The line through a fast, corner for a solo and a sidecar are so different that someone is going to get in someone else’s way, but providing everyone looks upon the race as a good bit of sport and does not get, hot under the collar, the Bemsee experiment should appeal to everyone, riders and spectators alike. How satisfing for the “chair” boys to be able to say that they can go through a certain bend much faster than solo and how equally satisfying for a quick “250” when it whistles away from a 600-c.c. “chair” down the straight. As the event is limited to B.M.C.R.C. members we can look upon it as an official “club run” of that august body, and like many “club runs” it should be quite exciting!