There is little doubt that first line road-racing of today has reached a pitch far higher than ever before and naturally this brings more and more problems into the game. One of these, that this year has had far-reaching effects, is the problem of the team manager on deciding when and where his riders should compete. For the small time private-owner competing in International events the matter is easy, he pleases himself where he races, whether it be for profit or pleasure, but the “works” rider is under factory control and the team chief decides when and where.
Obviously all the G.P. events have to be covered by the complete team and in addition any big International event that can be counted as a near classic, but there is little point in sending men and machines to small out-of-the-way events. However, this is not always agreeable to the riders as many of them feel they must race regularly to keep their hand in, but against this the team chief is unwilling to risk his runners for a small gain.
This season the whole outlook on the World Championships has been altered, due to this problem. At the beginning of the season everyone tipped Alfredo Milani to win the 500-c.c. Championship, with Duke as nearest rival and in the sidecar class Eric Oliver was expected to repeat his succession of victories, but now things are greatly altered. First Milani fell off his Gilera Four in a small Italian race and injured his hand and in consequence has been unable to put up any sort of show since; then Eric Oliver crashed at Bordeaux, a small circuit meeting, and consequently missed the Swiss G.P., though he did make up for it by winning the Belgian, but a retirement in the German has ruined his chances for the Championship. At the Schotten races before the German G.P. Geoff Duke fell off and put himself in hospital for some weeks, so his chances for the 500-c.c. Championship are spoilt. That is three potential World Champions badly handicapped by accidents in relatively small unimportant meetings which is indeed a high price to pay. Whether team chiefs should restrict their rides to G.P. races or not is a problem that must be worrying all the factories. If they don’t they risk losing their runners, if they do the riders may lose the edge off their form through lack of continental racing, for there is no doubt that a man who races every weekend is going to be better than one who races once a month, for his mind and reflexes are bound to be kept at concert pitch the whole time and with the present-day standard of competition a “works” rider has got to be 100 per cent. on form.
The problem is one for riders and managers to sort out between them, but from either angle it is a difficult one to which no real answer is available.
In the regulations for the Italian G.P., the category B is for vehicles with three wheels, which normally means sidecar outfits, but it is interesting to reflect that Monza, where the race will be run, is a circuit on which a three-wheeler as distinct from a sidecar could more than hold its own. Admittedly there are four 60 m.p.h. corners at Monza, but with a sidecar lap speed approaching 90 m.p.h., it is obvious that a device with a single central wheel in front, driver and passenger lying prone either side of a 55 b.h.p. four-cylinder engine and the whole properly suspended on all three wheels, with hydraulic brakes, and streamlined to the ninth degree could make a normal racing sidecar outfit look silly.
I viewed with interest the recent bout of record-breaking by Noel Pope with his 1,000-c.c. Comerford-Pope sidecar outfit, which looked very pre-war and Brooklands, and full credit is due to Noel for driving the distinctly hairy monster around Montlhery at over 110 m.p.h., but the idea of breaking the world’s record with such a machine does seem a little antiquated. While I am the first to admire a record machine that still looks like a motor-cycle, my appreciation of the ruthless march of progress, under which we must all suffer at times, does demand the application of science as well as brute-force to gain speed and streamlined shells, properly designed, are a tribute to science and a sure way of gaining vital m.p.h. To my mind the smooth cleaning of the air with an “egg” on a motorcycle, is far more praiseworthy than a “bitzy” and unshapely monster forcing its way through by sheer power. However, full power to the Pope twist-grip and if he can better 180 m.p.h. with his “rorty” monster I shall be pleased, if only to muse upon how much faster he could have gone in fully streamlined form.