Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Cook Neilson (and Phil Schilling) legend

Us Europeans know the Ducati bevel twin legend was forged in the heat of two battles - Paul Smart at Imola in '72, and Mike Hailwood at the IOM in '78. What some forget is that the stool this legend sits upon has a third leg - Cook Neilson's win at Daytona in 1977.

Cook and Phil Schilling ran Cycle, the largest  and (in TB's opinion) at the time finest bike mag on the planet. Somehow they found the time to buy, race and develop a Ducati 750SS - aka the Californian Hot Rod. And by tune we don't mean bolt aftermarket bits on - Harley valves were made to fit, bespoke gearboxes were made and many dyno runs were done.

Finally they beat allcomers in the Daytona Superbikes race in March '77, against the Yoshi Kawasakis of Dave Emde and Wes Cooley, pushing Reg Pridmore's Beemer and Mike Baldwin's Guzzi down to 4th and 5th. In other words a couple of amateurs beat a bunch of pros on big money rides.

Smarty and SMBH's achievements stand as magnificent, but they were hired guns on racebikes prepped and primped by pro tuners. Neilson and Schilling were journalists living a dream, and managed their win with a mix of grease and ink under their fingernails. That's a hell of an achievement, and because all this got reported to the largest motorcycle market in the world, perhaps commercially more valuable to Ducati than the Imola or TT wins.

Thanks to Vicki Smith of for the picture

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