Monday, 31 May 2010

One Giro ends, another begins

This is (I hope) the winner of the 2010 Club Terni Motogiro d'Italia, Dutchman Hendrik Willemse and his Moto Guzzi Lodola 175. Yankee dandy Hugh Schink managed the 125 prize.

But you haven't necessarily missed anything, because the Dream Engine event starts today in Monaco. Why? The simple facts are that Club Terni started the modern Giro in 1991, and then armed with Ducati cash (and a lot of it) Dream Engine took over the reigns in 2000. Club Terni continued to arrange a lot of the nuts and bolts of the event, and then when Ducati cash disappeared a couple of years back Terni and Dream Engine had a very public falling out, and organised competing events. For the rich this was brilliant - they could do both events. For the rest of us it has diluted the spirit, especially if you get caught up in the acrimony between the competing organisers.

Lack of cash has been noticeable, with neither event what it was (say) 2000 to 2006. The fact that Dream Engine briefly seemed to disappear and be reinvented as Dream Engine 2, and can't get FMI backing doesn't help.

And so the the scurrilous rumours; that Terni won't be allowed to use the Motogiro name after a court hearing scheduled for July, and that Dream Engine have to start in Monaco because of the FMI decision. The saddest part for me is that neither event is reflecting the original race routes. Maybe it's time to do the Milano Taranto as featured in issue one of Benzina

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Six at the TT

(Since posting this I've discovered the photo was mis-labellled _ it's 1979!)
Another wet June in the offing - must be time for the TT. Here's hoping everyone who goes gets home safely, and that we get some vintage racing.

 Of course there's the Hailwood-will-never-be-bettered brigade, and certainly his 1978 drubbing of Ready and Honda still brings a tear to many an old codgers eye. Was that the most famous TT of all time? If it was, how come no-one remembers this - Joey Dunlop racing a Benelli Sei through Bungalow in the very same race. He wasn’t the first the race a Sei at the TT either. Keith Martin raced a Sei on the Island for UK importers Agrati in 1975, with six magnificent megaphones one of the few swops from standard. Otherwise, like Dunlop’s bike, the only big changes were the tank, seat and fairing.

Sadly Dunlop only managed two laps before his Sei snapped. But he made amends in the F2 race, bringing home the 500 Quattro in fifth. Right behind him was Pete Davis on a Laverda Alpino, the pair the only non-Hondas to finish the race. Not a lot of people know that.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Little fleas

Some folk dismiss our love of giro flyers, 175cc (or even less) of Latin lightweights that competed in the Italian Gran Fondo races. Typical Italian nonciness, they say. Us Brits like our steeds big and chunky. Really?

Until 1971 Brits were allowed a 250cc bike from their 16th birthday, no questions (let alone tests) asked. Cars were a no-go zone 'till you hit 17, but from '71 Big Brother decided 50cc bikes with pedals were the limit. They'd not seen what the Italian could squeeze from 50cc. And when they did (Although it was 1977 by the time they noticed) 50cc bikes were limited to 30mph.

So for a certain age group, sports mopeds were all we dreamt of (well, that and the lovely Julie who sat behind me in French. And that girl in Chemistry was..sorry, drifted off)and for me a Garelli Rekord would have completed my world (and, unbelievably, I thought would allow me to nick the lovely Julie from her Ford Escort driving boyfriend.) A good friend's dad had a Garelli franchise, and he had a blue Rekord in 1975. I stayed on for A levels so had a Puch M2...tragic.

So celebrate the Italian 'peds and ignore the claim they'd do 60mph - assuming you still weigh the 9 stone dripping wet you amounted to at 16. But even 45mph was unbelievable when a push-bike was all you'd had at your disposal before

(Thanks to Ian Scott for the pic of his fab restoration)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Testing, testing

MOTs - first dates for bikers? You've plucked and preened, learnt your lines, she looks like a goer; what can possibly go wrong?

Even though I checked everything the night before, I check everything again - the Darmah's fixed horn's still fine, but the 450's headlight won't work. Undo headlight shell, peek inside, realise that first night nerves mean I didn't turn the switch all the way round. So now I'm late...what else can go wrong?

The ride to the MOT station can, that's what. For the Benzina stand at the Stafford show, A N Other had decided to set up the rearsets correctly, i.e. down-for-up. I have them (slightly) bodged the other way, so couldn't work out why so much clutch slipping was needed to pull away - and then changed into first when I finally got some speed up. Eek. Realising what was up didn't seem to help 30 years of memory telling me my foot's prodding the lever the wrong way.

End of 450 's dramas and Darmah's woes. Both bikes sailed through the test ready for summer.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Classic Bike HQ

Lucky enough to be invited up to Classic Bike HQ this week to share coffee and ideas with Ben and Hugo - proper gentlemen, and lovely chaps with(like their mag)refreshingly under-control egos. 320 mile round trip on the bevel 900SS meant the oil was good and ready for draining on my return.

But..the building. Bizarrely (or perhaps unsurprisingly ) there are no pics on-line, but what a temple to Mammon. Big and shiny doesn't do credit to the size of the operation, which they share with Royal Sun Alliance. Everything from golf weekly to Kerrang sits in rows of identical desks with rows of identical Macs, broken up by the odd pot plant. Outside there are lakes, waterfalls and what could pass for a golf course.

Refreshingly, the bike titles (MCN, Bike et al) are easy to find. There's an ex-Schwanz RG500 in the hallway, and most swivel chairs have a leather jacket slung over the back. The mention of paper quality gets a wistful sigh, and when I say to editor Hugo I'd expected a prefab with a shed outside, he smiles "I'd prefer that"

And then shows off the mudguards that arrived that morning. What great people

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Kempton Park Autojumble

The most surprising thing about Kempton Park is the toilets - rows of urinal's at half the usual height. First reaction is that these are the kid's loos, but then the penny drops - Kempton Park's a horse racing course, and jockey's are famously vertically challenged (or are we allowed to say short once again, now that our all-men-are-equal government are finally gone?)

Bagged an ancient copy of Motociclismo from the brilliant Magazine Man who is the main UK outlet for Benzina, and caught up with Britbike fan Chris Smith of Motorsport Publications who distributes for us in the US

And then nabbed six 1980's Classic Bike mags for £2! All featured old Italian bike stuff I can cut and paste into a future Benzina....(only joking Hugo);a glance at the Rumi's and that was it for us Italophiles. But then there was the car park. Most wonderful. Click here for much more

Friday, 7 May 2010

Thanks to the very helpful and knowledgeable Bill Snelling of FoTTofinders for supplying pics (including this one) for issue 2 of Benzina (out June)which will have just enough TT stuff in it to smell of kippers.

The guy racing is Swedish Superbike champ Lennart Backstom at the 1980 TT. He's on a Laverda F500, basically a clubman racer based on the Montjuic, and the fastest Laverda ever around the Isle of Man. Yes, faster than a Jota. There goes another preconception.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Ace cafe Italian day rules - or is that rains?

Well, the Italian Day at the Ace Cafe wasn't what I expected. Gentleman and heroic rescuer of the Ace, Mark Wilsmore, invited Benzina to put up a stand "but you'll need to be there by 8:30 if you want to get in - we get really busy" A 6am start meant I rolled up in plenty of time, only to find an empty and wind lashed car park. A big-boys breakfast was enjoyed in the company of 11 times Italian Day organiser Pat Cooper of the Italian motorcycle owners club as we prayed for the promised sunshine. It never came.

In the end barely 20 Italian bikes made it - just 3 modern Ducatis, a lovely series 1 Le Mans, and some great classic Laverdas. Benellis put us all to shame - there were 7 including not one Sei, but three. Incredible.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Italian Day at the Ace Cafe

God willing Benzina will be at the Ace Cafe for their Italian Day, Sunday 2nd May - come and buy issue 1, subscibe, or just natter about your old Italian..