Saturday, 30 June 2012

Morini miracle at Cadwell Park

Having abandoned plans to drop by on the Morini Riders' Club's usually fantastic track day on 12 June because of relentless and torrential rain at our Wiltshire base, I'd left it a while before asking how any soul brave enough to attend got on. Club member (seen on his very lovely Sport) Mark Bailey breaks the news I missed a great day at the beautiful Cadwell Park venue.

"Astonishingly, the track day was dry: it stopped raining at 7am and started again in biblical fashion just after 4pm. It was a wonderful day with a great selection of machinery"

Huh, The moral must be never trust the Met Office, and that God rides a Morini

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Bernie Ecclestone and Bomber Command; strange but true

Two items of news today are linked in a less than obvious way - the unveiling of a memorial to the crews of WWII's Bomber Command, and plans to run a Formula 1 race on the streets of London.

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is probably the easiest way to understand the horror of Dresden, and I was lucky enough to know a navigator of one of the Lancasters on the raid - even at the end of his life he felt guilty about the consequences of that raid. But the bravery and heroism of the crews deserves recognition, and about the only way to understand what they went through today is to get a mate to lock you in a freezer for eight hours a night then puts on a blindfold and repeatedly unloads a twelve-bore shotgun in the rough direction of said freezer while you shout out the answers to a trigonometry test. Repeat until you die or six years has passed. Or just thank those who did.

Apart from freedom and (economic woes apart) access to the wonders of Europe, another legacy of the war is the UK's racetracks. This weekend's Festival of Speed wouldn't be happening if Goodwood hadn't been a wartime airfield that became a racetrack (see Benzina issue 4) and ditto Silverstone's MotoGP race. The reason for this is that Britain was unique in Europe in prohibiting racing on public roads - many European racetracks (Spa and Le Mans spring to mind) grew out of public roads. The reason we have "British Racing Green" is by way of thanks to Ireland for hosting British racing in the days before we had race tracks (more in Benzina 4).

Presumably Sir Bernie of Ecclestone will therefore need an Act of Parliament before he can run an F1 race on the streets of London - he's not the sort of person to announce things he can't pull off, and Boris Johnson would surely love to be remembered for more than a grasp of Latin, floppy haircuts and bicycle hire. All of which means the law can and will be changed, which opens the door for a mainland motorcycle TT. Excellent...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Something for the weekend

I have been, as Casey Stoner said of Vale Rossi skittling him in the rain at Le Mans last year, a little bit over ambitious. One man and his fabulously helpful readers have finally got issue 9 ready for the printers, and the new super-size A4 (about 12"x 9") benzina should get posted out early next week. With the new format safely in the back-up hard-drive issue 10 should be a little easier.A multi-facet 10th edition of the Bikers’ Classics !
The workload meant missing this weekend's most excellentBikers Classic at Spa - really is one of the best biking events in the world, and this year the Tour de France rides by - more on what's on below. You can make it a perfect weekend by staying at Neil and Ann's B&B (Neil's a Nurburgring instructor too, and featured in this month's Bike magazine) which is stuffed full of sporting memorabilia and five minutes from Spa. It's where the journalists stay, so who knows who you might meet? Plus Neil shares my passion for Bianchi and might help you chance the Tour along if you need to burn off the fritte avec mayo.

Anyway, go if you can or miss this lot:

It has been ten years already since Christian Jupsin and the DG Sport team launched the Bikers’ Classics on the track of Spa-Francorchamps. In one decennium, this event has grown into the most important meeting for all fans of classic bikes. The presence of the many former world champions and the numerous exceptional bikes has turned this event into the most prestigious one in Europe in its kind, even the English specialists envy us for it !

To celebrate this tenth anniversary, we present a grand programme.

Parades of the GP1 & GP2 champions

Just like always, a lot of stars from the past return to the track in the Ardennes, not only to prove that they haven’t lost their talents yet but to meet with a large crowd of “connaisseurs” and specialists. We note among others Freddie Spencer, Raymond Roche, Phil Read, Steve Baker, Dieter Braun, Jim Redman, Luigi Taveri, Doug Polen, Richard Hubin, St├ęphane Mertens, to name just the world champions.
Riders Series

As usual, may runs are reserved for amateurs, and all of those runs are sold out. The perfect occasion for about 500 collectors to go on track with their amazing machines, each and every one of them restored with lots of love and care into the original state.

Parade Superbike Revival

Each year, the organisers honour a road racing discipline. This year, the Superbikes are put into the spotlights. We are happy to welcome the many competitors from the past and look forward to seeing them back at work, like Freddie Spencer and Raymond Roche, who will once again take place on the bikes that led them to their victories.
Back to the old track

An exceptional gift, thanks to the willingness of the mayors of Stavelot and Malmedy, all riders participating at the Bikers’ Classics will be able to discover the 14km long old track on Saturday at 18h00.

The 4 Hours of Spa Classics

An endurance race just like in the good old days, meant only for motorcycles built before 1980. A true Le Mans style start on Saturday at 20h30 will ensure part of the spectacle. Just like the previous year the entry list has been sold out for many weeks already. This goes to show the interest for this race, which will be undecided until the chequered flag falls.

CSBK Masters Series

They come from Germany but they reflect the races as they used to take place in the United States in the beginning of the ’80. The CSBK Masters Series assure a spectacular race, starting on Saturday at 17h00, a race reserved only for machines derived from this series.
But the Bikers’ Classics are also :

• the Classic 21 Concert, music from The Who and The Rolling Stones on Saturday from 21h00 until the break of dawn;

• a Ducati Exhibition of the ten most beautiful victorious two-cylinders in 40 years, with a personalised welcome for all clubs of the brand during three days;

• the Diaporama « made in USA » by Krugger, the master artist when it comes to exceptional bikes ;

• dedication sessions, where riders and crowd meet;

• pit walks, discover the most beautiful machines up close, presented by the champions in person ;

• a commercial village, with an exchange fair, rare parts or to get one of those souvenir T-Shirts …

But this 10th anniversary is also:

• a rally and expo organised by the B.F.O.V. reserved for old vehicles ;

• a Safety Tour by Touring Assurance with test session on electric scooters ;

• the presentation of the newest book by Jan Kerkhofs covering the highlights in the racing careers of Auguste Goffin and the past-war Belgian riders …

Presale discounts until 27/06

Despite the vast programme and lots of animation, an entrance ticket remains cheap (15€ for the general entrance for an entire weekend, including the Ducati expo, tribunes, village, concert), especially in presale (Pass W.E : 30 € - Pass Sunday 20€ general entrance and paddock via, and for all those under 16 years old, accompanied by an adult, the entrance is free.

Information, full programme and participants lists :

And this was 2009 (I think!)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Whatever happened to Steve Wynne?

I've been chatting to Steve Wynne, trying to get the definitive low-down on the Hailwood-Sports Motorcycle years. As the years pass the story becomes murkier, and I'd love to get the definitive version. Sadly the years don't just pass - as well as the loss of Mike Hailwood, Roger Nicholls and Giorgio Nepoti have also passed away, and Giuliano Pedretti seems to have vanished. Anyway, the list of folk who helped Steve is long and distinguished (it even includes Cook Neilson) but of course it was orchestrated by Steve under the banner of his Sports Motorcycles dealership. Unsurprisingly that is still a powerful brand, so little wonder that Steve has relaunched it from his adopted homeland, New Zealand, with a friend who used to do his engineering and machining when Steve ran race teams that included Foggy and Ron Haslam. Glyn Robinson, formerly of Gleave Engineering, does the machining of everything from footrests to TT2 frames plus there's stuff like the iconic tee shirts the team wore (below - hang on, why am I advertising other people's tee shirts? Oh, well... you can see a pic of Steve wearing one at the 1978TT in issue 5 of  Benzina

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Pump it up

I've fond memories of petrol stations - I used to moonlight at them during fifth and sixth form which partly explains my exam grades and how a schoolkid had a motorcycle. Back then a pump jockey (as we liked to think of ourselves) would not only fill your tank for you while you sat in your nice, warm and dry car, we'd be expected to check oil and battery fluids. There was commission to be earned by selling anything over-and-above the petrol, and the friend who got me the job quickly taught me the ropes. Like offer to check the oil as soon as you could - the sooner you got that dipstick out, the lower the oil level would appear, with a lot of it still up in the head and galleries. I cringe now, knowing what can happen to an overfilled engine, but back then all cars used a fair bit. Or so I tell myself.

Next up was trying to convince folk to buy a new battery - I see that in today's terms a battery cost around £200 when Queenie came to the throne in 1953 - no wonder people were paranoid about checking them or leaving car lights on. The job we dreaded was cleaning windscreens - no money to earn, and a real risk of waiting customers moving on to the next garage before we got to them.
Because here's a thing - there were around 500 cars for every petrol station back then, compared to nearly 4,000 today. In and around my home town I can recall 12 service stations as they were called - today there are just three. And you have to serve yourself, then queue to pay behind someone doing the weekly shop. Same thing's being tried in supermarkets with self service tills and of course online shopping - we do all the work, and the chap who used to serve you has long gone. Along with the shop, the cleaners and everything else that made a small town tick. I'm sure there was at least as much delivery work back then, because most shops would deliver, and of course stock had to get to them first.

This is why, batteries, oil and fuel aside, everything's cheaper now in real terms than it was 60 years ago. But that means far fewer semi-skilled jobs are available too. Some you win, some you lose. Or rather, some win, some lose. Anyway as a bit of nostalgia here's my old Darmah as seen past issues of Benzina plus a great bit of reimagining forwarded to me by Jan Leek

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Laverda love in

So June teas and cakes comes and goes, together with the five Laverda triples that turned up. I guess this late in the year the Guzzis have either broken down or are touring Europe, nad the Ducatis are still tucked away in the hope of "summer" eventually arriving...

Interesting and mixed crowd, from a furry seated Jota (oh, yes...) to a Motodd framed 120 and the Sprint featured in Benzina #005.  And Dr Girlie Nice-Smile even made some special Jubilee cakes. Thanks to all who came and maybe see some other marques next time

Friday, 1 June 2012

Bank Holiday Grey vs Tea and Cakes

Funny how many people greeted Dr Girlie Nice-Smile with, "You're the cake lady" at Stafford: but this weekend that's definitely the talent she'll be using most. Inevitably we've a street party for Jubilee Tuesday and of course this Saturday, despite the grey and damp skies, we're open for Teas and Cakes from 2pm - just email via the Benzina website for directions and an invite. Actually the local weather forecast has Saturday down as the best of the four day holiday, so it may be your only chance for a ride.

Talking of which I'm looking for a modern daily rider that's a bit more laid back than the Paso. I was smitten by the V7 Guzzi I rode on my personal mini-Giro in Italy last year (more on riding the old Circuito del Lario in issue 9 of Benzina - out mid June) but do wonder if the lack of power might be an issue long term. Any dealers want to offer a three month test ride to help convince me to buy ( a second-hand) one, please give me a call. Well, if you don't ask...