Monday, 31 March 2014

The real Downton Abbey - motorsport and Mummy's day

Well, what a weekend: Yes, Dr Girlie Nice-Smile and I are the new lead characters in Downton Abbey. Or not - but we have just spent an incredible day at my cousin's wedding, held at Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey to fans of TV soaps. Dr Girlie Nice-Smile won't let me watch it because my training is in historic buildings means I tend to mutter way in the background, with stuff like, "That's wrong; they wouldn't have done that; who writes this guff?" which apparently detracts from my lovely wife's viewing pleasure. Odd really because I never complain at the "who's the rider in front of Rossi?" or "Who overtook Rossi ?" type quiz that accompanies MotoGP.

Anyway, we discovered another facet of the 5th Earl of Earl of Carnarvon,   George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, who is the real life equivalent of Hugh Bonneville’s Earl of Grantham character in Downton. Turns out the 5th Earl was a famous Egyptologist (yes, we got to see a sarcophagus on Mummy's Day!) but also a racing driver and motorsport nut. He raced in the 1907 Dieppe Grand Prix and a serious motor accident in Germany left him with lifelong injuries. These, in turn, meant moving to a warmer climate - Egypt. So without motorsport, his discoveries may have remained uncovered.

A bloke called Bonneville ought to be bringing motorsport to Downtown. Apparently the next series in set in the mid-1920s, so we can legitimately weave a storyline around bringing Tazio Nuvolari and his Bianchi Celeste Freccia 350 over to race at the TT. And, if Mr Bonneville has a problem with that, I reckon Dr Girlie and I can do posh well enough to take over.

“I say, Carson, bring the Alfa Romeo round to the front of the house. And then make yourself scarce - I'll do the driving thank you.”


Friday, 28 March 2014

My first book - Moto Guzzi's wonderful story

Well here it is – my first book. Thanks to Crowood Press for letting me loose. Was great fun to research, and getting to the bottom of the V-twin myth. Best story for me was that when Guzzi's legendary designer Carcano squeezed a prototype V-twin into a Fiat 500, its speed led to the myth that Guzzi initially developed the V-twin for Fiat - actually that was pure media speculation.

Crowood do a series of “complete story” titles, but I’ll admit that was impossible within the time, budget and word count available. But hopefully it’s the best bits, and folk will enjoy it. It’s inevitably cheaper at the Evil Amazon Empire (and if you click here you can buy a copy as well as look inside)  -

It’s probably cheaper elsewhere (cheaper than I can buy it in fact - publishers, got to love them) but if you’d like a signed and dedicated copy you can buy one at   
my Big Cartel webshop adding a message in PayPal. Or just email me . Thank you!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Back issues - now available at Big Cartel

Issue 1...

Issues 1 to 8 were on a unique 240mm x 205mm landscape format;9 to 13 were larger (but mainly sold out - scroll down for more details) all now for sale (along with my Moto Guzzi book) at

Issue 1 Featuring fabulous words on Phil Read, the Guzzi V7 and Ducati’s Paso courtesy of masthead heroes Gary Inman, Mick Phillips and Rupert Paul, using previously unpublished photography. The international flavour of the magazine includes an exclusive interview with Cook Neilson on his win at Daytona in 1977, and Tony Kersbergen’s story of the modern Milano Taranto. The history of the original gets an in depth look, as do the bikes that won the toughest race in the world. Plus a very tasty appreciation of Bob Carlos

Issue 2...

Issue 2 is (we’re told) even better that issue 1. Same half book, half magazine format, still no ads, still the odd lovely lady, tastefully delivered. Plus Laverda V6 riding impressions, and the truth about the fastest Laverda’s ever found at the TT. Sticking with the Isle of Man, there’s Tony Rutter’s development of the TT2 (as detailed by his personal mechanic) leading on to the F1 roadbike. A smattering of Benelli racers, including Pasolini and the Sei (which raced at the TT, believe it or not), a goodly dollop of Ducati Silverstone and a tasty slice of MV Agustas large and small. HD Aermacchi racers, riding with Dustbin fairings, Guzzi V8s, and touring Europe on a Le Mans in 1976

Issue 3...

Issue 3 had a new, refreshed look but still the same heavyweight 88 pages that make it feel like a book, especially since there’s not an advert in sight. Never-seen-before images, new perspectives and true scoops – the truth about the Laverda Jota’s success in UK production racing, Frank Scurria on inventing the Ducati 350, and how Guzzi Le Mans rules classic endurance racing. Plus Mike Hailwood’s superstitions, 125 racers and his TT comeback, Giuliano Maoggi and the Motogiro, and the bikes you need to enter the Giro today. For the greasy fingered there’s the building of two Ducati bevels, and what teenage boys always wanted – including sports mopeds. And much more.

Issue 4...

Issue 4 It’s a Monster – with the story of a 100,000 mile M900 that met Taglioni, through to Tazio Nuvolari’s incredible motorcycle racing success with Bianchi. Also covered are the girls at Goodwood revival, plus racing a Gilera Saturno. Old time Lambretta racer Tony Tessier offers insight into Lambretta’s speed records(!) and an overview of NCR’s history is given perspective by Vicki Smith’s view on her friendship with Rino Caracchi. Plus Jan Leek takes a Guzzi round Lake Como, and the story of the Circuito del Lario. Bits and pieces cover Mods, Darmahs, and why Italian racing bikes often weren’t painted red. Finally Peter Crawford shares Franco Lambertini’s Morini design secrets and the incredible tale of how Morini nearly beat Honda to the 1963 250 world championship with the worlds fastest single. All with the fabulous photography you’d expect from the world’s classiest bike magazine

Issue 5...

Issue 5 A veritable feast of stuff you didn’t know plus stuff you love. It kicks off with a battle of impressionable youth vs. Ducati 750GT – Richard Skelton (of Funky Moped fame) didn’t stand a chance. Then there’s Inspiring Taglioni: Moto Guzzi’s fabulous Bicilindrica ridden and rated by the legendary Sammy Miller. Plus reminiscing on racing for Mondial and Ducati at the TT Riding a Mondial dirt bike 500 miles through an English winter’s night, and Pat Slinn racing Ducati’s Regolarita on the Isle of Man ISD. Yes, the Pat Slinn who wrenched for Hailwood and Rutter. We’ve been through his photo album with a scanner. It’s good…. Lost marques that deserve remembering, from Frera to Galloni. And more recent forgotten treasure: MV’s water cooled, fuel injected boxer 500/4 designed to lure Ago back to the Agustas, and rebuilding it today. To complete the Agusta fest, the truth about MV’s racing sixes that never were, just because the competition threw in the towel – twice Refurbishing an old Laverda triple (the future’s bright; the future’s orange) and the Morini Settebello and Rebello: beautiful in any language Seaplanes to singles – the Aermacchi story: never mind bikes, they could beat Spitfires. And racing Aermacchi’s pushrod single that could catch MV’s GP bikes. 145mph at the TT And still no ads, just the highest quality printing in the business. 88 pages of pure class – that’s a lot when you flip through every other magazine and realise almost 40% of the pages are advertising. How do we do it? With love and the hope you’ll tell everyone you know to buy a copy.

Issue 6...

Issue 6 Elizabeth Rabb’s Ducati (and lovely ladies) photography project – very Bob Carlos Clarke, and worth the cover price alone. Elizabeth also tells how she did it and what inspires the best bike photographer on the planet. Then there’s what happens next at Guzzi: the recriminations, plans and dreams lined up for the factory’s 90th anniversary. That’s followed by Guzzi’s Paris Dakar racer, then insights into ownership of the Laverda and Morini big trailies: big, clever and very dirty. Next up is a prize-winning Ducati 350 Desmo twin-filler snapped by a fashion photographer, plus details of the restoration, and a comparison with the Ducati 350 singles that never made the showrooms. So we tell you about the MV350 twin you should buy, ideally dressed up as Ago’s four. More? Of course…extracts from a 50s race fan’s photo album, including Geoff Duke pitching his Gilera 500/4 against Liverpudlians on Brit singles. Or how about racing Benelli Seis at the TT, with highlights from a man who did. And how to buy a 1976 900SS from a Frenchman who’ll only send low-res photos: unbelievably, the story has a happy ending. We wrap up with Laverda’s forgotten spaceframed triples and Lambretta’s shaft-driven four stroke 250 V twin: yes, just like a little Guzzi. All on lovely paper, feeling more like a book than the tat they pass off elsewhere as quality magazines. Buy it, and a copy for a friend, and get a free warm-fuzzy feeling. Then enjoyAnd thanks to all who help, contribute and buy: we love you all.
Issue 9 (7 and 8 sold out - as are 10, 11 and 13)

Issue 9 was in a bigger, A4 format(c12″ x 9″ portrait on the same quality paper) featuring Ian Gowanloch’s Happy Farm, the return of Mark William’s Running Out of Road, drag racing a Ducati Paso, riding a Guzzi 750 on the Circuito del Lario, and a Guzzi Lodola in the Dolomites. There’s a buyers’ guide to the Laverda 750SF, plus the building of a half Ducati 860GT, half Desmosedici CafĂ©31 for a TV show.

Issue 12 - slightly smaller than A4, but 100 pages and quality matt paper

Issue 12 Dutch masters – the story behind the Dutch Ducati maestros: Morbidelli 500, King for a Day – 24 Horas de Montjuich: A scooterist in Rome: Rachael Clegg- Milestones TT Calendar: Mark Williams’ Running Out of Road: The Magic Machines: Ducati Multistrada: Board Track Races – Truth or Dare: Vespa Love: Monza and more.

Issue 13 - the final countdown. Massimo Tamburini's ideas on underseat silencers, Fidel Castro's Ducati 900SS, the Classic TT, Bol d'Or and Wheels and Waves, plus Moto Guzzi's unbeatable single cylinder racers. Interviews with Ducati Guru Ian Falloon and design Guru Pierre Terblanche plus Enzo Ferrari's motorcycle race team - mainly riding with Rudge