Tuesday 21 August 2018

Benzina 16 is here

If you've already ordered Benzina 16 it's at the post office. Here's a taster: if it makes you want to buy a copy just click here

Saturday 12 May 2018

Mike Hailwood and the 1978 Formula 1 TT.

40 years ago Mike Hailwood returned to the TT with a very flash collection of Yamahas and an unfancied Ducati 900F1. In fact it was the big bike from Bologna that created the fairytle, and if my Ducati and the TT is a bit  expensive for you, or you're just interested in Mike's return to the Island Benzina is back with issue 14 and The Truth
Click here for the full details
 Also republished and essential reading is Ted Macauley's book Mike the Bike - again. Ted was the man by Mike's side throughout the 1978 event and given he was a sports reporter the tale's as good as it gets

Friday 19 January 2018

Jeff Smith - the biography

Not cheap, but what a story. I've only met Jeff a couple of times but he could have been a stand up comedian if motorcycles hadn't worked out. Just a lovely, very funny man who was arguably the greatest off road motorcyclist of all time. You can only buy through his daughter's business (that distributes Benzina and my Ducati TT book in the US so clearly a class act) by clicking here

Tuesday 16 January 2018

The Dale Quarterley Ducati TT2/1 for sale

Researching and documenting the history of a Ducati road racing motorcycle which began over thirty years ago is typically both a frustrating and rewarding task. Not so this one for the bike's story is well documented in spite of it spanning two continents. It was in 1985 the American road racer Pete Johnson bought a Ducati 750TT F1 from Steve Wynn's Sports Motorcycles in Manchester, UK. (Steve Wynn was the UK's go-to Ducati specialist who engineered Mike Hailwood's return – as in win - to the Isle of Man TT on the big bevel Ducati). Already this bike was 'special' because it came with a 'factory' NCR 750 air-cooled, 2-valve desmodromic motor built around un-stamped NCR crankcases but NCR stamped cylinder heads. Within came an NCR close ratio gearbox and clutch. And it's for sale at the Bonham's Las Vegas auction.

This two-valve motor was installed in a top quality custom bronze welded Harris Performance (brothers Lester and Steve's Hertford, north of London, shop) Reynolds steel tube frame including aluminum foot pegs, levers, etc. and a Verlicchi aluminum swing arm. The forks were Marzocchi M1R, the rear shock from Dutch specialists White Power (its name changing to WP somewhat later). The latest Brembo brakes were front and back, 280mm discs and 4-pot racing calipers, and 260mm disc and 4-pot fully floating rear caliper, respectively. Veglia supplied a 'race' tachometer. On paper it was just right; on the track it proved itself to be right 'on the docket'. Late in 1985 it was taken to the Fast by Ferracci's shop in (Roslyn, Pennsylvania) where it was bored out to 850cc to take Eraldo Ferracci-designed 92mm Arias pistons. The heads were ported, the valves enlarged to 44mm inlet and 39mm exhaust, and added was a long stroke (64mm) NCR crankshaft (reputedly one of only ten) and titanium rods. 41.5mm flat-slide Mikunis replaced the Dell'Ortos. Seventeen inch Mavic wheels replaced the 'stock' 18-inch.

Pete Johnson won the 1987 AMA Pro-Twins GP2 championship, on this bike – this being the first of many podium results for Ferracci upon his return to motorcycle road racing. Ferracci bought the bike from Johnson the following year and used it as a test mule alongside the new water cooled, four-valve 851 as it was being sorted as race bike. Ferracci's rider was one Dale Quarterley, a road racing 'hard man', who won the AMA Pro Twins GP2 series that year on this bike, too.

By 1989 Jeff Nash (prominent Ducati dealer in Dallas, Texas) had bought the bike and raced it successfully in his native New Zealand. Two years later it was bought by another Jeff, Jeff Knewstubb, who had connections with John Britten and his crew, and campaigned it for the next four years, still in New Zealand, with the best result being at the F1 round of the Bears 'Sound of Thunder' in 1994 ridden by Loren Poole. The bike then sat idle until 2012 when it was purchased by Jeff's father and a sympathetic restoration started. The whole bike was carefully dismantled and rebuilt – as much patina as could be saved was saved – and it was brought back to its 'as raced' by Scuderia Nostalgica's Pete Johnson livery. Auto Restorations of Christchurch – a shop with a huge portfolio of award winning cars - did the painting, Mike Brosnan undertook the final check through and first start up - Brosnan had built the John Britten dynamometer – and perhaps it was no surprise that this Ducati ran 115bhp at the rear wheel!

Motorcycle road racing was in its heyday in the late 1980s with the likes of tuner Ferracci and riders Johnson and Qurterley always battling hard all year from Daytona to Laguna Seca, often on non-factory 'production' racers. To be able to offer today a genuine, no-holds-barred, Ducati home brewed racer – a winner to boot – is indeed a rare privilege.

More on the Bonham's site http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/24509/lot/120/
(for whom I consult and helped research this although it is not my work)

Friday 15 December 2017

Benelli are back - again!

 Well, who'd have thought it? Benelli showed a shedload of new bikes at EICMA, presumably made in China  - although they claim to be selling 3000 bikes a year in India, so who knows? Apparently the much promised 600 four has been sold there, but these newbies are all singles or parallel twins. You can read a Google translate into English of the press bumph by clicking here

Tuesday 14 November 2017

A new book - a Wiltshire Year

In a previous post  I wrote about my adopted county of Wiltshire, and decided that maybe I should go and work for the tourist board. But of course there are no jobs there - paid, at least - so I abandoned writing about motorcycles and set too on a new book about Wiltshire. And here it is.. 

England was born in Wiltshire when King Alfred won the battle of Ethandune in 878, and one of Wiltshire’s famous white horses still guards the site. Of course people lived in Wiltshire long before that: Stonehenge was once the most populous place in Europe, and the site of a great midwinter feast. One of the few places not covered by dense forests, this was where sheep farming could make England rich and create the biggest empire the world has seen.
But Britain’s rise came with mixed fortunes. The Black Death killed millions, yet allowed a new middle class to emerge and create the first true European democracy. Yet conflict has never been far away, a bloody Civil War being fought across Wiltshire, and we prepared for two world wars including the first military airfields. Concorde first flew here and Wiltshire continues to have the most advanced aircraft in the world regularly visiting her skies.
The canals of Wiltshire brought remarkable feats of engineering that Brunel would build on to create his Great Western Railway. Suddenly fresh food could be speedily brought into cities to feed the exploding population, although not without cost.
By exploring English history through a Wiltshire year each development can be set in context. How dark winters create superstitions and opportunities, and how conflicting demands pressurise farmers and wildlife. Stories that tell how the haves kept the have-nots to heel, but occasionally compromising by offering  rights such as land ownership and the vote. Yet most of all this is a love letter to the English countryside and Wiltshire in particular. In a world riddled with divisions this is a chance to understand our shared heritage, hopefully with plenty of “I didn’t know that”s along the way.
Greg Pullen has lived in Wiltshire for fifty years, working as a chartered surveyor specialising in old buildings. His writing has been published in national newspapers and magazines, and three books for the Crowood Press. A Wiltshire Year is his second self published book. You can buy it here