Is this a Harley Davidson? Well, yes; but not as you know it. Having seen the Brit bike business laid low by what management consultants called sector retreat – letting the Japanese take over the lightweight market and focussing on big bikes – Harley bought up Aermacchi and set about building a range of two-stroke lightweights to take on the Japanese in their most profitable markets. To give these post-Aermacchi air-cooled singles credibility HD used Aermacchi (and um, Yamaha
My Instagram video reminded me how excited some were when the Yamaha RD350LC arrived: a “TZ or the road” they said. They were wrong and the work needed to convert the roadster to TZ spec was such that it wasn’t allowed to compete in the Formula 2 world championship. So here’s Ago on the real thing in 2011 on a celebration lap at Creg Ny Baa.
That the TZ was on the way was hinted at in 1971 when air cooled factory twins first appeared with four lugs welded on the front
This is the T12, Massimo Tamburini’s final fling. During his career Tamburini’s quest for the perfect superbike was always hemmed in by the need to productionise, have a reasonable price in the market place and ever tightening homologation rules. But he continued to design the ultimate superbike in his head. When he left MV Agusta in December 2008, he took with him these ideas – plus a three-year non-competition clause, meaning he had to work on this next and final project la
In July 1984 Bimota went bust, blame pointed at overexpansion and the loss of Massimo Tamburini to Ducati. Under Italian law co-founders Valerio Bianchi and Giuseppe Morri were left with two years to rebuild Bimota: after that, creditors would be allowed to strip the company bare. That left two years to design, build and sell a motorcycle that would save the factory. Luckily the Bimota DB1 was special enough to do just that Ironically Tamburini was replaced at Bimota by Ducat
An Italian bike fan can’t talk about two-strokes for long before the Bimota V-Due comes up. The bike that broke Bimota (again) this is perhaps the finest example of the Italian motorcycle industries ability to convince itself it can achieve something nobody else can. So while the Japanese accepted big strokers were dead (even the 1980s 500 fours hadn’t been allowed to go on sale in the US) Bimota thought it was doable in the mid-nineties. An all new Bimota engine (the
While it might be true that Yamaha killed 750cc production racing with the slightly terrifying TZ750, this is proof they did intend it to be related to something in the showroom. The GL750 was part of the shock and awe Tokyo Salon 1971 show, and at the Paris Salon the following autumn it created a sensation on the Sonauto Yamaha stand. This would be the only time that the GL750 would leave Japanese soil, although there were rumours that as many as 800 were delivered to France
Ron Haslam was my racing hero before I even knew who Barry Sheene was. World of Sport was a Saturday afternoon TV show that screened everything from darts to wrestling, and occasionally a bout of road racing. Watching him wrestle Mal Carter’s Yamaha TZ750 around some gnarly British track was to behold a supernatural talent. Yet when post-race interviewers asked him how he was so quick he’d reply with something typically modest, including “I just lean it reet over”. He
A two-stroke even I love. Before celebrity endorsement was commonplace Husqvarna already had two big hitters: all-round racer Malcolm Smith and Steve McQueen, movie star and uncontested arbiter of what was hip and cool, both rode Huskies. This 400 Cross was McQueen’s and featured in On Any Sunday, fuelling the rise of Husqvarna and motocross. Plus my wife’s sewing machine is a Husqvarna (she made her wedding dress with it) so I love their history.
Perhaps more than any
This is the Regolarità, Ducati’s final 125 and two-stroke. In 1975 Pat Slinn was service manager for the UK importers and was asked by the factory’s director Cristiano de Eccher if he would ride one in the ISDT (International Six Day Trial) on the Isle of Man that autumn. Pat had ridden off-road for years, winning three gold medals in ISDTs and even raced alongside Steve McQueen. So Pat tried the 125 in a couple of UK events with some success, including winning the gue
Infamous as the motorcycle that pitched Barry Sheene on to the Daytona banking at over 170mph, the Suzuki TR750 deserved its 'Flexy Flier' nickname. First raced at Daytona in 1972, the TR750 had been developed from the GT750 roadster to compete in the Superbike and Formula 750 championships; these stipulated road-based engines but left more or less everything else open to modification. In the Suzuki's case, the engine was slimmed down, porting and compression ratio alt
This is where Colin Seeley and Barry Sheene really start to collaborate. Suzuki had withdrawn from Grands Prix in 1967 but returned through the back door with the TR500 XR05, based on the T500 Cobra/Titan road bike. First raced at Daytona in 1968, with Ron Grant placing fourth, it wasn’t until 1971 that the XR05 was officially entered in the world championship, with riders Keith Turner, Rob Bron and Jack Findlay finishing in second, third and fifth places respectively.
Aprilia designer/engineer Jan Witteveen was the first to take advantage of the rules which allowed 500cc Grand Prix twin-cylinder bikes to have a minimum weight of 105kg, compared to a four-cylinder bike's 130kg. Honda followed in 1996 with the NSR500V.
Aprilia began its premier class campaign in 1994 with their RSV250 V-twin enlarged to 410cc ridden by Loris Reggiani. For 1996 a dedicated chassis was used (rather than a modified 250 unit) and capacity grew to 430cc an
Graziano Rossi in action, the 500GP racer with monocoque chassis that Snr Morbidelli told me Kawasaki copied (although timelines suggest not). Neil Leigh co-wrote the full story for Benzina 12, available on the shop page #morbidelli #giancarlomorbidelli #morbidelli500 #rossi #grazianorossi #valentinorossi #motogp #grandprix #twostroke #motorcycleracing #italianmotorcycle