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Power is nothing without control

This is Nello Pagani at the start of the 1949 Ulster Grand Prix, courtesy TT Race Pics and available as a poster and much else. The following is an extract from my book Classic TT Racers, available from most bookshops and of course Amazon.

The 1949 Ulster Grand Prix was the penultimate (of 6) round of the inaugural world championship. In 1948 Pagani had taken the Gilera Quattro to its first race in Cesena, but withdrew claiming the machine was "unrideable". Although it was clear to everyone else that the handling of the machine was below par, designer Piero Remor apparently refused to improve it. Instead he insisted Pagani only race the Saturno single.

Despite this, or more likely because they were unaware of Remor’s demons, the press were convinced that the new-for-1949 500cc world championship would be won by a Gilera Quattro. Yet Arturo Magni wrote that these “four cylinders Gileras on paper should be unbeatable, instead they are repeatedly beaten”.

Gilera skipped the opening round of the world championship on the Isle of Man, mindful of the huge cost of travelling there and that they did not have a rider who knew the course well enough. The next round was on the 3 July at Bremgarten for the Swiss Grand Prix. Switzerland was an important market for Gilera so a good showing here was deemed essential. But, predictably, lead rider Carlo Bandirola crashed and his team mate, the arguably inexperienced Arciso Artesiani, took a creditable but distant second to Les Graham and the AJS Porcupine.

Remor cannot have been surprised when Giuseppe Gilera wadded in and insisted Pagani was given the Quattro for Assen and the Dutch TT run just six days later, on a Saturday as was usual. Pagani’s win was effortless, his behaviour on the track making it very clear to everyone watching that with the Quattro he easily had the measure of Graham and the AJS.

As an aside contemporary press reports mention the number of Japanese who crowded around the Gilera Quattro whenever it was in public view at Assen, taking photographs from every conceivable angle. Clearly there were people on the other side of the world who appreciated that this was the future of motorcycling.



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