Thursday, 22 February 2018

2014 Indy 500 Race Highlights by indycar

Manx Norton - Classic Racing Motorcycles

Of all the motorcycles to have graced the world's race-tracks over the years, there have been few so emotive as the 'Manx Norton'.  Throughout the '30s, Norton had been virtually unbeatable at the Isle of Man TT.  Their top roadster at the time was the Norton 'International'.  It was the production racer based on this bike that was first to sport the 'Manx' decal.  However, it was not until 1950 that the most memorable 'Manx' of all arrived - the iconic Manx Norton.  So supple was its frame that one of Norton's works riders likened it to a feather bed.  His words stuck ... from then on it was to be dubbed the 'Featherbed Manx'!

But a great bike still needs a great rider.  And riders did not come any greater than Geoff Duke!  A perfect fit for the 'Featherbed', in '51 Duke took both the 500 and 350cc world championships.  Supreme sportsman that he was, Geoff Duke would have been first to acknowledge the part played by Irishmen Rex and Cromie McCandless.  For they were the engineers who designed the flexible 'Featherbed' frame.

Now, it seems inconceivable that a bike as successful as the Manx Norton could have beeen a single-cylinder 'thumper'.  Air-cooled, four valves, 54 bhp - a far cry from the racing 'rocket science' of today. Indeed, it would be the first four-cylinder forays at the TT - by Gilera and MV Agusta - which would finally see off 'Manx' indomitability.  What then to do with such a machine - once its glory days were over?  Put it out to pasture?  That is, sell it for scrap-metal - its famous frame fetching the going rate for steel?  Thankfully, the answer to that question has been heard echoing round classic race meets ever since - as the majestic 'Manx Norton' swoops sonorously into sight ... to begin yet another lap!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Dragon Man's Hot Rods by Hot Brass and Bullets

Honda NSR500 - GP Motorcycles

Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner.  Four 'Hall of Fame' motorcycle racers.  And they each grappled with the Honda NSR500.  'Grappled with ... '?  Well, for all its fire-power, the NSR500 was never the best-handling of bikes.  Its one-off V-4 motor, though, more than made up for those deficiencies through the twisty bits.  Numerous race wins - and world championships - were clear proof of that.

The NSR500's staggering straight-line speed was never in doubt.  Shinichi Itoh - on an NSR - was the first rider to top 200mph.  At Hockenheim, in 1993.  Itoh had a blistering 185bhp at his high-speed disposal!  Such stats were surpassed only by the bike's success ratio.  By the time Valentino Rossi signed off the two-stroke era - on an NSR, in 2001 - it had won 10 titles in 18 years.  Mick Doohan took 5 of them - on the trot!  In 1985, 'Fast Freddie' Spencer won the 500 and 250cc championships - both on NSRs!

The Rothmans Honda's performance was matched its looks.  While tobacco sponsorship has, understandably, fallen from favour, there is no denying it inspired some superb paint-jobs!  And the NSR was among the most lustrous of all.  A satisfying blend of hues and graphics!  A true legend of the race-track, the NSR 500 has to be on the short-list of the best machines the Honda Racing Corporation has ever produced!