Volker Rauch Classic Motorcycle Racing Photographs Part 2

More images from Grand Prix motorcycle roadracing’s less-publicized era…

Start of the 250cc GP at Hockenheim on May 26, 1963. Nearest is Tarquinio Provini on the Moto Morini. He set pole and won. One lonely megaphone! Honda’s 250cc fours were making 46 hp at 14,500 rpm, versus the Morini’s 37 hp at 11,000. Note how large the brakes on these bikes have become; now that they were making the horsepower of most 500s, they needed brakes to match. The 250s had become the class to watch.Volker Rauch

We’ve all been thrilled by Volker Rauch’s dramatic midcorner photo of Mike Hailwood on the legendary Honda 250cc six at Clermont-Ferrand in 1967. It is therefore a privilege for me to dig out facts and relevant details relating to Cycle World’s trove of other Rauch photos, beginning in 1955 and continuing through the rise, dominance, and, after 1967, retirement of the classic Japanese Grand Prix teams.

There is for me wonderful incongruity in these other-worldly sharp black-and-white images of motorcycles and mechanics working on the ground in wooded paddocks. This was far indeed from today’s high-security “pit boxes,” lined and lighted for the event with theatrical flats carrying the corporate graphics that will be transmitted through every photographer’s lens.

When the big money comes into a sport, something is gained and something is lost.

This is a single-cylinder DKW 125 (actually 117cc) made by blanking two of the three cylinders of the 350cc triple. Testing had shown that the center cylinder produced more power than either of the two upright cylinders. The engineers took the hint.Volker Rauch
International meeting 1958 Rhein Cup: This is the special 309-pound 500cc solo BMW raced that year by the late Geoff Duke. It was powered by the carbureted version of the Rennsport racing engine, but there was also a fuel-injected option, making a bit more power claimed to be 58 hp at 9,500 rpm. Duke’s best finish on it was fourth in Belgium, just over a minute behind John Surtees on the MV Agusta four.

This was during BMW’s romantic involvement with the Earles long leading-link fork, whose extra mass projecting to the rear caused a slow pendulum-like wallow in long corners. BMW wasn’t the only one giving it a try. Looks like Girling units at the rear.

Note that final-drive torque reaction is not fed into the swingarm but into the link you see below it. This prevented the comical “pinion climb” that could result from rolling throttle on and off on production bikes. As you opened the throttle, rear suspension extended as the drive pinion “climbed” the axle gear. When you closed it, the rear of the bike sank. But not on this racing model. Years later, Dr. John Wittner would do the same for the shaft-drive Moto Guzzi in AMA Battle of the Twins racing.

What is that lump above the valve cover? That conceals the bevel gears driving this engine’s overhead cams. Built-for-racing, Rennsport engines like this one would win 15 consecutive sidecar world championships, 1954–’67, then five more in the years before two-stroke domination began in ’75.

Limited PR resources? This bike is posed for the photo by leaning it against a tree. In roughly the same period, Formula 1 cars were chugged through public streets to reach the starting grid at Belgium’s super-fast Spa circuit. TV had not yet turned sport into spectacle.
Volker Rauch
Here is Ralph Bryans leading the 1964 West German Grand Prix at Solitude on the Honda RC115. The 50cc four-stroke twin produced 12 hp at 19,000 rpm, with redline at 20,000. Flat-slide carburetors were used. Thin sheet aluminum discs are fitted to the front wheel, presumably because “they looked right,” as the actual caliper brake unit can be seen just behind the fork leg at the top. Lots of gearbox speeds made the sound of acceleration “bee-bee-bee-bee” as the many upshifts followed each other—rather like modern automobiles with their eight, nine, and even 10-speed automatic gearboxes. This 50 had nine speeds and its engine was designed by Soichiro Irimajiri.

The “two-stroke squeeze” that would by 1975 push four-strokes out of every GP class including sidecars began in the smallest class first. It pitted the ultra revs of Honda’s four-strokes against the rising combustion pressure of the two-strokes. There was no doubt of the outcome. Despite Mike Hailwood’s sensational 1966–’67 wins on the 250cc six over Phil Read on the Yamaha RD05 square-four, Honda knew that even a water-cooled V-8 turning 20,000 rpm might not be enough.
Volker Rauch
What does a bucks-up privateer racer do when he’s cracked or holed his last piston? In one outcome, he wraps a rag around the loose small end of the connecting rod, builds up the engine to look normal, and then pushes off at the start with the rest of the field. Why? To collect the starting money that sustained the more successful privateer racers. Non-GP international races like the 1958 Rhein Cup attracted competitors by paying start money, so every privateer constantly wrote letters on his special stationery—with printed lists of his successes on it—to race promoters all over Europe. With that start money, he could 1) afford a replacement piston and 2) carry on to the next event with gas in the tank and dinner in the tummy. But here is an alternative: Try to fix the wrecked piston with aluminum brazing. Good luck to all privateers!Volker Rauch
This scene from Hockenheim-Rennen in 1956 shows the purpose-built DKW 125cc race engine resulting from the three-to-one experiment, giving 17 hp at 9,500 rpm on a special single-cylinder crankcase. This was the shape of things to come, and herein lies a tale. At DKW, engineer Erich Wolf’s job was to make two-strokes competitive under new rules forbidding supercharging. The use of separate charging pumps like those on the resounding pre-war “Deek” racers was replaced by using the crankcase volume under the piston as a charging pump. Various forms of rotating-drum and other mechanical inlet valves failed to give competitive power, but the much more sudden opening and closing of piston-controlled intake ports showed promise. And so did the late-1951 Wolf/DKW innovation of the divergent/convergent exhaust pipe.

Why didn’t this begin the two-stroke revolution? Standing in the way of the 350cc DKW triple was Moto Guzzi’s four-stroke 350, a light, handy, and fast-accelerating single making up to 38 wide-range hp. As DKW riders strove to balance outcomes on narrow two-stroke power, the Guzzi men pulled away to five consecutive 350cc championships.

The name of the technician fondly gazing at this 125cc creation is unknown to us, but his obvious feelings are familiar.

Over in East Germany, MZ’s Walter Kaaden had that company’s 125cc race engine making 16.5 hp at 9,200 rpm. Two more years of development would push its little cylinder past 20 hp and the revolution was on. Meanwhile, DKW succumbed to socioeconomic forces pushing consumers away from bikes and into the affordable small economy cars that had finally been tooled for production.
Volker Rauch
Look upon this short leading-link fork and consider yourself lucky. What keeps this front wheel from flabbily tilting sideways? Only one thing: making the axle nut real tight. Steering delay and wobbling, here we come! This is the front end of the 1958 MZ 125cc factory bike. MZ’s new racing manager, Walter Kaaden, soon found ways to pierce the Iron Curtain—MZ being then in East Germany—to smuggle in quantities of Norton telescopic forks to update MZ front ends. This leading-link job is very nicely made, with the lower fork crown beautifully welded to the fork tubes, but craftsmanship cannot make up for bad design. Alas, we humans are vulnerable to the changing winds of fashion, and the 1950s were the era of leading-link forks.Volker Rauch
Here is the same fashion, this time on Dickie Dale’s solo BMW 500 in 1958. Again the question: What is there to resist sideways deflection of the front wheel? This front end, a long leading-link, is in effect a forward-pointing swingarm whose pivot, unseen in this photo, is behind the tire, pivoting on struts coming down from the steering head. When Porsche engineer Hans-Günther von der Marwitz took charge of BMW motorcycle development in the late 1960s, he was horrified by the in-corner rhythmic nodding and wallowing of the long leading-link fork on production and racing BMWs. His answer was to return to the front end BMW had pioneered and developed: the telescopic. His stated goal, only partly met in the resulting /5 production model, was to combine the race-bred handling of a Manx Norton with the cushy long-travel suspension of a touring bike.Volker Rauch
Portrait of the artist as a young man. Phil Read had a few rides on the “Scuderia Duke” Gilera revival in 1963 but joined Yamaha for the 250cc Japanese GP, in which he was third. Yamaha had already served notice in the 250cc class in Belgium by winning 1-2 with Japanese riders Fumio Ito and Yoshikazu Sunako. Once the team was able to overcome a fuel-flow problem that had limited top speed, the two Yamahas motored away from Tarquinio Provini, Jim Redman, and the Honda grand fleet. Read on a Yamaha would be 250cc world champion in 1964 and ’65.Volker Rauch
This woman is clearing a seizure of her Puch “split-single” two-stroke. The two connecting-rod small ends you see drove pistons in a pair of cylinders in a common casting with a shared combustion chamber. The forward piston controlled the exhaust port and the rear one the transfer function. When an engine seizes, metal particulates usually contaminate the bearings—connecting rod and mains. She has probably poured fuel into the crankcase to wash them loose and is now using an air line to blow it all clean before reassembly with a fresh exhaust piston. An alternative technique was to get some big fellows to turn the bike over and just dump the washout liquid. Because the exhaust piston leads by about 15 degrees, it produced most of the power and was the more likely to fail.Volker Rauch
This home project combined a prewar NSU 500cc single and an NSU Sportmax chassis. The engine is significant because it was originally designed as an SOHC by Walter Moore, the man who drew Norton’s CS1, which would evolve into the classic “Manx” racing single. When not appointed to the Norton board as he had hoped to be, Moore found work at NSU, where this very CS1-like engine was the result. The engine in this bike is clearly DOHC, the result of a redesign in the mid-/late 1930s.Volker Rauch
This is Isao Morishita on the tiny Suzuki RM64 50cc single, making 12.5 hp at 14,000 rpm, competing in the ’64 West German GP. Meticulous Hugh Anderson had won the 50cc class the year before on Suzuki and would win it again this year. Ralph Bryans would retake victory for Honda in 1965 but be pushed down to second the year after. Honda then withdrew from the class. Now, imagine a Honda 50cc four with 1-inch pistons, turning 26,000 rpm, and making 17 hp. As Honda prepared to become a major carmaker, this kind of extreme was no longer seen as valuable; the Honda name had been “made.” Before the end of the 50cc class in 1983, single-cylinder two-stroke 50s would be giving 20 hp. Contrast the extreme rearward rider position—the seat’s butt stop is actually behind the rear axle—with what’s usual today.Volker Rauch
Here are some of the 26 bikes MV Agusta brought to the 1957 German GP, entering 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc classes. This was the last year of full streamlining. Note, however, that none of these bikes has a tail fairing, which in those days could produce poor crosswind gust response. At the end of this season, Gilera, Mondial, and Moto Guzzi would withdraw from racing, leaving only tiny Ducati and the “hobby team” of Count Agusta to represent Italy in GP racing. Why the sudden bugout? Fiat’s tiny 600 automobile and other low-priced cars had put an end to the postwar “headstart” that motorcycles had enjoyed. The bus in the background carries Bosch’s renndienst (racing service).Volker Rauch
This “Clinomobil,” photographed at the German GP at Hockenheim, was the 1957 version of today’s Clinica Mobile in MotoGP, providing on-the-spot emergency medical services to riders. This was an extension service of the Heidelberg University clinic.Volker Rauch

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