Posts Tagged ‘Bandiana Army Base’

(B Young)

Huge excitement was created by Geoff Duke’s visit to Australia in 1954, here his Gilera 500/4 is shown at rest in the Longford paddock…

The Brit was a ‘rock star’, he has just won back to back 500cc world titles aboard Gileras in 1953 and 1954 having won his first on Nortons in 1951. In total Duke won six 350cc and 500cc world championships between 1951 and 1955 and six TT races between 1949 and 1955.

But his fame extended beyond bikes given his film star looks and ability to communicate, as such he was a wonderful ambassador for the sport globally and in late 1954 he was poised to spread a bit of his angel dust throughout Australia.

I wrote an article about Geoff four years ago with a focus on his racing in cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/08/geoff-duke-norton-dutch-gp-assen-1952/

Longford (B Young)

 

In a whirlwind tour commencing on 7 January 1955 he raced in four states commencing in Western Australia at Mooliabeenie, a wartime airstrip near Perth on 16 January before a crowd of 15,000 people and then another airstrip at Gawler in South Australia, no doubt wheelspin in top gear was impressive to the 16,000 punters who experienced trying conditions in sweltering heat.

His main opposition in the west was from local all-rounder Peter Nichol on a G45 Matchless and from George Scott’s GP Triumph, at Gawler Keith Campbell and Roger Barker impressed.

Then it was off to the Bandiana Army Base near Albury, the Victoria/New South Wales border town on 30 January- the first half decent venue for the plucky gentleman in his tour to that point, the track comprised 4.5km of perimeter roads.

There, having carefully won the Senior Clubmans event in the slowest possible time, Eric Hinton’s handicap just gave him the edge over Duke to allow him to win the Unlimited Handicap in fading light, this was the only occasion on which the champ was beaten on the tour.

Duke, Bandiana

 

Maurie Quincey, Norton ahead of Duke at Bandiana

Gilera saw the commercial opportunity of a tour to promote their brand sending two current 500/4 bikes and works mechanic Giovanni Fumagalli to look after the machines.

The two bikes brought to Australia derived from a 250cc four designed by Engineer Piero Remor under Piero Taruffi in the early 1940’s. After Taruffi left Gilera to concentrate on car racing Remor and company founder Giuseppe Gilera began work on a 500cc bike whose origins lay in the earlier 250, in 1947.

The new racer was unveiled in 1948 with 1949 its shakedown season. After Remor’s departure to MV Agusta Taruffi was re-hired, together with engineers Colombo and Passoni changes were made to the cylinder head and rear suspension which allowed Umberto Masetti to win the 500cc world championship in 1950.

The bike was redesigned over the winter of 1950/51 adopting a new tubular frame with telescopic forks, pivoting rear suspension and hydraulic shocks. In 1951 Gilera won three GP’s but Duke took the title on a Norton, in 1952 Masetti again won the championship.

Fumagalli and Duke warming up the bike at Gawler (D Voss)

 

Gilera 500-4 1954 (unattributed)

When Duke joined the Milanese firm for 1953 he brought with him strong knowledge of the great Rex Candless designed ‘Featherbed’ frame Norton’s handling, upon his suggestions the Gilera frame was lowered and strengthened to bring better handling with the engine left untouched.

In 1953/54 Passoni redesigned the motor by increasing its stroke, changing the valve angle and elongating the sump to allow the unit to be lowered in the frame by three inches, by this stage the engine produced circa 65bhp @ 10,000rpm.

The frame was of double cradle design made of tubular steel with telescopic suspension at the front and pivoting rear suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers at the rear. The four cylinder, four stroke, air-cooled engine displaced 402.7cc and was undersquare having a bore and stroke of 52mm x 58.8mm. With two valves per cylinder operated by two overhead camshafts and fed by four carburettors the engine gave circa 65bhp as stated above.

1954 Gilera 500 with the dustbin fairing they commenced to experiment with in 1954 (G Cavara)

 

Back to Dukes Tour of Oz. From Albury it was then off to Sydney and a round of public appearances and a visit to Mount Panorama before the next race meeting at the permanent Mount Druitt circuit west of Sydney.

The surface was poor though due to damage from recent car meetings but Duke dominated as he did everywhere else, Keith Stewart impressive in second on a new Matchless G45 twin in the Senior GP.

Mount Druitt

 

Mount Druitt after one of his wins with Keith Stewart on a Matchless G45 behind

Duke’s final two meetings of the tour were down south, at Fishermans Bend in inner Melbourne and majestic Longford in northern Tasmania, which must surely have impressed.

At Fishermans Bend Maurie Quincey led the 500cc race on his Norton for a while before clutch slip set in and Duke pounced in the second Gilera having put the first to one side, it had lost its edge.

Longford was held over two days- with racing on the Saturday and Monday, in the opening race the engine began to lose power with what was diagnosed as magneto problems. The other bike, in Melbourne awaiting shipment back to Italy was stripped of the part which was despatched overnight to the Apple Isle. With the machine back in fine fettle Duke won and set a new lap record in the Unlimited race of 152km/h. Oh to have heard that Gilera screaming its way along The Flying Mile @ 10,000rpm!

Ready for the off at Longford, Duke at right (S Scholes)

Jim Scaysbrook summarised the impact of Dukes tour in ‘Old Bike Australasia’; ‘His whirlwind tour had taken him to every state except Queensland and his charming and eloquent manner did incalculable good for motorcycling. The unprecedented publicity generated helped to dispel the popularly held, media fuelled belief that motorcycle racers were a bunch of halfwits with a death wish. It also had a profound effect on the local riders, serving as a stark reminder of the gap between our rather primitive scene and the European big-time.’

‘A number of up and coming stars impressed him, including Keith Campbell, Roger Barker and particularly Bob Brown, who had just gained selection as Australian representative to the 1955 IOM TT races. “This young man is a joy to watch, uses his head, and should figure very well in the IoM and on the continent” he said in his report to the British Press. When Duke was injured at the start of the 1957 season, he recommended Brown to take his place in the Gilera team for the TT, resulting in two excellent third places. For 1958, Duke personally sponsored Bob on a pair of Nortons’ Jim wrote.

Etcetera…

(D Tongs)

The second of the two Gileras at rest in Longford.

The contribution and significance of this series of Gileras is recognised in a wonderful, highly technical and thoroughly researched scholarly paper titled ‘Grand Prix Motorcycle Engine Development 1949-2008’ written by David Piggott and Derek Taulbut.

https://www.grandprixengines.co.uk/Grand_Prix_Motorcycle_Engine_Development.pdf

The authors recognise ‘Piero Remor’s contribution to Grand Prix engine design’ as follows;

‘The defeat of the original MV 4 in early 1966 had brought to a close after two successful decades the career of the 1947 basic 500cc design of Phil Remor. Initially for Gilera, this introduced the Naturally Aspirated aircooled transverse 4-cylinder with double overhead camshafts and 2 wide angle valves per cylinder, bore-stroke ratio around 1. Remor’s concept, although changed in detail development by others in Gilera and MV, is worth remembering. There had also been successful 350cc versions. Remor had actually been associated with transverse 4’s since 1925 when it was the layout of the Italian GRB (Gianini-Remor-Bonmartini) which ultimately had been transformed into the water supercharged Gilera which powered Dorino Serafini to the European Championship in 1939.’

This piece is based on a wonderful article by Jim Scaysbrook titled ‘Geoff Duke- The Duke’s Crusade’, do have a read, it’s terrific.

Geoff Duke – The Duke’s Crusade

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

Bob Young Collection, Des Tongs, Stephen Scholes, Doug Voss, ‘Geoff Duke- The Duke’s Crusade’ article by Jim Scaysbrook in Old Bike Australia issue 13 May/June 2009, ‘Gilera Motorcycles and Racing History’ by Lucien C Ducret, ‘Grand Prix Motorcycle Engine Development 1949-2008’ by David Piggott and Derek Taulbut.

Tailpiece…

Finito…