Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's

Cycle News 1998 04 08

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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sided swingaim to one of its bikes. That supposedly is how Yamaha was dissuaded from continuing to fit the quickchange rear end it used on its works YZF7S0R endurance racer in the late '80s, and it certainly explains the Elf stickers fitted to all Aprilia 12Scc street racers sold with monobraccia rear ends up until five years ago. But then when the Elf patent police came calling on Cagiva boss Claudio Castiglioni in 1993 to deter him from allowing his engineers, on the grounds of infringement, to fit the single-sided rear swingarm that the upcoming new 916 Ducati was rumored to be wearing, they met their match. One version of the encounter relates how Mr. Castiglioni listened politely to the French company's representatives outline their case then, without a word, rose from his desk, drew back the blinds of his ground-floor office in Cagiva's Varese factory, and invited the Elf party to look at the Moto Guzzi Galletto he'd taken the precaution of having brought and parked ou tside as evidence tha t the Elf monoarm patent wasn't worth a dime (or damn), based on a prior application! So now you know why the Ducati 916 (as well as the Triumph TS9S) uses single-sided swingarms, without concern for the supposed Elf/Honda patents - and why the Moto Guzzi Galletto is the reason. The new Guzzi Galletto scooter won't be as avant-garde as its vintage predecessor - but it is likely to have the desired effect of building much-needed volume for Moto Guzzi, as the company continues its American-financed comeIback under Cecchinato's control. It also makes the still-unconfirmed reports of 'the company's move away from its his:1 toric Mandello base to a brand-new factory near Monza all the more probable. Piaggio pummeled Scooter giant Piaggio has its own problems, and on a much larger scale than its ,new Moto Guzzi customer's. The most tragic of these is the untimely death from cancer last year of its dynamic young chairman, Giovanni Alberto Agnelli, a.t the age of 34. The nephew of Fiat tycoon Gianni Agnelli, he was widely foreseen as the older Agnelli's successor in assuming control of the Fiat empire. And while its massive Pontedera plant near Pisa (occupying 6.5 million square feet, half of which are covered) together with its satellite factories in Spain, India, China and IndoI\esia continue to churn out more than 800,000 powered two-wheelers a year, the fact is tha t the king of scooter production in the world has been caught out badly in terms of keeping up with fast-changing public taste for new models. Nowhere is this better underlined than by the surprising fact that Piaggio has been completely unprepared for the boom in 2S0cc four-stroke maxi-s'cootlers, such as the Yamaha Majesty, which was Italy's best-selling two-wheeled product over SOcc in 1997. In fact, the Yamaha ousted Piaggio's 12Scc Vespa from the top spot in which it had been parked for many years. In addition, the new Hexagon range just launched in Italy offers only twostroke engines, with no small-capacity four-stroke option which customers are increasingly demanding. Add to this the rather leaden styling of the current Vespa range that has led some Italian' commentators to liken Piaggio to the Fiat car company of 10 years ago, before Wal Phillips passes One of the pioneer stars of early speedway racing, Britain's Wal Phillips, died in February at the age of 89. Along with his exploits as one of the first British riders to successfully challenge the visiting American and Australian dirt-track aces when speedway was introduced to Britain from those countries in 1928 - men such as American Lloyd "Sprouts" Elder and Aussies Vic Huxley and Billy Lamont - Londoner Phillips will also be remembered for his mechanical innovation, pioneering several features now commonplace on speedway bikes as well as other four-stroke motorcycles. These innovations include the laydown position in the frame for the speedway engine, offering a lower center of gravity for improved traction and handling. Although currently universally adopted around the world, when Phillips first introduced the inclined-engine format in the late 1940s, it was a hard sell that took four decades to finally be accepted. The same thing goes for another of his ideas: fuel injection. Phillips developed his own mechanical form of injection which became a popular aftermarket fitment not only for British road racers and speed way riders but also for Britain's cafe-racer set in the 1960s and '70s. He was also one of the first to fit disc brakes to a motorcycle - not a speedway bike (they don't use brakes!), but a road racer for which he concocted his own rim-disc brake, to reduce the gyroscopic effect oj the big, heavy drum brakes that were then commonplace. Phillips saw no point in replacing these with equally heavy centrally located discs - hence the rim-disc project, which brake specialists AP adopted in 1984 for an experimental design fitt~d to Rob McElnea's works Suzuki RGBSOO. Wal Phillips was not only a far-sighted mechanical innovator, he was also a skilled road racer (winning a prestigious Gold Star for lapping the Brooklands circuit at over 100 mph) as well as one of Britain's top speedway riders before suffering a severe leg injury (riding for England in Australia during the 1936-37 test series), which ended his racing career. Before that, Phillips had raced for the English, team in all the first 24 so-called "Test Matches" against Australia, and he appeared in the first official Speedway World Championship final at Wembley in 1936. He was also the man responsible (together with JAP engi- thel( learned to move with the times, and the reason for the 1300 Ponted.era workers currently facing layoffs, despite the strong scooter market, becomes apparent. Faced with the need to get a 2S0cc maxi-scooter into' production very quickly, Piaggio has responded by becoming the first European company to sign an engine-supply deal with Honda - a bit like Fiat fitting a Toyota engine to one of its cars. The motor in question is the one fitted to the Honda CN2S0 (Italy's fourthbest-selling two-wheeler in 1997), which will be used to power a 2S0cc version of the Hexagon, due to make its appearance in the marketplace in May. When Honda executives announced at the Paris Show last September tlleir intention to forge closer links with European manufacturers, including the establishment of joint ventures and the supply of engine packages, they denied that Piag- Speedway pioneerWal Phillips passed away this past February. He was 89. neer Stan Greening) for developing the J.A. Prestwich Co.'s JAP engine into its supreme position as the universal engine of choice for speedway riders all over the world, a position it occupied until the resurgence of the Jawa motor in the 1970s. An important figure in the development of speedway racing throughout its history, Wal Phillips will be sadly missed. gio was on their hit list. Well, six months later, they most definitely are. Interestingly, this isn't the first time that Honda and Piaggio have announced an engine-supply agreement. Back in 1990, Piaggio revealed a link with Honda to purchase CBR600 engines in order to create an Italian-built supersport contender that was to bear the historic Gilera name. The deal fell apart with the closure of the Gilera factory and the marque's withdrawal from the motorcycle market. Could the scooter-engine deal be the prelude to a revival of such a link, as persisten t rumor in Italy currently insists? Bimota bash bumped back As reported e(U'l:ier, Bimota's got a birthday party co.ming up, celebrating its 25th anniversary with an international reunion at the Misano race circuit for Bimota owners around the world. Origi- nally, this was planned for the first weekend in June, but a combination of track availability and the proximity of Ducati's 50th birthday celebration the following week has prompted a shift in dates to a midweek get-together July 1516. Among the planned highlights is a display of everyone of the 40-plus different models that Bimota has built over the past quarter-century, including the many one-off race bikes built in the company's early years as well as all the various Tesis and other prototypes. Already, one of each of the Bimota production street bikes has been located, and most of the racers. The only significant gap is, perhaps surprisingly, the yB2 Yamaha TZ3S0-based GP racer. Tune in to Bimota's new Internet site at for more details - and contact Pierpaolo Catani by fax (+39 (0)541-301199) if you have a YB2 and want a VIP invitation to the party! fN

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