Classic Racing Motorcycles, The Ultimate Collection

This is a brief look around the paddock of a Classic Racing Motorcycle Club race meeting at Donnington Park.

I don’t have much details about the specific bikes in certain cases where there was no one around to chat to, so I do talk more generally at times about the model or some particular engineering or design feature I noticed.

In the middle of the video there are some seriously famous bikes. Some that have rewritten history. So I will jump straight in.

But try to remember to like the video and subscribe to the channel if you enjoy it.


Before I had even got to the paddock I came across some fantastic bikes. These 3 Velocettes looked they had come straight from a showroom and I will never understand how people keep their bikes so clean when they had obviously ridden there.

They really were stunning examples of both the original engineering of the bikes and the people who have kept them going over the years.

I think they were Venom Clubman’s, but I am not sure if any were Thruxton’s or not. I’m not a Velocette expert but they were beautiful bikes and a taste of what was to come.


The BSA next to them looked quite interesting too. Again this was just in the car park and so there was no one to ask any questions about it at all, but it was another bike in showroom condition.


Just inside the paddock was this fantastic Vincent. The racing had started so the paddock was quite empty so I just had to enjoy the feast of engineering delights on show.

It really was a masterpiece and had obviously been built by someone with the knowledge and passion to do it justice.

Moto Guzzi Falcone Sport

Next in was a pair of Moto Guzzi Falcone Sport’s

If I say the first is the more original bike, you can see it is, but this is a race bike.

Built from 1950 to 1963 You can see the friction damped rear suspension which I will be honest and say I found fascinating in both its simplicity and complexity. Simple in terms of the principles, complicated in the way it was applied with the various linkages that had been built to get the most from it.

I can honestly say I had never seen anything like it.

Because the cylinder barrel pointed forwards on this 500cc single, it made the engine very long. To keep it sensible they made the crankshaft very compact, and squeezed it in very close to the gearbox. As a result, there was very little flywheel mass. To compensate they hung an external flywheel on the end of the crank.

It may look crude, but it meant that the rest of the bike could sit very low in the chassis, giving it a smaller frontal area, lower centre of gravity and better aerodynamics. They were so successful in racing that even Norton tried to copy the design.

It also made a great polisher if you put a sheepskin mop over the flywheel too.

The second bike had been given the Colin Seeley treatment. The heavy central section of the chassis and rear suspension have gone. Huge triangulations in the Reynolds 531 tubing give flex, as well as torsional strength, in a lightweight package.

Colin Seeley was a master frame builder. He started as a motorcycle dealer who went into racing in the 1950s winning a grand prix in the 1960s before becoming a pioneering frame designer who supplied many racers including Barry Sheene.

Seeley built his first solo race frame for a Matchless G50 but it was his use of Reynolds 531 tubing that was revolutionary. The frame weighed over 9lbs less than Matchless’s own and after testing it, Derek Minter described it as ‘the best steering solo motorcycle he had ever ridden.

He went on to work with Norton on their Rotary race bike and in formula one, But motorcycles were his passion.

This bike was a fantastic example of his masterful work.

Honda RC614

This Honda RC164 sounded unbelievable on track and the thunderous exhaust sound had more in common with the MV Agusta’s of the day than the Honda’s that had come before it. This was the period where Soichiro Honda threw everything into his efforts at beating the worlds fastest motorcycles on track.

To call it legendary would be an understatement and the RC164 4 cylinder DOHC 250 would go on to spawn the mighty RC166 6 cylinder race bikes.

The 250cc Honda’s won the title 5 times between 1961 and ’67 in the hands of Jim Redman and Mike Hailwood, and the world of racing would never be the same again.

MV Agusta

I failed to find anyone to talk to about these 2 MV Agusta’s so I can’t give you many details unfortunately. The fully faired model was I think the earlier one with straighter frame rails whereas the naked triple had a frame that must have been a nightmare to build.

The curved downtubes met a completely removable lower section that could be taken out to drop the engine quickly and easily. The eccentric swingarm adjuster is something I wouldn’t expect to see until much later too.

The whole bike is without doubt a piece of motorcycle art. From the Phosphor bronze header clamps to the polished Borrani rims, this was a motorcycle built by the best engineers Italy had from the best components they could find.

Being able to see the one without its fairings was a real pleasure and I have never seen such neat, or comprehensive, lock wiring before. It puts mine to shame.

The History of the MV Agusta’s is a long and glorious one that made them unbeatable in the racing scene for many years. Both these bikes were a great example of why they succeeded. The engineering was just astounding and somehow, if ever any bikes were to be described as “beyond words” these would be those bikes.

Behind the MV’s was a Moto Bianchi.

Moto Bianchi

Designed by the great Lino Tonti before he began work for Moto Guzzi, this Bianchi is one of the 350cc world championship winning 4 stroke twins from the early 1960’s. The build quality really was astounding and I wish I had got better pictures.

The 350 engine pushed out over 50HP and Tonti increased capacity to create a 500cc twin that would create almost 70HP.

Tonti’s reputation spread, and he joined Moto Guzzi in 1967 where he went on to design the now fabled V7 and the small block V50.

2 of Moto Guzzi’s most Iconic bikes.

Seeley Weslake

Now, this bike was one of my favourites at this meeting. I have already mentioned Colin Seeley and this is another Chrome Moly masterpiece built by hand in Colin Seeley’s workshop.

This one was fitted with a 500cc Weslake twin and although originally it used a 360 degree crank this was changed to a 90 degree crank later.

Harry Weslake was another master engineer and was the man who invented the concept of “gas flowing” cylinder heads. He was best known for his 900cc twin cam, 8 valve Norton based Weslake engines, but he reworked the heads of many British bikes.

Weslake was involved in building cylinder heads for Jaguar, the Ford GT 40 and even the Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engines.

Interestingly, contrary to everyone else at the time, Weslake developed a crank with a 90 degree firing order.

All the British bikes of the time were using a 360 degree firing order, While the Japanese moved to a 180 degree firing order to try and cut down on vibration. It did cut down primary vibration but unfortunately increased secondary vibration.

The 90 degree firing order was used to decrease overall vibration but also improve the power profile of the engine. The result was a faster pick up and a more free revving engine, with arguably a better natural balance than even the 270 degree cranks so often found in many modern parallel twin engine designs.

What you may not know is that Harry Weslake’s legacy lived on and the engine tooling was all saved and even developed further by a man called Dave Nourish. Nourish Racing Engines were still being built when unfortunately in 2021 we lost another master.

After the death of Dave Nourish the company was continued, but without the master engineering skills passed on by Weslake and developed further by Dave Nourish, things would never be the same.

What I did find out is that apparently after this meeting, this bike went on to take a 2nd and 3rd place in the Belgian classic at a place called Geddinne last year, so it is still going strong, although their have been some more changes since it seems.

It is great to know it is still being raced.

Honda 750

This next one was a bike that just made me smile. Not flash or expensive compared to many in the paddock it was a bit of a Frankenstein Honda based around a twin cam 750cc engine. I believe the donor bike was actually a factory custom Honda CB750, but there was no one around to ask about it.

It just looked really well put together and the final bike looked sleek and well balanced, unlike many of the bikes that have rolled off the various factory floors over the years. It really was definitely a credit to its builder.

It would be one of my most endearing memories of the meeting.

Egli Kawasaki

This Kawasaki Z1 based bike carries another hallowed name of the motorcycle world, Fritz Egli was a genius frame builder from Switzerland who took the fastest motorcycles ever built and made them better.

The Egli Vincent’s had become known worldwide as the best of the best, but his creations used many different power plants.

When the Z1 arrived in the early 70’s it gave Egli a highly tunable but strong engine to use.

Lightweight and very stiff the Egli chassis design was copied by many over the years and after almost 9 years of searching, Egli eventually found someone to carry on the name when he retired, Sadly, recently in 2023, the Egli name was finally lost and the company closed, but his name will always be associated with the best frames possible for the fastest bikes available.

Early 2 Stroke Kawasaki

Now here we have a very different Kawasaki. This 2 stroke production race bike wasn’t getting much attention because of the bikes around it and I couldn’t find anyone to tell me anything about it.

I was fascinated by that incredible front brake which looked like a 4 leading shoe arrangement and the Borrani rims are the same ones used on my Laverda SF2. The front suspension had external springs with internal damping, so it must have been a very early Kawasaki racer.

I do wish I had been able to find out more about it.

Maxton Yamaha RD

This one is another Frankenstein bike, but I dont use that term as an insult, and I have no idea if Maxton designed the frame in house or possibly collaborated with someone like Spondon engineering. Regardless of who built it, the frame, was a stunning piece of engineering. The huge triangulation down to the swingarm left the central area free to site the Maxton monoshock rear suspension in the perfect place and the engine was an old air cooled Yamaha twin which I assume was either RD250 or 400.

It would have been nice to find out more but if I had stopped and talked to every owner I would only have photos of about 6 bikes.

The bikes were being run by a team of RAF engineers and riders and were all in immaculate condition.

Dave Potter’s TZ750

This next bike will mean more to some than others. It is a Yamaha TZ750, but it was Dave Potters bike.

Dave Potter was a giant in the UK road racing scene. A quietly spoken Yorkshireman he dominated the British Championships winning the title twice, but he was never picked up by the works teams.

Dave had moved to London to work at the Dunstall factory as an engineer and first won the British 750 title in 1972, on a Gus Kuhn Norton, Later he would be picked up by sponsor Ted Broad and given a Yamaha TZ750 to race.

He went on to win the MCN Superbike titles in 1979 and 1980 and was always high up in the points table in his Transatlantic Trophy years. Among his other achievements were a 5th in the 1976 FIM Formula 750 Championship, and a 4th at the 1975 Imola 200, but he just never got the breaks he should have, even when Ted Broad and Mitsui joined forces to try and push the Yamaha UK team forward they just couldn’t compete with the full works team bikes..

Sadly, on the 31st August 1981, while leading a race at Oulton Park, he lost the front at cascade’s, hit the armaco hard and never recovered. He was being chased by Ron Haslam on a works RC 1000 Honda and Korky Ballington on a Kawasaki KR500 GP bike Unfortunately, he died 17 days later in hospital from a brain stem injury.

There is a fantastic interview with Korky Ballington in the video about the best sounding 2 stroke road racing bikes linked above

Gene Romero’s Daytona Winning TZ750

Works riders Gene Romero and Kenny Roberts tested the first production examples of the TZ750 in 1973 and as far as I am aware, these are the first bikes that came in what became the signature yellow and black Yamaha speedblock colours. Roberts was always the star but it was Gene Romero who took the win at Daytona in 1975 when Roberts retired with mechanical problems.

Romero was on the last of the twin shock Yamaha TZ750’s, while Roberts was given the new Monoshock chassis.

This is the very bike Gene Romero won on at Daytona.

Christian Sarron’s YZR500

Another bike with a history, this OW98 YZR500 Yamaha GP bike was the Sonauto Yamaha ridden by the great Christian Sarron.

Protege of the equally great Patrick Pons, Sarron was a fantastic rider who’s style influenced a whole generation of racers.

Born in a small city called Clermont Ferrand on the side of an extinct volcano in Central France, he grew up surrounded by racing. The roads in Clermont Ferrand were used as a Road Racing circuit once described as faster and twistier than the infamous Nurburgring, and having ridden in the area, I can attest that the roads there are the perfect training ground for any racer.

This was the bike that took him to many of his wins and it was in truly astonishing condition, a credit to its owners and a great memory for me.

I really was running out of superlatives at this point.

Eddie Lawson’s Cagiva

Now many of you will already know I have a soft spot for Cagiva. I honestly wonder what would have happened to the European motorcycle industry without the Castiglioni brothers, and in many ways this bike was the pinnacle of the Cagiva Race departments achievements.

After the success of the Cagiva Mito, they had set their sights on the 500cc title. With help from greats like Randy Mamola, the bike had grown from an exciting but dangerous animal to become a race winner with real potential.

First John Kocinski and then Eddie Lawson took it to new heights.

This is the bike that Eddie Lawson rode in 1992 when he got Cagiva’s first win at the Hungarian GP. An 80 degree V4 it produced about the same power as the Yamaha of the day, but was a bit down on power compared to the Suzuki and Honda. Full of innovations it was a fast bike, but just had endless teething troubles as the new innovations were trialled throughout the season.

Carbon fibre wheels, swingarm, bodywork and even clip ons kept weight down to under 130kg on this 190mph projectile, but it had cost the company dearly.

Lawson and Kocinsky’s contracts along with the years of development had nearly bankrupt the small Italian firm and in the end they even sold Ducati to try and stay afloat.

The GP circus was just too expensive for the small company in the end, and with the ending of the 2 stroke era we lost them from the racing scene.

Much of the technology went on to be used in the development of the MV Agusta brand and this became the focus of the Castiglioni’s, with the great Cagiva name eventually lost to the motorcycle world.

Proton KR3

Again here we have a bike I talked about in the best sounding 2 strokes video. The Proton KR3 was the brainchild of Kenny Roberts. He had decided to take on the Japanese in to 500cc class and the KR3 was his baby.

I believe this was Anthony Goberts bike but there was no one around to confirm that on the day. It must have been one of the last few made before the Modenas name began to be used.

This was the newest of the 2 strokes and was the last 2 stroke to race in the new Moto GP class. A new day had dawned and the 4 strokes would become the future of the premier class.

It marked the passing of an era.

2 More YZR500’s

These 2, YZR500’s were again in immaculate condition.

The Padgetts bike was the bike Bruce Anstey rode to victory in the Classic TT in 2014. He led the race from start to finish setting a then new lap record of 123.89mph over the 37 mile TT course. The same bike had been used during the 1991 Moto GP season by the factory team but I will be honest and say im not sure who’s bike it originally was. The other bike I am not sure about either. There were always going to be some I couldn’t find out about.

I will leave you with 2 more special bikes.

Honda SP1

I will call this first one a Honda SP 1.5.

It was a bit of a hybrid between the SP1 and SP2. It began life as an SP1 but had the swingarm and suspension from the SP2, but I honestly forget what other bits were SP2.

It reminded me of the great Joey Dunlop and the dominance he had shown in the Senior TT during the years that the V Twin Honda was at its most potent.

BMW K100

Lastly, this Flying Brick has to be one of the most trick Bricks I have ever seen.

The work on it was done so well it could have been a factory race bike.

Built by BSK Speedworks around a BMW K100 it has gone on to take many wins and podium places on the Classic Racing calender.

I will leave you with a few track shots and you might see what looks like a Rob North Rocket 3 in there as well as some less than clear pics of the sidecars. The wire fence at Donnigton just messes with the camera sorry

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