Wednesday, June 11, 2008


An update for the Roberto Sigrand/ Zenith 'Super KIM' story...

Speedway racers receive interesting prizes for winning a race or championship - the 'Golden Helmet' and all that.
Here is the 'Guante de Plata', the 'Silver Glove', now tarnished dark with age, awarded to Roberto Sigrand at the Huracan Speedway in Buenos Aires, for first prize in the Argentine Handicap series, 1929-30.
Roberto's grandson Ignacio found it recently in a drawer of the family home... He is going to visit his abuela (grandmother) on July 1st, to look for more photographs of his grandfather. More posts to follow as we puzzle together a picture of this interesting man.

I found some period photographs of the Huracan (Hurricane) track in Buenos Aires, snapped immediately after completion. The sport of Dirt Track was new in South America, and racing stadia were built as a business endeavor, in conjunction with a visiting Dirt Track delegation from England and the US (Sprouts Elder). During the winter in England, these racers were looking for a profitable off-season in the South American summer of 1929.
I've found reference to two tracks built during this period; one in Montevideo, and the Huracan track in Buenos Aires - as can be seen in these photos from the grandstand, it's a large track with a very long straightaway.

Dirt Track had mixed fortunes financially in Argentina, and the local promoters were forever running out of money. At one point they were unable to pay the English riders, stranding them without boat fare to get back home! When the racers cabled England to ask their 'own' Speedway promoters for the £39 fare, the reply was 'SWIM!'. The riders had to earn their passage through yet more races, with a different promoter.

The bottom photo shows star rider Frank Varey at this track, who is riding a Scott! The yowling two-stroke was painted all red, and Varey wore a red jersey while racing, earning him the nickname 'El Diablo Rojo', which became his nom de plume back in England (the Red Devil).
Yes, Scott made a Dirt Track machine too, and in '28 had some placings at the Isle of Man, so these machines were hot stuff in the day. Scotts have a fully triangulated frame and handle beautifully, with a good power output for 1929. They tend to get hot over long distance races, with attendant reliability issues, and were the only major manufacturer never to win a 'Gold Star' at Brooklands.

The water cooling of Scott's two-stroke twin cylinder engines is based on the thermosiphon principle, ie there is no water pump between engine and radiator. As water is heated by the engine, it rises into the radiator, and is cooled, which descends back into the engine. Simple, and effective for normal touring use, but when pushed hard the limitations of the system begin to show. Dirt Track races were fairly short, with perhaps 20 mile 'stages' at a time, so perhaps the engines fared better in this sport than on longer road races. Varey did well with his machine, until he, like everyone else in Speedway, turned to J.A.P.-powered racers with specialty frames.

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