Monday, September 22, 2008


An extremely generous fellow offered a ride on a 'spare' NSU Sportmax, complete with what seemed to be his extra leathers, helmet, gloves, and boots, for Sunday. When Sunday arrived, there were a few long faces, which I assumed was the result of the late-night drinking party going full swing in the garage when I left. The complete retinue of around 35 people sat in candlelight on long tables, talking, drinking, laughing - it was a quite a scene. As I walked back to my car, almost every other lockup garage had a similar party going on; all of them had quiet lights/candles, tables, food, and one even had a band! I had no idea - these folks know how to have a good time with their motorcycling.

The worried looks had more to do with the over-generosity of my benefactor - he is part of the 'team' and was expected to ride, especially as for various reasons he's had few rides this year, and in fact he had no spare leahters, they were his only pair! 'He is the type to give you all of his money and clothing too' Wolfgang explained.

But, since the ball had been put in motion, it seemed there was a 'spare' mkVIII KTT Velocette, and Wolfgang had an extra set of leathers (from when he was a bit thinner...), someone else had a helmet, and I had brought a pair of proper riding boots (as nobody's feet are the same size, eh?). So, I was set - first track session was 9:30am, and I was suited up and ready to go.

As I've had a bit of experience riding a mkVIII, the bike held no terrors barring the fact that it belonged to my host, and I hadn't seen more than 400m of the 4.4km course! It was a case of get on and go, and my principal goal was not to embarrass myself by 1. falling off, or 2. breaking the bike. Plus, the company was a bit intimidating - Jim Redman on a Honda, and several other World and German champions in the mix on a variety of Works and pukka racing machinery. I bump started the Velo without a problem, and sat warming it up while all the other bikes fired up, and I sat amidst the noise and smoke for a few minutes. I didn't see or hear a signal, but it suddenly got really LOUD and extra smoky, so I dropped the clutch and wound the throttle!

Hockenheim is a flat circuit made for F1, and owned by the municipality. Thus, it has grandstands for 80,000 people, and predictable corners; almost all right-handers, with one left hand hairping thrown in. The Velo had good power and excellent handling, although I was unable to hit top revs on the circuit, so must have been traveling between 40-95mph the whole time. Some of the other machines were sooo much faster than the Velo, especially the newer two-strokes, and of course several of the 80-year-old riders just flew by me - age hasn't diminished their GP-winning style a bit. I was able to hold my own around the bends as the bike was smooth and pulled well, so I did all my passing there, and followed the faster riders around for some warning about coming corners. I found I was chasing a '38 BMW RS51, which would pull me on the straights, but I reeled him in on the bends, so he made a good riding partner. End result; happy rider, intact bike, fun session. Whew.

In between my two rides I circulated the infield, looking at bikes, talking with people, buying books. The other riders were all very friendly, and the atmosphere was congenial and happy; everyone was there to have a good time and show the bikes in action to spectators.
My second session came quickly at 1:45pm - I had been invited by Wolfgang to 'ride with the team' on this session, which I took to mean, ride with the team. When the gang rode off, he wasn't quite ready and waved me on, but I found two team members to follow - my erstwhile generous friend on a Sportmax, and a dohc Norton Manx. We circulated together for 5 laps, when my motor suddenly cut out - scheisse! But, I was out of fuel, no big deal, and I got a free ride to the pits on the back of a flatbed trailer; 'sit on the bike, put it in gear, hold the brake' were my instructions, so I hammed it up and leaned into the corners and lay flat on the straightaways.

There were so many new faces and names, I'm afraid I got a bit mixed up at times, so bear with me on this aspect of the weekend. The photos show the atmosphere of the circuit, and a few of the riders and machines on Sunday. As you can see, variety was the rule; Motosacoche, Condor, Parilla, Gilera, Horex, NSU, BMW, (even Velosolex!).


The Creeper said...

Amazing, Paul. What a treat that must have been! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

We met at Hockenheim occasionally in the NSU - pits on saturday, but sadly did not introduce ourselfs. I did not know your Vintagent blog to that time, so I had no imagination of your existence.

Now, months later, my ignorance was broken since I recognized your really great blog.
So I do not like to keep back photos, shooting a motive I could not decide which to prefer. You or the bike ! (-:
Although this divergence induce for mostly useless pictures it is not impossible it could be serve as a private memory for you.

Ralf Kruger