A Tribute to Mick Walker & the Vintage Motorcycle Racing Community

Posted by Scot Wilson on

Due to the global pandemic that has been effecting us all, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon about how very fortunate I have been through my association with and involvement in the International Vintage Racing Community. I have met so many great people due to this incredible sport and sharing in its incredible history. Such is the case with meeting and then befriending Mick Walker. In addition to his being such an accomplished author and a great gent, it made my trips back to the UK much more enjoyable when I would take my Mother's car from Cambridge and drive through the Fens to Wisbech to hear from Mick about his latest book. That connection along with living for many years in the UK has provided me with a special opportunity to meet many additional significant figures in the world of racing from Paul Smart to James Toseland and Patrick Slinn who I hope to meet in person after this global pandemic has subsided. If you do not have Mick's autobiography, I would highly recommend reading it. 

At that time in my life, the closest that I had ever been able to get to meeting British Royalty was through my friendship with the UK's Mick Walker. Mick was a former racer, successful Ducati dealer based in Wisbech, England and more commonly known for his numerous books (over 100) on Ducati and other marques. It is understood that Mick Waker and Ian Falloon are the two  most sought after and accomplished experts on vintage Ducati Racing motorcycles in the world. This meeting with Mr Walker was inspired when I was referred to him by my friend and US based professional racer, Malcolme Tunstall whose family were good friends with Mick and his family. This was a wonderful referral and very kind of Malcolme to make as my parents had just moved back to Cambridgeshire in the UK. Shown below is this third generation of American Racing Royalty, Team Tunstall which consists of John, Malcolme and founder, Sydney. Team Tunstall epitomizes the best in the sport of two wheeled racing's history, successes, and passion. I believe that this passion for the sport of racing is also the hallmark of Ducati racing and what draws us all to the marque. I am very indebted to the generosity of time and expertise that I have always received from the Tunstall's and Syd's Cycles over these many years. 

Mick Walker and I had met at the Cambridge crematorium in the 1990's as Mick was very active with the volunteer fire brigade in Wisbech. There was a service there to celebrate the loss of one of Mick's colleagues. As Mick was constantly being contacted by enthusiasts throughout the world, initially I was known as "Crematorium Scot" when we first started talking every quarter. We found common ground and enthusiasm for the early vintage Ducati bevel drives. My first restorations were a 1974 Imola Ducati 750 ss replica, two 1972 Ducati wide-frame 750 Sports and a 1974 Ducati 750 GT. I believe that Mick appreciated my enthusiasm for the marque and that I was participating in some racing in the US as well as working on the restoration of these numerous Ducati bevel drive twins. I feel quite honoured that I was mentored by such a world's authority and great individual. As a result, I was also honoured when my Imola rep appeared in The 2001 Encyclopedia of Motorcycles on page 180 when Mick was a contributing editor. 

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Arguably, the Ducati factory winning Europe's version of the US Daytona race at Imola in 1972 is the story of legends. Further, the continuation of the successes of the Taglioni "Desmo" twin cylinder racers came at a pivotal point in the history of the Ducati factory and set the course for continued successes in racing that continues to the present day. I am sure that these racing successes were very helpful in building Mick's Ducati dealership which also gave him opportunity to build great relationships with the factory. Further, that Imola win prompted the creation of what I consider one of the Ducati factory's most iconic road bike with an incredible design, the 1972 Ducati 750 Sport. It is also known as the "Z" stripe and "wide frame" Coincidentally, I had just acquired a 72 Sport from France and a second 72 Sport from Switzerland. Mick was intrigued at my good fortune, offered great insights into what makes for a concourse restoration, and published photos of my second 72 Sport in the 2002 Miller's Classic Motorcycles when Mick was the General Editor. Mick was also kind to authenticate these two 1972 Ducati 750 Sports.

 

In 2004, I had a very unique experience when I was visiting family in Edinburgh, Scotland. Roddy McLain and I went into a book store on the Royal Mile and there on a shelf was a issue of the Miller's Classic Motorcycles book and on page 39 was a photo of my 1972 Ducati 750 Sport #2. I was still in the process of completing the wiring of the bike as part of the wiring was rolled up on the engine cases as I had to rush the photos from the US to get to Mick in time for publishing. In another unique circumstance that expanded my network of contacts, Mick shared some photos with me of Paul Smart's famous #16 Imola racer at his shop in Wisbech as he and Paul were friends. Mick later created an introduction that was made more special for when I was able to meet Mr Smart in person. 

As a result of that friendship, I was introduced by Mick to Paul Smart as an enthusiast, amateur racer and as an owner of an Imola replica and sporting Mr Smart's famous #16. It can be argued that the Ducati factory was so pleased with the winning race results accomplished by pilots Paul Smart first place and second place by Bruno Spaggiari, that the factory gave to Mr Smart the winning Ducati racer from that landmark Imola race win. Later I was fortunate to meet Mr Smart in person when he was the "Guest of Honour" at the AHRMA races & Vintage Days at the Mid-Ohio race track when Ducati was the featured marque. I found Mr Smart to be a wonderful, pleasant and "very down-to-earth" individual who many would consider very humble despite his long lists of accomplishments. I appreciated Paul's surprise reaction to my many questions that I posed to him about his many race successes thanks to the insights gained in no small part from talking with Mick. He was also surprised by my questions about his son, Scott Walker, who was racing at the time for Kawasaki in British Superbike. Mr Smart is an incredible source of fascinating historical information. 

I could not pass up on the opportunity to have Mr Smart autograph Mick's article from the December 1999 issue of Classic Bike written about Paul's very special Imola racer. Some very special photos of "the bike" appeared in that article that were taken by professional photographer, Mac McDiarmid, who was kind to share a CDR of those spectacular photos. Before and after Mick's passing, this special article on the Imola winning Ducati racer that was written by Mick and signed by both gentlemen remains to this day, a very prized possession. This piece of history and personal signatures hangs proudly in the center of the wall in my shop office. In my opinion, no one can put a price on something so significant as time continues to march along for all of us. 

 

One of Mick Walker's other talents was supporting "up and coming" British talented racers. This photo is quite insightful as it shows a very famous World Champion, Barry Sheene at Mick's shop astride a racing Ducati. Whereas I was never fortunate enough to meet Bazza, the network of racers and race engineers supporting and helping each other is one of the many special aspects of the sport of Motorcycle Racing in general and of the vintage motorcycle racing community in particular that I admire. Additionally and as mentioned in previous blog posts, I will forever feel so fortunate that as a wee lad growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland, that I was able to follow the racing greats for both 2 and 4 wheel racing machinery and at a time when the British industrial complex was the envy of the world. To continue to be involved in this sport is truly a blessing. 

 

I was also honoured when Mick Walker would invite me to his annual meetings of racers that he has sponsored there in Wisbech, England. This particular gathering in 2001 was more solemn as it was a gathering to honour Mick's son, Gary Walker who had died on the race track pursuing his racing passions. This racer's gathering took place at the Rose & Crown in Wisbech and was such a grand affair!! Despite honouring Gary Walker, I was also able to meet a very young and humble James Toseland. What a wonderful and talented young man that the world would soon discover. Shown below is Mick introducing James and then later, Ollie Bridewell who would also lose his life on the race track doing what he loved. 

 

A number of years later, my wife and I traveled to Salt Lake City for the World Superbike races. Despite James' many World Superbike race wins and 2 World Superbike Championships, we met James at the Yamaha pit garage and wished him well. The toll that a racing career takes was very obvious when we met him at that venue. However, James did show a "twinkle in his eye" when I mentioned to him that Mick Walker had asked me to share with him his best wishes. Shown below is the face of a future champion and the James Toseland that I remember so fondly at the Mick Walker gathering in Wisbech in 2001 and playing the piano so expertly after the presentations. James is a multi-talented individual and a very accomplished pianist. As the true renaissance man that he is, when James "hung up his leathers", he transitioned seamlessly to music. it has been exciting to witness the successes that he is having as a professional musician. 

I must thank my wife of almost 40 years, Patricia, who commented after I retired from the corporate world, that "I needed a hobby and that it was not going to be her". With her support over these decades, I have been able to fulfill my racing and restoration "habits", and now I am able to focus on my hobby business, Italian Iron Classics, LLC full time. On one of my many trips to visit my Mother in Cambridge, I was introduced to Jim Blomley, founder of Two Wheel Classics in the UK. We hit it off and we saw that we could work together and as a result, I agreed to be the US dealer for TWC focusing on Ducati Belt Driven twins for the TT 2, TT 1 and F1 racers. In addition to a TT 2 and a Pantah 650 racer, we have completed a TT 1 with race prepped Ducati 750 cc engine and our TT 1000 with modern Ducati 1000 cc S2R engine. Let us "Fuel Your Race Passions" with one of our chassis and bodywork kits for a vintage racer or as a striking vintage street bike!! This is not just a slogan but a significant offering to those who wish to be involved in the experience, history and passion of vintage racing motorcycles.

Through this affiliation with Two Wheel Classics-UK, we have been able to open up to the American marketplace this incredible product portfolio. Many of our builds can be viewed on my Scot P Wilson/Italianiron FB page. From a personal perspective, however, I have been very privileged to make the acquaintance through my affiliation with TWC, another member of British Racing Royalty, Mr Pat Slinn whose engineering expertise was critically important to Mike Hailwood's famous TT win in 1978 and many other world class races and who is shown below in front of the former TWC retail location. Additionally, Mr Slinn's expertise was equally critical in Tony Rutter's 4 World Championships as well as many other races performed throughout the world. I can also add accomplished racer, talented engineer and Pat's nephew, Robert Dymoke that I have been fortunate to meet through this wonderful sport of vintage motorcycle racing and network of enthusiasts. 

Finally, in September of 2019, Jim sold Two Wheel Classics to Andy Molnar and Molnar Precision LTD in Preston, England. Andy is also the owner of the famous Molnar Manx. We are very excited at this new chapter in the history of TWC. Andy has already been redesigning and enhancing many of the products offered through TWC. The future is extremely bright with this infusion of engineering expertise that Andy and his team are bringing to TWC. Andy and son, Richard plan to take the vintage racing scene by storm with their TT 1000 with Ducati twin cylinder engine. Team Molnar's goal is to work to achieve the same level of racing success that they have consistently achieved racing their Molnar Manx Norton singles.

Also of note is that I have established BritIron Classics as a subsidiary of Italian Iron Classics, LLC. Before discovering the Taglioni designed Ducati 750 and 900 Super Sport Bevel Drives, I had started my racing career with Norton Commandos. Due to our affiliation with Molnar Precision LTD, we are excited to share in the Ducati as well as the Norton racing heritage. We offer the exclusive Manx items offered through Molnar Manx and Norton Commando, Atlas and Dominator twin cylinder machines and spare parts through BritIron Classics. Email me at Italianiron@msn.com for Ducati & other Italian marque inquiries or Britironclassics@gmail.com for Molnar Manx and Norton twin cylinder spare parts. Otherwise, you can always communicate through my Italianiron.com website. 


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