Italianiron & Britiron Classics Post #100 - Honouring Paul Smart & Other Racing Greats

Posted by Scot Wilson on

To celebrate my 100 th blog post to date, I have been contemplating what topic to discuss. However, due to the unfortunate passing of international racing legend, Paul Smart on 27 October 2021, it is my desire to both remember and to honour this significant racing legend and wonderful gent. Further it is my goal to discuss that it is the people who participate in the sport of international motorcycle racing as racers and as fans that also need to be acknowledged. It is a blessing that whereas I was not a professional factory racer that I have been fortunate to participate in the sport at the race track. I have met so many great people due to this incredible sport and sharing in its incredible history. My world of experiences began back in the early 1990's when I met Syd & Malcolme Tunstall. I have been so fortunate to share a UK connection with the Tunstall family as they, like my family are very proud of our respective UK heritage and in my case of having grown up as a wee lad in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was due to my being introduced to this family of US racing royalty that I have been fortunate to meet so many in the sport to include Mr Paul Smart. Shown below is a photo of three generations of racers from left to right, JohnMalcolme and patriarch, Syd. I am so indebted to this family's generosity, friendship and expertise over these decades.

 

In the early 1990's, my parents moved back to the UK and after my father's death in 1998, my Mother elected to continue to live and work in CambridgeEngland. As a result, we would travel across the pond quite often to see her. As the Tunstall's were good friends with Mick Walker, Malcolme was kind to refer me to him on one of my trips. As a result, I was able to meet and then befriend Mick Walker. In addition to his being such an accomplished author, racer, motorcycle shop owner 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 who we honour today to James Toseland and and countless others. Shown below is Mick at the microphone at a racers gathering in 2001 at the Rose & Crown in Wisbech and introducing the young "man who would be (SBK) king", James Toseland. What a renaissance man James is as he is both an accomplished professional racer and musician! It has always been amazing to me that whereas the racer's gathering was to honour the life of Mick's son, Gary, who died in a racing accident, that he focused on those racers in attendance instead. If you do not have Mick Walker's autobiography, The Ride of my Life, I would highly recommend reading it. Mick was a significant force in developing many British racers and mentoring them to the heights of racing successes!

As a result of my friendship with Mick Walker, 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 racer. 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 as shown below. 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 Smart, who was racing at the time for Kawasaki in British Superbike. Mr Smart was an incredible source of fascinating historical information. Interesting to read that Scott Smart is a Technical Director for World Superbike and maintaining the family focus on motorcycle racing.

The photograph shown above I remember with such great fondness as it illustrates the warmth and humanity of this extremely accomplished man and racer. However, I could not pass up on the opportunity to have Mr Smart autograph Mick Walker's article from the December 1999 issue of Classic Bike that was written about Paul's very special Imola racer. Some of the very special photos of "the bike" that appeared in that article were taken by the accomplished professional photographer, Mac McDiarmid, who was kind to share a CDR of those spectacular photos. I had no idea that when I posted some of those photos of the Paul Smart 1972 Ducati Imola winning racer that were taken by Mac for the Classic Bike article on my FB page this week, that the greater significance of Paul's passing and impact upon international racing history would become more poignant. This special article written about the Imola winning Ducati racer by Mick Walker is signed by both gentlemen and 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 historically significant and relevant as time continues to march along for all of us. 

Ducati factory pilot and collandatore (development rider), Bruno Spaggiari, has also been a long time influence on me as I delved deeper into the history of the Bologna brand and their significant history of racing successes. In the English speaking world only, in my opinion at least, Signore Spaggiari has been one of the "unsung hero's" of the Ducati's racing heritage. However, Il Maestro had many significant successes from the very beginning of motorcycle racing with different marques but most notably racing Ducati singles and twin cylinder machines. As such a significant factory pilot, Signore Spaggiari worked on the Ducati 500 GP racing project and was extremely fast on the first Ducati 750 ss bevel drive in the 1972 season of racing according to Mick Walker in his book The Racing Story. At the Imola race, Europe's answer to the US's Daytona race, Brit, Paul Smart and Italian Bruno Spaggiari took on the best of the rest of the world and took 1st and 2nd places respectively in that inaugural race. These remain the stories of legends. To view more photos of Paul Smart's 1972 Ducati Imola winning racer please view them on my Scot P Wilson FB page under Photoshoot #2. 

In addition to being a fan of many numerous British racers, I have also been a fan of Paul Smart's teammate for the Imola race in 1972, Bruno Spaggiari as well as he was such a significant Ducati factory pilot. In this way, I feel connected with the history of Il Maestro Spaggiari's racing for the Ducati  factory. However, Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari also worked together when Paul Smart raced for Spaggiari Scuderia Ducati Corse the following year with Franco Uncini. As the maestro, Signore Spaggiari and I share the same birthday, it is my hope to meet him some time when we travel back again to Italy and to share a carafe of a good Italian wine or an espresso! After building the 1972 Ducati Imola replica to honour Paul Smart, there was no option but to build a replica of the Spaggiari Scuderia Ducati 750 Desmo racer for vintage racing in Formula 750 and BOTT.  This old racer is now in the process of being rebuilt with the help of some of Malcolme Tunstall's expertise and advise. Shown below is the Spaggiari Scuderia Ducati Corse racer at the exquisite museum of the Ducati factory located in beautiful Bologna, Italy

 

The "common thread" and collaboration between the Brits and the Ducati factory continued to evolve and to expand into the era of the Dr. Taglioni created belt driven Pantah racers and beyond. Whereas the Ducati bevel drive racers have left their indelible mark on the racing world, it was the new Pantah based engine that represented the future for the Ducati factory's goal of achieving world racing domination. Enter Tony Rutter and Pat Slinn who were to take the world by storm with the early Pantah and TT racers to win four Formula 2 World Championships as well as many other race events. At Italianiron.com our efforts, focus and passions are due in no small part to the racing successes accomplished and contributions made by Tony Rutter and Chief Engineer, Pat Slinn. Their overall contributions to the development of these early Ducati Pantah, TT and F1 racers cannot be overstated. Pat is also well known for his expertise in working with race icon, Mike Hailwood and their famous TT race win in 1978 on the Ducati 900 ss bevel drive #12 racer. As formidable as that bevel drive engine was, it is interesting that Pat has commented that the Pantah engine is one of his absolute favourite Ducati engines and with good reason!!

 

Shown above is Mr Patrick Slinn in front of the old Two Wheel Classics shop amidst Pantah and TT racers that he made famous. These racers would later evolve into the Ducati Supersport,  Ducati 888 Superbike and beyond. At Italianiron.com and TGA/Molnar Precision LTD our goal is to engage you, the Vintage Motorcycle racing fan and racers worldwide in this significant chapter in the history of the early belt driven Ducati engines through our portfolio of TT & F1 speciality racing kits and spare parts. We are also excited to support the new international vintage motorcycle race series for modern Ducati 1100cc and 1000 cc engines that use our chrome-moly race frames. Team Molnar Racing are campaigning a pair of Post Classic TT 1000 Racers with these large capacity Ducati engines in the CRMC in the UK. We are working hard to maintain the passion for these early TT racers and find great satisfaction in meeting other famous British racers such as Malcolme Wheeler who had great success racing his TT 2 and other marques. It was also wonderful meeting this friendly and amiable gent at the Stafford Classic Bike Show in England who had been recently reunited with his old steed as shown below!! 

 

Due to the significant contributions of these iconic racing legends and marques from Great Britain and Italy we are also excited to support enthusiasts of the Norton Manx and Norton Commando racers through Molnar Manx and Britiron Classics. It has been great fun getting reacquainted with the Norton and other British marques that contributed immensely to my discovering my passion for motor racing in general and specifically for the sport of Motorcycle Racing. At Italianiron.com we created the subsidiary, Britiron Classics to serve the British bike racer and Cafe Racer customer. We feel that we offer the best of both worlds in offering quality Ducati and Norton specialty racing spares. In addition, I am a huge fan of applying the Italian aesthetic in my racer builds whether Ducati or Norton such as with our insistence in the use of colour and applying numerous "go fast" bits that we offer. Shown below is Paul Smart on his Ducati 750 ss chasing Peter Williams on his John Player Norton 750 illustrating again this "common thread" that runs through this early chapter in the history of motorcycle racing.

 

We also desire to pay homage to the late, great Peter Williams and his John Player Norton factory racer through our restoration efforts. He competed in Grand Prix motorcycle road racing from 1966 to 1973. He raced many times on the Isle of Man TT course during that time as well. Peter was inspired early in his life as his father, Jack Williams ran the Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) race department. Peter later trained in mechanical engineering and was credited with many early pioneering efforts such as using disc brakes on a motorcycle and his monocoque frame creations. In addition, we honour Peter through offering of our portfolio of specialty manufactured racing spares and OEM Norton Commando bits. In this way we also honour the life and racing career of racers such as Peter Williams who so brilliantly bridged the disciplines of the technical field of developmental engineering with the sport of motorcycle racing. As Peter Williams passed away almost a year ago, we do want to pay tribute to his accomplishments and to his method by taking a page out of his "playbook" and to work to achieve the best version of our JPN 920 cc racer build like he did so successfully with his different factory Norton racers throughout his illustrious career.  

At Italianiron BritIron Classics, we offer a wide spectrum of race quality spares for the Ducati TT, Pantah, F1 racers as well as for the Norton Manx and Norton Commando racers. We also have a large amount of OEM items for vintage Ducati's and Nortons. Check out our Italianiron.com website for Ducati, TT, Molnar Manx and BritIron bits. We remain committed to supporting the world of Vintage Motorcycle Racing as well as to supporting those specialty bike builders as a supplier of quality chassis, bodywork and specialty racing spare parts. As mentioned before, at Italianiron.com, let us "Fuel Your Race Passions" is not just a slogan but a commitment whether you are building a vintage TT racer for competition, a Ducati F1 vintage street bike or a classic Norton Commando or Manx


Share this post



← Older Post Newer Post →


2 comments

  • A very interesting story!

    Max Massimiliano on
  • A lovely story Scot and a very fitting tribute to Paul Smart, thank you.

    Pat Slinn on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.