Early Bol d’Or racers: Fast Production

In the business now for thirty-years, I’d solidly found myself in the minority of journos who were not racing fans. Granted, my time covering Moto GP and World Superbike for Moto-Euro magazine fostered deep respect for the skill and speed. Too great, frankly, for my comprehension. Watching ultra-talented and trained riders on exotica I’ll never sniff always left me feeling a bit detached, but that’s all changed. Long an editorial passion, I knew the ideas and motivation behind history’s leading performance specials came from a place and time I had never learned about. For the first time, I have heroes and the bikes they road, to share. 

Prepping for Red 40 allowed the chance to zoom out for a wider, circa 1970’s look at the Bol scene…and what a scene it was. Plainly not looking in the right spot, finding basic Bol d’Or requirements (details relating to qualifying or the racers themselves) is more difficult than envisioned. Piecing together bits of info and lots of google translate resulted in a working overview saying ‘Production Motorcycles’ only allowed, in ‘250 and ‘500’ categories. One statute forbid mods to the factory chassis and it’s odd, considering the Dresda and Egli-framed racers competing for top honors. Later, a subset was found that allowed the racers to use parts/services available to the general public. This boosted the special frame industry and added some new names to claim a share of manufacturer titles and sponsorships. Win on Sunday sales spun that Bol d’Or magic. Besides – where else could you pack to rally, watch a race, then rip home on a bike not far removed from the Bol’s now-famous winner? The reality: 24-hours of racing on the baddest street bikes available.                                     

Dating back decades, it was no surprise to see past Bol legends (works singles from Britain and other European makers) still competing when the superbikes rolled in. In the Bol d’Or’s 1969 return to greatness, no one will be surprised to learn Honda’s new 750 got the win, but the SOHC couldn’t get past Tom Dickie and Paul Smart on the works Triumph T150 three in 1970. Fast but leaky in that same race, the famous ‘Slippery Sam’ delivered another convincing win for the Brits in 1971, but could no longer hold off the faster Guzzis and Hondas and Zed fours in coming years. Dresda and Egli bolth worked with the French importer Japauto the way, followed by Egli teaming up with France’s Godier & Genoud on a Z-1 for Kawasaki’s first Bol win in 1974. To the victor go the spoils, and as decades progressed, manufactures such as Honda continued with Bol d’Or badging on all of its top-flight, open class hardware. Lacking in period coverage, US riders like me knew nothing of the influence endurance racing had on world production, some of which were delivered to US shores with no heritage and no chance. Missing out on four decades of history, development and excitement means a lot of catching up. Consider this page a first step to connect the missing dots. Nolan Woodbury         

(Bike #1: Tom Dickie/Paul Smart teamed to win the 1970 Bol on a works Triumph Trident T150. Z-1 power in yellow: France’s Godier & Genoud win in 1974 using an Egli frame. Japauto’s 950cc Honda SOHC (Dresda) took top honors in 1972. Egli’s catalog allowed anyone with the proper budget a chance to own a real endurance-spec racing machine. Necessary to allow the use of his components (or other vendors) in the action)

Researched for Red 40: Guzzi-Sport based Bol d’Or specials

Bruno Scola – John Fairclough – UK – 1974 Moto Guzzi 750S

Sent some years back by Joe Caruso and journalist Adam Bolton, this Bol inspired full sports twin was built into 850cc, then rebuilt as a 1000cc by specialist and ex factory race shop tuner Bruno Scola. The Italian Guzzi wizard didn’t have anything to say about Red 40’s (almost identical) layout, but it seems both were supplied by the same vendors. Guzzi 750S had slight variations from the prior V7 Sport model.        

Chaplain Moto – France – 1971 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport Telaio Rosso

Working as an understudy at Charles Krajka’s Moto Guzzi dealership, there’s conflicting reports on how Christian Chaplain went about building his own brand of Bol-inspired specials. One school claims Chaplain Moto existed in the mechanic’s flat, where the work was kept secret. Others say C. Krajka supported the work and even provided parts. Extensive modifications included 850cc, intake/exhaust/gearing. Now fit with a stock engine. Finish is original 1971 red with black frame.

Bruno Scola – Italy – Moto Guzzi V7 Sport CORSA 

I’m told this machine was constructed in 1980, and based on what is described as a ‘1974’ V7 Sport – that technically being a 750S. Photographed by Nolan Woodbury in a small alcove near the Moto Guzzi factory museum in 2001, web-based data lists 748cc, ASSO hi-comp pistons, 48/41mm inlet and exhaust valves, 41mm PHM carbs, ported heads, RSS factory camshaft and open 41mm exhaust. 90-hp, 370-lb.

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