Moto Guzzi V1000 Le Mans Part 3
Here, as they say, lies the rest of the story…or at least what we’ve discovered. One fact is certain – Guzzi riders from all over the world wanted a high performance V1000cc Le Mans sports bike, and dealers delivered them as homologated specials. Who did what? Read on –
Judged strictly on its character, Moto Guzzi’s Le Mans as originally designed by Lino Tonti, remains a very satisfying bike to ride. Few machines offer the symmetry, comfort and safety of Mandello’s most famous son, yet it is the Guzzi’s durability that sent it to motorcycling’s hall of legends. Under-stressed from a mechanical engineering standpoint, Italian Moto Guzzi supplier Duilio Agostini pushed that margin forward with his 1000cc tuning, but the extra speed only required a better pair of shocks…and a fiberglass enclosure from which to escape the blast. The spirit of Bol d’Or. As we discover in this latest installment Agostini was far from alone in this, but his basic formulas set an undeniable benchmark.
Every effort was given to get this published sooner, but the delays were worth waiting for. Just as the writing started, two new contacts stepped in; Steve Kealy (formally of Roma Guzzi, Australia) and Guzzi ace Chris Armstrong, transplanted from the UK to France. Each delivered clarity and new info, which was our greatest hope in publishing the first two parts. To all who contributed, we celebrate your passion! Now onto part III – covering miles of new territory with plenty of grainy old newsprint collected by our great team; Alex Woodbury, Joe Caruso and Bill Ross.
Seudem – Moto Guzzi importer for France
Three names dominate the French Moto Guzzi scene during the 1970s and 80s; Charles Krajka, parts distributing arm SICEM and Seudem, importer to France. Any study of Guzzi in that region of Europe immediately begins with Krajka; providing parts, service and new motorcycles to clients in France before, during and after murky import/export dealings had developed. The stocky tuner was active and successful in racing and building racers for others, or fast street specials for those who insisted. Now widely considered a patriarch of the Guzzi brand among French enthusiasts, Krajka was instrumental in fueling a deep passion for the brand.
Local owners say the problems began when Guzzi owner DeTomaso slid the French export business into the hands of Germany’s Motobecane – no doubt a major player in the V1000 Le Mans story. That failed, so Krajka and others pooled resources until Seudem was formed sometime around 1977-78, primarily to deliver Moto Guzzi and Benelli. Seudem found fame in 1979 with its shocking win at the prestigious “Bol d’Argent” on a 1000cc Le Mans II ridden by Jean-Lou Colin and Guy Meynet. Some believe Krajka played a role, others report each acted independently.
Competing against the world’s fastest endurance superbikes, Seudem’s V1000 Le Mans proved fastest of all. Forza Guzzi!! (Photo: Gijs Van Dijk)
Our best look at Seudem’s V1000 comes from Cycle Guide magazine, early 1980. Included in coverage of the 1979 Paris Expo, this V1000 debuted next to a V40 Imola in Le Mans garb. “Drawing crowds was this customized Le Mans 1000 done up by the importer,” reads the text. “This, with a new fairing, high compression pistons, a close-ratio five speed, rearset controls and 40mm Dell’Ortos.” Plainly based on the 850 Le Mans II, the round lamp Agostini fairing is the same part Duilio used on Agostini’s prototype V1000 tested by Motorrad. Note: Krajka rearsets, Marzocchi shocks, and chrome Lafranconi exhaust. “I’m told 34 V1000 Le Mans Seudem were produced,” reports Armstrong, who’s chasing one down as we speak.
As required, the liter-Le Mans was made available to meet homologation. In addition, many report Seudem reworked a number of SP1000 tourers into V1000 Le Mans guise, possibly due to availability, price, or both. Photographic evidence suggests it’s valid. Seudem also offered (at least, on paper) the very sporting 850 Le Mans SP, which elsewhere has been described as a factory one-off model that was never produced.
Every inch a national treasure, ex-BSA and Guzzi single tuner/racer Charles Krajka jumped to Guzzi’s new V7 twin in 1968. Campaigned on French endurance circuts, Krajka took his modified V7 to the factory where it was inspected by engineer Lino Tonti; who ironically was setting new speed trials records with his modified V700s. Thus established as a close friend of the company, Krajka received his new Guzzis directly from Mandello. Many racing efforts followed.
We learn from Krajka adverts the tuner seemed to prefer Stucchi’s color matching full fairing, but some questions remain on the rear-set controls. These all somewhat similar to parts found on both DMB and Seudem models. Built in ‘Type’ V1000 Le Mans tune, clues from interviews suggest the Le Mans’ 37/44mm valve package was retained, along with stiffer springs and Krajka’s own camshaft. Easier to spot are Koni shocks and seamed Lafranconi exhausts, the latter a benefit of dealing directly with Guzzi’s own parts vendors. Some basic info I can share lists 1961 as the year Krajka hung his shingle, and is quoted as saying his close, personal relationship with Tonti was based on a “deep, mutual respect.”
Looking very serious, one interesting development is the proddy racing 1000 Type KC, with gearing options and built in either 850 or 1000cc displacement. Note Factory Works exhaust. Truly a master and having a refreshing candor, here’s Krajka’s posing with his 1000cc Bol d’Or racing Guzzi Matic was pared down to 350-lb dry. Crazy. Despite his active social media, attempts to contact Mr. Krajka have been unsuccessful, but there’s no quit. Krajka’s place in history is cemented by decades of accomplishment, all seemingly born from an ultra-competitive spirit.
Australia – Ted Stolarski – Guzzi Australia
Another local with a worldwide reach was Guzzi Australia’s Ted Stolarski. Remembered now as an extremely gifted fabricator, builder and tuner, Stolarski measured his racers against the most powerful, best funded endurance teams of the era, and made plenty of fans doing it. He is credited with helping develop Guzzi’s 4v engine. This quote from ozbook summarizes: “The late Ted Stolarski, Australia’s Moto Guzzi importer. Based in Western Australia he campaigned two Arturo Magni-framed Guzzis in the late 80’s, early 90’s using modified engines with prototype Daytona 4v components. Ted actually took these bikes to Daytona where they proved competitive among the best in the world. Ted’s efforts were recognized when Arturo Magni released his beautiful limited-edition Magni Australia in tribute to Ted’s Magnis.”
An online review and gallery by Skrunkwerks brilliantly shows a Stolarski-modified Agostini V1000 III, very faithfully preserved and nearly in ‘as-delivered’ condition. In addition to flaunting the V1000’s wind cheating shape, the owners call out how Stolarski cut the fairing into a two-piece assembly (to facilitate service) and fabricated the Agostini inspired dual saddle-tailpiece. Only the angled ‘V1000’ script on the fairing’s side is omitted, but all is forgiven. Simply a stunning motorcycle.