What is, and what could never be:
Coinciding with the rise of 1970’s technology and speed, endurance racing captured the hearts of sports riders everywhere. Mainly under FIM rule, these trials were measured in distance (ex: Imola 200) and time (Castrol 8-hour). Of them all, France’s Bol d’Or stands out – cousin of the movie-star popular auto race with a penchant for upsets and high drama. To be competitive, all one needed was a really fast, good handling bike tough enough for 24-hours of paint swapping abuse. Rallying through the infield, campers watched, or sometimes just heard their favorites lap through rain, shine and eventually, nightfall. Lamps blazing, the rider’s physical limitations and nerve were strained. To finish, heroic. To win? Miraculous. All racing glory is hard earned, yet the 24-hours of Bol d’Or didn’t just fill the industry with excitement, but wholly better motorcycles.
Being a racer with lights, it was those Bol d’Or bikes or some other 24-hr endurance rocket that came to mind when I first saw Red 40. Later, I realized that was the goal. Owned since 2015 by its current keeper, we extend thanks for most of these images, and for agreeing to this article. Christened quite obviously by my friends and I, under all that curvy red fiberglass is a Guzzi V7 Sport – packed to the gunwales and looking ready to tour the Bol. Years ago Joe Caruso and Bill Ross shared those first images, as being in the bike’s approximate UK location, Joe was contacted for advice. New (to us) pics would pop up occasionally as we’d ponder details…which even now are not completely clear. Joe found a road test feature published in Bike magazine’s March, 1982 issue and for me it was total captivation; reading of Red 40’s (strongly suggested) factory racing ties and violent power delivery. Well experienced in owning and building V7 Sports, Bill and Joe were the first (but not only) historians to question the sum of this article’s total. As time and investment progressed much has been learned and experienced – even the memoirs from those who raced during the Bol d’Or’s 70s renaissance. All helpful in understanding what Red 40 is…or perhaps, isn’t.
(Brecon Quaddy at speed on Red 40 for Bike magazine, 1982. On loan from London’s Moto Vecchia, the story forwarded a failed built-to-race situation in Mandello Del Lario, circa 1975. Admitting the hearsay, the bike nonetheless impressed with its explosively tuned V-twin and close-ratio gearbox)
(This is the first image I remember seeing of Red 40, viewed and studied many times since. Note tight fitting exhaust, fairing and the full-commit racing ergos. Seat seems well padded. Everything remains just as it was in Bike’s 1982 feature article – Michelins, logos and license. Truly frozen in time)
Before we unpack this unique Moto Guzzi special and the documents that have traveled with it, some history of Guzzi’s presence at the Bol d’Or is needed to compare. Here we must introduce Charles Krajka, a Frenchman esteemed in Mandello and a key element of Guzzi’s re-entry into high profile racing. Coming off British bikes, his career with the Italian brand started with the purchase of a new V700, soon in sidecar use and eventually, racing tune. Dormant for some years (1961-1968) but having raced it before, when the Bol resumed in 1969 Krajka pitched an idea to Teston; Guzzi’s importer agent for France. Two V750 twins were secured to enter. Encouraged, Mandello invests more in 1970, as Krajka and senior Ing. Lino Tonti form a deep mutual respect. Not having participated in sanctioned road racing events since 1957, Moto Guzzi prepared five V7 Sport works racers for the Bol in 1971, testing what was essentially a brand new motorcycle. Even faster than 1971’s race-leader, Tonti’s crew rolled into Le Mans one year later a popular favorite to win. In a field boasting factory Japanese and British exotics, the Guzzi team dominated.
Full stop. In 1973, newly appointed director Alejandro De Tomaso closed Moto Guzzi’s special projects division. More of a redirecting of funds as opposed to cost cutting, both render the same effect. Under the direction of Giulio Cesare Carcano the race shop had earned a rich and successful history of competition, and Lino Tonti was beginning to stockpile accomplishments including the V7 Record Breakers, production of the first V7 Sport Telaio Rosso series, plus the prototypes and racers prepped for Imola, Le Mans and others. Not mentioned as often, the move displaced some of Guzzi’s top talent and connections, now working independently. Tonti was reassigned to the Benelli multis and designing a new small block model. Quoting an interview of race shop tuner Bruno Scola (whose probably knocked out more Bol specials than anyone) published by Anima Guzzista; “Officially, after the 1972 Bol d’Or there were no more opportunities to compete.” Leaning on investors and outside the factory walls, Duilio Agostini, Scola, Krajka and others forged on as respected competitors. For Bruno Scola, that lasted until 1981.
(In black and white: 1971’s Bol d’Or with #53 Vittorio Brambilla and Guido Mandracci. The 850cc racer finished 3rd place – quite an accomplishment for what was largely a brand new design. Note huge 4LS Fontana front brake. In color: Moto Guzzi at Le Mans for the 1972 Bol with factory riders Riva, Mandracci and Brambilla. These 1972 racers featured triple Lockheed discs and bigger intake/exhaust valves. #68 bike forfeited a commanding 10-lap lead late in the race due to a broken spring in the transmission, finishing 4th. This was the last factory appearance for Guzzi at the Bol d’Or)
On the shores of Lake Como and stacked a few rows after the famous first-series Telaio Rosso, Red 40 is legally titled as a 1972 model. This was confirmed by V7 Sport specialist David McMillan, who kindly provided serial numbers in his comprehensive report written for the owner. A feature of the factory racers, the fairing’s main bracket stay is welded to the stem; where the number foil used to be. Numerous speed tuning modifications are evident, including 40mm Dell’Ortos on straight intakes, a one-off header and works-style Lafranconi mufflers. Some years later I believe, Stucchi made a version of this exhaust. Most experts agree that the intake and exhaust mods hint at an increased bore, higher compression pistons, larger valves, porting, and more aggressive cam timing – all things that were done to the factory racers. Plumbed through the pressure line and cylinder head oil feed the oil-cooler screams late 1970s, by which time many Guzzi tuners were going 949cc using V1000 (88 x 78mm) engine components. Through his research and translation efforts, Bill Ross shared a published report stating Moto Guzzi experimented with big valve heads (41/36mm standard) at the 1972 Bol, with impressive gains. It’s all a guess, and until Red 40’s engine is taken down what’s inside will remain a secret. Still, David did get a peek at “Lightened and polished knife-edged rocker gear, now going rusty from limited use.”
(I’m thinking the goal here was to keep close tabs on Red 40’s oiling; fitting both oil pressure and temperature gauges. The latter runs in an insulated line to the sump’s rear drain, oil pressure is taken at the external top end feed line. Twist to start ignition stays, friction dampener removed to route speedo cable, and an aftermarket dampener grips the right fork tube. Note the engine’s straight-shot intakes, filterless bellmouths and oil-cooler routing. Down low a sump spacer reduces crankcase pressure, but Guzzi worked through a few prototypes before producing a smooth version. Also: The fairing’s lower cross piece is secured with flat slot Guzzi body screws, circa 1976. Was Red 40 built at a Guzzi dealership? One-off header/crossover is nicely crafted)
Sweeping across, Red 40 gives hints of its production status. These include original-type Koni shocks with plated springs, mainstand, rear drum brake and locking toolboxes. It’s a guess on the Sport’s original, heavy duty Borrani (moto) Cross spoke rims, but I hope to write an update soon. Steering back to the specifications, over the long study of Guzzi’s factory racers logic proves Guzzi’s race shop built from the stocks available to them. This might explain why prototypes/racers display detail and design differences not applied to production models. Again, like the factory racers, Red 40’s rear drive is the early ‘pumpkin’ (V750) casting – swapped out then for gearing changes. Whoever built Red 40 knew this, and it is this attention to detail that both fascinate and frustrate me. Developed in 1964, that sculpted Daniele Fontana 250mm 4LS magnesium drum was meilleur disponible in 1971, changed to Lockheed discs for 1972’s works racers. Filed under origin unknown: Red 40’s full coverage fiberglass fairing, front fender, tank and tail section. With a high radius cut into the nose for fender clearance, it is similar to units found on builds from Charles Krajka, Scola, and even Krajka’s understudy Christian Chaplain. Ditto that long fiberglass tank, which mimics the alloy and (banned by the FIM) fiberglass components on Guzzi’s factory bikes. Often credited to Resincorse of Milan (Est. 1978) for all or part, nothing is confirmed.
(Documents written about Moto Guzzi’s Bol d’Or racers reported some overheating due to the full coverage fairing – these were revised or made smaller on later versions until the racing ended. Tight, fender-shaped clearance radius under Red 40’s mini lamp is unique, and used on other builds. Oil-cooler and horn both visible. Corrosion on 250mm Fontana magnesium drum means it needs replaced. Some high quality aftermarket options exist)
Ducking behind the busted, taped up screen, make yourself at home in Red 40’s informative cockpit. Going over this piece by piece with Bill, I’m made aware of the non-standard Menani clip-ons, their dual-cable brake perch and the Tommassli throttle – that likely necessary to fully expose those 40mm throats. Above your hands, a curious grouping of Veglia, Smiths and VDO dials. Under your boots, adjustable pegs fit into rough cut alloy brackets and controls that look to have come straight from Tonti’s Italian skunkworks.
“Except, factory endurance racers didn’t fit speedometers, horns or parking stands,” remarked Ross, “And that miniature 175cc-sized lamp would not cut it at Le Mans.” A consensus reached, yet a conclusion thus far remains impossible. “In my opinion, far more facts point to Red 40 not being a works bike than facts supporting it is. My hunch? Whoever built this motorcycle was long a veteran of the brand; adoring it with preferred touches like 30s-era factory ‘stick’ graphics and colors. It certainly makes a strong impression!”
(Bike magazine 1982: Red 40 looking a lot fresher parked on the banks of the River Thames, near London. In my mind, the bike deserves to be returned to this form, or better. Bike’s road tester was complaining about the hard Michelin treads forty-years ago…maybe they’ve softened by now?)
Given the impact Guzzi made at the Bol d’Or, it’s easy to imagine why fans would want a personal copy…experiencing the thrills of Le Mans on their favorite winding roads. Renown for its rugged durability, handling and speed, the legend of Tonti’s twins began in France. Three years late, the Le Mans 850 went on to become Mandello’s most famous son – even though many have no idea what’s behind its iconic name. For now, Red 40’s history consists of a sketchy magazine article citing work performed by a non-existent race shop, and legal documents repeating it. Giving it some thought it’s reasonable to assume this info was given in good faith and realistically, who could blame them? Even needing a complete recommission Red 40 glows with the innovation of a genuine racing exotic. Certain that someone would recognize it by now, these circulated through many in the Guzzi community. Some years ago factory insider Ivar de Gier shared images with Bruno Scola, but the Guzzi ace had no reply. Contacting Alis Agostini in Mandello, France’s Eric Krajka (son of Charles) and reaching farther into Europe for Austria’s Peter Hovath produced no answers. Is it French or Italian? Is the builder still with us? For this journalist, not knowing gives plenty of motivation to keep searching, so the wide proximity of our readership serves as the next logical place to go. Total mysteries are truly rare. Can this one be solved? Nolan Woodbury
Air-cooled, 90-degree, pushrod OHV V-twin
Intake: 2 x PHM 40mm DellOrto w/accelerator pump and flood tickler (no choke)
Ignition: 12v twin coil dual points
Exhaust: 2-into-2 crossover header, Lafranconi (or Stucchi) racing mufflers
Direct drive 5-speed transmission w/close-ratio gearset. Full gear (crank/cam/oil pump) drive, shaft drive
Chrome-moly tube steel cradle with detachable rails. 28-degrees rake
Forks: Moto Guzzi 35mm, aftermarket (re-positioned) steering dampener
Swingarm: 2 x Koni with uniform chrome springs
Brakes/wheels: 250mm Fontana 4LS (f) 220mm (r) drums on 18” Borrani shouldered aluminum rims
Top speed: NA