Wednesday, November 17, 2010


By chance, as usual, an article in the Velocette Owner's Club newsletter, 'Fishtail', featured a few scans from a 1932 Italian motorcycle magazine, 'Motociclismo'.  The concern of the scanner was the Velocette MkIII KTT shown as winner in the 350cc class of two races; my eyebrows raised when I noted the rider, 'Aldo' Pigorini, one of the Scuderia Ferrari riders in 1932 and '33.

Pigorini was very successful with the Scuderia, recording many wins on the team's Rudges (both 350cc and 500cc), and winning the Italian Championship in '34 (500cc).  His talents shone while riding his Velocette, a year before joining Enzo's motorcycle team.  The top photo shows Pigorini immediately after winning the Circuito del Monferrato race; his race average in the 350cc class beat the previous 500cc lap record!  The Velocette was a good'un!  And of course, the rider was very talented.

The theme of the second article mentioning Pigorini laments that in 1932, motorcycles had ceased to dominate hillclimbs for absolute speed.  Automobiles with 'high power to weight ratios' were suddenly able to out-speed two-wheelers up a mountain course... often with 'motorcyclists driving them'!  Well, that seems to confirm Enzo Ferrari's assumptions, at any rate, and must have figured into his thinking when forming Scuderia Ferrari 'Moto'; he had seen evidence that motorcyclists have great sensitivity to road surface and a visceral understanding of the limits of traction.  Plus, it must be added, considerable bravery...while it may have been an illusion that racing cars were 'safer' than motorcycles at the time, every competition motorcyclist of the era had an intimate knowledge of how close one's skin hovers over tarmac.

A little about the Velocette MkIII KTT on which he won the races; this is a 1932 year model, effectively the same machine as the first 'KTT' of 1929, but incorporating a few subtle changes to cam profile, oiling, brakes, etc; 350cc overhead camshaft engine, cam drive by shaft-and-bevel (later copied by Norton for the 'Carrol' should be called the 'Goodman' motor!), a beautifully balanced motorcycle with perfect handling and tireless power output.

How do I know?  I have a 1933 example...