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Paul Mihalka

Racing in Venezuela - 1954

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Paul Mihalka

If you'd like to read how I got to this point, you can find it here:

 

The early beginnings

http://bmwsporttouring.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/974566/an/0/page/6#Post974566

 

I'm racing

http://bmwsporttouring.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/976246/an/0/page/4#Post976246

 

1953 South American Championship

http://bmwsporttouring.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/977781/an/0/page/3#Post977781

 

 

After returning from the race in Lima/Peru, there were two races left to finish the 1953 Venezuelan championship. I was leading in points, but the first production racer bikes arrived, the great AJS 7R bikes. With my modified road bike I got a second and third, winning the 350cc championship. I only had two wins, the rest was seconds and one third, but points count smile.gif.

 

A bit of side track. The question came up whether I was making a living out of racing. The answer is NO. There was no money in it. Some of the racers were young guys who rode all week as motorcycle messengers in the city - you learn a lot! Saturday/Sunday they hopped on the bike that was prepared for them and raced. Other racers were motorcycle shop owners, young Italian immigrants with a lot of motorcycle background, or sons of rich daddies.

When I finished "bachillerato" I planed to go on to University and study mechanical engineering. Just when I was going to get started, political unrest (remember, South America) shut down the state universities, temporarily. It lasted three years. First I got a job at the motorcycle dealer who was sponsoring me in racing, mostly building/prepping the new bikes out of the crate. They came VERY disassembled and it was lot of work. After that I got a job as a architectural draftsman. I was good with a pencil and a ruler smile.gif. If you were Semi-good the racing expenses were covered.

 

1954: We knew that with my highly modified, very good, but originally regular street bike, the Velocette MAC 350, nothing can be done against production racers like the AJS 7R. Velocette had a 350cc production racer, the Velocette KTT, very good in it's own time but a bit obsolete compared to the AJS 7R. There is the saying that nothing is more obsolete than last year's racer. This is how a Velocette KTT looked like when original and complete:

 

http://www.motosolvang.com/bike_pages/1951_Velocette_KTT_Mark_8.htm

 

Problem was, a new one was not available. My sponsors found in Europe a "rebuildable" basket case, and a basket case it was. it arrived in a few crates. As it was a discontinued model, spare parts were not available. First thing found, the original girder front forks were bent like a pretzel. By luck or not changing design, the steering head measurements, like bearings and distances, were the same as my old MAc bike. so the KTT got a telescopic fork. Don't worry about steering angles and some-such, we'll see how it rides. The gear box was shot. We installed the box from the MAC. The KTT box was a racing close ratio, the Mac box a touring wide ratio. With the Venezuelan racing's street corners and u-turns at avenue ends it was not a bad thing. The motor's valves and valve seats were shot. The valve seats were lose in the head. We machined new valve seats out of industrial bronze stock, and popped them in. They never gave trouble. The bike running, we (I) tested it. It was a wonderful surprise. It handled great, it was competitive.

I raced it twice, and got a first and a second.

 

Here are some pictures (not very good) me racing the Velocette KTT

 

i-kdqFGqK.jpg

 

i-kg98Hdd-M.jpg

 

The Gilera brand just got a new importer to Venezuela. The Alfa Romeo and Lancia car importers picked up the brand. The owners (father and son team) looked me up, told me they have a newest 500 cc Gilera Saturno Corsa bike coming in, and would I like to race it? What a question! I was dreaming about that bike since I saw it winning the South American Championship in Peru. Even today, if somebody asks which is the most beautiful bike in my mind, I would say Gilera Saturno Corsa. I said YES in a heartbeat. On top of that, they offered me cash money on results. Unheard of! 400 Bolivars (1954 US$120,-) for each first, 1,000 Bolivars ($300) if I win the championship. Keep in mind two races of the eight race championship were already gone.

In the meantime, the AJS dealer got in new 500cc production racers. Problem was, the AJS/Matchless factory did not have a AJS brand 500cc racer, they had the Matchless G45, A factory tuned/modified 500cc twin street motor in the AJS 7R frame. Obviously for the dealer it had to be a AJS for all his sales promotions, so we were all curious what he is going to get. Arrived three 500cc production racers, in full AJS colors and trim, and the engines were stamped with a serial number and said AJS 10R. So there are three AJS 10R model motorcycles in the world, not recorded anywhere. They were "badge engineered" Matchless G45.

 

The Gilera arrived. Wow! It handled like nothing else before. It was super light. It's Italian nickname was "la piuma", the feather. It was also a factory modified street motor, push rods, not overhead cam. It had less top end the the british bikes like the G45 or the Norton Manx, but it pulled wonderful from low rpm. The perfect bike for the Venezuelan race tracks. With this bike I powered out of turns with the rear wheel spinning/sliding. At my first (pushing) race start I was pulling a low wheelie while still sitting side-saddle! Straight exhaust pipe, no megaphone. Even it's sound was music! Quality was superb. It did the season just with minimal adjustments and checking. My original plan was to keep racing the Velocette in 350cc and the GIlera in 500cc, which would have been perfectly possible, but the Velocette owners were unhappy and pulled the bike. I was not unhappy.

To make a long story short, I finished the 500cc championship with five wins and one second, winning it.

Here are some pictures racing the Gilera - too bad I did not find a good picture in google of this bike

 

Racing with my constant opposition, "El Negro Vivas" behind me

i-SFsh8C7.jpg

 

At top speed, about 120mph - I remember the bike slightly hopping/squirming sideways

i-BC7cnQQ.jpg

 

In the race

i-cFHwd7V.jpg

 

The team. From left my superb technician with his daughter, the father and son owners, me in the middle - these were good times

i-mtzR2Vq-M.jpg

 

At the end of the year I decided it's time to start a real life. Dedication to racing did not leave much time for private life (girls), jobs, getting a profession, etc.

So that was the end of my racing career.

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USAF1

Thanks Paul.......... thumbsup.gif Outstanding!

 

Pat

Edited by USAF1

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BFish

so is that the end of the pictoral history, if so

...bummer! interesting as hell. thanks so much.

 

lurker.giflurker.gif

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Dances_With_Wiener_Dogs

Cool stuff Paul. I'd vote to have the moderators move these threads to the permanent collection of ride tales. Thanks for taking the time to do all of this for us. How's your leg healing?

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Boffin
Cool stuff Paul. I'd vote to have the moderators move these threads to the permanent collection of ride tales. Thanks for taking the time to do all of this for us. How's your leg healing?

 

Fear not, they have all been "kept" and will not expire in 30 days like most RDOT threads.

 

Andy

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Paul Mihalka

"How's your leg healing?"

Thank you for asking. Slowly, but in steps with how it should go. I'm getting some physical therapy at home, but no permission yet to try stairs, which means I'm still under house arrest. Patience...

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keithb

Great stuff Paul. I just love the b/w pictures.

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KTM Doug

Paul,

 

Thanks for posting all these old pics. thumbsup.gif Terrific stuff. clap.gif

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Rags

Wonderful stuff Paul. Thanks for bringing us into your life.

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Francois_Dumas

Wonderful stories Paul. Wish I had so many pictures of my childhood.... seem to have disappeared somehow. I guess they become more interesting with age !!

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ESokoloff

Thanks Paul thumbsup.gifsmile.gif

Hope your healing progresses nicely, Spring is coming.

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Rinkydink

Wow, great post Paul, and I love the lace up boots!

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Paul_Burkett

Thank you Paul for the great story. It makes your avitar mean so much more, now that we know the tale behind it.

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chrisd
To make a long story short, I finished the 500cc championship with five wins and one second, winning it.

 

I laughed when I read that. The definition of nonchalance? Thank you again for taking the time to write. Fascinating stuff.

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