REPORT FROM ITALY
WITH THE ITALIAN "rounds" run at Imola (250 class) and Avigliana near Turin (500 class) over fast, hard and dusty courses, the 1964 World Scrambles Championships reached the halfway mark. Seven meetings for each class have been held in various European countries and another seven for each class remain to be run, including the Russian 250 and 500 rounds at Leningrad and Lvov, for the first time counting toward World Championships.
This year something new has happened to change the usual scene, and it was confirmed in the Italian events. First of all, in both 250 and 500 competition, sporting and technical supremacy of the Swedes is no longer absolute, as in past years. In the 250 class, world champion Torsten Hallman and his Husqvarna have been repeatedly beaten by Belgium's new star, Joel Robert on the Czechoslovakian C.Z., while in the 500 class, English ace Jeff Smith and his BSA have also scored many successes against the Swedish riders and machinery.
Four-stroke-engined 250 machines no longer seem a match for the lighter and handier two-strokes that also feature better pulling power from low rpm ranges. (Unfortunately, the Italian scramblers are all four-strokes!) In the 250 class it is interesting to note how quickly the Russians have improved their riding abilities, their performances now being equal to if not better than their old masters', the Czechs. The Russians (who are not competing in the 500 scrambles world championship) are still relying on Czech machinery, the twostroke C.Z., but at Imola they had brought one of their own bikes, the "K" (initial of Kovrovets, the town of origin) which, first time outside the U.S.S.R., showed good qualities, although not capable of challenging the Swedish, English and Czechoslovakian machines. But it is stated that Russian technicians are working hard to improve it so we may expect better performances soon.
Finally, a new technical trend: the British style bikes which until 1963 dominated the 500 class, are now seriously menaced by the lighter, although less powerful, machines "overbored" from the 250. Most successful of these bikes at the moment is the 420cc BSA four-stroke which Smith took to victory at Avigliana, and which has enabled him to close on leader Tibblin in the Championship positions. Then there are the 400cc Husqvarna and the 360cc C.Z., both two-strokes, the latter weighing only 231 lbs. as opposed to the usual 330 lbs. of the orthodox 500cc four-stroke scramblers!
The Imola meeting concluded with success for Hallman and his Husqvarna, thanks to the bad luck incurred by his most dangerous rivals, England's Dave Bickers on the Greeves Challenger and Belgium's Joel Robert on the C.Z. Bickers won the first heat, beating out Don Rickman (Bultaco Metisse) at the wire, while Robert, whose bike was suffering from weak carburetion and a prone-to-seize engine, could do no better than sixth. Hallman placed fourth behind Bickers, Rickman and the Russian, Grigoriev. In the second heat Bickers soon went out with ignition troubles and Rickman followed him with a broken gearbox. Hallman came on for the win, just ahead of Robert, who was delayed at the critical moment while overtaking a slower rider, and still with an imperfectly running bike. Russian ace Grigoriev was again third. Overall results were: 1. Hallman; 2. Grigoriev; 3. Robert; 4. Pilar, Czech. (C.Z.); 5. Loof, Sweden (Husqvarna); 6. Arbekov, Russia (C.Z.).
At Avigliana the first heat was won effortlessly by Smith (420 BSA); he led from start to finish, soon building up a half-minute lead over second man, Swedish Persson (Husqvarna). Rolf Tibblin was put out of action by a broken selector in his gearbox. The Swedish ace then rode to the limit in the next heat, winning it, with Smith content to stay comfortably in second place, getting the overall win and the 8 precious championship points which put him very close to Tibblin in the points race (Tibblin 46, Smith 44). Overall results were: 1. Smith (BSA 420); 2. Persson (Husqvarna 500); 3. Nilsson (Eso Mettise 500); 4. Lundin (Lito 500); 5. Dirks (Lito 500); 6. Eastwood (Matchless 500). •