Riding The V6- Part Two

The mere mortal's perspective

Okay, so much for 'Sir Alan'- we all know he gets to ride every bike that's ever turned a wheel...what about a real person,  a dedicated Laverda owner rather than international megastar test pilot (no offence Alan :-).  Well it just so happens that I heard on the grapevine earlier this year that Marnix Van Der Schalk, noted SFC750 identity, had pinched the keys and made off with the V-six himself!  A quick e-mail later and Marnix provided me with confirmation of the encounter and a great story about his experience.  Take it away Marnix,

Rotterdam, 21st May 1997 

About a week ago, Paul Marx, the president of the French 'Amicale Laverda 750', told me that there was a strong rumour that at the coupe Moto Legende, a fabulous and massive classic event held at the Autodrome of Linas Montlhery just south of Paris, former Laverda works rider Augusto Brettoni would participate and that he would bring one of his 750 SFCs and the V6. This was quite enough for me to change all my plans for the weekend and try to participate with my tangerine torpedo as well. With the help of Paul this could be arranged. I was start number 1077 which shows how many bikes there were, it really was a French version of the festival of the 1000 bikes. 

The Montlhery racetrack is a real monument. Built in the 20ies it is a high speed oval with extremely high and steep bankings which from the outside look like a roman arena. At the highest section it is so steep that it is impossible to stand on you feet, you will slide down (better not roll down..). The actual race track only uses one of these fabulous corners (which are an estimated 500 metres wide in diameter) for the rest it is a normal race track with a tight 180 degree corner followed by a left 90 deg, a right hairpin (after a very fast lefthander over a hill so you approach almost blind - very nice indeed) and then back to the banking, which is a bit bumpy here and there because it is made of concrete. Therefore they made three chicanes which means that once high on the banking, you will have to brake and steer down and dive into the chicane and whoweee accelerate up the banking again. It's like a fun fair attraction and a sensation you have to experience to believe.  In 1970, the Bol d'Or 24 hour race was held at Montlhery for the last time, with similar chicanes. 

Now in typical French style there is no scrutineering, no noise limits, just take your bike and enjoy. The only disadvantage of this is that there is a tad more oil on the track than you would normally like, so keeping some reserves in cornering is highly recommended.  Of course these were demonstrations, and the riders were be let loose on the track in 3 fairly large groups. But of course once loose most pilots were really going for it, with quite a few expensive crashes as a result. 

What could you see there? Well just about everything with 2 wheels and an engine. Team Obsolete was there, John Surtees with his collection, Sammy Miller (AJS V4). Phil Read was pushing really hard on an MV, The white/blue John Player Norton, MV 6, 4, 3 , 2 cyl, Gilera 4, Benelli 4, Norton Manxes in all shapes and forms, Vincents, Honda CR750s, Performance Kawasakis, Elf Hondas, everything that ever raced was there to be seen, but also hundreds and hundreds road bikes, all having lots of fun and making lots of noise. 

And then there was Brettoni....... and a V6 and a lovely 72 Bol d'Or style SFC. So it was really true. All this had been arranged by a French dealer (!!!) He had set up a large tent where all the special bikes (and the new models including the 750S) were displayed. Apart from Brettoni his SFC there were 3 other SFCs, Paul Marx his 1976 Electronica, Jean Louis Olive his lovely 5000 batch SFC (one of the first 20 SFCs) and my 1974 SFC. Then there was a nice Egli Laverda racer, and some special triples one of which with a home brewed frame. Brettoni rode the V6 in the 'grand prix class' together with all the famous other men, we were in the 1968 - 1972 road race class (who is counting?). 

In our class you could find anything, from a 'Kool' 145 bhp Performance Kawa to Montesa 1 cyl 2 stroke, Yamaha 250/350 2 stroke road racers, Honda twins (mini Laverdas), Bultacos, Kawa 3 cyl 750 road racers, Ducati 1 cyl in various shapes, Norton Manx and Domiracers, BMW road racers (aarch must have produced 130 dB...) etc etc. After some getting used to this very unconventional way of racing I managed quite well to keep among the quicker riders thanks to my SFC which was really flying. In any case it was the fastest SFC on the track and on such a race track, sheer acceleration is a big advantage. I didn't get higher than half way the banking. One guy went up to the highest part but when braking for a chicane his rear wheel started to slide down.... his heart must have skipped a beat or two.... I 
started in the third group and finished in the first although I was being lapped by that forsaken Performance Kawa, well well.... 

I don't know why, but in the paddock, I all the time just couldn't stop to hang around the V6. Brettoni spent most of his time putting autographs on posters, SFC books, T-shirts etc, French television interviews, and me and my companion on the trip Cor were either sitting on, laying under, taking pictures of or fantasizing about the V6. 

We had a great time. The French Amicale organised a messy yet cosy bbq and it was great to be among these French enthusiasts with their great hospitality. ILOC chairman Ray Sheepwash was also there but he and his friend were leaving the next morning for the Dutch Pinkstertreffen. Just before we wanted to call it a day, we heard a screaming howling rasping noise. The French dealer had fired up the V6 and let her sing! After the engine stopped we heard screams from everywhere "Forza Laverda!!!!" "Vive Laverda". 

On Sunday morning, still in my sleeping bag, the thought came to me that probably this would be the one and only moment in my life to actually stand a chance of riding the V6. I approached Giuliano, the man from the factory, and asked if it would be possible if I could warm up the V6 for Brettoni before he did another session on the track. After some looking each other in the eyes and exchanging some Italian words Augusto and Giuliano said.......OK Marnix, bene. Yohooo, yes! 

Of course my riding was limited to the paddock but there is quite a long straight road there which was used by many teams to warm up the machinery so I could really ride it and run through one or two gears. Brettoni handed me the bike, I had it in my trembling hands and threw my nervous leg over the seat. I opened the Paioli fuel taps (they still clicked after all these years), and wondered which of the 2 black push/pull switches to push or pull on the dashboard. Brettoni pointed at the one on the right. I pulled the switch and the fuel pump started to buzz. One short push on the starter button on the r/h clip-on was enough to bring the tiny V6 engine to life. No choking necessary, just feeding the throttle and let it sing! Rrrwew...Rrrwew. No vibration, no excessive noise, with open exhausts the V6 is not extremely noisy, just a unique raspy sound - and goose bumps all over my body. I enjoyed playing this lovely musical instrument and the gathered crowd loved the music too. after a minute or two, I pull the clutch, Hmm quite light to pull, now time to engage 1st gear. Ehh what is it, left or right shifting? Ah it's left and with a traditional Laverda click the engine lets me know it is in 1st alright... 

Now the moment has come, one of those moments in your motorlife which you would like to last forever. Rev it up a little and off I go, over the grass towards the tarmac. Easy Marnix easy, not too much throttle and careful braking on the grass with those slicks - don't be the first in Laverda history to drop a V6!  The bike appears so easy to ride, it is simply a very well maneuverable bike and the engine is just as easy and friendly, at low revs that is.... Let's put my feet on the footrests, aiai they are further back than I expected. Off I go, all through first gear and then in second with an SFC kick with the heel on the pedal. By now the speed is already quite high and there are some bloody people walking in the way! In the corners of my eyes I see people run nervously with their cameras to find a good spot to take a picture. I turn the bike at the end of the road, wait for bikes and people to be out of the way and here I go for the second, and very likely my last ride on the V6. Now the engine is warmed up well enough and I give her full throttle. Oh my, this is a sensational bike. I don't know how far I revved it, maybe to 7000 rpm or so but I could very well feel the immense torque of the engine, without any dips. I brake at the last moment to enjoy every inch of the road and now it's back on the grass, back to Brettoni who stands there waiting for me in his leathers with his helmet in his hand. I try to put it in neutral but this is impossible, just like every Laverda with a clutch not coming free 100%. It's just another Laverda after all isn't it? I hand the bike to Brettoni. 

But now I have a new problem. I'm deeply in love with a Laverda I will never have in my garage! Some guys have all the luck but this is surely as far as it get's. Or doesn't it? 

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Marnix van der Schalk 
International Laverda 750 SFC Owners Registry 
Rotterdam, The Netherlands 
E-mail: schalk@ib.com
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