Our recording of the Cathedral of Speed in 2018 as part of the WorldSBK weekend – 63 years before, the premiere with the Dutch Grand Prix took place on the then newly created course near Assen in its original form. In 1955, the rump event of the Belgian Grand Prix was held, with, as was usually the case at the time, only two of the four solo classes.

World Championship round 5 in the Ardennes

For the seventh time in a row since the motorcycle world championship was introduced, the Belgian GP took place in Spa-Francorchamps. All classes have never competed here before and, for good reason, this should only change for the first time next year. In contrast to the eight rounds in 1955, a year later the calendar was drastically shortened to just six. This was a step back to the early years of Motorcycle Grand Prix Sport, when there were only six events in the first two years of 1949 and 1950, including Spa. Because the 125cc class was not advertised there, as well as at the TT, as well as in 1949 in Northern Ireland and 1950 in Bremgarten near Bern (Switzerland), there were only three World Championship rounds. This time, as since the beginning, only the two largest classes and the sidecars were advertised. The category up to 125cc took a break for the first time in the 1955 season, while the 250cc did not take part in the race for the third time this year and only ran two rounds. In the class up to 500cc, however, it was already their fifth race out of 8 and after that only Assen, Ulster and Monza were left on the calendar. At least this time there were no fatalities, which was anything but a given in Spa-Francorchamps in those years.

Route sketch of the fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit from that time, with a length of over 14 kilometers and average speeds that were already horrendous in the 1950s.

The fourth round of the 350cc World Championship

Although DKW was represented here with a works team, there were only a few lines about it in a German car and two-wheel sports magazine shortly after this race. Despite this, a German ended up on the podium. When NSU pilots had experienced their glory days in previous years, you could read about it on several pages with photos. In doing so, the journalists of that time did enormous damage to motorsport, only to be outraged in the same year that fewer and fewer spectators came to the races and many works withdrew. Back then, without the Internet, there were only their reports to find out about what was happening in racing. But now to the Belgian Grand Prix up to 350cc, which, in contrast to the sidecar in Spa and the next round in Assen in the 350cc category, was scandal-free. The local spectators were able to admire three internationally known drivers: Goffin, Martin and Texidor. In addition, visitors from neighboring France also got their money’s worth, as the 500 class was to show.

Aerial view of Spa-Francorchamps with the route significantly changed compared to the 1950s and the start-finish in the background, around 60 years later.

The race in the category up to 350 cc
Shooting star Bill Lomas drove irresistibly once again after he allegedly received an offer from Moto-Guzzi to continue the season with their factory team shortly before the Belgian Grand Prix. Although the DKW of Siegfried “Sissi” Wünsche and August “Gustl” Hobl were initially in the lead after the start shortly after 1 p.m., the 27-year-old Englishman from Alfreton (Derbyshire) didn’t let that take his butter off his bread. After the first lap he was third behind Wünsche and Kavanagh when Bandirola on the MV Agusta stopped with problems. The Italian continued his journey again, but finally gave up a short time later. On the second lap, DKW driver Bartl almost crashed and fell back to P13, before his colleague Siegfried Wünsche stopped a short time later with technical problems. Lomas had now taken the lead with a new record lap and an average of 173,488 km/h. The DKW works rider Hobl, who was in fourth place behind three Moto-Guzzis with Sandford in tow, was then able to improve to second place, while the private rider from England came fourth behind Campbell (Australia, Norton). Guzzi factory driver Kavanagh was out and his teammate Colombo was fifth behind private driver Sandford. Ahead of local hero Goffin on Norton, Bartl (DKW) and Baltisberger made it into the top 7 on his drilled-out NSU Sportmax with 251 cc.

As in the previous year, the DKW factory pilots got off to the best start – here Siegfried Wünsche ahead of his teammate August Hobl on their two-stroke three-cylinder engines in front of Bill Lomas and Ken Kavanagh on their four-stroke Guzzis. After two second places behind Lomas in Germany and Belgium, Hobl was in second place in the interim standings before the next round in Assen.
Local hero Auguste Goffin is about to overtake the competitor in front of him. The Belgian missed out on the points in the 350s with 8th place, but achieved a clean fifth place in the premier class.

Favorites’ bad luck at the GP up to 500cc in Spa-Francorchamps

For initial tests, Ken Kavanagh had the 500cc Moto-Guzzi V8, which had been developed by engineer Giulio Cesare Carcano, at his disposal. However, it was not used in the race; this was only supposed to happen at the TT next year, but in the end it was not possible to beat the competition from our own country with the 4-cylinder in-line engine. In addition to Pierre Monneret, Léon Martin also received an official Gilera and Tony McAlpine a factory BMW, with which he did not reach the checkered flag. After a bad start, Geoff Duke started a brilliant race to catch up on his Gilera. On the second lap he appeared in P3, while Armstrong, who was initially in the lead, had to retire a little later. One round later, Duke appeared at the front, but the unlucky driver of the day retired on lap 11, leaving his teammate Giuseppe Colnago to win his first GP. Bandirola also retired from the MV, while the podium went entirely to Gilera with Monneret in second place ahead of local hero Martin. Ahead of the fastest Nortons of Goffin and Storr, Duilio Agostini was the only Guzzi pilot to reach the finish in fourth place.

Our summary of the solo categories at the Belgian Grand Prix no longer includes the last three classified pilots in the 350cc class. Behind Texidor (AJS) there were his Belgian colleagues Vervroegen (Norton), Van Vleteren (AJS) and Flahaut (Norton).
Giuseppe Colnago (Gilera) inherited the victory from his previously leading teammate Duke, which meant he caught up with Bandirola, who had failed, in the intermediate rankings and was together in position 3. Defending champion Duke still led with 24 points from Armstrong (18), followed by the two aforementioned Italians with 10 each.
The Belgian Léon Martin (Gilera) chasing Duilio Agostini (Moto-Guzzi), who ultimately had to settle for 4th place, almost a minute behind Martin.

Before continuing to the neighboring country

The sidecar race is accidentally stopped one lap too early. Despite the fact that the total distance covered was 1.1 km below the minimum distance required according to the regulations, the FIM was not expected to confirm the validity of this race until the end of the year. Shortly after the Spa race there was some bad news that hit the press. Edouard Texidor, a Belgian rider, had a fatal accident just a few days after his tenth place in the half-liter class at the Belgian GP on July 25, 1955 in Gesine. The son of a Spanish immigrant died one day after his accident in the up to 500cc category. It didn’t go very far from Spa for the neighboring next round in Assen, Netherlands, where the continuation of the World Championship was on the calendar two weeks later on the newly completed course.

Pierre Monneret followed up his victory in last year’s home race in Spa with a fine second place on the factory Gilera, even though he benefited from Duke’s retirement in both cases.

The ugly Assen premiere on the new circuit

This time, for the first time, the race was on the new Van Drenthe course and no longer on the much longer route on public roads. Around 160,000 spectators are said to have made their way to the Dutch TT. Unfortunately, two unpleasant events occurred that would cast their shadows for quite some time. As is so often the case, the FIM as the highest motor sport authority and its commissioners did not play a good role. But the organizers also came under heavy criticism at this premiere, and this was probably not entirely unjustified. The reason for this was that, from the pilots’ point of view, the prize money was far too low. For this reason, a somewhat strange incident occurred at the 350cc race. The FIM, which was highly unpopular in many places, did not cut a good figure. In addition, their commissioners completely failed in the 250cc class race when it came to enforcing the regulations they had defined themselves on an important point.

Route sketch of the 7,704 kilometer long Circuit van Drenthe, which was used as a new permanent course for a long time from 1955. Unfortunately, there was a scandal at the Grand Prix inauguration in the first year because many pilots no longer agreed with the meager prize money.
On the same day that the Dutch TT was held for the twenty-fifth time, the unforgettable Stirling Moss won his first race in his home country of England in a Mercedes.

The preliminary second-to-last round of the 125cc World Championship

Because the smallest class was not advertised at the next event, the Ulster Grand Prix, the preliminary decision in the title fight could be made here. The only other candidates for this were leader Ubbiali and his new MV factory team colleague Taveri. Due to the withdrawal of NSU at the end of the previous year and FB-Mondial in the middle of the season, only their factory team from MV Agusta remained in the most one-sided year since the motorcycle world championship was launched in 1949. With their MV single-cylinder engines that rotate up to 12,000 rpm and double overhead camshaft. Since NSU’s withdrawal from the World Championship, they have been vastly superior to all private pilots. In addition, with the small factory riders such as Ubbiali and Taveri, the Italians had two figureheads with a veritable jockey figure and thus the advantage of low weight. Remo Venturi, who had recently joined the works team since the Nürburgring race, was also no giant and it was he who fought a tough duel with Carlo Ubbiali right up to the finish. After the very narrow victory of the world championship leader and thus two-time world champion, there was talk of a stable order, but in the end this didn’t matter and Ubbiali had his first title for MV Agusta in the bag. Taveri, who was initially in the lead, retired on lap 4 with engine problems and had to wait some time for his first title. The remaining pilots took the checkered flag at least one lap behind.

After his first title in 1951 with FB-Mondial, Carlo Ubbiali had to wait four years until he became world champion for the second time in Assen, this time on MV Agusta. The NSU was primarily responsible for the very long wait for the Chinese, as many compatriots called him because of his narrow eyes. From 1953 to 1954 they had dominated almost at will with their Rennfox (racing Fox), before world champion Rupert Hollaus’ tragic death in an accident resulted in their surprising exit from the World Championship.

The 250 cc Dutch Grand Prix and its unpleasant aftermath

The first thing to remember is the saying “nothing is what it seems” or at least something like that. This note refers to the ranking list officially published after the race and the resulting interim ranking in the World Championship. The FIM people didn’t know their own regulations and so the winner was only relegated to second place due to a mistake instead of being removed from the rankings without any championship points. Of the 24 pilots at the start, Taveri got off to the best start, followed by Lomas. In contrast to the TT, he now also rode a Guzzi in the 250s and took the lead on lap 2. Behind him, Müller on the NSU Sportmax and Masetti (MV) fought for third place. Although the German had to make a pit stop at one point, he almost beat the Italian, but in the end he was on the podium together with Taveri and the supposed winner Lomas . In addition to the almost unbelievable wrong decision by the officials, the race was marked by many failures, which included Baltisberger, Brand and Stein.

Luigi Taveri was awarded victory, which remained the case even after the FIM officials corrected the error in Assen. It was his first 250cc Grand Prix victory of his career. This should be followed by numerous others in the future, especially in the smaller classes.
Hermann Paul Müller drove the race of his life at the Nürburgring, but the old champion was also able to impress with another podium finish in Assen, even if he was not allowed to celebrate it due to a breakdown by the race management. According to official saying, he was the first private Grand Prix winner on a production racer in history at the German GP on his Sportmax 250. How much support the NSU factory gave their former employee should be seen as irrelevant. After all, he had often been his own mechanic in the past anyway.

The scandal in the 350cc race

On the second lap, an unusual incident occurred in which around fifteen runners went to the pits by mutual agreement and voluntarily gave up to protest against the insufficient starting bonuses. Of course, the FIM men immediately acted up and wanted to immediately impose a 6-month ban on the bad guys. But after long discussions and the intervention of some riders who were not involved in the boycott (including superstar Geoff Duke), which was a great show of solidarity, the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of everyone (at least except the race management and FIM). The race itself was not very exciting, as the three Moto-Guzzi factory pilots drove away from the front in formation and shared the victory among themselves. A special mention went to Hobl, who fought as hard as he could and continually took risks against the Guzzi to catch up with them. But in the end he achieved no more than reducing his gap to Dale in P3, who was ahead of him, to 17.6 seconds at the end. With Hofmann and Bartl, two more DKW pilots made it into the points, followed by Baltisberger on the drilled NSU and old master “Sissi” Wunsch with another DKW.

Hofmann on the 3-cylinder DKW was seventh fastest in training at Spa-Francorchamps, but points were only awarded for fifth place one round later in Assen.

The fourth win of the season for the superstar of the first GP years

When he took over his machine from the hands of the mechanics, the idol was frenetically celebrated by the crowd. Should he win again, it would lay the foundation for his sixth world championship title and apart from Gilera factory teammate Reg Amstrong, there was no one left who could have challenged him. This one also came out best from the start. But the Irishman was ultimately powerless against the unrestrained Duke and despite a factory Gilera, which the Italians handed over to the Dutchman Veer, the latter could not keep Masetti in check. In the end, Duke was the undisputed winner and was on the verge of defending their title, even if the final decision had not yet been made, at least until the penultimate round in Northern Ireland.

Our compilation already contains the disqualification of Bill Lomas, which was decided in the winter because, contrary to clear regulations, he did not switch off the engine on his factory MV when stopping to refuel. Embarrassingly enough for the FIM that due to their commissioners’ failure to supervise, this decision was made far too late and not immediately after the 250’s had crossed the finish line. Initially, as the winner, he was only relegated to second place instead of being immediately disqualified, as the regulations actually stipulated.
Geoff Duke on the 4-cylinder Gilera – once again an unbeatable combination in Assen.

Before the last quarter of the World Championship

With Northern Ireland (excluding the 125cc class) and Italy, there were still two very contrasting rounds on the calendar. First it was the Ulster Grand Prix, which was only the third time a Grand Prix for the Motorcycle World Championship was held since 1953, before the finale of the Nations GP in Monza on a permanent circuit rounded off the season. Carlo Ubbiali already had his second title up to 125cc in his pocket and Bill Lomas had his first world championship in the 350cc, and he still had excellent chances of the double. As an excellent trial driver and equipped with a high level of technical understanding, the English sonny boy was in a promising position to become world champion up to 250cc. However, only supposedly because of an embarrassing mistake by those responsible for the FIM. Officially, H.P. led the interim rankings. Müller with 16 points, followed by Lomas (14, although Assen’s 6 for P2 weren’t supposed to count), Sandford (12) and Taveri with 11 points. Nevertheless, everything was still open here, just like in the premier class. However, Geoff Duke was able to secure his title defense early with a win in Belfast.

At just 24 years old, August Hobl (DKW) was the new star in the German motorsport sky. As the newly crowned German champion up to 350cc, he was on course for the runner-up world championship title in second place with 15 points before the last two rounds, ahead of the Guzzi factory drivers Dale and Kavanagh. Cecil Sandford, the 125cc World Champion from 1952, as well as Duilio Agostini and the fast John Surtees were also ranked behind the Ingolstadt rider.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© MotoGP).