Reading the excellent article about the Laverda 500 in your latest issue inevitably made me think back to my first international race victory in a 25-year road racing career, which I achieved on just such a bike exactly 30 years ago this year, at the Daytona Speedway on the Thursday of cycle week 1984. Or, more exactly, That Bloody Laverda, as it rapidly became known amongst the owners and riders of tricked-out, high-tech, molto expensivo TT1/TT2 Ducatis and the like who had to contend with it!
The bike in question was the Ogier Laverda, which my mate Mo Ogier — yes, the same one with the Wartburg station wagon mentioned in my Scott-3 story — developed from a Montjuic 500 street bike into a 580cc motorcycle that ran away and hid from full 750cc Ducatis in the only Lightweight Battle of the Twin race ever run as a full part of the cycle week race program on the banked Speedway. The Laverda ran like a train all week, convincingly winning the race far ahead of the predominantly Ducati-mounted American opposition, who understandably (because the Monty was never sold in the U.S.) were bemused by the bike’s performance.
Perhaps because of that, plus the fact that I’m proud to say it was the first victory ever by a British rider in Daytona’s cycle week — roll of the drums, and play God Save the Queen! — it was the only bike all week that had its engine stripped for measurement by order of the AMA — whose officials then had to take a second turn at calculating the swept volume, because they didn’t believe it first time around! It was a nuisance, but we were glad they’d made us do it, since there were those convinced that we had an 800cc bored-out SFC engine instead of a 579cc Montjuic one — in fact, it was the smallest bike in the race, apart from a 500 Moto Morini.
Well, if you’d spent $5,000 (a lot of money back then) on having your Ducati Pantah engine taken out to full factory 750TT1 spec by Reno Leoni, and got blown off by a bike you never heard of that cost less than that to build from scratch, wouldn’t YOU be upset? MC