1935: An International Rally
* At the beginning of January, Mr Loughborough sent all the national motorcycle clubs an explanatory letter concerning the creation of the International Committee for Motorcycling Tourism (CITM). It was accompanied by a questionnaire: how are relations with the national Automobile Club? Who delivers customs documents in the country? Under what conditions? Etc.
* On 28 May, the council met at the Deutsche Ausland Automobile Club in Berlin with Count Bonacossa in the chair. Vice presidents were Messrs Marcel Haecker (Switzerland), Ewald Kroth (Germany) and Baron Nothomb (Belgium). Fifteen national associations were present or represented: Belgium, the British Empire, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Membership for the Moto Club de Valaparaiso (Chile) was confirmed.
* The extremely confusing situation in Argentina was also raised. In agreement with AIACR secretary general, Colonel Peron, it was suggested that the Automobile Club Argentino be requested to be “kind enough to supply a report to the FICM on the state of motorcycling in that country”.
* During the CITM meeting Mr Loughborough explained that of the 29 questionnaires sent to the associations he had “only” received 18 replies. The committee regretted this state of affairs and hoped that the 11 remaining countries would supply their reports as soon as possible. Following a suggestion from Belgium and France, the introduction of an annual rally was recommended by way of promoting motorcycle tourism. The principle was approved by the council and a commitment was made to produce the rules and to organise a competition with trophy prizes.
* The president opened the session of the Autumn Congress in Paris. The main subject of the council meeting was to ratify the convention agreed between the AIACR and the FICM on 24 June. Long discussions ensued for the pre-eminence of the AIACR and/or the national automobile clubs in the decision-making process (in spite of the creation of a conciliation committee) raised certain doubts especially with the Scandinavians who considered that motorcycling independence should be better preserved. The argument was accepted and modifications to the content of the text were proposed to comply better with the statutes.
* Count Bonacossa was re-elected with acclaim to a further three years as president (up until 1938). The honourable Arthur Stanley expressed his wish to retire from his function as treasurer, taking into account his age and the large number of honorary posts he held.
* The sporting commission reviewed the season. The secretary general had organised a meeting the previous day for delegates from countries which had taken part in the Six Days of regularity in Germany and suggested some modifications to the rules. Both World Trophy and Silver Vase were clinched by the German teams.
* The international racing regulations were amended. For example, from 1 March 1936 onwards only authorised helmets could be used. Each UMN had to submit various models to the technical committee to receive their authorisation before the helmets were used on a national level. The 1935 FICM Grand Prix was given to the ACU for organisation, and the English passed it on to their Irish counterpart, as the chosen circuit was Belfast Clady, and the MCUI was responsible for the whole of Ireland. The circuit length was 33 km, on roads closed to traffic. Jimmy Guthrie won the 500cc race on his Norton, while Walter Handley took the 350cc win riding a Velocette. German Arthur Geiss won the 250cc with the unbeatable DKW.
* The International Touring Commission met and first discussed the custom documents. Following the Grand International rally organised in Belgium, the federation officially created this event and decided to run it every year with a permanent trophy which would be awarded to the UMN which obtained the most number of points according to the following system: for each UMN participating in the rally, the number of kilometres between its offices and the start would be measured by the most direct route by road, multiplied by the number of entries and divided by the total number of motorcycles in circulation in that country the previous year. The organising UMN – Germany in 1936 – could not take part in the challenge and the UMN which won the trophy three times would receive a replica.
1936: A Speedway World Championship!
* In the month of April 1936, the FICM went to the offices of the Spanish Automobile Club in Madrid for the first time. Discussions concentrated, among other things, on the particular rules for the Six Days in Germany, the question of insurance, the speed trophy in Italy, the FICM Grand Prix and the international sporting calendar. But the major talking point was the Speedway World Championship. Proposals were submitted by Major Watling (who was representing the ACU and the MCUI) and he maintained that speedway was controlled in England by the ACU “with great success”. Other delegates remained skeptical concerning the international control of this sport which was unheard of in several countries and even banned in Germany. Nevertheless it was therefore decided to approve the proposal submitted by the ACU, to create a Speedway World Championship and to appoint a sub-committee with the task of studying international control of the discipline. The first Speedway World Final was held in Wembley Stadium in London, and won by Australian rider Lionel Van Praag.
* The French Motorcycle Union requested that the license for riders of small motorcycles should be abolished. It was decided that the council would be recommended to take measures to abolish licenses for small engine motorcycles in every country.
* The FICM Grand Prix was held on the Sachsenring circuit: victory for Henry George Tyrell-Smith in the 250cc on an Excelsior, for Freddie Frith in the 350cc on a Norton, and Jimmy Guthrie in the 500cc also on Norton.
* The Six Days were also organised in Germany, but this time it was all for Great Britain, who won the World Trophy and the Silver Vase. The first FICM Rally took place in Berlin – on the occasion of the Olympic Games – and was won by Estonia.
* The autumn congress took place in the offices of the Automobile-Club de France. Germany had organised the FICM Grand Prix, the Six Days of regularity in which teams from France, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland and the Netherlands had taken part, as well as the first FICM rally. There was a clear increase in motorcycle activities.
* A request for membership had been received from the Moto Club do Brasil, whose offices were in Rio de Janeiro. This request was supported by the Brazilian Automobile Club, the national sports council and the Cycling Federation of Brazil (sic) and was unanimously granted.
* After lunch, Count Bonacossa announced the resignation of Baron Nothomb from the presidency of the CSI. Mr Pérouse was unanimously elected. Other subjects discussed were turbo-compressors (not yet banned or even regulated), fuel (except for the TT, all the organisers had to provide the same fuel to all competitors), flag signals were adapted to the AIACR code – red (stop immediately), yellow (beware of danger), green (free road), moving blue (overtaking, stick to the right or left), black together with a number (motorcycle in question must stop) and black and white chequered (end of the race). Another modification was made, this time with regards to the circuits: the width of the track must not be less than five metres and it must not have more than six entries per kilometre of track. If the track was 8 metres wide, then 8 entries per kilometre of track could be authorised.
1937: The Revised Statutes
* The first meeting of the year took place at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam on Monday 3 May with the CSI meeting. Concerning the CSI, after Ireland at the previous congress, it was now the turn of Czechoslovakia to apply for membership and it was unanimously accepted. But Mr Loughborough drew attention to the fact that at the last congress only 14 of the 29 FICM member countries had been present or represented and that in compliance with article 11 of the statutes none of the decisions taken were valid. This difficulty arose from the fact that among the 29 members there were twelve countries that rarely attended the congress and among them at least three were very behind in paying their membership and never responded to correspondence.
* The secretary general announced that the Korpsführer Hühnlein from the ONS had offered a challenge to the FICM which would be awarded as a team prize in the international Six Days event. Agreement was reached on the location of the FICM Grand Prix for 1939 (Belgium) and 1940 (Great Britain) and the Czech delegate invited those present to come to Prague in spring 1938. The meeting finished at 17h20.
* Paris was the location of the Congress, at the offices of the ACF. This time a quorum was reached with fifteen countries present or represented. Secretary General Loughborough had received numerous activity reports from member associations and it is interesting to list them here for an overview of the situation just before the Second World War.
Motorcycling on the Eve of the Second World War
- Germany (Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde): Five international races, six national races, twelve races on circuits, three long distance events and fifty four one-day races had been organised. Around 12,400 riders had taken part in these events. 768 international licences and 7,589 national licences had been issued. The number of motorcycles in circulation in Germany was 1,280,000 in July 1936 and 1,427,000 in July 1937.
- Argentina (Moto Club Argentino): 14 races were organised in 1935 and 16 in 1936.
- Belgium (Fédération motocycliste de Belgique): The number of bikes in circulation which had dropped in 1935 had increased to 65,000 in 1936 and continued to grow in 1937. The number of speed events had been severely reduced and the government was proposing to ban them in future on large roads. However the number of rallies and regularity races was constantly growing. Although not practiced by many, motoball was gaining in interest. Tourism was prospering and the number of customs permits issued for tourism abroad tripled over the year with the large majority intended for France.
- British Empire (Auto Cycle Union): 390 clubs were affiliated to the ACU, representing 19,431 members. The ACU also included national clubs from Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Scotland and South Africa. 1,172 national licenses had been issued in England. The Tourist Trophy recorded 103 entries and the international Six Days 220 from eleven different countries. Races on cinder tracks were becoming more and more popular and more than three million spectators had attended them during the season. 85,000 people had watched the World Championships in Wembley.
- France (Union motocycliste de France): The UMF had organised or supervised 33 races. Numerous world record attempts had been made at Montlhéry. 25 riders had received international licences from the UMF. On 31 October the number of clubs was 117 representing 36,000 members.
- Holland (Koninklijke Nederlandse Motorwielrijders Vereeniging): 21 major events had been organised during the year. The Dutch team had won the Silver Vase at the Six Days and the KNMV had won the international Rally challenge.
- Hungary (Kiralyi Magyar Automobil-Club): in 1937 the Hungarian Royal Automobile Club had organised two international events, eight national races and numerous events of local interest.
- Italy (Reale Federazione Motociclistica Italiana): With 9,631 members, the RFMI organised more than 150 events on its soil. The “Coppa Mussolini” from Milan to Tarente (1,300 kilometres) was won by Sandri Guglielmo with an average speed of 104.04 km/h. 1,142 licences had been issued to racers.
- Sweden (Sveriges Motorfederation, Motocykelsektionen): The number of affiliated clubs increased from 34 in September 1935 to 75 in 1937. 118 permits had been issued for various events and 513 racing licences had been dispatched. A racing accident insurance scheme had been successfully introduced. Relations between the SMM and the Swedish automobile club (KAK) were now cordial after several rocky periods.
- Switzerland (Union motocycliste Suisse): The UMS had organised several events, including two Grand Prix – Geneva and the FICM The number of members had fallen due to the increasingly heavy taxes on motorcyclists but every effort was being made to improve the situation.
- Czechoslovakia (Autoklub Republiky Ceskoslovenské): A team took part in the Six Days with five riders including four who won gold medals. Seven international events had been organised including the “Petite Entente” covering 2,500 km of small roads (crossing borders into Romania and Yugoslavia). 47 national events had been organised and there were 70,000 motorcycles in circulation in the country which was 11,000 more than the previous year.
* The agreement between the AIACR and the FICM was finally officially adopted (it was the text proposed by the FICM in 1936 with a few modifications added by the AIACR in 1937, among which, the conciliatory committee became the arbitration committee with the president appointed by mutual agreement between the two associations). This new committee had to be appointed and start work. The business in Luxembourg and the suspension of the three delegates was on the table. Messrs Haecker, Pérouse and Nortier were appointed to represent the FICM on the arbitration committee which would meet soon in Paris with the delegates from the AIACR.
* Mr Pérouse presented the report of the 37th international sporting commission meeting. Some modifications had been made to the rules for the international Six Days, in particular, the increase in the number of riders per team from three to four, with each riding a bike in one of the following categories: 250cc, 350cc, 500cc and 600cc sidecar. Concerning machines equipped with a turbo compressor, it was decided that they would be accepted, but would be ranked separately. The definition of a compressor was submitted to the technical committee.
* The circuit of Bremgarten, near Berne, welcomed the FICM Grand Prix of 1937 and – finally – the great Italian rider Omobono Tenni won the 250cc race on a Guzzi after several unsuccessful trials. And another great rider, Jimmy Guthrie, won the 350cc and the 500cc. Unfortunately a month later Jimmy Guthrie, while leading the German Grand Prix on the Sachsenring in the last lap, crashed heavily on the ground and hit a tree. Guthrie died later at the hospital; he was 40 years old.
* A report had been requested on the fatal accident of Jimmy Guthrie. The president highlighted the importance of a report in such cases (this report is unfortunately not in the archives). An official reason for the crash was never released; however, according to testimony of people on the spot (spectators, marshals), the rear wheel axle broke while in full acceleration exiting a curve. Karl Gall’s victory on a BMW was “celebrated” in a heavy silence.
* In Wembley, the second Speedway World Final was won by North-American Jack Milne.
1938: Finally a «real» European Championship
* The spring congress took place in May at the premises of the Czechoslovakian Automobile Club. It was reported that taking into account that Austria and Germany had merged, a letter from the ONS explained that this association had taken over all the rights and obligations of the OeAC.
* President Bonacossa announced the decision of the arbitration committee – of which he had been appointed president – to exclude the “Motor Union du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg” from the federation. The offences committed (illegal organisation of races and non-respect of the AIACR and FICM rules) were considered to be “serious and inexcusable”.
* The CSI report contained an important proposal from the ONS: the creation of a European Championship for the three classes A (250cc), B (350cc) and C (500cc). For each class and for each race, the following points would be awarded: 6 points for the winner, 5 for 2nd; 4 for 3rd, 3 for 4th, 2 for 5th and 1 for 6th. The European individual motorcycle Champion for 1938 would be the rider who won the most number of points in his class. In the event of a tie, the winner would be the rider who had finished highest in the FICM European Grand Prix. The 1938 calendar, with no less than eight events, was as follows (it should have been nine, but Sweden desisted):
- 13-17 June: British Tourist Trophy
- 26 June: Belgian Grand Prix
- 17 July: Swiss Grand Prix
- 24 July: French Grand Prix
- 30 July: Dutch Grand Prix
- 7 August: FICM European Grand Prix (German GP)
- 20 August: Ulster Grand Prix
- 4 September: Italian Grand Prix
* The technical commission which met in Paris on previous March, suggested the following definition for supercharged: “a supercharged engine should be considered to be any engine where the cylinder could be filled with gases of which the weight is superior to the normal weight corresponding to its capacity”. There was a new discussion on fuel: Mr Kroth suggested leaving the choice entirely open to the competitors. “Controlling the number of octanes requires complicated work from “chemists who themselves are not always in agreement” (sic!) The question was left open with the ONS charged with circulating a report on the matter.
* It was also decided that the largest race in a country would be designated the “Grand Prix” with the exception of Great Britain, who was from now on the only one authorised to adopt the title of “Tourist Trophy” for an international race.
* Delegates returned to Paris in November 1938 to the headquarters of the ACF. The results of the 1938 European Championship were confirmed by the CSI and the Champions congratulated on their success. Titles were clinched by Ewald Kluge in the 250cc (six wins in eight races!) on his factory supercharged DKW and Georg Meier in the 500cc (four wins) on his factory supercharged BMW. The 350cc title went to Edward “Ted” Mellors (Velocette, with three wins, scored points in seven races). The Championship was planned to continue for 1939 with some modifications to the rules.
* The Speedway World Final was won by Australian rider Bluey Wilkinson.
* The Six Days held in Britain were won by the British Trophy and Vase teams. Since the proposal not to organise the Six Days of regularity two years running in the same country had been accepted, the next event could not take place in Great Britain in spite of the British team’s glorious victory. Two applications had been received, one from Poland (with no accompanying letter) and the other from Germany, who proposed the dates of 20-27 August in the region around Salzburg.
* The session ended with the election of the FICM board for the years 1939, 1940 and 1941. Count Bonacossa was re-elected president. There were seven candidates for the five vice president positions. The German Von Bayer-Ehrenberg (14 votes), the Swede Löfström (13 votes), the Swiss Haecker (12 votes), the Briton Ball (11 votes) and the Frenchman Pérouse (8 votes) were elected. The Dutchman Nortier (8 votes) withdrew in favour of Mr Pérouse and Professor Low (3 votes) was not elected. Messrs Marians (treasurer) and Loughborough (secretary general) were both unanimously re-elected.
1939: Bulgaria and Palestine excluded
* Copenhagen welcomed the FICM delegates. Thirteen countries only were present or represented including the Dutch Indies. The first issue concerned the members from whom there was no news whether about activities or membership fees. Bulgaria and Palestine had shown no signs of life and the council voted in favour of excluding them. The situation in Romania and Greece was evolving and the secretary general was entrusted with monitoring this situation. Latvia was proposing to pay in instalments and this was accepted. Finally, Yugoslavia showed some signs of activity, but it had not settled its membership fees nor its calendar entries. In addition the Yugoslavian Automobile Club had sent a letter requesting that the representation of Yugoslavia should be transferred to it. The issue seemed set for the arbitration committee. The Motor Union du Luxembourg presented a request to be readmitted via the intermediary of the Belgian federation but the council judged that they did not fulfil all the conditions imposed by the arbitration committee. The question was therefore postponed.
* The Belgian delegate, Mr Pire, was elected to the post of vice president to replace Mr Von Bayer-Ehrenberg, who was unable to accept the post. Concerning the positions of president and vice president of the CSI, no agreement had been reached and the election was postponed until the autumn congress in Paris – which would never take place…
* For the European Championship, it was decided to retain the same rules as in 1938 except that only the five best results out of the nine races would count for each rider.
* To finish it was reminded that the ONS had invited the delegates to go to Berlin for the 1940 Spring congress (no comment…).
* The last official document from the FICM before the Second World War was the financial report for the year ending 30 June 1939 published by the honorary treasurer, Mr Marians and the secretary general, T.W. Loughborough. It dates from March 1940. The assets amounted to £3,159.12.6d which included the sum due on 30 June of £488.2.2d., but not the furniture and other property. The treasurer requested that the debts should be settled as quickly as possible. As soon as these and other membership fees due on 1 July 1939 had been settled, the FICM requested no payments until the hostilities had ceased. Membership fees for the last year – paid or due – amounted to £495.12.10d as opposed to £523 the previous year. The “loss” of Austria, Luxembourg and Czechoslovakia and the reduced levy paid by Argentina, Denmark and Norway were partly compensated by the arrival of the Dutch Indies, but rendered the record figure of £546 (in 1935) unattainable. The total membership fees in fact had to be reduced due to the expulsion of Bulgaria and Palestine and the writing off of their debt. This reduced the surplus for the year in progress to £85.1.5d compared to £286 in 1937-38.
* The FICM European Championship ran until August and was interrupted – the last two events, in Switzerland and Italy, had to be obviously cancelled. Ewald Kluge was 250cc Champion again and considered the champion of Champions, having clinched the largest number of wins – four. Teodoro “Dorino” Serafini, factory Gilera rider, won the 500cc. He took three wins, the same number as Georg Meier, but had a second place in Spa – while Meier had no other result. Finally in the 350cc another DKW rider, Heiner Fleischmann, finished in the first place, one point ahead of Ted Mellors. The British protested that there was only seven events instead of nine, thus only four races should count, not five (with this calculation Mellors would be Champion). But the case never came up, and things remained as they were.
* On September 1st, 1939. Germany invaded Poland, and the Second World War started. In Salzburg, the Six Days had started on Monday 21 August, and the fight was running between British and German teams. All riders were advised that if they felt the need to do so, they could quit the competition at any time and go back home – as the British and some other teams did on Thursday 24 August. Others such as Germany (of course) and Italy continued, and the Germans won both World Trophy and Silver Vase. But apparently the Jury could not meet on Sunday 27, did not receive the official results, and everybody left at once. The Trophies disappeared, and everything was forgotten until 1946.
* The world speedway final scheduled on 14 September was cancelled. In London, the Speedway Control Board met on 28 September. It was decided that tickets would be reimbursed and that the title of World Champion would remain unfilled for 1939. Activities continued in England for a while, mostly in speedway.
Photos FIM Archives - Caption from top to bottom:
-1 Bruno, 1935
-2 Guthrie, 1935
-3 Van Praag, 1936
-5 Jack Milne, 1937
-7 Meier, 1939