Posts by Category: Report

Promo August 26, 2012 posted by

Dutch Masters Volume II – 500cc GP rider Wil Hartog

In celebration of Two Stroke Week, RSBFS proudly brings you the second round of our Dutch Masters series - this time highlighting the exploits of GP Racer Wil Hartog. If you missed the first volume of this series, you can check it out here: Dutch Masters Volume 1.

Wil Hartog was born in Holland, the son of a Dutch cattle feed farmer. Wil's father was resolutely against his early racing activities - not because of the danger, but because of the loss of labor! As grass farmers must harvest when the grass is ready and the land is dry - and as there is not a lot of opportunity for that in rain-soaked Holland - Wil's racing exploits often took him away from the farm at inopportune moments, to the chagrin of his father.

From his early days racing a converted Suzuki T20 (twin cylinder, 250 two-stroke) street bike in 1967 - a restored example showing in the foreground in the museum picture above, Wil showed talent. He also saw that better equipment made for more reliable machinery, and more winning. In 1968 he switched to a 125cc Honda CR93 and promptly started winning races - including the championship that year. All told Wil became a 12+ time Dutch championship winner, and overall race winner in 250cc, 350cc and 500cc International class machinery.

Video: 1977 GP at Assen

Wil is probably best known for his 500cc GP days, racing and beating the likes of "King" Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene, Mick Grant, Giacomo Agostini and Virginio Ferrari. The 1977 win at Assen - the Dutch GP - made Wil a country hero. Wearing his traditional white leathers with the country flag on his helmet, Wil braved the wet conditions to take a monumental win. And while he was not to win a formal 500cc championship, this 1979 video from Hockenheim shows just how competitive the "white giant" really was. Fun fact: The fathers of both Carl Fogarty as well as Valentino Rossi competed in that event!

Video - 1979 at Hockenheim:

RSBFS had the distinct honor to be provided a private tour of the Wil Hartog museum by the very man himself. Now in his mid sixties, Wil remains trim, fit and very much in shape. He retains a twinkle in his eye, a quick smile and moves like a much younger man. His English is impeccable. And he continues to ride his Nico Bakker-framed RG500 on a regular basis during vintage events at tracks such as Zandvoort and Assen.

Today Wil is head of a grass farming legacy as started by his father. The lands and the output have grown considerably, and Hartog-Lucerne has spread globally. From farm laborer to GP racer to corporate owner - Wil Hartog has certainly led an interesting life! For more info on the farming concern, check out the details of the operation here.

If you should find yourself in Holland, do yourself a favor and make some time to visit the Wil Hartog museum. This is a private affair, and resides on the Hartog-Lucerne premises. While modest in size, the story told of an unassuming young farm boy turned into national hero is worth the trip. For more information, the museum can be found here: http://www.wilhartogmuseum.nl/

RSBFS wishes to thank Wil Hartog for his time and boundless enthusiasm, as well as Nico Bakker for helping arrange the tour. I really cannot wait until the next time RSBFS has an opening in our European correspondence desk...

MI

Report June 24, 2012 posted by

Dutch Masters Volume I – Nico Bakker

I recently spent some time in the European offices of RSBFS and had the immense good fortune to tour Bakker Framebouw - the shop of legendary frame builder Nico Bakker. Located in a small village an hour or so north of Amsterdam in Holland, Bakker Framebouw has been constructing racing and roadbike frames since the 1970s. From the smallest 50cc racers to GP World Championship 500cc contenders, Nico Bakker has built them - and won.

You might be familiar with Bakker Framebouw from their consultant work with BMW on various telelever chassis designs as well as the stillborn boxer Superbike project, or perhaps the stunning and most current generation of Laverda, including the frame design for the Ghost Strike 750. It is reported that Nico was also responsible for the first single-sided rear swing arms for endurance racing. The picture above is the entire team launching the Grizzly - a naked bike designed around a GSX-R 1100 engine and transmission. Nico is standing second from the right.

The Bakker Framebouw workshop is a set of unassuming buildings set next to farming fields and canals. The entrance is a testament to past victories; a trophy case filled with racing spoils and a number of race winning bikes fills the vestibule. Beyond that, the work environment beckons - with lifts containing Moto3, Super Single, historical endurance bikes and restorations.

The world of a boutique motorcycle constructor in a small Dutch community goes far beyond bikes; with the ability to weld nearly any material, Bakker Framebouw might be called upon to repair anything, including farm machinery. When I was on site, one of the members of the staff was carefully TIG welding a repair to a lightweight wheelchair - with as much care and skill as would be applied to a racing frame. The team also builds mountain bike frames, performs alloy wheel repair and takes on restorations; during my visit the team was bringing a vintage Kriedler back to life. On another table the shop was building a new frame based on vintage specs for an endurance racing team. There was certainly a lot going on!

The Bakker shop has constructed race winning 500cc GP bikes, based on the Suzuki RG500 engine. In that top class, Bakker has won multiple times with 1970s and 1980s Dutch hero Wil Hartog. The Bakker shop still has one of those race-winning bikes, and the the craftmanship is simply breathtaking. The design of the frame and the lay of the welds are something worthy of a museum. Thankfully, this bike has been run in anger, and continues to do so at various events throughout the year.

The shop also had some road going designs on hand, including a Grizzly, a Barracuda (based on a Suzuki TL1000 engine) and a QCS (Quick Change System - built around a '88 Yamaha FZR1000 powerplant). These were customer bikes, but as Bakker Framebouw has the ability to build any of their designs (including older race bikes), they can build one for you to order. Given the current exchange rates, this might not be a terrible idea. I can promise you that you will not be dissappointed by the craftsmanship.

Here is a quick video tour of the shop, with Nico Bakker presenting. This was not from my visit - and it is in Dutch - but you get a great look at the shop and their capabilities. Enjoy!

Undoubtedly this visit to Bakker Framebouw was the highlight of my stint at the European correspondence desk of RSBFS. The staff was very warm and friendly and they even spoke English - which is lucky as my Dutch is pretty much nonexistent. I was able to view current projects - such as the Moto3 machine - as well as completed road bikes like the Grizzly, Barracuda and QCS. Next time I go I will bring more money and return to the US with a REAL souvenier from Holland. Thanks to Nico and Iwan for their outstanding hospitality!

MI

Report May 29, 2012 posted by

Sidetracked on Vacation: NR750 in Belgium

While traveling through Belgium recently, I stopped in at the Auto World museum in Brussels. Auto World is a fantastic museum located in the historic Parc du Cinquantenaire complex. Everything in Europe appears to be steeped in history, and the Cinquantenaire Park is no different. The construction of the Cinquantenaire Park complex occurred in the second half of King Leopold II’s reign and took decades to complete (construction started in 1880). Intended as a world expo to showcase Belgian artists, production and industry, the museum on the site today shows more than 200 cars from a variety of eras.

One of the most interesting displays was not a display at all. Sitting somewhat forlorn in an upstairs corner of the massive facility, this Honda NR750 was devoid of any information, placards or other forms of display. The NR was apparently a gem to be discovered by only a few.

There is no indication as to the history or ownership of the bike. There was no indication it was for sale, how it came to the museum or its ultimate fate. One should hope that it gains a more prominent showing in the future, repleat with the occasional ride to keep all the internal workings in order.

This bike exhibited some rash along the right hand side, consistent with a low-speed tipover. It brought to mind the following video posted years ago on youtube. The damage incurred was the same side, and similar in nature. Could the bike in the museum and the bike in the video be the same unlucky NR?

I left the museum without any answers, but I thought the international nature of RSBFS might be able to shed some light on this one. Do any of our readers know anything about this Belgian find? Some of the photos shown here were actually found on the internet, so at least a few folks caught a glimpse of this one. The NR750 was definitely the highlight of the auto museum visit, and goes to show you never know when you are going to stumble onto a truly rare find such as this.

MI