In that form the Montjuic engine initially produced 67bhp at 9700rpm, running on standard F500 twin megaphone exhausts and 36mm Dell’ortos, but like most Italian engines it seemed to like large carbs, and ongoing development saw 38mm units fitted for the 1984 season. Before that I gave it a couple of shakedown races in the first-ever British BOTT events run at the CRMC Donington Park meeting in spring 1982. I made the top 10 both times, running on Pirelli Phantom street tyres, but discovered the engine was quite cammy. However, the standard six-speed gearbox resolved any problems this might have created, with its well-chosen ratios and superb shift action. Neutral was very hard to find, though, which meant I always tried to be last back to the grid after the warm-up lap. The clutch by the way was the standard 14-plate oil-bath unit, but with plates modified by Ferodo to solve an early problem of slip, since when it was bulletproof, though with a rather sudden pick-up which once led to a gigantic wheelie on the Brands Hatch startline! Like his technical idol and ELF designer Andre de Cortanze, Maurice Ogier was an advocate of low-down weight distribution, in order to lower the centre of gravity and make for easier handling. Fitting a fuel tank under the engine Elf-style was out of the question, but having chucked away most of the electrics there was a big hole beneath the seat which Maurice filled with a carefully-shaped 19.5-litre alloy fuel tank – but how to get the fuel to the carbs, since gravity feed was now impossible? Having jettisoned the battery, an electrical pump was out of the question; bearing in mind the bike was initially built just for the bumpy Isle of Man TT Course, a fuel pump off a GS Citroën car was fitted, operated by a plunger from the middle of the swingarm pivot supplying a small header tank above the carbs. This worked well enough even on Donington’s billiard table surface, but to be on the safe side Maurice also installed a high-pressure mechanical pump from a Lucas F1 car injection system, driven off the drive side end of the crank. Just as well, because the plunger pump packed up in practice for the TT, in which Will Harding duly gained his coveted Finishers Award, after what might be termed a ‘lively’ ride! The reason for this was that having shifted the fuel beneath the seat, Maurice had obviously removed the standard fuel tank, leaving the engine fully exposed. This not only meant that you needed earplugs to ride the bike thanks to the added induction roar alongside the open megaphone exhausts, but there was nothing to grip with your arms, elbows or knees. By now I’d begun to take a closer interest in the bike’s development – it was something different from the Ducatis that already proliferated in TT F2 and BOTT grids, and I could see it had lots of potential, so Maurice and I agreed to team up for the following 1983 season. We ran the bike on Dunlop slicks for the first time at the international BOTT race at Donington Park in September ’82, finishing an encouraging 10th overall and fourth in the 600cc class in spite of the difficulty in changing direction caused by the lack of bodily purchase on the bike, but also the severe chatter from both ends as the standard forks and swingarm proved incapable of withstanding the stresses imposed by the racing tyres. Over the winter of 1983-84 the Ogier Laverda became a proper racebike instead of a modified roadster, albeit still employing the standard frame. Many such Montjuics were being raced in Spain and encountering the same handling problems with slicks, leading a local firm to manufacture a heavy but very strong box-section swingarm which a Spanish friend, Joaquin Folch, kindly supplied for us. Up front, a 38mm racing Marzocchi fork with magnesium sliders and adjustable damping replaced the crummy 35mm stock front suspension, and we fitted gas Girlings at the rear, with a set of Dymag cast aluminium wheels. A hand-beaten aluminium shroud was fitted over the engine to give me something to grip, as well as reduce the noise, which even though it looked like a fuel tank (a fact which confused several race scrutineers!) was actually open at the bottom. A vacuum fuel pump, pulse-driven off the left hand exhaust, replaced the heavier Lucas unit. The oil cooler was shifted to the nose of the fairing, itself a Meadspeed replica of the Bimota KB2’S bodywork, to give a smoother airflow down the side where it had previously been mounted. The cush-drive in the rear sprocket was removed
to reduce unsprung weight, chain size went down from 5⁄8in to ¼in, saving three pounds in the process, and a lot of cutting and lightening on the frame helped to achieve the very low weight, as tested by the scrutineers’ scales at Assen in 1984, of 132kg dry, split 50/50% – against 179kg for the stock streetbike. The trio of standard 254mm castiron Brembo brake discs with twin-pot calipers were retained, though the front pair were now fully floating, and in spite of their small size worked really well. Along with this chassis work went a considerable increase in engine output, mainly achieved in one day spent on Leon Moss’s dyno with a variety of alternative exhausts. Eventually Maurice ended up with a pair of his own aluminium megaphones which yielded 71bhp at 9800rpm at the rear wheel running on 36mm carbs, with a very flat torque curve of 28lbft/38nm from 3000 to 10,000rpm, which made the bike incredibly easy and forgiving to ride. Later, this output was pushed up to 74bhp when 38mm carbs still with a 36mm inlet tract were fitted for the 1984 Daytona BOTT race. On 16/36 gearing the bike pulled 9800rpm on the Florida Speedway’s bankings, and was trapped at 148mph. With higher gearing and more revs (Brettoni’s TT2 racer was revved to 10,800rpm, one reason perhaps for its lack of reliability), the Ogier Laverda was a true 150mph bike – from only 579cc. Interestingly, the dyno revealed that with the factory two into one exhaust, there was only 57bhp on tap!
“WE MIGHT NEVER HAVE STARTED THE LAVERDA PROJECT BUT FOR SHARING A GRASSY BANK AT SIGNPOST CORNER DURING THE 1981 ISLE OF MAN TT WITH A MUTUAL AMERICAN FRIEND NAMED WILL HARDING.”
Chasing the Formula 2 Championship, sometimes with limited paddock facilities.