Peter Gaunt Ducati 350

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS -

I some­times wear a Ducati t-shirt on my world trav­els as I have a se­cret pas­sion for many things Ital­ian. It also comes in handy as Ducati is in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised as a pretty cool brand, and it’s sur­pris­ing what doors it can open for you. We all like Ital­ian food and booze, es­pe­cially pizza and Peroni beer which springs to my mind! In the au­to­mo­tive world it’s Alfa Romeo and Lan­cia cars and, of course, Ducati mo­tor­cy­cles for me. As Sammy Miller’s Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship win­ning years came to a close at Bultaco he had pretty much pushed the twostroke tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle to the top of the sport as Ossa and Montesa fol­lowed suit. It was whilst I was re­search­ing ar­ti­cles that I no­ticed Miller’s name miss­ing from the 1971 Scot­tish Six Days Trial re­sults; of course, he had re­tired from main­stream events. He was still at the event though, in the ca­pac­ity of the Bultaco UK Tri­als Team Man­ager. At the tra­di­tional weigh-in held at the Gorgie Cat­tle Mar­ket in Ed­in­burgh he no­ticed Peter Gaunt with his four-stroke 350cc Ducati. He had con­verted it from a road-go­ing mo­tor­cy­cle into tri­als trim. Did this plant the seed for a re­turn to four-stroke tri­als ma­chines in the fu­ture for Miller? Words: John Hulme with Peter Gaunt • Pic­tures: Brian Holder, The Nick Ni­cholls Col­lec­tion at Mor­ton’s Archive, Ducati and Eric Kitchen

JOHN HULME: “I have known Peter Gaunt since I asked him for his au­to­graph at the 1969 North­ern Ex­perts Trial. Over the years I have watched him per­form some very in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sions from road to tri­als mo­tor­cy­cles with much in­ter­est. He has been a mine of in­for­ma­tion since I started to pro­duce mag­a­zines on tri­als, al­ways at the end of the phone to an­swer ques­tions.

“He suf­fered a stroke in De­cem­ber 2016, from which he is still mak­ing a slow re­cov­ery. The men­tion of tri­als and in par­tic­u­lar the Ducati conversion and I was all ears as you will find out, as his brain re­mem­bered the task at hand all these years on.”

A Rac­ing Start

With good re­sults in­clud­ing a third-place fin­ish at the Scott in Oc­to­ber 1970, Peter Gaunt fol­lowed them up with a win at the Ir­ish Ex­perts rid­ing the 125cc Sachs en­gined Dales­man. He had been taken on board at Dales­man; they recog­nised his en­gi­neer­ing skills on the pop­u­lar ‘Mi­cro’ tri­als ma­chines that were based around small ca­pac­ity en­gines.

The idea was to de­velop a new tri­als model, but Gaunt be­came frus­trated with the slow progress and the num­ber of prom­ises not be­ing ful­filled by the man­age­ment.

At the trade shows at the end of the year, he had no­ticed the Ducati 350 Se­bring model and had a con­ver­sa­tion with a guy named Bill Han­nah who was with the four-stroke ma­chine. Scots­man Han­nah was a suc­cess­ful car and mo­tor­cy­cle en­tre­pre­neur who, off the back of his busi­ness suc­cess, ran a mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing team us­ing Du­catis.

The Se­bring model’s his­tory is quite in­ter­est­ing as the Ducati con­cept model ar­rived in 1965 as a 350cc sin­gle cylin­der air-cooled four-stroke. At the time it was the largest ca­pac­ity ma­chine avail­able from the Ital­ian brand.

Aim­ing to break into the lu­cra­tive Amer­i­can mar­ket they at­tended the Se­bring race. Based near Florida, the Se­bring In­ter­na­tional Race­way is a road course where Ducati team rider Franco Farne en­tered the 251cc–700cc in­ter­na­tional race on the 350cc Ducati. With strong op­po­si­tion from much larger ca­pac­ity ma­chines he was de­lighted to come home in 11th po­si­tion, win­ning the 350cc class. A com­mon fea­ture with many mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers is that they name mod­els af­ter com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess, and Ducati was no dif­fer­ent with the Se­bring. Peter had ex­plained to Bill Han­nah about his ex­pe­ri­ence with mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als de­vel­op­ment, and he agreed to fund a conversion from the many parts he had at his ware­house near Liver­pool. This was full of parts and can­ni­balised Du­catis that had been robbed for road rac­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

In 1967, Ducati was on the edge of fi­nan­cial ruin as both the 350cc Se­bring and the 160cc Monza Ju­nior mod­els had not sold well at all in Amer­ica. The trend in Amer­ica had moved to larger ca­pac­ity two-stroke ma­chines, and in truth, no one wanted the Du­catis. The Amer­i­can im­porter had a huge or­der due, and when he could not fund the ship­ment, it was Han­nah, for­ever the spec­u­la­tor, who pur­chased it. He sold the Du­catis into the UK mar­ket, un­der­cut­ting the of­fi­cial UK Ducati im­porter Vic Camp’s prices.

This Ducati brochure shot of the 350 Se­bring makes you un­der­stand the enor­mity of Peter Gaunt and Ray Dell’s task to con­vert it into a tri­als ma­chine.

The Ducati Monza 160 is still quite phys­i­cally big for a small-ca­pac­ity mo­tor­cy­cle.

It’s the size of the 350 en­gine that dom­i­nates the Gaunt Ducati tri­als ma­chine.

As Sammy Miller quoted in the press at the 1971 SSDT: “It still needs plenty of de­vel­op­ment work” on which Gaunt com­mented: “It’s now go­ing to get six days of that”.

Every pic­ture tells a story, and when you look up close at Sammy Miller’s face you can tell he is try­ing to un­der­stand the en­gine char­ac­ter­is­tics!

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