By Larry Fritz
This picture was taken May 20th, 1964 at Santa Fe Park, professional 1/4 Mile Track, on the South side of Chicago, Illinois……I won 1st place in the Consolation race – I was always much better off if I missed the finals in the heat races because I could usually win the consolation race & take home $15 to $25. If I made the Grand Final I would be lucky if I made anything at all! Expert, Amateur & Novice classes all ran together at the Santa Fe Park quarter mile track and I was a novice at that time. I earned enough points to advance to Amateur on the 250cc Diana that summer. Most of the experts, the “Hot Shoes” , were riding Harley Davidson Sprints, (which were made in Italy) or Parilla’s. I could out run almost all of them on the straights, but could not then handle the corners as well as those with more experience. I remember one rider in particular, George Roeder, was actually able to just stick his front wheel into my left side even as our leathers were flapping on the inside guard posts and just push me out of the way. I could hold him off for one or maybe two corners, but never more. My 1st year on the professional circuit I started late in the summer on a BSA 500cc single but the next year the American Motorcycle Association restricted all novices to 250 cc or less so I borrowed the Diana from my friend, Illinois dealer, Morris Gauger, and after I earned enough points to move up a class, I returned it to him and he sold it & charged me $25 for its use that summer.
I ran it on both quarter mile, short track, and half mile tracks as well as the Daytona Oval. I was much more successful on the longer half mile tracks because the Diana was faster than almost all other 250cc bikes. I revised the exhaust to an up swept position similar to the 250 cc Parilla’s & I think it helped considerably, but I never did any dyno testing to prove it.
A small note – When I initially set up the Diana, the first thing I did was to remove the tail and brake light assembly and promptly found out that it would not run without the tail light assembly. I don’t remember now what we did, but after some discussion with Ducati we added something and installed a new ground wire to get it back running.
Once, while racing the Diana at Daytona, I time trialed it at 114 mph and the gas tank developed a leak which spilled out onto the very hot back tire. I went down at over 50 MPH. Being a little scraped up I went to the infirmary and also being very modest I tried dropping my leathers just far enough to expose the rather severe road rash on my hip. The nurse said that if I wanted her to fix me up to forget the modesty, so I just dropped all and we all laughed.
After my 1st summer on the Diana I returned to my 61 BSA and over the next few years won 1st Place State of Wisconsin Scrambles, 2nd Place Tri-State (WI, IL, IN) Scrambles. I still have the Hill Climb record for Rubber Tired 500cc at Mount Tom Racine WI., and was National Ice Racing Champion 500 cc class 3 times.
I recently had to throw away about 50 of over 100 Sportsman trophies I won for Scrambles, Hill Climbs, Drag Racing, Road Races, quarter and half mile and Enduro events, etc., after severe flooding in the basement I had them stored in.
Ever since my 1st 2 BSA Road Bikes I have owned & ridden Ducati’s for over 47 years! I still ride one today.