"For The Love Of The Sport" (For the love of sport); you could read about the fairing of Mike Hailwood's MV in the historical distance of 1957. And that well-intentioned motto should be applied today, with all justice, to the protagonist of these lines: Juan Martín Martín; Purebred motorcyclist: mechanic, trainer, restaurateur and pilot, probably the only Spaniard who has been able to defeat Phil Read "The Prince of Speed" on the buzzard traced out of a street circuit, specifically La Bañeza, in León ... but Juanín himself will tell us a little later.
Following the tour of those workshops that distill mechanical hearth between aromas of immemorial fat and other noble materials, we traveled a few days ago to San Martín de Valdeiglesias, on the border of the province of Madrid with that of Avila. There, in a secluded industrial estate on the outskirts of town, we find the warehouse that houses the space occupied by Motos Martín & Martín. The vaulted ceiling area houses dozens of machines on its sides who now sleep silently between two lights; Ducati, Kawasaki, OSSA, Bultaco, Montesa, Bimota… The effluvia of old gasoline intermingles with the semi-matte vision of all that machinery at rest. In the background a second space opens up, diaphanous and bright; it is the workshop itself.
There, on four hydraulic lifts, the meticulous repair, adjustment and assembly work is carried out; most of the restoration of classic machinery and the preparation of high-quality bullets: the Ducati competition of our protagonist. Juanín himself closely supervises the operations carried out by his collaborators (his son and his brother Felipe), in the farthest bank on a first-generation Yamaha RD 350 YPVS and here closer on the bare chassis of a Ducati GT.
“I started very young to follow the gasoline trail. At the age of sixteen I emigrated to France, specifically to Valence, near Lyon. Since 1963 I have been working as a mechanic there, in a workshop related to Honda. In 1974 I returned to Spain and started a workshop here in my town, in San Martín de Valdeiglesias. At that time there was a shortage of sports models, several MK II Shrapnel, ready-made Impalas, few Italian; Ducatis and Laverdas, the English for the rich; Triumph, Norton, BSA and some Japanese imported by ropes of Spanish picaresque bordering on illegality; those Honda Japauto and Kawasaki Rickman ”.
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Parallel to daily work on various mopeds; Mobilettes, Vespinos, Vespas and national field machinery (Montesa, Bultaco and OSSA), the poison of speed is inoculated in Juanín. It is no coincidence that the surroundings of San Martín de Valdeiglesias have been a natural school for fans and pilots of the time. Places fully imbued with a motorcyclist scenery: Puerto de San Juan, La Paramera, Puerto del Pico, Mijares, Cebreros, El Tiemblo, El Barraco or the surroundings of the Burguillo and Navaluenga reservoir configured for a long time the ideal route to smash any racing illusion: deserted second-order roads, curves of all kinds, climbs, descents, changes in grade, natural slopes, rough asphalt, little traffic and ultimately, fans without barriers and non-existent radars ... Other times, another motorcycling.
“In the mid-seventies I prepared a Bultaco Shrapnel“ Kit América ”with which I participated in my first races; Most of the urban circuits, running between curbs and protected from trees and streetlights by straw bales. In 1979 I won the Ascent to the Port of San Juan with an OSSA Phantom at speed. Most of the pilots of the time raced there: Carlos de San Antonio, Carlos Morante, Pedro Parajuá, Luis Manuel Jorge Gómez. Then I also worked as a mechanic with José Ramón Belart (Yamaha) and in Escudería Parra with Paco Rico, who won the 500cc Spanish Championship. with a Suzuki RG in 1983 ”.
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During the eighties and the first nineties the opening of markets took place in Spain; Japanese machines invade national roads and motorcycle sport takes on a global dimension. Spanish pilots are beginning to emerge in the World Championship and in the wake of Nieto and the pioneers of the seventies, a crop of top-level winners is ensured that lasts until today. The old hardened motorists in the urban circuits resort to the recovery of forgotten machinery to revive the magic of gasoline and thus they are summoned, more out of sheer hobby than anything else, the first classic races.
A plethora of sleeping motorcycles are rescued from the gloom of the garages; glorious mounts of other times: Bultaco Metralla, Montesa 250 Sport, OSSA 230, Ducati 24 Horas, Bultaco Pursang, OSSA Phantom, Moto Guzzi, Triumph, Norton, BSA. Engines that are resurrected in the hands of veterans after decades of silence and that roar again on the asphalt of Calafat, Jarama or La Bañeza.
“In the mid-nineties a friend, Rafael Chaparro, left me a Ducati 900 SS and I got hooked on classic racing again and until today. During all these years I have been racing with Ducati and in the C four-stroke category I am usually at the top, competing with much more developed machines; BSA, Seeley AJR and Matchless; Updated replicas enhanced with today's materials: magnesium crankcases, titanium connecting rods and valves, state-of-the-art tires, etc. I have always raced with Ducati, first with a 350 cc. and since 2001 with the 450 cc. It is a motorcycle that I have very close to hand. I have done many tests and I have been improving it over the years and the races. It is a light machine with unsurpassed stability and in acceleration it is dazzling.
Then there are machines that achieve higher points but at the exit of the curve my Ducati is a shot. Actually cubes 480cc, with a 41mm Dellorto carb, double plug, oversized valves, 11,7: 1 compression ratio, five speed gearbox, 35mm Ceriani fork, Marzocchi shocks, front brake Quadruple Fontana 210mm. and the rear brake as standard (I barely step on it). In the current championship I have a close competition with Juanito Bultó who is almost unbeatable with an AJR 350 (updated replica of the mythical Bultaco Tralla Super Sport) and also with Pepín San Millán and his BSA and we usually race on large circuits: Cheste, Albacete, Los Arcos, Motorland, Cartagena, and Jerez, which is my favorite because every time I have raced there I have been on the podium, without falls or breaks ”.
The Prince of Speed
Next, we accompany Juanín Martín who leads us to his trophy room, with a multitude of glasses that fill a wide shelf, with emblems, banners and diplomas on the walls and surrounded by machines of different types and origins. Motorcycles already prepared, orders from clients eager to receive Juanín's expert treatment, finished motorcycles, others awaiting difficult spare parts, parts that must be tracked in unknown markets and warehouses. Competition motorcycles, first generation scooters, antiques in state 1 restoration, unfinished projects, field motorcycles, mopeds of yesterday and today and even pedal carts. A whole motorcycle universe that Juan tells us with an accelerated verb, going through the history of each piece within the vertiginous path of his life as a pilot, as a coach, as a mechanic and as an enthusiast. He, probably the only Spanish rider who has been able to beat Phil Read himself, “The Prince of Speed”.
"It was in León, in the urban circuit of La Bañeza, Within the now traditional classics race that has been held every year in the month of August. I had already won the event in 2002 and I finished first again in 2009. He won in 2003 and 2004 and I think I remember that it was in 2005 when I beat Phil Read. I raced with the Ducati 450 and he came empty, as a guest star driver. Here they left him a BSA prepared by Agustín Fernández, from Oviedo. One shot in the hands of a genuine master. The night before the race, at the Mesón "La Ruta" which was where all the participants met, I was with him at the same table because he already knew me from previous years. In practice, he had the pole and I was second. There, smoking cigarette after cigarette and drinking scotch on ice, he tried to convince me to put on a bit of a show at the race the next day.
He proposed that we go by, like this in an exhibition plan, now me, now you, until the last lap and then as each of us pulls at the end. I already knew his tricks at the Continental Circus in the sixties when, ignoring team orders, he did not let Bill Ivy win with the Yamaha to divide the titles between the two and Agostini made life bitter when they were in MV Agusta. A whole character. I said yes, okay, but the next day in the race I started first and I shot to death until the end. He knew he had a slipstream. I saw out of the corner of my eye how I put the wheel inside at the corners, but I knew that if I let him pass I would not be able to overtake him and I was completely sure that he was not going to let him go either. It was a high tension race but in the end I took the jack to the water… and I beat Phil Read ”.
And so, between adventures close to the mythology of asphalt and immemorial mechanical wisdom, we continue to reel off the conversation by walking between motorcycles of different fur and origin. Juanín proudly points out a recently completed example, a replica of the most beautiful Ducati ever built; a 750 1973 Super Sport. And from that tank with flashes of metallic sky blue, the talk gradually fades. Gone is a life of love to the engine and its circumstances. The life of a 66-year-old asphalt gentleman. As it said on Mike Hailwood's fairing ... "For the love of sport."