Spring is finally arriving in the northern hemisphere, and one way we can tell that it’s truly here is the Bonhams Spring Stafford Sale. While Bonhams frequently auctions all manner of automotive, art, and other items all year round, the Spring Stafford Sale is a massive international classic motorcycle show like no other.
The 2023 edition will run from April 22 through 23, and as ever, some fascinating pieces of moto history will be crossing the auction block. For example, take this 1960 Ducati 125cc Desmodromic ‘Barcone’ Grand Prix Racing motorcycle, which was a machine raced by none other than the legendary Mike Hailwood.
For racers in any era, family involvement could definitely make a difference—and Mike Hailwood was no exception. Racing has never been an inexpensive pursuit, and Mike’s father, Stan, had the means to go out and forge relationships with Ducati—even going on to become the OEM’s official distributor in England in the late 1950s. This, in turn, helped the promising and talented Mike to get his hands on some of Ducati’s single-cylinder race bikes—not to mention his own Ducati-trained mechanic, Oscar Folesani.
By the time that 1960 rolled around, the Barcone 125 seen here was to become the final single-cylinder Desmo engine that Ducati would produce, with an eye toward turning it into a 250cc machine later on. It was called Barcone (or Barge) because of its boat-like crankcase. This bike has engine number D1, inside frame D1—and only four such racing prototypes, numbered D1 through D4, are known to have ever been produced exclusively for racing that year.
According to factory records of the time, the Barcone made 21.8 horsepower at 11,800 rpm, with the engine capable of running up to 12,200rpm in sixth gear. This engine came with an extremely specific instruction sheet for the bike’s successful use, including oil specifications, how and when to warm it up, appropriate fuel usage, and advise to strip and clean the cylinder head once every three to four races for best performance. Additionally, customers were advised to send the entire engine back to the Ducati factory each racing season for a complete cylinder and piston replacement. (I mean, it’s a race bike.)
Once Hailwood got his hands on the 125 Barcone D1, as the history tells it, he promptly went out and racked up nine consecutive 125cc wins on this very bike. He also took it to that year’s Isle of Man TT, but unfortunately crashed out on the first lap. After it received repairs, he went on to race it to additional victories before eventually signing with Honda at the end of 1960.
After signing with Honda, of course, Mike Hailwood didn’t need all those Ducatis anymore. Stan sold them off, but the 125 Barcone D1 has a known and documented history going all the way back to the Ducati factory. It’s been part of the Forshaw Family Collection for 41 years, and is offered with a selection of documents, including the instruction sheet mentioned above (written in Italian, with a handwritten translation in English). It also comes with some tools, spares, black and white photographs, and more.
Bonhams says it’s offered in ‘as found’ untouched condition. It is Lot number 469 in the 2023 Bonhams Spring Stafford Sale, where it’s expected to fetch between £95,000 and £120,000 (between about $117,728 and $148,709).