After years of racing and riding, on October 27, 2021, Paul Smart was killed, riding his motorcycle, in a road traffic accident, which is the subject of investigation by the police and coroner.
Paul will forever be remembered primarily in motorcycling circles for his association with Ducati. In the accompanying picture, he races his (and it was his; Ducati gave it to him) 750cc V-twin at Silverstone in 1972, one of three mainland UK appearances he made that year on the bike, having secured his place in Ducati legend, by winning the Imola 200 earlier that year.
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But the ride didn’t come about in a conventional manner. Talking to Classic Racer in 1986, Paul recalled: “In 1972 I was riding Kawasakis in America for Bob Hansen… We had a deal that he’d release me to ride in Europe on non-conflicting dates, which is how I came to be available for the Ducati ride.” You’ll notice he’s wearing his Kawasaki leathers in our picture.
As recounted in the Classic Racer article, Ducati had already been turned down by Jarno Saarinen and Barry Sheene, Paul’s brother-in-law. In fact, it was Maggie, sister of Barry, who accepted the Ducati ride (a week before the race) on husband Paul’s behalf, reasoning it was good money. Paul initially wasn’t exactly thrilled, a feeling which continued when he finally got to Italy and tested the bike: “They felt pretty awful to ride that first time…”
But all fell into place, Paul ‘clicked’ with both the motorcycle and the track, with riding – circuit and motorcycle coming together in a harmonious collaboration. Early in the race, Paul trailed Giacomo Agostini on a special, shaft-drive 750cc MV four, a one off F750 bike, Smart passing the Italian legend after five laps. Despite the best efforts of Ducati team-mate Bruno Spaggiari, Paul Smart ran out the winner. And he was a Ducati legend for ever more. The race has been called the most important victory in the Italian maker’s history. They gave him the bike and never forgot his efforts.
Born on April 23, 1943, Paul Smart bought his first motorcycle when he was 16, a tired 1951 Matchless G3LS, soon replaced by a BSA Shooting Star twin, suitably ‘café racer-ised.’ He decided it was prudent to do his racing on the track, rather than the road, so he bought a 125cc Bultaco which was unsuccessful, then in 1965 a 125cc CR93 Honda in partnership with his pal John Button. The trajectory was now upwards.
Smart also had a brand-new Cotton Starmaker racer. He won the Stars of Tomorrow award and in 1966 raced the CR93 and also a 250cc Greeves Silverstone, sponsored by Charles Mortimer, as Smart was instructing at the Mortimer racing school. The Greeves was prone to sudden and violent seizures.
In 1967, Smart rode a 350cc Yamaha for Joe Francis Motors, partnering Chas (son of Charles) Mortimer. On a Dunstall Dominator, Paul was second in Production 750 TT. Next year, it was Aermacchis for both Syd Lawton and Tom Arter, Curley-Norton, works BSA and Seeley G50, as well as a 350cc Yamaha 350 in Europe. In 1969 he campaigned a Seeley G50, 350cc Yamaha in Europe, and, on a Norton Commando, was second in the Production TT.
By the early 1970s he was riding Bob Hansen’s Kawasakis in the USA and Seeley 500cc, 250 and 350cc Yamahas in Europe, being the first career racer to commute transatlantic.
In 1972, helped by the Imola triumph, he earned more money than any other road racer. He continued racing (often on big two-strokes) through until 1977, latterly riding a TZ750 Yamaha for Mike Hailwood, as well as other machines, including Ducati outings.
After retiring, Paul put his energies into his business, eventually having three separate shops. Always a keen rider, he never lost his love of motorcycling and he was also a keen sailor.
Ducati acknowledged his contribution to the company once more, launching the Paul Smart 1000 LE in 2006.
Paul Smart had married Maggie Sheene in 1971; they had two children, Scott and Paula. Our deepest condolences are expressed to Paul’s family and many friends.