A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


Henk van Kessel (born 25 June 1946, in Mill, Holland) is a Dutch former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. He won the 1974 F.I.M. 50 cc world championship. He also won seven Grand Prix races during his lengthy career. Henk, also improved the old 50cc world speed record, for the 50cc class of 210.635 km/h by more than ten kilometres and brought it to 221 km/h.

The Editors additions are in red: A post was put on the Race Historie 50cc & 125cc page of Facebook. As I cannot read the Dutch language I thought I would translate it along with some other posts I had seen. while I was researching more interesting articles cane to light. I have copied two and have translated them as best I can. the last is not complete but if anyone has the remainder, even if in Dutch I will add it to the page. 

The Formidable Improvement of the absolute world record for 50cc motorcycles by Henk van Kessel has been the subject of discussion in motorsport circles for a long time. As is known, Henk van Kessel improved the old record of 210.635 km/h by more than ten kilometres and brought it to 221 km/h.

The old record was set in 1965 by Rudolf Kunz on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the American state of Utah. The bomb-shaped machine was tested in the laboratories and wind tunnels of the TH in Stuttgart (This facility in Stuttgart was built in 1937 as the world's first wind tunnel for the automotive industry. In 2000, it was completely modernized as part of a new construction. MAHLE has continuously developed the measurement section as a pioneer in this field to this day.) and then it took the laboratory technicians of the Kreidler factory another four months to set the record. The technical stable of the NGK team with the enthusiastic manager Piet Plompen and "construction manager” Ian van Tilburg overwhelmed those scientists and factory technicians in a formidable way.

In February the NGK team started building the machine. At the end of August the machine was ready-made in the workshop of a car sheet metal worker P.J. Plompen. The whole team consisted solely of enthusiasts who had to do their normal work, during the day.

The frame was made of sheet steel, wheels, rear fork and controls were made of super light material. A great deal of time was spent on the streamline. Roll bar, radiator, tank, battery, front fork, etc. are made of aluminium. The power source was a Kreidler engine such as can be purchased in any moped shop, but the interior of the engine had to be modified because the standard material was not up to the heavy task. Piet Plompen took care of the tuning of the power source, which delivers 21 bhp at 16,600 rpm. Below are some technical details of the machine.

Frame: sheet steel design J. v. Tilburg; polyester fairing, Dunlop tyres 225x18 at the rear and 200x18 at the front, front brake 110 mm Sparta moped, home-built rear hub but not braked, Tunits shock absorbers, Renolds Chain.

Kreidler engine block: one cylinder, two-stroke. Water-cooled. Displacement 49.98 cc, bore x stroke 39.99 x 39.70 mm - Piston Mahle, power 21 bhp at 16,600 rpm, contactless ignition Krober thyristor, 30 mm Bing carburettor, six-speed gearbox from Hurt, claws engaged; dry multi-plate clutch. Total length 4.28 meters, wheelbase 1.70 meters, height 0.75 meters and steering head angle 63 degrees.

The machine was ridden by 31-year-old Henk van Kessel from Mill. He won his first title in 1967 when he became NMB champion in the 50cc class. He had won titles with the KNMV in 1969, 1972 (125cc) and 1973, 1974 became a true highlight in his career. Then he won the world championship in the 50cc class and became KNMV champion in the 50 and 125c›c. He extended his 125cc title twice and last year he also became 250cc champion. This year Henk van Kessel put his name on a world list by setting the absolute 50cc record.  After being completely "wrapped" in the streamline, here is the super-fast 50cc machine, with which Henk van Kessel set the absolute speed record for the lightest racing class at 221 km/h

1977, The Black Arrow record machine

The pictures of the articles are in in Dutch.  

On September 5 and 6, 1977, he competed against the clock on a Kreidler 'Black Arrow' record machine developed by Piet Plompen and his NGK team. On Monday, September 5th the first record attempts were made on a newly completed stretch of highway between Apeldoorn and Zwolle. But the weather conditions were far from ideal for setting a new world record. There was too much wind to battle against the elements of time. The 'landing sleds' were even dismantled because the crew was afraid that Henk would hit the ground while steering against the wind.

After all, you didn't have to think about these sleds hitting the grandstand; the consequences could be disastrous. Moreover, the timekeeping equipment did not function at all, there was no anemometer available and the official federation representatives were not  present on time!

One could hardly imagine a worse start. In the end, nothing came of a record attempt that Monday, apart from some tests. The next day the weather gods were more favourable and Henk van Kessel sent his Kreidler 'Black Arrow to a new world record in the 50cc class 'with a flying start', which was held by the German Rudolf Kunz.

In the 'outward run' over a distance of one kilometre, Van Kessel achieved a speed of 213 km/h; in the return he reached a speed of 228 km/h within 15 seconds. The average speed of his 50cc Kreidler was exactly 221.586 km/h. The old world record was 209.777 km/h. Comparing the old record of Rudolf Kunz, against the record of Henk van Kessel and his men was a purely amateurish affair. At Kreidler in Kornwestheim (D), the development for Kunz took almost two years, With the NGK team, the idea was born in February and implemented six months later. Kreidler had a wind tunnel at its disposal; for the Dutch, testing was limited to a few rides on an abandoned army base. for the Kunz attempt, Kreidler, had a whole arsenal of people and equipment flown to the Bonneville salt flat in the American state of Utah;

In the NGK team, all employees came to the starting point in Apeldoorn in their own cars. At the NGK team, a 50cc Kreidler engine was tuned to a maximum power of 21 bhp at 16,600 rpm. In short, the previous story clearly indicates that results can also be achieved with a limited budget and many strong-willed people!

For Piet Plompen's NGK team, some hard work was turned into a formidable success, and for Henk van Kessel it was a special honour to achieve a new 50cc world speed record.

Henk van Kessel was honoured in a grand way on Wednesday evening 28th August by the residents of Mill and his many other fans. Many motorcyclists went to Mill to see Henk raised to succeed Jan de Vries as the 1974 World Champion in the 50cc class.

(Mill is a village in the south of the Netherlands, located in the municipality of Land van Cuijk, North Brabant. 

(The title is created from the Battle of Mill, a two-day fight during the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. 1 January 2006, Mill had 6,049 inhabitants and was the capital village of the municipality)

In an open carriage/ car, Henk and his wife Jeannie travelled to the place of inauguration, the City Hall, where the group of notables, led by the mayor was ready to pay tribute to this man.

Many speakers looked back into the past involvements and their memories of the fact that the supporters' club "Henk van Kessel" the very active MSC Aldendriel, was created. That has been of great support offered to Henk. Even now that Henk is doing so exceptionally  well, it is an undiminished and unwavering support: actually, very enjoyable. It was therefore not surprising, that Henk praised this support so much in his acceptance speech. 

This was due partly to the offer from the Kreidler importer Mr. Henk van Veen, to present the world champion machines used by Jan de Vries, in the 1974 season, to the great talent within Mill. 

Jaap Timmer expressed the affection of the many for the new world champion and by the interested parties for keeping on winning that world title it reduces great tensions that build up especially, just before the start of a GP. A Grand Prix must be very nervous for a rider but he must keep a cool head, the way that Henk van Kessel can and how class. Also I thought, the very constant riding  that is almost always demonstrated by Henk, is a trait of a world champion.

After the ceremony, in which four music bands took part, people and where even the pastor gave a speech (and rang the church bells at half past seven) we were able to ask Henk about some details in a somewhat quieter environment. First of all, we wanted to know from him what his best victory was this season. 

Henk said very spontaneously: “The last Grand Prix in Brno, which won me the championship.” Immediately afterwards he put this statement into perspective somewhat by pointing to the match in Sweden, which was the deciding factor for the championship. His victory there meant the actual settlement with competitor Herbert Rittberger in a duel in which both drivers pushed to the limits of their abilities and made full use of the machines.

The biggest setback for Henk was his second place in the 1974 Assen TT, where he enjoyed competing in front of his own audience and would have, more so, had he won. 

When we ask about future plans, Henk responds very resolutely: “I will continue to race Grand Prix in the 50 and 125 cc classes. Even if Van Veen decides to stop racing, which I would of course deeply regret, I will certainly continue racing next year.” When asked, Mr. Van Veen noted that passing for him is currently an open question, but that at this time it was an open question every year. 

The Kreidler importer always looks at this matter after the entire season and in this context pointed out problems such as the availability of Jan de Vries again for the preparation of the machines and the technical condition of the racers, for example the crankcase halves date from 1969.

 In any case, Henk van Kessel is the new world champion and hopes to extend this title in 1975. For our part, we wish him good luck and much success in the coming season. 


The Kreidler of Henk van Kessel in 1972

1974 Henk ahead of Theo Trimmer riding the jamathi

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