We have a serious soft spot for flat trackers here at Pipeburn, they are purpose-built for one thing: go fast and go left. And the holy grail of flat track racing bikes is the combination of the legendary Rotax engine and a Wood frame. In the Deus Workshop in Venice, Los Angeles, they had one such package sitting in the corner of their garage waiting patiently to be called upon again for the chance to slide. What this ageing framer didn’t know, was it would end up travelling around the world and be brought back to life with the best parts and workmanship from all corners of the globe. Deus call it ‘The Lamina Nera’, all we see is endless glory days of sliding sideways.

In the world of fashion, endless high-end items make their way from the design studios and factories of Milano to the glamorous streets of Los Angeles. But this Rotax engine and Wood frame would take the journey in reverse, and we’d much rather this black beauty than any piece of Armani or Versace. Having unpacked the precious package from the USA, the guys at Deus Italy in Milano knew they had the basis for one hell of a flat track race bike, whose potential had simply been in hibernation.

To provide a little history, back in 1983 when Ron Wood first designed the Wood-Rotax short track machine, it dominated the AMA 600cc National Dirt Track class until nearly every bike in the field was a Wood-Rotax. It was so successful that H-D licensed it, painted it orange and black, and then re-badged it as a Harley-Davidson. “That was one of the proudest moments when Dad and his team were converting those bikes into Harley-Davidsons,” smiles Ron Junior.

But Ron Wood didn’t just achieve this level of success overnight, the businessman had started to build short track frames in the early ’70s, captivated by the booming success of flat track racing in his local So-Cal area. These machines primarily used Ducati powerplants, an early Italian connection, but to step up to the bigger bikes for AMA Grand National competition, he’d have to find another engine. He took the left-field choice of Norton power, the bikes were fast, and the one-piece tank/seat/tail was stunning but despite his machine taking Norton’s last win, those engines blew up often.

The European Rotax engine was the final piece to the puzzle, providing effortless torque and rock-solid reliability. The guys at Deus knew they really didn’t need to change much with the chassis or the engine, but she sure makes a sweet song thanks to its all-new custom-built DBR stainless steel exhaust system, which they have combined with a USA racing sourced silencer. Some modern filtration also helps to keep the big carby from engulfing too much foreign matter, but other than that, the black paint gripping for its life to the magnesium side covers, shows this really is a blast from the past.

Suspension however is an entirely different story and it is an area in motorcycle development where the gains over the last forty years are simply too big to ignore. At the front end, there is no better factory offered blank if you want a traditional way up fork than a set of Yamaha R6 units. Germany’s Oram suspension then worked their magic on the internals, before the forks were slotted through a custom set of triple clamps. The rear end is just as good, with TFX Suspension in The Netherlands building a set of their track spec shocks, which are fully adjustable.

Having done a lap of Europe for the suspension, it was back home for the braking, as the guys ditched the ageing Grimeca rear brake for a custom Italian-made system. The Discacciati gear is a beautiful bit of kit and the supporting infrastructure has been built to take endless abuse. Look past the brakes and that funky set of wheels are vintage alloy units from California’s own Performance Machine. They’ve been given a fresh coat of black paint before being wrapped up in Maxxis flat-track tyres.

A race bike doesn’t have to look good, but it sure doesn’t hurt and the classic lines are supplied by the small purpose-built tank and seat combination, sent over to the Continent by the team at Redmax Speed Shop in the UK. A set of Deus race plates and a simple but stunning graphics package and the Wood-Rotax was ready to roll.

The addition of an electric start makes life easier at the track, and it’s right there on the circle of dreams where Deus Milano’s own Marco will be battling it out in the local Thunderbike class; we just wish it was us in the steel shoe.

[ Deus Milano ]