August 30th 2016
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Brackley Festival of Motorcycling 2016
This annual event takes place on closed streets, and attracts huge crowds to witness iconic race and road bikes in action. Richard Jones reports...
The Brackley Festival of Motorcycling genuinely gets bigger and better each year. This year an estimated 30,000 people were expected to attend and, looking at the bike park, a large number of these would have been motorcyclists.
Once this this attractive Oxfordshire townís long, sloping high street, with its central, tree-lined tract of land, is closed off then a rather interesting short circuit is formed. This permits racing machinery, both classic and modern, to progress around allowing spectators to have a close look at the action. Mind you, the riders are not racing Ė merely progressing with some alacrity.
Amongst those putting their sidecars through their paces were brothers, Ben and Tom Birchall, who won this yearís sidecar TT at a speed of 115.658mph. They didnít quite manage that on the Brackley circuit but if the High Street had been just a bit longer, who knows?
BRT Racing (brtracing.wixsite.com/brtracing) also fielded a number of classic racing machines including this very handsome Triton T150 850cc which sounded as good as it looks. The T150 engine has been upgraded with racing cams, belt primary drive, high pressure oil pump and five-speed gearbox. The frame came from a 1959 Dominator and has also been upgraded with Roadholder forks and John Tickle yokes. The front wheel has a 230mm Ceriani double sided twin leader drum brake whilst stopping at the rear is by means of a Triumph conical hub, drilled and fitted with a cooling ring in the Manx style. Beautiful.
The paddock for the race machines, where visitors get the chance to look around at the assembled machinery during the lunch break, is at the bottom of the High Street and it was here that I came across this rather interesting 250cc Phoenix JAP on the Banbury VMCC enclosure. Phoenix was the brainchild of TT rider, Ernie Barrett, who had the grand idea of building racing machines using his own frame design and 250cc, 350cc and 500cc engines from his nearby neighbours in North London, JA Prestwich. Itís not clear how many were built but Ernie came twelfth in the 1953 Lightweight TT on one of his 250cc creations at a speed of 71.09mph.
The pristine bike seen here has an all-alloy JAP sprint engine, Amal GP carburettor, Albion five-speed gearbox and Earles-type forks to give a more aggressive steering angle. Ernie went on to have more success with his Villiers-engined Phoenix scooters but that is another story.
The bottom end of the street is also home to all sorts of custom bikes and IDP Moto, based at the nearby Silverstone circuit, brought along this flat-tracker which is based on a 1975 Yamaha XS650B twin. Oakley, who commissioned the machine, were celebrating 40 years from their founding in 1975 by James Jannard who perfected a rubber compound for use in motocross handlebar grips. Hence the appearance of Ď75í on the sidepanels as well as the Yamaha donor bikeís year of manufacture.
Off the High Street there is a huge field where all manner of delights await the visitor including classic club stands, manufacturer and suppliers stands and stalls, riding displays, an autojumble, a fun fair, a Wall of Death and last. but by no means least, the Milton Keynes IAM (www.mkam.org.uk/motorbikes) mobile stand of which we are very proud. There are also more food concessions than you can shake a tick at although Iím not sure why you would shake a stick at them.
Just before you got into the field, the National Motorcycle Museum had a display with some eclectic machinery for all to gaze upon, including this 1923 143cc two-stroke Atlas built by the Aston Company of Witton Lane in Birmingham. The 1923 model featured Astonís own engine coupled to an Albion two-speed gearbox with a final drive by belt. Carburettor could either be Amac or WEX, the rear-mounted magneto was a CAV type and a notable feature was a large external flywheel (I know you canít see here so youíll need to look at the Flickr site if you enjoy large, external flywheels). 1924 saw a three-speed gearbox and all-chain drive but it was not enough to cut the motorcycling mustard and the Atlas marque went the way of all things. Fortunately the NMM managed to acquire this extremely rare WEX carburettor example in 2014 and itís waiting its turn to be restored by the Museumís team of specialists.
The registration number on the front mudguard of this Vincent means that it requires no introduction and its owner was nearby was enjoying a quiet moment with the Northampton VMCC, upon whose stand PUB the bike and PUB the person were located. The Vincent was proving very popular with surrounding spectators who were amazed at its patina and that such a valuable machine was actually used for riding rather than displaying or being a bankerís bonus investment.
Those of you who read my report on this yearís Banbury Run may recall my mentioning a rather raucous custom machine going up Sunrising Hill with an ear-wrenching scream, somewhat out of keeping with the entrants in the Run. Well here it was on the same VMCC stand as PUB, thankfully not running for those of a sensitive auditory disposition.
It is, in fact, a 1968 BSA Bantam Pick-n-Mix although the only bit of the Bantam to survive would appear to be the main frame loop and rear sub-frame. The engine bottom end is from the, presumably Suzuki, RG500, the cylinders are from Peugeot, the front wheel is from a Suzuki GT185 with an R6 wavy disc whilst Aprilia supplied the rear wheel. The all-important exhaust system was designed and crafted by Mark Reeves.
Of course you didnít have to look at stands or displays to see some attractive classic machinery; this example of BSAís handiwork was parked up the side of the road at the top end of the High Street. I managed to photograph the engine number so I can tell you itís a 650cc Thunderbolt from April 1969 but Iím sure you already knew that. Given how good it looks after some cafť racer re-styling who needs to splash out on a Goldstar?
Letís return to the circuit now and look at another outfit, this time MTS Motorcycles twin-engine Triumph which has now sadly been retired from racing. A rebore to increase capacity led to a broken crankshaft after each meeting and, at more than £1000 a time, constant replacements were felt to be rather excessive. The team now has a bright yellow Yamaha outfit to replace the Triumph and the two paraded up and down the High Street at some pace. MTS are based at Hanslope and are a local restoration specialist Ė they even managed to get my Honda XBR to run smoothly.
I saw this Seeley Moto Guzzi, along with another Moto Guzzi, in the paddock at Cadwell some weeks ago and here it was at Brackley going like a good íun around the circuit. Here it is seen giving chase to a very blue and very photogenic Tribsa, neither rider seeming to want to give way.
Letís finish the motorcycles with an old and enduring favourite, the National Motorcycle Museumís iconic Slippery Sam, the only machine to win five consecutive TTís when, between 1971 and 1975, the Triumph was ridden by Ray Pickrell, Tony Jeffries, Mick Grant, Dave Croxford and Alex George. More recently it was ridden at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year by Carl Fogarty. Given the way it went around the Brackley circuit, there is plenty of life in Sam yet.
Finally another giant of the TT was present at Brackley; Peter Williams was publicising the replica John Player Norton monocoque he is marketing, based on the machine upon which he won the 1973 Formula 750TT. At £74,000 plus VAT itís not for everyone but you can buy helmets and T-shirts for a great deal less and I can recommend Mr Williamsí excellent book ďDesigned to RaceĒ which is a fascinating read.
Iíve just noticed this is the third report on the Brackley event that Iíve done in three years. I have to say that if it wasnít so good I wouldnít be going back so often. The money raised is put to good use Ė last year the Festival donated over £32,000 to worthwhile causes and this yearís charities are Warwickshire and†Northamptonshire Air Ambulance,†and SERV OBN, a Blood Bike group covering Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. So make sure youíre there next August.
Finally, a huge thanks to the Festival organisers for granting me a pass to the paddock and race circuit Ė without this the photos would have not been anything to write home about, let alone for the discerning RealClassic reader.
Details about next yearís Festival: www.brackleyfestivalofmotorcycling.co.uk
More images from this and other classic bike events can be found at Richardís photo-feed: www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography
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