8th September 2014
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Brackley Festival of Motorcycling
Richard Jones discovers classics of all kinds, traditional British bikes and new wave café racers, rubbing shoulders at this atmospheric town-centre show...
Brackley in Northamptonshire is now apparently in the heart of what has become known as the UK's Motorsport Valley, possibly influenced by the fact that it's only a few miles distant from Silverstone. The town is not only home to Formula 1's Mercedes AMG Petronas team but also a number of other enterprises which service the motorsport industry. It is therefore appropriate that Brackley holds an annual Festival of Motorcycling, a non-profit making event with all proceeds going to the Air Ambulance, Bike Experience and the Brackley Food Bank. What started out in 2009 as a bunch of local lads thinking 'wouldn't it be nice to get a few bikers together and raise some cash for charity' is now an event that now attracts thousands.
This bike park shows just how popular the Festival has become, not least because the High Street is closed off and motorcycles process - not race, you understand - with the sound of their exhausts hammering off the stone buildings of this historic town. There are also stunt riders, display teams, a wall of death, manufacturers, classics, road racers and racing celebrities to be seen which is a great deal for the £5 entrance fee.
Although the majority of the bikes at the Festival are modern - and a very pleasing number of these came from John Bloor's Triumph factory in Hinckley - there were some classic gems to be found this well know HRD and probably the oldest machine at Brackley last Sunday.
The National Motorcycle Museum brought along some of its treasures including this 1936 New Imperial 492cc V-twin, a later model of the one that Stanley 'Ginger' Wood rode at Brooklands 80 years ago in August 1934. Wood, not to be confused with his almost-namesake Stanley Woods, took the machine out on to the banked circuit on Wednesday 1st and rode the machine for one hour to record an average lap time of 102.22mph, winning the Motor Cycle Trophy for New Imperial. It was whilst he was riding a supercharged New Imperial v-twin in the Hutchinson 100 that Wood had one of his more 'interesting' rides. The frame had to be stretched to allow the installation of the supercharger, when New Imperial frames weren't exactly renowned for their stability to start with. The machine weaved in a frightening manner until it threw off a tyre tread, locked the wheel and then threw off Wood at 120mph. The crash removed most of the skin on his back but nevertheless he recorded a lap of 115.82mph.
The Museum is raffling this 1951 Vincent Series C Rapide - with tickets selling at £2 apiece this could be the cheapest Rapide of the 21st century.
The Kettle Club were out in force at Brackley with a good number of the iconic Suzuki GT750s on display. Powered by a 750cc transverse inline three cylinder engine, with pump-assisted water-cooling, the gleaming prototype was the top two-wheeled crowd puller at the 1970 Tokyo Motor Show, being the first liquid-cooled Japanese bike. First appearing as the Evolution R model in 1971 it remained in production until 1977 with the final B model, the two-stroke engine ultimately killed off by emissions regulations. Not so popular with motorcycle journalists it was, nevertheless, a very popular machine with the buying public - which is all that counts - and it was a big seller in the USA.
There is, apparently, a new wave of custom motorcycles that are based on Japanese, German and Italian donor machines which seeks to recreate the café racer style without all of the cost that can be attributed to classic British machinery. I'm assuming this Honda flat-tracker is an example of the new scene and it appeared on IDP Custom Moto's stand, the company being based at Silverstone.
I'm not sure of this is another example of the new wave but if it is then Lamb Engineering from Wiltshire are not so much pushing the envelope as punching holes in the stationery to see what's on the other side. These machines may be anathema to traditional classic motorcyclists but then the same may have been the case back in the day when Tritons, TriBSAs, Norvins and the like began to appear and look how sought-after these are now. It is also encouraging to see that there is a new generation getting into producing classic specials - classic in the sense that they are coming from the 1970s, 80s and beyond rather than the 1950s and 60s. I will now descend from my soapbox.
Talking of custom machines, this Brough Superior Special may raise some eyebrows amongst the cognoscenti of the marque. The owner, who had come all the way from Chester, told me that the machine was his father's, sadly now no longer with us, and had been acquired as an engine and petrol tank. I know this caught Jacqueline Bickerstaff's eye and she may comment on it with far more accuracy than I but do I see a Featherbed frame, Roadholder forks, Hagon shocks and Amal carburettors? What will the Brough crowd make of this? I liked it and it certainly showed some speed as it toured around Brackley High Street.
Not all the machines taking part in the procession around the High Street circuit were V-twins - the Classic 50cc Racing Club were in attendance and the rider of this Itom was clearly enjoying himself.
This is not racing - this is processing with style and élan; there is a clear difference. Perhaps with the proposed change in legislation to allow racing on public roads we may see some actual competition in future years…
Let's finish with a British classic - I have to say that my preference is for Hinckley Triumphs but these maroon Speed Twins are delightful.
You'll find more of Richard's photos from this Festival and many other classic bike events at: www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
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