21st July 2014
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Mallory Bike Bonanza
Although the VMCC didn't run their usual Festival this year, there was still a classic bike bonanza at Mallory Park. Richard Jones enjoyed photographing some awesome old bikes in action...
After its future was under threat for most of 2013 Mallory Park has, like a phoenix arising from the ashes, re-opened. The new operators, Stuart Hicken and Eddie Roberts of Real Motorsport took control of the track in December 2013 and held a grand re-opening on March 1st which an estimated 7,000 people attended. Stuart and Eddie have great plans for the circuit - the motocross track has already been transformed, they intend to add another footbridge and are considering the creation of a picnic site from a portion of the wooded area at the track.
As well as two-wheel meetings the intention is to hold other events - a triathlon has already taken place, there may also be equestrian meetings and they want to encourage use of the venue by charities such as hospitals and universities. However the new owners stress that they want Mallory to re-emerge as the hub of British two-wheel motorsport. 'We want to encourage people to race. The more experienced riders enjoy helping the youngsters improve and we want to foster that here at Mallory,' explains Eddie Roberts.
The first major motorcycle event at the circuit in 2014 was the Mallory Bike Bonanza held over the weekend of July 11th to 13th. This was organised at relatively short notice and followed the format of the VMCC event - road bikes on Saturday, race bikes on Sunday with Past Masters including Agostini and Cooper re-creating their 1971 epic race, special parades, a classic trial, clubs displaying their bikes, a three day autojumble and live music. The event attracted some serious sponsors and supporters including the National Motorcycle Museum, who had a display of machines in the paddock.
There weren't massive crowds, which made my life easier, not least because I didn't have people standing between my camera and the bikes. Selfish - me? I should also say that you missed a very pleasant day if you didn't attend. Even Mrs Jones had a good time and although she doesn't mind motorsport you wouldn't describe her as a great fan.
The Italian Motorcycle Owners Club GB had a stand displaying some very interesting smaller machines including two examples of the Aero Caprioni Capriolo - a marque I haven't photographed before. Part of Count Giovanni Caprioni's industrial empire, the company started motorcycle production in 1948 at Trento with a 73cc ohv model and there then followed 98cc, 124cc and 148cc ohv machines. Further down the line a 149cc ohv flat twin was produced as well as an NSU Max engined model, the Cavimax, built in Milan. A few hundred of these very attractive Capriolo machines were imported to the UK in the 1960s and perhaps this is one of them - in any event it's red, Italian and very photogenic.
The Brooklands Museum also had a stand in the paddock where I spotted this 1939 Norton International Model 30 which was in lovely condition and due to take part with the eleven other machines in the Brooklands Museum Parade on the Sunday.
Continuing my obsession with red Italian motorcycles how about this 1968 Aermacchi Ala d'Oro? Aeronautica Macchi was founded was founded in 1912 but focused on aircraft production until the 1940s when it then started producing 3-wheeler trucks and then motorcycles. Harley-Davidson acquired a 50% stake in the company in 1960 but all the Aermacchi bikes continued to be manufactured in Varese, albeit with the Harley-Davidson name appearing on the tank. H-D bought the rest of the company in 1972 but ceased production in 1978 and sold the concern to Cagiva.
Aermacchi still exists but has gone back to the old business of aircraft manufacture, including military trainer planes. This particular machine was owned and raced by Antonio Zappa before being imported to the UK by Syd Lawton and raced, first by Stuart Morrell and then by Keith Hill, up to 1975. It then lay in a garage for 25 years before being re-discovered and is now the subject to an ongoing restoration.
JJ 'Jack' Booker was not only an employee of Royal Enfield but also had competition success with their machines in trials, winning a gold medal in the Victory Cup trial riding a production 488cc 4-valve bike in February 1931, and road racing, principally in the 250 class where he had significant success at Donington. In 1932 he rode one of the new RE 500cc Bullets over the flying-start quarter of a mile with a slightly higher compression ratio to prove the point that, with a little tuning, the advertised 80mph - 90mph top speed could be raised closer to the magic 100mph. The September 1932 model, with its complement of mudguards and silencer, was timed by two watches, one being in the hands of a representative from Motor Cycling, and completed the run in 9.1 seconds which equated to 98.9mph.
In the immediate postwar years Booker appears to have been the company's Competitions Manager and it was he who employed Bill Lomas and asked him to build the firm's trials engines. He also encouraged Lomas, so far as he was able given the difficult economic climate, to develop Royal Enfield road race engines. The machine photographed is the last remaining of six replicas of Booker's road racing machine and is now owned by John Lawes at BEMW.
I have been following Mark Loxley's photography and knew that he builds board-track motorcycles. I took the opportunity to ask if the person with the bike was Mark; to my delight it was. He was riding in Sunday's Phillip Morris Parade on the Honda RS and the RC181 replica, having driven an astonishing seven hours to get to Mallory with his other half and two young children. This pared-down machine is a fine example of his work and I am not at all jealous that he can build motorcycles, ride racing machines and take excellent photographs - well, not much.
The first session we watched was the sidecars and it included this fantastic 1947 Vincent Rapide 998cc with Steib sidecar ridden by Edward Wallbank with John Renwick in the chair. I had seen the outfit, known as the 'Fast Lady', in the paddock before the session where there was a photograph of the outfit on the Isle of Man TT course with the machine in the air. Although it was ridden hard at Mallory there was no repeat performance of these acrobatics.
Travelling somewhat slower - so much so that passenger Vanessa McGlone was able to do her knitting - was this 1959 Chang Jiang 750cc outfit piloted by Colin Cordery, proving the track sessions were not about racing but enjoying the moment.
The Cyclemotor and Autocycle session saw this 1922 Coventry Eagle 350cc, ridden by Ken Hailstone, powering its way around the circuit. The oldest machine in the session, it put up an excellent performance.
I had always thought that Maserati only made sports cars and tractors until I saw this 1958 T2/55 50cc model ridden by Ray Palmer. Following the acquisition of Italmoto, Maserati started manufacturing motorcycles in 1953 at Modena with 123cc two-stroke and 158cc ohv models, followed later by 175cc and 200cc ohv singles. Then came a 246cc ohv single with a disc front brake in 1955 with, sometime later, 50cc two-stroke racers for road and track of which the one above is presumably an example. These latter machines came with a dual-beam back-bone frame, wrap-around front mudguard, race number carriers in front of the headlamp and rear together with a dummy megaphone exhaust pipe. Presumably this appealed to the younger rider and raised sales figures accordingly. Then, only eight years after it started, production ceased in 1961 and Maserati went back to focusing on the manufacture of cars.
Just before lunch we were treated to a demonstration by the Scarisbrick & District Armada's 'Plop' Enduro which is a class for Honda C90, C70 and C50 bikes, not exceeding 90cc in the frame, and any step-through semi-auto derived bike not exceeding 110cc in the frame. These gentleman and a lady produced some of the finest riding - not racing, you understand - that we saw. As you can see from the photo the eventual 'winner', No 199, and the eventual second placed finisher were really making the most of the opportunity provided by the Hairpin. If you get the chance to see the Armada in action make sure you get to watch them riding - who said motorsport had to be expensive?
Session Seven after lunch saw some of the older machines out on the track including this eye-catching 1962 Ariel Arrow 250cc ridden by Keith Harding. The fairing and expansion pipes suggest that it may be used for something rather more serious than a quiet ride down the country lanes of west Cheshire where it comes from.
A somewhat older machine although a charger in its day, Michael Wild's 1938 Rudge Ulster 500cc showed that it still had the wherewithal to hold its own with the relatively more modern machinery on the track.
Another green bike although this time somewhat more sedate; Lionel Hudspith, having successfully negotiated the Hairpin, gets his 1952 Sunbeam S7 DeLuxe 487cc ready for the Devil's Elbow.
Peter Morgan's Moto Morini 3½ Sport was one of the faster machines in Session 8, possibly because the 1979 machine had seen an increase in capacity to 507cc.
I had to include this 1974 Ducati Desmo 438cc not only because its rider, Aneurin Jones, comes from Porthmadog in North Wales but because it is so photogenic - Italian and yellow is also a Good Thing.
Let's finish with a timeless British classic - Brian Hutt's 1969 BSA Bantam 175cc went around the circuit like a good 'un to prove that size and capacity isn't everything.
We had an excellent day at the rejuvenated circuit. I think that Real Motorsport deserve a great deal of praise and thanks for keeping Mallory Park open; I look forward to returning many times in the coming years and hopefully all of you will be joining me too.
The date of the 2015 VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes at Mallory Park has been announced as 11th/12th July. See www.vmcc.net/1000bikes (when they update it...)
You'll find more of Richard's excellent images, from a wide range of classic motorcycling events, at www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
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