early introduction to Motorcycling. By Vince Chivers.
From a very early age
my father told me tales of how
fast Vincent HRDís
were, and also the
peculiarities of trying to control Morgan 3-wheelers. This together
with my fatherís enthusiastic
driving obviously left a lasting impression on my young mind!!
attempts at any speed were only possible by means of pedal power, and
speed was achieved by my brother Dave and myself when we acquired a
tandem which we would pedal like hell down Ship Hill in Barry and
the Barry Island road passing a few bewildered car owners on the way.
In 1959, when I was 15, my father
took up a job in Northern
Ireland, where my brother and I continued with our pursuit of speed on
push-bikes. The following year we all went to the Ulster GP and from
on both my brother and I wanted motorbikes. This led to making friends
with two boys, one of whom
lived on a
farm. The main
thing was that they had
two motorbikes, a WD Matchless 350 and a two stroke 125 Royal Enfield.
I still remember the
thrill of trying to
slide the Matchless round the fields of the farm.
At some time I
learnt that a 197 Dot was for sale and when I
approached my father for permission to buy it, was surprised when he
said yes as
long as I paid for it! So
princely sum of £12, I was the proud owner of this powerful machine. I
passed my test on a typical Ulster day, pouring with rain. This took
place in a
Newtownards, and luckily for me the examiner was in a better mood than
weather and I passed.
At this time I was still
attending school in
Bangor, which was about 10miles from where we lived in Craigavad. With
a great deal of
saving I put together
the money for tax and insurance and was now on the road. By this time
we had seen
our second Ulster
and seen Bob Mac on the Bianchi 350 and 250 Honda four, together with
and John Hartle, so I had really got the road racing bug.
I discovered a
different route to school in Bangor via a
village called Crawfordsburn. This,
far as I was concerned, was my Dundrod. The start was where I turned
the main road from
Belfast to Bangor,
and the finish line was the 30mph sign coming into Bangor. I can still
remember the bend coming
out of Crawfordsburn to this day.
moved back to Barry when my father took up
another position in the firm that he worked for. Mother and we three
boys moved back to Barry
and father went to London. This
and Dave and I continued to try and prove who was the quickest on the
eventually gave up when
he got married but I continued riding on the road, and eventually tried
racing for a couple of
years, giving up when I got married as well.
I have loved
riding bikes right from those early days and
still love to now, hoping that I still have many more years of
Some racing recollections
suppose my enthusiasm for bikes started after moving to N.I. in 1959.
The following year my father took the family to the Ulster G.P.
Seeing the speed of just the 125cc machines go past the start and
finish was enough to get me hooked.
My brother and I started to go
to local scramble and grass track meetings and got hold of a 350cc
Ariel which we rode on a farm that a friend lived on. In 1962 I passed
my test and bought with saved pocket money, a 197cc DOT. Where we lived
there were a number of roads crossing over the mountains between
Belfast Lough and Strangford Lough. Not much speed going up, but great
fun charging down. My parents split up in 1963 and my mother and my two
brothers moved back to Barry.
My younger brother Dave
and I both soon had bikes on the road and tried to prove who was the
quickest! By 1965 I had a 500 Goldie and hearing that Llandow were
going to do a meeting I entered along with umpteen other hopefuls from
Cardiff and Cwmbran including Stuart Shannon, Brian Adams and Roger
Nichols. I also entered a few other meetings and did a hill climb event
at Maesteg getting 2nd fastest time to a methanol burning 1000cc
1966 came along and I entered club meetings at Darley
Moor and Lydden Hill. May bank holiday sticks in my mind because whilst
on the back of a friends' bike, a car slammed into the left of the bike
and I had a compound fracture of the tibia, fibia and femur! Goodbye
1966 and except for a Llandow meeting at the end of 1967, that was all
the racing I had managed. The bike I rode at that meeting was a 500
Manx bought with the compensation from the accident.
1968 and I
continued at Darley Moor and Gloucester club meetings. Best result was
a national meeting at Thruxton where I got a 7th in the 1000cc final
and 9th in the 500cc final. Not bad for virtually the first year racing.
and I joined Bemsee to do club meetings on Brands Hatch short circuit.
Managed a few wins and mostly finished in the first 3 or 4.Also
meetings at Staverton which featured Percy Tait and Malcolm Uphill in
one and Selwyn Griffiths and Malcolm in the other. Bemsee also did a
national meeting at Crystal Palace in September. Myself and Dave Pinch
arrived late and walked the circuit around midnight. Practise went well
and I was lucky when Ron Chandler came cruising by and I latched onto
him and knew what the racing line was through the sweepers leading onto
the bottom straight. Result was I finished 6th behind Ron Chandler, Pat
Mahoney, Paul Smart, Dave Croxford and Rex Butcher. First time at
Crystal Palace. Chuffed!!
My transport in those days was an 850
Mini with a trailer on tow. On one of my trips to Brands the mini came
to a spluttering halt on the south circular through London. I was on my
own and after finding out that the metal toolbox had shorted and burnt
out the wiring to the fuel gauge and petrol pump, I removed the bonnet
and slung it in the back of the mini. I then took the tank off the Manx
and bungeed it on top of the engine after connecting the fuel line.
Bingo away we go to Brands and back home to Barry. Petrol pump
attendant had a laugh when I asked to fill it up!
1970 was a good
year. Win in non-experts race at Crystal Palace in March. Fourth in
Br.Ch. at Thruxton in April in 1000cc final. Beginning of May and a
meeting at Staverton in which I finished 3rd to Brian Adams and Gordon
Pantall in the 500 final, and second to Brian in the 1000 final after
watching Pantall throw it away on the last corner. End of May I entered
the Clubmans TT at Oulton Park. Never been there before and first prize
was a free entry to the Manx GP. Won the heat leading from start to
finish. Leading the final when the exhaust pipe broke and I couldn't
get top gear. Finished second. GUTTED! Next meeting Brands and first
ride on the Bridgestone Altair which Malcolm Uphill had ridden.
Finished 3rd in 350 race and won two races on the Manx and was leading
the third when I was black flagged for smoke coming off the bike.
Burning oil pipe on the exhaust.Next race on the Bridgestone at
Thruxton and it seizes and throws me off breaking my left collarbone
and takes the skin off my nose after going through the screen. Two
weeks later at Castle Coombe I convince the circuit doctor I'm O.K.
after circuit boss Vic Anstice summons me to race control. Finished 5th
in heat and 8th in final. Us Welsh guys are tough!! .August and back at
Staverton. Second in 500 to Brian and third to Brian and Roger Corbett.
Llandow next and second to Brian again, and a second to a guy called
Shannon. Aintree next and I have a 250 Suzuki provided by Wyndham
Richardson to ride as well as the 500 Manx. Had a good meeting
finishing 3rd in the 250 and second in the 1000cc race to Brian Adams
after fallowing him for the entire race and trying to beat him on the
last corner. It was about the closest I got to beating him. Bol D'Hor
next in Sept on a 700cc Rickman Interceptor riding for Wyndham with
Brian Adams. The bike was entered through a French motorcycle dealer,
Cretel Motors. Gearbox gave up after about 10 hours racing. October and
I have the 250 Suzuki to ride at a club meeting at Thruxton. I also
have the Manx and won both race on it. Leading the 250 having passed
Dave Browning it seizes but I get the clutch in this time. During
the winter Wyndham buys 250 TD2 Yamaha motor from Ted Broad and
puts it into a Jim Lee frame.
1971 First outing at Br.Ch. at
Thruxton in March and I finish 5th in the final. Crystal Palace was a
nightmare, crashed the Norton and bent the frame and couldn't start the
Yamaha in the final. Castle Coombe with just the 250 and after 3rd in
the heat and whilst lying second to Tony Rutter it seizes. Bloody
2-strokes! With only the 250 to ride I manage a good win at Aintree in
the 250 race and get presented with a trophy which I could keep for a
year. Good rides at Wroughton and Llandow where I manage to win both
250 races, both 350 races and second twice to Roger Nicholls in the
1000cc race. National at Castle Coombe in September get a 6th in the
250 final. Points toward an International license and British
July 3rd and 4th and off to the 24hr at Monjuich
Park, Barcelona riding a 500cc Suzuki Cobra for Barry Hicks of Two
Wheel Services. I was riding with Gordon Pantall. The mechanics had
drilled extra breathing hole in the front hub for cooling. During the
night with me on board the wheel collapses and locked against the
mudguard. I go for a flying lesson and just manage to scramble on all
fours to the edge of the road before the next rider comes along.
Finish the year in 13th place in 250Br.Ch. after just two results.
Built a Seeley Triumph during the winter, which looking back was not a
good idea. Managed a few placings on it, a 4th at Thruxton club meeting
about it. Got hold of a 350TR2 Yamaha in an odd frame and got some half
decent rides on it. At the Silverstone International I got lapped by
Jarno Saarinen when he went underneath me on a corner. Frightened the
shit out of me. I had met my future wife by then and began to realise
there might be more to life than racing bikes.
1973. Final race
at my favourite circuit, Thruxton. The race was the 500miler. I was on
a RD350 Yamaha with Godfrey Benson entered by Wyndham Richardson. We
were each to do 45 laps, 105miles before handing over to the other
rider. We completed the race with no problems and finished 11th overall
and 1st 350. Great!!
So that was it. I had a go, I had fun, I enjoyed it. Didn't set the world alight but at least I had a go!!!