the bike shed

by Wayne Allen

The Meppershall Messenger is a monthly magazine published for the people of Meppershall, Bedfordshire. Wayne Allen who is an active member on our forum known as 'goosex7' is currently writing a column which we think will be of interest to you all.

May 2013

By Wayne Allen
A few issues back I wrote about Vincents that were manufactured in Stevenage. This got me thinking about other local contributions to our great British motorcycle history. It suddenly occurred to me that an eight times world motorcycle champion Phil Read was born and raised in nearby Luton, as I was.
Phil Read was from a golden age of motorcycling and his achievements were quite outstanding. I have had the good fortune of meeting Phil on several occasions at various classic bike shows; he always has time to speak with the fans and is quite a character.
Phil William Read was born in Luton on the 1st January 1939, so a New Year brought a budding new champion. He was nicknamed the ‘Prince of Speed’ and was the first motorcycle rider to become a world champion at 125cc, 250cc and 500cc classes. He is one of only three riders, including the legendary Mike Hailwood and Valentino Rossi, to have become world champions in three or
more classes of road racing. His success also extended to GP wins in the 750cc class as well. Read brought Yamaha its first world championship title in 1964 on a 250cc bike and added another in 1965 in the same class. In 1966, a new four cylinder 250cc bike was introduced by Yamaha. Unfortunately there were issues with the new engine which contributed to Read losing the title to Mike Hailwood. The following year was a close call and he effectively lost to Hailwood again: although tied on the last round, Haillwood’s five victories to Read’s four made him world champion.
In 1968 and similar to recent team order events in F1, Yamaha wanted Read to concentrate on winning the 125cc class and their other rider Bill Ivey to win the 250cc class. Read ignored the wishes of Yamaha and after winning the 125cc class challenged Ivy to win the 250cc class. Again a close finish to the season with both Read and Ivy tied on points but Read came through with a ruling on
elapsed times. There was a short break from 1969 to 1970 when the major Japanese manufactures withdrew from racing. Then in 1971 Read entered as a privateer on a modified Yamaha and took the world title without factory support. That it made it 5 world titles and Read the only privateer to achieve this.




                                        Signed by Phil Read

June 2013

Against Convention - The Rotary Engine
By Wayne Allen
Mechanical engineers have constantly striven in pursuit of the most efficient engine. Most of us would at least be familiar with either the diesel or petrol engine, some would be aware of those two stroke engines used in smaller motorcycles and chainsaws, but the rotary engine will be familiar to only the most dedicated of petrol-heads. In order to understand why this type of engine
caused such a stir when it was first unveiled we need to have a brief insight of the workings of a conventional engine.
The common link between diesel, petrol and two stroke engines is that the pistons travel with a reciprocating motion within the bore of the engine block. That is to say they move up and down and, depending on the fuel type, are synchronised with cycles for induction, compression, combustion and exhaust. The issue here is that the piston needs to accelerate, decelerate, stop, accelerate, etc. This up and down movement is converted into rotation via a crankshaft which allows a driving motion via a gearbox and drive shaft to the wheels. So, pursuing the aim of achieving a more efficient circular motion, in steps a mechanical genius by the name of Dr Felix Wankel.
Felix, a German engineer had patented the design for this rotary engine way back in 1929. Even more remarkable, he came up with the idea when he was just 17 years old. It was not until 1957 that the first prototype was produced when Felix worked at NSU (NSU Motorenwerke AG). So how does this relate to the world of bikes? Quite simply this engine initially caused great interest from manufactures all over the world producing aircraft, bikes and cars. There is a very long list of vehicles that prototyped with a rotary engine but very few went onto large productions runs or race success.
In 1974 Suzuki announced the RE5 with a 497cc rotary engine. It produced 62hp at 6,500rpm with a top speed of 104mph. Test riders at the time reported tremendous torque but did note a bad vibration at 4,000 revs which was put down to engine harmonics. That aside it was deemed a lot smoother than conventional reciprocating engines of the day. Average fuel consumption was
37mpg. Another notable success was in the form of Norton’s offering. Norton had produced a road bike with a rotary engine. It was proposed internally at Norton that this could make the basis of a racing bike but Norton management were very sceptical about this proposal and it was only the perseverance of Brian Crighton, an engineer in the R & D department that proved them wrong. During 1987 he crafted, in his spare time, a racing prototype which achieved 170mph
at the MIRA testing ground. Later that year it gained a win at only its second race meeting. Management now convinced, gave the go ahead to develop the machine further on a focused race program for 1988. In the hands of Steve Spray the bike went on to achieve another win at the last outing of the season. A few more wins got the attention of JPS (John Player Special) who then went
on to sponsor the team. Spray rode the Norton to win the 750cc Supercup Championship and the British F1 title in 1989. Sadly due to financial issues the team came to end a few years later. Why did the rotary engine not achieve greater adoption? A rotary engine has a higher production cost than a reciprocating unit, is not so economical on fuel and has higher emissions. Unfortunately economics always overrides function -well usually. 

The Norton RCW588 Rotary 1989

July 2013

THE BIKE SHED – Drag Racing & Ian King (6 Times FIM European Top Fuel Bike Champion)          

By Wayne Allen  

In this edition of The Bike Shed I have been very fortunate and privileged to have Ian King agree to contribute to the content of this story. Unless you are a drag racing fan then most of you will be asking who is Ian King. Unfortunately Ian in my view is one of the great unsung heroes of our sporting nation. This is simply down to the fact that drag racing is still considered a minority sport and the general media coverage remains at best, limited. If only he played football for a living! So before we begin the insight to Ian’s contribution to drag racing, let’s reveal some of the history and basics. Drag racing can be traced back to America to the 1930s and beyond. Car enthusiast (or hot rodders as they are known) would challenge each other as to who had the fastest car on the back roads of the US. Naturally this was deemed dangerous as well as illegal to run on public roads so in the 1950s the first official tracks started to emerge with accurate timing to measure the acceleration and terminal speed over a given distance, in this case a ¼ mile. Most of the early tracks were converted airfields and this is best illustrated by Santa Pod Raceway in Bedfordshire, (near the village of Podington to be precise) Europe’s leading permanent drag strip which was an airbase during WW2.

The format of racing is quite simply two vehicles lined up side by side on a dual lane track. They are controlled by a lighting system known as the Christmas tree due to the number of sequenced and various coloured lights. The skill of the competitors is to predict the lights change to green upon where they launch their vehicles as fast as possible to complete the ¼ mile distance in the shortest time possible. Sounds simple but having taking my own bike on a RWYB (Run What You Brung) day there is a lot to coordinate to ensure a good run and many things can and do go wrong. I have to say that when you get it right, it is a fantastic sensation and you don’t have to worry about speeding fines. There are many classes of vehicles for both cars and bikes so it can be accessed by all. One of the great aspects of the sport is that the fans can freely roam the paddocks and meet the riders, drivers and teams first hand. You really do feel part of it unlike other motoring events. So now you have some insight to drag racing I would like to turn the rest of the article over to my interview with Ian which we had to conduct by email due to his very hectic schedule and for which I am very grateful for his time to complete this.

Ian provided some history regarding how is interest started in bikes. His initial venture into bikes was at the age of 12 where he built his first motorcycle. This was based on Raleigh Chopper push bike (styled like a custom chopper) into which he inserted a Garelli 70 scooter engine. This passion then saw Ian become an award winning constructor of custom road bikes. The drag racing bug was the result of day trip to Santa Pod Raceway which led onto competing on his own bikes at the ‘Run What You Brung’ events I mentioned earlier. Ian made tremendous progress through the ranks of the bike classes which resulted in being top of his game. I now pick up with Ian as the reigning FIM European Top Fuel Bike Champion with a few questions.

Of all the options of racing bikes why drag racing?

The excess of power, speed, noise and acceleration. 

Which win or award that you have achieved in this sport do you find most rewarding to you and there have been many? 

The first time I won the ACU UK and FIM European Championships in the same year. 

Have the recent challenges of the world economy reduced the field entry (in your class of racing) at events and therefore is sponsorship becoming more of a challenge?

No entry has increased despite the economy, but racers generally run on their own rather than sponsor budgets.

What has seen the most dramatic evolution out of the key components of the bike such as engine, tyres, transmission and automotive electronics over the past 10 years?

Ignition and clutch control

Santa Pod has recently been re-surfaced. What difference is this making to performance and setup requirements to the bike? 

So far it does not have enough rubber on it for optimal traction but as it is much smoother in the shutdown area it is easier to run it `out the back door’. 

What advice would you give to someone, young or old who was considering entry to the sport?

Do it, you will never regret this form of motorsport for social, fun and economic reasons.

If you could have one wish for the future of drag racing what would it be? 

That every country in Europe has a World Class dragstrip.


The class of bike that Ian has constructed and competes with is a true marvel of engineering excellence with blistering performance. Most observers would be impressed with the performance of a standard factory hyper bike like my own Kawasaki ZX12R. At one point this was the fastest road going production bike back 2001. However to appreciate the power of Ian’s bike I will leave with you some impressive stats. It will out accelerate most vehicles from a standing start including all Formula One cars and even Thrust SSC and F15 Jet Fighter planes.

0 – 60 mph (97 km/h) in 0.7 seconds    

0 – 100 mph (161 km/h) in 1.1 seconds

0 – 250 mph (400 km/h) under 6 seconds

Fuel injected, over 11 gallons of the explosive fuel Nitromethane per minute. Output of 1500 Horsepower depending on tune. 

For more information about Ian King and his team please visit

Once again thanks to Ian for his time and insight to this thrilling sport. If you would like to see Ian and others competing at Santa Pod please check the website for future


August 2013

A Busy Summer, Meppershall, Spa (Belgium) and Mallory
By Wayne Allen

Meppershall Summer Fair
I would like to kick off with a big thanks to the organisers who allowing us a slot in the arena and the stand space to show the bikes. I would like to extend that gratitude to the other enthusiast for supplying their bikes, trike and time. I could not believe how the time went as we had many people drop in raising questions on the bikes and requesting general info for their own projects. Judging by the number of classic cars, bikes, trucks and planes this could be snowballing into something big. It was great afternoon regardless if you are a petrol head or not. Who can fail to like sound of the 27 litre Rolls Royce Merlin engine pushing the Hawker Hurricane gracefully around the Meppershall airspace and for desert, The Red Arrows.
The Bikers Classic – Spa Franchorchamps
Well just less than a week later Sean and I were getting ready to drive across to Belgium to attend our first Bikers Classic at Spa. We had been made aware of this event through the inner circles of the classic racer world by our colleague Richard Grantham. Richard is highly regarded for his Honda race replicas that he builds with his father John. The quality of the bikes and the faithful use of genuine HRC (Honda Racing Components) parts, where available, are truly outstanding. Richard also has some great connections with the x-factory riders such as Freddie Spencer. Spencer was invited to ride one Richards Hondas (at Spa) and despite the cautionary note to take it easy in the wet, down went Spencer and Richards’s hard work. The bike was rebuilt and both Richard and Freddie remain good friends.
The event is over 3 days which has a number of qualifying and practice sessions for the various classes of bikes. We first came across a number of naked muscle bikes (yes that is the term). These are based on large capacity engines with no or very small handle bar fairings. This group were part of a large German contingent which competed all over Europe. They ride their bikes like they have stolen them. It was some of the best racing we had seen for some time and no doubt we will be paying this closer attention.

Moving through the old pit lane (located on the straight leading to the frightening Eau Rouge corner) and garages, the price of the bikes on display escalate to lottery winning values. Many are x-GP bikes with significant and unique history. In support of these great machines are the best riders from the past. The guest of honour was Wayne Gardner (World GP 500 Champion 1987). Both Sean and I managed to get some autographs. Other big names included Giacomo Agostini, Wil Harthog, Freddie Sheene (son of Barry), Terry Rymer, Christian Sarron and Steve Plater. We also had the bonus of a four hour endurance race practice and qualifying on Friday evening. To race on this demanding track in the daylight is a feat in itself. Imagine trying drive through the country lanes of Bedfordshire at 160MPH with just headlights guiding you, hopefully remaining on the track. It truly was a great spectacle with bikes lights shimmering off in the distance of the heavily wooded track.
Festival of 1000 Bikes – Mallory Park
As I write this piece we are preparing to go to Mallory Park for the Festival of 1000 bikes where will be on the track. Some last minute issues with the Suzuki X7 have been sorted, fingers crossed, by Sean today. Wayne Gardner will also be appearing here along with Carl Fogarty, John Cooper, Phil Read and many others. Happy days.

Pictured:   Richard Grantham’s Honda NC30 (Formally a Freddie Spencer bike) poses in the pit lane adjacent to the straight heading towards Eau Rogue at the Bikers Classic at Spa Francorchamps.

August 2013

An Event (Festival of 1000 Bikes), A Signature (Phil Read), A Youtube Video and Sean’s debut as a writer for a Bike magazine

By Wayne Alllen

Wow the last few months have been manic as previously indicated in the last edition. We had back to back shows for 4 weekends running but I am not complaining as the great weather was completely in synch with our plans and topped up the vitamin D.
Our key event was the Festival of 1000 Bikes held at Mallory Park in July. Last year was potentially a near miss where we were finally registered as numbers 1204 and 1205. Considering it is for 1000 bikes you don’t need a degree in maths to work out how flexible the organisers were to accommodate the increasing amount of entrants. I have to put my hand up and confess it was my fault. Previously we had sent applications in by March and had no problems. Late January last year and we went on the shortlist! Better planning prevailed towards the end of 2012 and we consistently monitored the VMCC website for the announcement of the entry forms being released. Towards the end of December the forms had barely hit the doormat from being posted, where they were filled in, the entry fee cheque cut and then a large envelope posted the same day in a much focused exercise. This swift action resulted in gaining the entry numbers of 12 and 14, phew!
All seemed plane sailing until the week before the event when the Suzuki X7 fell ill. Luckily Sean had booked some time off work and was able to nurse it back to health while I was way on business. This year at Mallory we both had the bonus of gaining press passes by prior arrangement. This gave us all area access including the best vantage points within the track to capture some very satisfying pictures of the past masters including the guest rider Wayne Gardner. There is nothing worse than trying to photograph these events when you get a head of a fellow spectator at the crucial moment in frame has you hit the shutter. That said we were very privileged to have this access and thoroughly enjoyed our VIP treatment by the VMCC and track officials. It is amazing the effect of day glow orange bib and a press lanyard has when navigating the crowds for the best vantage point. If you would like to see the results of our efforts they have been edited into a high res video on Youtube.

“ Festival of 1000 Bikes 2013 – One Weekend in July”.

The event again was blessed by the recent heat wave and made the camping experience more comfortable and the track condition was excellent. One downfall was an extended wait for my afternoon session as a result of minor accident at the hairpin. The delay of 30 minutes in full leathers without airflow in the burning sun shine was uncomfortable, but it beats getting drenched from the rain any day. Both of the track sessions were great and the Suzuki behaved very well. This will be the last year for the Suzuki as I want to move up the ranks of the speed sessions so one of the larger bikes in the collection will be entered next year, most likely the Kawasaki GPZ900. However the Suzuki X7 still gains much attention and has appeared in Classic Motorcycle Mechanics August 2013 edition in an article called Show Stopper. Another 15 minutes of fame preceded by many hours of polishing for the photo shoot. This leads nicely on to the story of Sean who will have his first article as a contributor published in same magazine due out later this month (Classic Motorcycle Mechanics September 2013). This will be to report on the Bikers Classic Event we attended at Spar Francorchamps in Belgium during July. We hope to see more articles being requested by the editor in the future. Other bikes in the collection are also due to appear in the same edition the most likely being the Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 in the buyer’s guide.
Some months ago I completed a piece on Phil Read, 8 times world motorcycle champion who was born and raised in Luton. Armed with a copy of the messenger in which the article appeared, I approached Mr Read at Mallory and he duly signed my copy and posed alongside it the picture below. Sean was thankfully in tow to capture this moment. What a summer so far!!!
Phil Read promotes the Messenger at Mallory and signs the story….





September 2013



By Wayne Allen



First of all I would like to say a big thank you to my wife Bev after recently celebrating our marriage of 25 years. Her long support or suffering of my hobby should be applauded. To mark this occasion we spent one week in Italy at Lake Como, a place of truly outstanding natural beauty. During our stay in Italy we were (well I was) fortunate to go and visit a number of petrol head heaven museums. Ladies, please bear with me. Primarily the most prestigious museum that we visited was the famous Ferrari facility at Maranello. For the car buffs this is a must do activity! Just 30 minutes further onto Bologna was the home of the other great Italian manufacturer, Ducati, in my view the two wheeled Ferrari. Our pre booked tour was not only to the Ducati museum but also extended us access to their production facility, which I will cover in the next edition.


On arrival at Ducati we were met by our factory tour guide at the security gate and taken into the wonderful reception area within Ducati’s main building. From here we paid our entry fee for the tour, which would turn out to be the best €10 you could spend. We were then issued with wireless headsets which allowed us to hear the tour commentary in English from our appointed guide. Within the reception area, several of their current production bikes on display and a glass cabinet proudly displayed radios, cameras and electrical components that were Ducati’s entry into manufacturing. Our tour guide confirmed the agenda for the remainder of the afternoon and the first stop was the museum. On entering the main hall, my wife best describes my facial expressions as like a kid in a sweet shop. Even if you're not a motor cycling fan you immediately feel the passion that Ducati have for their racing heritage. The main hall of the museum is circular in shape with its central feature replicating that of a large motorcycle helmet. Following the contours of the circular museum there are access points to thematic rooms. The first of which, displayed the very first to Ducati motorcycle, the Cuccilio (“puppy” in Italian). This was essentially a converted pushbike with a very small two stroke engine. Once we emerge from this room I then drooled past the historic racing bikes leading up to the next room. Within this gallery were two very famous bikes that were campaigned by Paul Smart and Mike Hailwood. Mike’s bike was the backup machine on which he won the Isle of Man TT in 1978. As you progress anti-clockwise in the main hall you are transported in chronological order through their racing years and success. One of the key aspects I did note going into the museum and this included the Ferrari museum, was they a very proud to display their machines with easy access for photography. At this point it was evident I was lagging behind the main group, but I now had an even cleaner access to shoot the bikes and could still keep up with the commentary via my headset. Further rooms demonstrated Ducati’s innovation in engine design, with multiple displays of the desmodromic valve power plants (this is an article on its own). We've now reached the halfway point around the main hall and are rewarded with a spectacular line up of Ducati’s contribution to the world superbike series of which they obtained great success over the past years, among which, were bikes piloted by Carl Fogarty as pictured on top right of this page.

We then moved into probably one of the greatest galleries within the facility, the Moto GP bikes. These machines stand head and shoulders above all that have preceded them. Bikes of Casey Stoner line up on the elevated podium to reflect their command of those successful Moto GP years which sadly are a far cry from the recent poor performance on the world circuits. Opposite the GP bikes was a wall of glass displaying a range of awards and trophies from floor to ceiling. Our time in the museum at this point was rapidly expiring before we had to move on to the production facility. The museum is truly a great example of Italian flare and pride. All the manufactures I have covered in previous editions all have something unique but for me Ducati just has that edge. In next month’s part two we visit the Ducati factory and then onto the Moto Guzzi Museum. Yes, I got away with murder, almost........

For details of the collection please see the website:


September 2013

The Ducati Factory (Bologna)
By Wayne Allen

So to pick up where we left off last month, we had just completed our tour of the Ducati Race Museum. Before proceeding to the production facility we were told by our guide that we could not take any photographs within that facility for obvious reasons. It is strange though, that when writing this article, I found numerous images of the manufacturing facility available on the internet. In entering the production facility again there was a great feeling of pride and passion that is very difficult to describe if you haven't been there. The group was lead through the main production area

(pictured left) of the famous “V” twin engine that is at the heart of a Ducati. This engine generates a deep growl when fully exercised by the rider and sounds like no other when slowing down from the over run. That’s the beauty of bikes and cars for that matter, they all have something unique and generally the engine sounds are top of the list. All the engines are hand assembled by an individual operator. One very obvious point was the high quality these bikes. A very strict quality control at every stage of its build is evident by the intense scrutiny of every component and its assembly. Every engine is tested in a jig to ensuring its performance and its reliability long-term for the customer.
We then moved through the main assembly lines where the frame is married to the engine, this in turn led us to final assembly area where the major components now resembled a bike, albeit without its clothing.
I did raise a question with our tour guide pointing out the very large indoor plants placed along the lines. She informed me, with a smile, that the plants helped reduce stress for the line workers. It was certainly effective as there were no obvious signs of it on their faces. I was disappointed with the answer, expecting something more technical as I recalled a documentary where the Ferrari plant have an internal forest to regulate air quality, which is said to provide perfect conditions for engine assembly. However further research reveals that this is known as Formula Uomo and was designed to make the workers feel appreciated and therefore generate motivation. So we came to the end of the factory tour which renewed access to the museum where we could complete additional pictures of the exhibits. This was a great opportunity because by now my wife and I had the museum to ourselves for the next 10 minutes. I now had completely unobstructed views of all the exhibits for my last minute shots. From here the gift shop where I purchased a book dedicated to the museum collection. The book can purchased on line through the Ducati website. Well it makes a change from “the T shirt”.
There will now be a part 3 for the Italian Jobs to cover the visit to the Moto Guzzi museum in the next edition, a completely different experience, but one well worth attending and another handbag for Bev.


The Moto Guzzi Museum (Mandello)

A brief history of Moto Guzzi goes back to the 1920s when three men who had served in the air corp decided to set up a motorcycle firm. Carlo Guzzi, Giovanni Ravelli and Giorgi Parodi had great dreams. When Ravelli was killed in a plane crash, Carlo and Giorgi made the decision to continue with their plans. The first motorcycle produced as a result of this was a 500cc bike called “Normale” and was designed by Carlo Guzzi. It began to be produced after some racing success in 1922. The Normale was a popular model that had an overhead cam, a 4-cylinder head, 82mm stroke and 88mm bore. Not wishing to sell short the extensive history of Moto Guzzi we now turn to the legacy that is maintained through the factory museum.


The visit to the Moto Guzzi Museum was in stark contrast to that experienced at Ducati which e covered in previous editions of the bike shed. On arrival the factory building is one of the manufacturing sites in Italy of any automotive organisation. One of the other idiosyncrasies of this museum is its limited opening hours which were between 3 and 4 PM from Monday to Friday. There were a number of multinational bike enthusiasts including ourselves, assembled outside the very large sun bleached red gate, dressed with the Moto Guzzi logo. At 2:55 PM the gates slowly opens like a scene from “Lord of The Rings”. We were then greeted by a no nonsense security guard, wearing designer sunglasses and armed. We were then asked to sign the visitors register and he then laid down the law that the museum was open for the next hour only and pointed towards the main entrance door of the museum area. No wireless headset here like Ducati but there were people on hand to provide details on the 150 bikes displayed should we require the need. Each exhibit did have its own description card against it in English and coupled with the large timeline graphics you were immediately informed. The positive was that both race and road bikes are displayed in a true timeline of Moto Guzzi’s extensive history. Personally I have seen a number of people throwing criticism on sites like trip advisor at the Museum, but you would fail as a true bike enthusiast not to appreciate what Moto Guzzi has achieved. Yes I agree it was not as polished as Ducati but somehow it seemed more pure and in my eyes was more reflective of its complete history. On the basis that it is free, then without doubt well worth the visit.


For me though the highlight of this tour was to see some of the racing machines. Unquestionable the V8 racer (pictured left) that was made back in the 1950s and clothed with a dustbin fairing, draws the most attention. I have been privileged to see one of these at Mallory Park on parade laps and once again the sound is incredible. The engine (pictured below) is only 500cc with double overhead cams, feed by 8 Dell’Orto 20mm carbs and produces 78 bhp. This would project the bike known as “The Otto” towards a top speed of 171 mph. Much closer to home, you can view an example which is on display at the Sammy Miller museum. It is this one that still sees action at the various classic track events. For further details of the Moto Guzzi collection please view their website at:

February 2014

THE BIKE & CAR SHED – JOHN SURTEES, bridging the gap.

By Wayne Allen   

At the time of writing, 11th February 2014 to be precise, yet another milestone in sporting history passed and went unnoticed in the national media. No it was not a footballer’s wife shopping, a premiership player’s hair transplant or Justin Bieber, being well Justin Bieber that seems to make the news. It was the 80th birthday of the living legend John Surtees OBE. For those who are going John who? Let’s dive in and reveal the amazing history of Mr Surtees.

John Surtees is a four-time 500cc motorcycle World Champion – winning that title in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 – the Formula One World Champion in 1964. No other person has achieved this feat nor are they likely to. He founded the Surtees Racing Organisation team that competed as a constructor in Formula One, Formula 2 and Formula 5000 from 1970 to 1978. Although awarded both the MBE and OBE, it would appear our honours system needs a makeover and because a knighthood is well over due.

Surtees is the son of a south London motorcycle dealer. He had his first professional outing in the sidecar of his father's Vincent, which they won. However, when race officials discovered Surtees's age, they were disqualified. He entered his first race at 15 in a grass track competition. In 1950, at the age of 16, he went to work for the Vincent factory based in Stevenage as an apprentice.

In 1955, Norton race chief Joe Craig gave Surtees his first factory sponsored ride aboard the Nortons. He finished the year by beating reigning world champion Geoff Duke at Silverstone and then at Brands Hatch. However, with Norton in financial trouble, Surtees accepted an offer to race for the MV Agusta factory racing team. In 1956 Surtees won the 500cc world championship. In the 1957 season, the MV Agustas were no match for the Gileras and Surtees battled to a third place finish aboard a 1957 MV Agusta 500 Quattro. When Gilera and Moto Guzzi pulled out of Grand Prix racing at the end of 1957, Surtees and MV Agusta went on to dominate the competition in the two larger displacement classes. In 1958, 1959 and 1960, he won 32 out of 39 races and became the first man to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man TT three years in succession.

In 1960, at the age of 26, Surtees switched from motorcycles to cars full-time, making his Formula 1 debut racing for Lotus in the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. He completed the 1961 season with the Yeoman Credit Racing Team driving a Cooper and the 1962 season with the Bowmaker Racing Team. He moved to Scuderia Ferrari in 1963 and won the World Championship for the Italian team in 1964. So where is the Knighthood! John will be the guest of honour at the Stafford Classic Bike Show during the 26th to 27th April 2014. I have had the honour of meeting John and I can only say what a great ambassador for the sport of motor racing he is for both two and four wheels.

Surtees scratching on a Vincent. Who said Kenny Roberts pioneered the knee down technique?


 March 2014


Oswestry Road Racing Museum.

By Wayne Allen

The one thing I am never short of is stories for the bike shed. The problem I have is which ones go to the top of the must print pile. This edition is about one man’s passion for all things related to road and track racing. That man is Phil Morris and this is a story about a most unique collection of bike racing history that Phil has made into a trust for future preservation. So what inspired such a fascinating collection?


Phil Morris has been a very successful businessman over many years which obviously requires drive and determination. These attributes have resonated through and dovetailed with his passion for the world of motorcycle racing. Since 1998 Phil has been dedicated to preserving not only the bikes but associated items including rider’s leathers, helmets and race winning medals and trophies. What is unique about this collection though is that it is housed in Phil’s purpose built garage in his garden. Let me expand on what may seem to be in most peoples mind a shed. It is a large outbuilding over two stories with a dedicated workshop and plentiful supplies of tea thanks to Phil’s wife Gwen.
The ground floor displays not only a multitude of bikes but wall to wall riders leathers including those of Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts competing side by side for attention as did both riders many years ago. A classical juke box is also present under a large TV which plays bike racing videos and creates a race day atmosphere within the museum. Phil’s pride and joy that of Valentino Rossi’s Aprilia 125 (pictured top left) proudly sticks it’s fairing out amongst the other machines as though to say “I have special history”! But this should not remove the limelight from the other bikes in the collection. They have all earned their place here and were ridden by the best riders including Mike Hailwood, Phil Read, Robert Dunlop, Tommy Robb, David Jefferies and many others. This is also where Phil’s collection comes to life. These bikes are far from dust gathering exhibits seen at most museums. They are all live and ready to go ripping around the track. Even more impressive they are reunited with some of their original riders at the classic events that Phil is very much a hub of activity. Phil has his own racing team that attracts many fans including Sean and I. Last year at Mallory Park no less than John McGuinness, 20 times TT winner was piloting one of Phil’s Hondas to great applause from a very appreciative crowd.


Sadly some of Phil’s exhibits are personal items belonging to the great riders that have now departed as a result of their dangerous sport. That said these items are tastefully displayed and serve as a reminder of not only of their great achievements but stamp their place in history amongst this fantastic collection. Where else could you go and view race helmets belonging to Read, Redman, Hailwood, Joey Dunlop and Robert Dunlop in one display cabinet. Every inch of the museum is covered with signed pictures, and the doors of fame. Even the landing at top of the stairs has a number of engines beautifully restored by Phil. Another by-product of this operation is that Phil has raised £200,000 towards a number of charities. Unfortunately my article due to space simply does not do justice to this great collection. You can see more via my video on YouTube:
More information for Phil Morris racing and the museum details can be found on his website.
Should you wish to visit please make arrangements directly with Phil. Entry is free but a donation to one of Phil’s charities would be appreciated. I would like to thank Phil (pictured) and Gwen for the invite and making us feel most welcome during our tour.






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