Leisure => Sports => Topic started by: StuarttheGrant on January 17, 2012, 01:40:47

Title: Grass Track Racing
Post by: StuarttheGrant on January 17, 2012, 01:40:47
I wonder who else remembers "Grass Track Racing" ? Very popular in the 60s
 with meetings all over East Kent. 250s 350s 500s, even 650s with chairs.(Sidecars)
A well organised sport with its own hero,s. Names like 'Tatum' 'Hagen' and Don Godden
 spring to mind. Then of course the tang of Castrol R and the 'Dope' burned as fuel.
Sorry no pictures just memories. Stuart ...

Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Bryn Clinch on January 17, 2012, 08:16:18
Yes, I remember the grass track racing extremely well, but more in the 50s. It used to take place, believe it or not, on Sittingbourne`s Football Ground which used to be just off the High Street, opposite Woolworth and about 150 yds behind the Bull Hotel. Two more names that I can remember are Arthur Hood (JAP I think) and Jack Colver (AJS or Matchless for whom he worked at Plumstead). They had vastly different styles. Arthur with one foot on the ground and Jack who appeared always to have both feet on the footrests. This was my first smell of `Castrol `R, once smelt (or is it smelled), never forgotten. The ground was surrounded by corrugated iron fencing which in places had rusted and enabled us little horrors to squeeze through the holes. How the ground was prepared for football after being churned up by the bikes I`ll never know. The area was eventually sold to the Co-op for millions but they did nothing with it and sold it to Sainsbury`s at a loss. Happy days!
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Sentinel S4 on January 17, 2012, 10:02:37
This form of racing is still going strong. A friend of mine only retired a year or two ago. They used to use a field near Chartham quite a lot, even a mile away the sound was good. I have given up counting how many times he broke bones, that said he did quite well and ended up at the Brit Nationals and Internationals a good few times. S4.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Megapack162 on January 17, 2012, 11:47:18
I wonder who else remembers "Grass Track Racing" ? Very popular in the 60s
 with meetings all over East Kent. 250s 350s 500s, even 650s with chairs.(Sidecars)
A well organised sport with its own hero,s. Names like 'Tatum' 'Hagen' and Don Godden
 spring to mind. Then of course the tang of Castrol R and the 'Dope' burned as fuel.
Sorry no pictures just memories. Stuart ...



I remember watching this at Rochester Airport in the years before the retail park was built, Iwade and somewhere on Sheppey, along with hotrods and banger racing.

If I remember correctly, the "track" for both events was seperated from the spectators by little more than rope held up on wooden posts or steel cables and posts driven into the ground???
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: peterchall on January 17, 2012, 13:01:35
Brands Hatch was originally a grass track in the 1950's, based on the present 'short oval' course, but I think even shorter, and the direction was anti-clockwise. There were no spectator facilities apart from a grass bank round the course.

Main events were 500cc car racing (classed as 'Formula 3'). Cars were mainly Coopers with JAP engines, (but a make called 'Kraft' comes to mind -?). Local "stars" were brothers Don and Norman Gray, eventually running the motor cycle and Asian make (Kia, Mazda, etc) car dealership in Chatham High Street.

Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Bryn Clinch on January 17, 2012, 14:48:07
Kieft`s the word your looking for peterchall. They had rear JAP or Norton engines and the driver had virtually nothing more than a nose cone in front of him. Kieft drivers that come to mind are Sterling Moss and Don Parker. I think Don and Norman Gray drove Coopers. Another name that I remember is Paul Emryson who drove an Emryson.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: peterchall on January 17, 2012, 15:24:33
Yes, Kieft was the name - difficult to tell them apart from Coopers.

Either Don or Norman Gray, if not both, started work for a Mr Sharman, who ran a cycle and radio shop on the corner of Cazeneuve Street and King Street, Rochester, before the war.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Bryn Clinch on January 18, 2012, 09:22:31
Steve Lancefield tuned the Norton engines for Kieft and also the 350 and 500cc engines on the Manx Nortons for the "King of Brands, Derek Minter. I once heard a tale that he reversed the cylinders of Minter`s bikes to increase the performance. I have no idea if this is true and, not being an engineer, I assume the inlet port became the exhaust post and would be interested to know if this is possible.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: nev on January 18, 2012, 15:18:37
Revercing the head on older models is possible with a good workshop   i.e revercing the piston or the valves would be missmatched with a std position head, swap head round, head gasket may have to be  made up if different size head/barrel studs are there, make up new exhaust down pipe, will now exit the rear, must be in air stream to aid cooling, refit/and rejet carb settings, or will have an ram air fault caused by to much air down its throat causing very lean mixture at high revs poss melted piston.  done.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: StuarttheGrant on January 19, 2012, 00:34:55
 Well a great respose to my query guys. I mostly recall meetings at Lydon track just a huge field with a roped off track in those days 1962/3 seems about right. I recall that Alfie Hagen was the man to beat in those days.
Stuart.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: darrenh on January 19, 2012, 08:34:08
so are we talking motorcycles and oval tracks here?  predecessor to "speedway" ?
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: peterchall on January 19, 2012, 09:04:01
Speedway existed as far back as my memory takes me - I remember collecting cigarette cards of speedway teams before the war - and has always been on a dirt track in a specially built stadium.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Rambo on January 19, 2012, 20:35:49
Blimey brings back memories. Took my family to meetings at Bredhurst, Rochester Airport, Sittingbourne,Folkestone. Names like Don Godden, Malcolm Simmons, Tony Black, Sid Jarvis, Lew Coffin, Graham Banks, Chris Pusey, John Britcher, Reggie Luckhurst. Sidecar Gerry Wheeler, Mick Webster, Bruce Ford-Dunn, with a Husqvarner engine.  Most tracks rode left side, then the riders came from the north and rode right side. The landlord of the Hop & Vine Jake Rennison was a hairy rider in his day. Was a member of the Maidstone Aces for a spell, used to track marshall. Had a spell Start Marshall at Canterbury Speedway and Sittingbourne. I was in the RAF same time as Derek Minter who gave me a lift home on his 350cc BSA. Scarey!. This has got me going. Great times.
rambo
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: John C on February 29, 2012, 19:11:42
I remember going to grass track racing with my brothers. I believe they knew Malcolm Simmons who then become a speedway star. I also remember being at a meeting where some spectators were killed when a sidecar went into the crowd. Does anyone else remember this or is my age catching up with me?
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: BONZO on March 26, 2012, 15:10:13
Many moons ago I used to be an avid speedway fan (mainly at Wimbledon), before the sport lost is appeal following a number of deaths and dwindling numbers.

Grasstrack and long track was always raced but off the beaten track. I mentioned this to one of my old friends who races classic sidecars.

He pointed me at this site for grasstrack racing, next meet at Collier Street, Tonbridge. Easter Bank Holiday

http://www.grasstrack.net (http://www.grasstrack.net)

Some interesting photographs from 1930's onwards here http://www.grasstrack.net/photo-galleries-.html (http://www.grasstrack.net/photo-galleries-.html)
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: TomCat on April 01, 2012, 19:50:57
Ooh, just noticed this thread. I have recently retired from grass-track racing. I started out in 250 solos in 1989 and worked up to 500's, I then went on to the 1000cc sidecars riding both grasstrack and speedway. I must admit to meeting many very nice casualty nurses all over the UK during my time racing. I eventually realised I was far too old to be throwing myself around fields every weekend and spending far too much money doing so! I first got the interest in grass-track at the Rhodes Minnis track during the early 60's and remember many of the riders already mentioned, Don Godden and Monty Banks are no longer with us and will be remembered well, Dons son Mitch is now a top rider and keeping the Godden name going.
Anybody interested in local speedway can bring back some memories by having a look at www.canterburycrusaders.co.uk a website I set up for a friend a few years ago.
A couple of pics of me playing on my Honda Fireblade beasty before I came to my senses.
(http://i1082.photobucket.com/albums/j363/slugster121/Bikes/121atCollierStreetbyAlanWhale.jpg)
(http://i1082.photobucket.com/albums/j363/slugster121/Bikes/Swingfield104-1.jpg)
I now keep up my bike interest by having a nice shiny Harley Davidson to plod around on on sunny days.

TC
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: numanfan on June 24, 2012, 15:49:25
The oval grasstrack circuit at Rochester Airport, top left of the photo. Laker Road Industrial Estate is now on the land.

Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: shoot999 on June 29, 2012, 23:48:14
That's really exciting. I love racing for it gives me adrenalin rush. Your resource is also a good resource "let's keep the dream alive!"

Ooh, just noticed this thread. I have recently retired from grass-track racing. I started out in 250 solos in 1989 and worked up to 500's, I then went on to the 1000cc sidecars riding both grasstrack and speedway. I must admit to meeting many very nice casualty nurses all over the UK during my time racing. I eventually realised I was far too old to be throwing myself around fields every weekend and spending far too much money doing so! I first got the interest in grass-track at the Rhodes Minnis track during the early 60's and remember many of the riders already mentioned, Don Godden and Monty Banks are no longer with us and will be remembered well, Dons son Mitch is now a top rider and keeping the Godden name going.
Anybody interested in local speedway can bring back some memories by having a look at www.canterburycrusaders.co.uk a website I set up for a friend a few years ago.
A couple of pics of me playing on my Honda Fireblade beasty before I came to my senses.

(Pictures removed from quote by Moderator)

I now keep up my bike interest by having a nice shiny Harley Davidson to plod around on on sunny days.

TC


A double disc DVD has been issued called 'The History of Canterbury Speedway'.  It has old race footage and recent interviews with a lot of the old riders; Barney Kennet, Les Rumsey, etc. A 10 minute preview has been put up youtube, (just type in History of Canterbury Speedway.) Rode mainly at Iwade myself (under the tutelage of Barry Thomas) but had a couple of novice races at Kingsmead during the early seventies. I remember buying a lot of my gear secondhand from the England rider Dave Jessup who lived just outside of Strood.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Far away on September 14, 2012, 12:49:01
I remember Les Rumsey, he used to live next door when we lived in Kingstone back in the late 1960s. I only have a vague recollection of him riding a bike, though...
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Rochester-bred on September 14, 2012, 13:52:33
numanfan, do you know when the grass track in your photo began there and when it stopped, as my brother thought it later moved down just above Comet for one race in the late 70/80's?  My brother said there were complaints by Warren Wood people about chalk flying in their gardens.  Myself, I don't remember this as the only racing I knew of was at the Greyhound track.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: IanDB on September 14, 2012, 14:43:57
During the early and mid 60's grass track racing was hosted on the former Ramsgate airfield off Pysons Road ........ now an industrial park of course, and from the late 50's to late 60's there were sprint meetings on the Western undercliff at Ramsgate run by The Sunbeam Motorcycle Club and Invicta Motorcycle Club, featuring such greats as George Brown racing his Vincent engined Nero and Super Nero, and Fred Cooper aboard Hermes.
Got a couple of mediocre pictures from a Ramsgate sprint meeting in the mid 60's.

Ag McPhail aboard his Ariel Arrow based "Ag's Barrow".
(http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b6/bettesh/scan0002-1.jpg)

L.C.Roberts sets of on his 500cc "Steptoe Special"
(http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b6/bettesh/scan0001-1.jpg)


Dave Fox, a former mining colleague and owner of Dave Fox Motorcycles in Ramsgate, was very successful at sidecar cross during the 60's, partnered for a while by another mining colleague Johnny Hitter on a 650 Wasp outfit. I think I'm right in saying that Dave became South East area champion one year.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Far away on September 17, 2012, 10:10:17
Nice pictures IanDB, but what exactly were the bales for? One hesitates to believe that they were for 'safety' purposes with such huge gaps between them...
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: IanDB on September 17, 2012, 12:16:53
Insignificant aren't they. The lamp standards on the seaward side of the esplanade had a couple of bales propped against them, but the whole length of the promenade was lined with cast iron railings that weren't protected. In fact I have a vague memory of Ag McPhail's bike rearing up and throwing him off before careering into the railings. Elf and Safety would have a field day !!
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: alkhamhills on October 25, 2015, 09:19:27
I remember as a young lad going to Lydden track around 1956/7 to watch stock car racing. Seem  to remember There was the main race circuit with a practice track around outside
My memory is of the poor starter official, who after starting a race, stepped back onto outside track to be hit and killed
Don’t know the poor fellow’s name
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: grandarog on October 25, 2015, 18:52:02
The memory is a bit vague on this one. I remember going to a Motor Bike Drag meeting donkeys years ago,I think it was either Margate or Ramsgate seafront. The only thing I can recall of the day was when a chap on an ariel Square 4 with a huge tyre on the back ,let the clutch in to go, All that happenned was a Bang and he ripped all the spokes out and the bike sat down about 3 Foot from the start line.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: conan on October 25, 2015, 23:12:37
I remember as a young lad going to Lydden track around 1956/7 to watch stock car racing. Seem  to remember There was the main race circuit with a practice track around outside
My memory is of the poor starter official, who after starting a race, stepped back onto outside track to be hit and killed
Don’t know the poor fellow’s name

It was 1955...See paragraph 3 of this link

http://doverhistorian.com/2014/03/22/lydden-hill-race-circuit/
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: HK1900 on March 20, 2016, 17:01:43
Only just noticed this topic. I used to get taken to grass tracks when I was little, remember there was always a big meet in October at Lydden and once or twice it was on my birthday- not impressed being little and a girl! - I remember Graham Banks, he sadly was killed, also remember his brother Trevor and Dad Monty. Remember a guy who always wore a white jumper with red and blue stripes. Remember too the rosettes you could buy with a photo of your favourite racer. I have often looked a google earth for the image of racetracks, can see quite clearly the one at Rhodes Minnis but there was also one at Marden or Smarden but can't work out where it was.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: JohnWalker on March 20, 2016, 17:15:06
I think the track you might be thinking of near Marden was the Collier Street track HK1900.  You can see the oval clearly WNW of Marden on Google.

JW
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: HK1900 on March 20, 2016, 17:42:11
Thanks JW, You've led me away from looking for a church in Gravesend!
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: Barry 5X on September 06, 2016, 21:36:47
I can remember that as a teenager I attended at least one motor cycle grass track meeting at Iwade in the mid to late 1950s

The location was a field off to the right as you went down Basser Hill from School Lane (Iwade) to Sheerness Road (Lower Halstow).

I recall that Basser Hill was (and probably still is) a rather steep road.  The track meeting I experienced was well attended and particularly thrilling were the motor cycle sidecar races.  Hairy to say the least with many crashes.

I cannot remember any other grass track at Iwade (I left the village in 1961).  As for the Anti Aircraft Battery camp which I believe was used later for motor cycling - I recall that there was a cricket ground used by a team called "Lord Harris's eleven". Iwade also had a cricket team that used to play on the field behind the Woolpack Inn and in line with the Primary school.  The well maintained pitch was protected with a wire fence and the village lads used to race around the enclosure on their bikes.
Title: Re: Grass Track Racing
Post by: conan on September 06, 2016, 23:49:19
Nothing to do with grass track racing but I wonder whether Lord Harris's eleven had anything to do with this chap

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Harris,_4th_Baron_Harris