Welcome to “Speed Track Tales” the successor to an original site that was originally found at http://www.speedtracktales.co.uk. This is a part website / part blog dedicated to preserving the history of the motorcycle event, held under the auspices of the Federation of International Motorcycle Clubs (FICM) which later became the Federation International Motorcyclisme (FIM) and originally known as the International Six Days Trial (ISDT). The event has since been reformatted and in 1980, renamed the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE).
This site concentrates to those years the event was called the ISDT. This event with its very early roots in motorcycle sport history developed at a time when many ‘ordinary’ roads were little more than dirt tracks that proved a challenge to everyday motorcyclists. The history of the event provides a view not only of the progression of the development of the motorcycle and of how the sport has changed as technology permits, particularly in its use of sealed surfaces (tarmac) but also the culture of the people and places that the international race series passed through. The event not only saw the progression of transportation technology but also the development of sport from amateurism to professional racers and the sports transition from a European event to a World event and its modern child the ISDE is the principle World Championship event of the Motorcycle Sport discipline of Enduro.
To keep uptodate as we add more content we give regular updates on new material at our group over on Facebook. If you are interested in reproducing any material please be sure to read the Copyright and Rights Management section lower down this page
It began as a means to measure and record the performance and reliability of Motorcycles and the components used to make them. These trials were required to place pressure on the bikes and so the six day format with strict rules about servicing and component repair were the principle purpose.
Riders were in teams formed by their national governing bodies. The main team would race for the ‘International Trophy’ which is still competed for today. The first event in 1913 in Calisle was won by the British on home soil with the team of WB Gibb, WB Little and Ch R Collier. It’s original purpose of the Trophy was for teams riding motorcycles made in their own country which meant many countries could not compete and some who could eventually could not as their home motorcycle manufacturing industry died out as happened the the British Sport. Despite this the British have won the Trophy the most, 16 times, because of their dominance in the period up to the 60’s. The place of manufacturer requirement has long since gone from the rule book. in 1924 saw the introduction of the Silver Vase, which was the second most important award and was aimed at allowing teams riding bikes from other countries although unusually in the ISDT 1927 the British entered a womens team of Marjorie Cottle, Edyth Foley and Louise MacLean who were the winners. It was not until 2007 that a specific Woman’s Trophy was introduced to the ISDE. Eventually into the years of the ISDE the Silver Vase competition has been changed to the Junior Trophy which focuses on teams made up of under 23 year old riders. All riders compete individually for medals with Golds being the most cherished and given to riders finishing within 10% of the winning competitors points, the Silver for those within 40% and Bronze being awarded for those finishing without incurring sufficient penalties for lateness or others leading to exclusion.
By the late 1920’s the routes were becoming harder and required a more technical specification for the motorcycles which were often modified to better suit being driven off tarmac. These halcyon days of ISDT racing where the riders and event got daily coverage in the National and Regional Newspapers in Britian. During the late 30’s the event become a source of darker happenings as the countries of Europe slowly spiralled into War. The German Military certainly used trips in the 30’s to visit Britain to compete as an opportunity to bring over large numbers of helpers who almost certainly slipped un-noticed into the British Countryside to observe Britains preparedness for a war and locating any installations of interest. This itself was recognised as being a threat in the early years of the war. The Military recognised the event as a means of training and measuring its motorcyle services who were going to be key in a war and the Germans in 1936 introduced the Huhnlein Trophy as an award to to best Service Team. This led up to the events of 1939 where our service teams arrived in Salzburg Austria to compete in the August of 1939 amidst the ominous threat of war. German Propaganda films were calling the event “The Olympiad of Motorsport” a name that has gone on to reflect its importance and severity on competitors fitness. Germany provisionally won the event, but due to official declaration of war during its running and the sudden need for the evacuation of all British Military and Civilian team members mid race in what became known as ‘the Great Escape’ much confusion surrounded the results, which could not be approved on the spot and were definitely canceled after the War
This process continued more or less into the 70’s as it often in Britain shadowed the rise, stagnation then paralysis of the British Motorcycle industry.
By the mid 1970’s the strong involvement of the Americans saw a growing strength in the sport and were specifying very specific motorcycles with few if any features still found on road going vehicles other than lights and registration plates. The sport was to being changed from reliability trials to gaining the name ‘Enduro’ ( it should be noted that in Germany the sport was always called and remains ‘Gelande Sport’ which is often reduced to the initials GS, and in Italy it is ‘Regolarita’). In 1981 this resulted in the change of the events name to the International Six Day Enduro. The event has retained it’s reputation as being the Olympic’s of Off-Road motorcycle sport due to the arduous nature of the terrain and the demands on riders physical fitness.
The material in this blog was originally collected, gathered or found by Lynn ‘Taff ‘Isaac who created a website http://www.speedtracktales.co.uk which became a popular resource for collectors and enthusiasts of vintage motorcycle trials. Unfortunately the cost of maintaining this resource was not sustainable and it was later saved to disk and the site was closed although there have been attempts to create an archive. This blog intends to recreate the original site material although in a modified format and will be open to those interested in helping the gathering of photos and other records preserving the nostalgia of the old events.
Copyright and Rights Management
On the subject of copyright and rights management, it is considered any material donated has been done so with fair intent by persons with appropriate authority to do so. Material that this site controls the rights of, is indicated as Speedtracktales Collection or Speedtracktales Archive. We will always, where possible, acknowledge the donor of material unless anonymity is requested. Any persons seeking consent to republish may need to contact the donors for consent, we are happy, where able, to help with this. Our own material is provided under the principle of a creative commons license which means for non commercial use all we require is a courteous acknowledgement and link back to the original. We are very grateful to the Morton’s Archive who are publishers of popular magazines on Classic and Vintage Motorcycles and who acquired the exclusive rights to the original ‘The Motor Cycle‘ and ‘Motor Cycling‘ publications. Morton’s Archive have been supportive of our work allowing us to reproduce images and material from these publications and their support is gratefully received. For the avoidance of any doubt please note the following.
‘all material that is on our site and comes from either ‘The Motor Cycle‘ or ‘Motor Cycling‘ is the copyright of Mortons Archive who have kindly given permission for us to use it. However action will be taken if anyone is found to copy or duplicate it in any way’
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Taff’s site although collecting international information did also focus on covering the ISDT from a British and Welsh outlook. The event has taken place in Wales on a number of occasions as well as the sport being most prominent in Wales due to the amount of remote and arduous terrain available and the use the local riders have made of it to become some of the best riders the sport has seen.
An appeal to those possibly holding or knowing of material not here that they wish to share but have no means to. This is how Taff worded his request “Anyone who can spare information on the ISDT? kindly send it along, nothing is not returned & does not get wasted here, thank you.”
I can arrange to photo or scan materials with access to specialist document mounts and A4 , A3 and larger at single sheet only and transparency scanners. I am also hoping to be able to offer anyone seeking to preserve documents to set up a public document collection at the Denbighshire Record Office where you can place material on deposit by loan or gift if you would like to see a collection be sustained to be available for future public access.
If you have any questions about the content or can provide information to fill any areas that we are lacking on please contact either Taff or myself through this blog. If you have arrived here looking for the history of a bike or rider we try to conform to a standard of writing all bike competition numbers prefixed with a # eg 99 will be #99. We are starting to update all known vehicle registration numbers to bikes with square brackets eg [ABC 123] would be the bike reg no ABC 123
Speedtracktales Curator / Editor
PS you can keep an eye on latest updates on our Facebook Page
I (Ed) found the text below written by Taff and buried away in his piece for the ISDT of 1949 held in Llandrindod Wells Wales. His commentary maybe helps explain why the site was originally created.
Taff – “Reason behind writing this website I shall hide away down here, so that only the curious shall know:- Builth Wells Motor Club with Carmarthen Motor Club combined organisational skills plus resourcefulness stemming from long experience organising Rallies, Trials, Scrambles, along with Pendine Sands racing, to present a six year span of true Tourist Trophy racing on what remains the largest circuit on Mainland Britain. Temptation to use cliché ridden text describing skills that were to be combined is difficult to resist. It all started following Charlie Rossiter witnessing WD motorcycles being driven ‘competitively’ normally out of sight of officers on sections of Eppynt Artillery range roads his idea and foresight grew via Builth Wells Motor Club who invited Carmarthen Motor Club to join them in a large scale project. The plan quickly reached ex racer, & motorcycle dealer Eddie Stephens who felt it to be a marvellous idea worthy of enlarging. He led a huge number of people who became involved, putting immense efforts into creating a colourful portion of motorcycle racing history. Fate after all is what is handed to you, destiny is what you do with it.
Some faded photos of inspection of Eppynt in snows of 1947 are included, quality of our archival photos will never match a glossy magazine content, our intention is to mark history in motor sport. Eppynt Road Circuit Racing Committee thereafter emerged. Eddie Stephens had a secretary at his showrooms whom people were to claim dealt wholly with Eppynt matters. Loans were the order of early days for funds to advertise a massive event. Several large marquees were naturally obtained ‘on loan’. Most motor Clubs in mid and south Wales supplied members as Marshals or Stewards, a race weekend with a journey to Eppynt eagerly looked forward to by all.
Eppynt adopted this motto :The Red Dragon Creates a Stir, ‘so it did.!
I was lucky enough to attend several 1999 Rugby World Cup games at the Wales Millennium Stadium Cardiff. There, around the halfway line point on its East stand wall at eye level in letters over a foot tall I saw this very same motto.
1948 Eppynt TT was followed by speed trials for Britain’s ISDT team. 1949 the ISDT was held nearby at Llandrindod Wells with Speed Trials Day at Eppynt. Mainland TT became what Circuit racing was proudly dubbed. When a tall Skylon stood straight in London on 1951 Festival of Britain centenary Eppynt TT quickly became Festival of Britain TT. Crowning of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 saw it termed The Coronation TT.
AUGUST 15th, a Sunday!, soon to attract protests from religious folk, Eppynt had its Mainland TT. Following years saw race day switched to Saturday, in deference, whether this was the true motive has been debated ever since. Nearest chapel to Eppynt was Llwyn under Reverend Joss Davies who was also Curator at Brecon Museum, in his place I imagine I would feel similarly that use of another day would not be too much to ask for.
Open exhausts with megaphones echoed thundering roars around hills of a hitherto solemnly silent region. Strong Army presence was evident in the forms of Lt. Commander Kidston along with Officer Commanding the Royal Artillery practice camp at Sennybridge Major Stackpoole. Builth Wells Motor Club along with Carmarthen Motor Club shared prominence. Stewards, Marshals, First Aiders came into view, along with laden charabancs plus all forms of transport carrying eager supporters to settle down as witnesses to a massive inaugural event.
Eppynt circuit, 5.2 miles per lap, wound across open moorland, undulating, with humps, over which speeds of 90 to 95 mph had been estimated during a Saturday Senior practice session, such speed there was amazing to even contemplate at that time. Rife rumour plus tittle-tattle brought a mass of motorcyclists to observe such feats. “Acknowledged experts” was an attracting term, coupled with “works riders”, “factory machines”, creeping into popular dialogue eager to dispense with Ration books, Petrol coupons, Powdered egg and Utility furniture expressions.
Magazines plus media coverage brought names like L.R. Archer, Les Graham, Italian Moto Guzzi machine rider Maurice Cann to be household names. A possibility of seeing those which one could otherwise only read about proved irresistable, add Clubman’s Senior TT winner Jack D. Daniels with runner up Phil Heath to such a field to set a very fine stage. Syd Barnett failed to turn up this time only. So did Roy Evans, L.G. Martin arrived late from Spain too late to practice, still having too much clutch trouble to take a worthwhile part in tussles. Kenny Dixon rode a rather old Norton 350, recurring clutch trouble caused him to retire masking a young Dixon’s potential. Phil Heath confided that he too arrived late and could not contribute his usual ferocity due to machine problems throughout his ride. Bob Foster had competed in Moto-Cross des Nations in Belgium on a weekend prior to Eppynt TT, he said he had taken a fall and was forced to withdraw to rest a painful back injury. However it was rumoured he was to ride the Grand Prix of Europe in Ulster the following weekend and felt it unwise to compete at demanding Eppynt Circuit so close to the Grand Prix.
End of a horrible war seemed to have hardened Britain’s survivors, improved skills, having provided training in organising mobility on a large scale. All aspects of talents, improvisation, erecting campsites to cater for hurriedly mobile throngs of people who were now able to afford a means of individual travel to places or events which could be visited as and when they wished. Closer scrutiny of the Photo section views of officials, spectators, plus non competing folk on site brings trench coats, well groomed hair, even poise with hands joined behind in an “at ease” attitude, rather than in pockets portrayed. Berets which had brought honour for their parts in saving a World were jauntily sported along with flat ‘Dai’ caps and titfers while wearers could enjoy turning swords into ploughshares.
Machinery had improved, developed, society had changed, factories had finished producing weaponry on a wartime scale, means of progressing in a peacetime market beckoned the staid plus entrepreneur alike. Mechanically trained in unexpected skills, planners, all had emerged to confidently confront a rapidly developing a facility of leisure which had been denied to all by cruel ravages a mechanised war had brought.
People had been brought into contact with travel, driving, repairs along with riding on a ‘needs must basis’ this had left men and women alike with a fascination for forms of transport, its operation and progress.
Carmarthen town could pride itself on its banked oval Cycle racetrack itself in the town Park to standards accepted by the British League of (cycle) Racing. Mass starts on highways were illegal hence Pendine and Eppynt found themselves venues for well supported Cycle racing on dates around TT events for Motorcycles. Anything mechanical or sporting was accommodated, and people over a wide area could support whatever interested them. Cyclists and sport prospered, Eppynt was to be one venue for racing events under a then governing National Cycle Union, (NCU). Railway enthusiast Don Rees would cycle from Carmarthen to Eppynt on his pride and joy Raleigh bike!, not even an up-market Lenton model!. When the raised surround with amenities of this track, for spectators is considered along with changing rooms, showers plus a grandstand, its rugby pitch cum athletic stadium uses Bank Holidays its easy to see why it became a central grass track venue all could reach by bus. Racing was advertised as Speedway, attracting curious plus serious enthusiasts, bringing many to try their hand at racing which would otherwise simply be read about.
Thus a vast band of enthusiasts, volunteers and helpers gladly gave their skills and energies to convey efficiently place stakes, mesh, fences along with ‘facilities’ to rapidly lay out an area within and about a 5:2 miles mountain circuit parts of which reach 1500 feet above sea level. Regardless of weather conditions every foot of Eppynt race track had to be swept clear of loose chippings. Noel Knight Snr. Always took charge of all this and what a fine achievement, without such enormous efforts events simply could not have taken place.
World Champions were to emerge from those that raced on Eppynt Mountain Circuit for coveted SILVER DRAGON Trophies. Replicas in plaque form would be issued to winners when they returned their hard won Trophy statuettes. Programmes have become testament, those listed therein along with all that were involved or even watched or read of, have been drawn to be part of a Great venture to merit some touching words of George Eliot :-Our deeds still travel with us from afar, And what we have been makes us what we are!
Mynydd Eppynt itself (pronounced munn eeth epp innt) is steeped in Celtic History, can be seen from Cilmeri where an obelisk Memorial to the last Prince of Wales stands, Llewellyn the last, slain in 1282. The original spelling Epynt stems from the ancient Pagan Goddess Epona, Goddess of horses, some say wild horses, ebol being a Welsh word for foal. (‘pony’ too is a term claimed to have emerged thus). Across Epynt lay high tracks negotiated by long past Drovers with livestock, particularly Ceredigion folk (Cardi’s) en route to cattle and pony fairs at Llangammarch plus well beyond. A stark desolate hilly region which an expression “Haunt of the Horse” has been long used to describe. Here is a region where Princes, folklore plus historic cult figures roamed, those since involved have rubbed shoulders with legend.
Brecon’s hills, peaks, valleys are covertly cloaked in mist most early mornings, expanse in silence has to be witnessed to understand or experience such timeless presence. Higher points bluntly protrude like stern clerics with ‘cu-nim’ collars, Falcons plummet, wildlife remains stealthy and still unaffected or disturbed by industry, urban development or city traffic. Eppynt Racing Circuit itself still silently remains.
Graziers with Forestry Commission based Committees nowadays help military controllers to evaluate environmental aspects. Wildlife plus agricultural matters, ancient camps of Britons, Romans and nineteenth century farms, villages, churches/chapels of their days remain fairly intact, hopefully not to be denied to archaeologists of the future in near unspoilt form. Eppynt should not simply decay without care. Security can ensure vandalism limitation. Skirting restoration of standing buildings too should not be for balance sheet gain.
There is no need to express an outsider’s feeling, simply pause, reflect on a way of life being ended. Commandant Major Stewart RA. took charge immediately, he was relieved for 1940 to 41 by Major Gestenburg RA. Next, Major Turner RA. For 1941 to 42. In came Lt. Col. H. Hamilton-Gardner MC . RA. until 1944, he was replaced by lt. Col. S. Williams through the 1944 year. 1944 to 1948 saw Lt. Col. R. H. Stackpoole MC. RA. assisting Eppynt Racing Committee in every way he could. Late 1948 had Major D. Davies MBE. MC. RA. Again a fine helper of those involved.
Farms adjoining Epynt originally had fringe grazing rights at cost of one shilling per annum, per acre, control was difficult, entry to fenced areas became awkward and time consuming, hence a licence was introduced, holders would be termed Epynt Graziers for a fee of initially Two Shillings and Sixpence each.
1948, the first Eppynt TT event was held on a Sunday, following years saw it changed to Saturday in deference to a local protest!, The nearest ‘House of God’ was at Llwyn with Rev. Joss Davies its minister, by week he was curator of Brecon Museum.
Competitors had long finished their practice laps, tuning and adjusting, charabanc convoys plus individual motorcars, sidecars and solos had all been directed to car parks, a strange stillness settled upon Eppynt mountain as an estimated 35 000 spectators settled at their chosen viewpoints to witness opening of the largest race circuit on UK mainland!. All had left rural Wales roads with place names such as Llangammarch, Llanwafyd, Llandulais, Llandovery, Brecon, Builth etc. to then open programmes to relate immediately with the start onto long Llewellyn’s Way straight, then Piccadilly Corner, next Gardiners Path, Copse Corner, then the alternative finish line! near Dixie’s Corner now no longer known by its Welsh term of Llwyd Bwlch y Groes. Next Check-Points 1 to 4, No2 reachable along the Burma Road, part of a road network constructed by German and Italian prisoners of war. Stewards and marshals each carefully issued with a flag, a pack of sandwiches plus a cold drink had long left for their specified posts after early refreshment at a central canteen tent, commentators in 1948 settled down to keep spectators advised throughout.
Dixie!?, the name stemmed from a nickname, for a labourer from Ystradgynlais, real name Daniel Walter Davies who had seen service in the first World War, winning two army boxing titles. Later Dixie fought in fairground booths in Wales and Border regions. Famous for his terrific single punch power, the expression “a Dixie” is still used in Welsh Valley areas to describe a punch. A tough well liked character, he started as a labourer working on the Epynt Range ‘Dixie’ was later placed in charge of a workmans hut on what seems to be ever after known as Dixie’s Corner. Or so I was advised by a Rev. Jones. However a version widely circulated and likely to retain credence in Neath Valley is of a terrific boxing bout staged there between Dixie and a younger fitter challenger for an impressively accumulated financial purse plus heavy wagers of a vast and previously bored audience. Inscriptions on structures worked on by POW’s still remain, around the range inc. 573POW 1945, 5731 PW, and the ‘1944’ The Italian POW Company.
Those interested in off road or all round competition machinery could after 1948 Eppynt TT stay on to follow the British team trial for Trophy, with vase A & B teams to later compete in the International Six Days Trial schedule to be held in Italy during September1948. Manufacturers of machinery, accessories, spark plugs, electrics, tyres, chains oils fuels entered this for its World-wide effect on a fast moving market for all their products.
1949 saw Alun Williams of BBC Radio Wales on location for his first sport involvement of such a nature with Murray Walker’s father and later Murray as a young man. The day prior to races coverage Alun, like a gentlemanly Pied Piper, took bored racers that had ridden their intended racing machines to Eppynt, (many had camped in Marqees to be used by organisers during the race day). Plus stewards, marshals and those with ways to transport others, from a desolate, still, mountainside course, to spend a well-orchestrated evening at a local Llandovery Inn, The Castle Hotel, with a piano! savoured Alun’s famous repertoire of tales, music and jokes. Ex WW2 Pilot, motorcycle racer and superb vintage restorer David Watkin James of Saundersfoot recalled the popular ditties of the days being hilariously churned out by Alun in Army, Navy and RAF variations!. Revellers returned in high spirits to their desolate ‘Marquee’ encampment. Fond memories of widely different people enjoying life together provided an atmosphere of esteem to Eppynt in general never equalled by Britain’s other racing circuits.
Camping and B+B facilities could be booked on a section of the entry form for rider plus mechanic. 3 good meals per day was listed, to be served at the riders and officials canteen. Memorable and chilly mornings!. Dave James chuckled relating that at circa 1500 ft above sea level height visitors could take their pick of several streams. Good natured banter galore during Toiletries, followed by a superb and eagerly awaited breakfast in a Marquee!. Luxury camping.
Newport (Gwent) Club used two red Western Welsh buses to run members to Eppynt, rider members such as H E Roberts would take family with machine there each year by car, ending up with an Austin A40. Newport lady members had acquired a rather ancient green van with Artillery wheels from which to dispense a variety of refreshments at Eppynt plus other race venues. Harold started ACU/RAC rider instruction in East Wales area along with his son Ken who still has his Certificate, the very first to be instructed and qualify. Ken Roberts now is a major motorcycle dealer in Newport and related so much of his impression with memories of Eppynt that had provided him with an urge to race and compete firstly on pedal cycles then later on anything with power or wheels!. One of the only places where Sidecars and solos had been sent out at the same time in practice periods was Eppynt TT.
Harold Roberts Snr. bought his machine from and had it prepared by Newport dealers R J Ware and son. A photo in scrapbook section shows them enjoying a pint together in later years together with Harold’s mechanic Lionel Powell. Lionel’s best recollection of Eppynt was Leo Starr’s hilarious 2½ hours entertainment in a remote canteen Marquee in 1950, his worst was forgetting his ‘30 bob pair’ of shoes left behind in the sleeping tent when 30 shillings was a substantial sum!.
RJ Ware immediately obtained an AJS 7R in 1949 swapping machines and trading even a Vincent 1000 with another dealer to obtain his AJS 7R which he felt was the greatest machine available. He and son Arthur would travel to Eppynt, in convoy to ensure their old Panther Sidecar outfit carrying it could conquer any steep stretch of approach road. Practice time R J Ware himself patiently sat astride his 7R awaiting the off to practice with his gloves tucked in his leathers, later he came off on a lower course corner, no gloves on!, to be picked up by a well known Newport rider on marshal duties (Bill Barnard). Back at the paddock WJ’s injuries to hands prevented him racing so with the machine largely undamaged his son Arthur was quickly nominated and set out on his practice lap wearing that same helmet and leathers, on the prized AJS 7R. Arthur determinedly approached Bill’s corner at speed – only to go down in virtually the same spot again. A surprised Bill had rescued both Ware riders, amazed to find the young Ware’s hands were also bleeding badly, since he too had omitted to don those tucked in gloves. Those hard lessons were discussed in the paddock with a certain famous Les Graham. A serious point emerged that changed all for the Ware riders along with many others. “Cut an inch off the end of those standard footrests right away” came LG’s instruction, everything later seemed a lot better on corners, their AJS 7Rs could be laid over further, so just about everyone else was furtively given such treasured pearls of wisdom. Paddock noise became quickly filled with shrieks of hacksaws being wielded as if the great man had read out a freshly discovered commandment. (10 Commandments would not satisfy us Welsh riders, 200 would be more impressively observed.)
F P(Phil) Rothwell was another Newport man who adored Eppynt. Recently he smirkingly admitted that the Rudge he pitted against Moto Guzzi and Velocette development machinery along with Ray Petty’s sleeved Norton plus Lewis, Ellis and Foster’s LEF in ’49. ’50. and ’51 had initially cost him “just a fiver”to acquire. Records list him plus photos show him using that machine with verve and style at road and grasstrack events. Its people such as Phil who experienced so much that seems denied to modern youth.
Eric Davies of Newport would travel to Eppynt in his Austin7 Ruby with the forks of his Velocette bolted to a rear bumper frame, and still go home to Newport at night after practice.
Riders attending were often competing as result of a market being established for Clubmens machines, Fast, exciting machines which could provide travel to competitions after easy on-site conversion, also used to reach workplaces during the week. “Any Suggestions for improvements” page in 1948 programme had seen potential competitors plus ‘Clubmen’ spot this niche, Eppynt & race related Clubs were joined, prospered and quickly expanded, manufacturers responded with multi purpose steeds which could actually compete, the sport grow hugely more reachable than now.
1948 2 ‘bob’ programme contained inviting ads. To join either Builth M.C. for 5 shillings per year or Carmarthen motor club at 6 Shillings with a stylish badge obtainable at 7/6!. Legend of the sands and any surface he graced, Handel Davies therein advertised his Swansea Emporium of Motor Cycles and cars with a heading stating he had won at least a hundred open events as if here was a sales outlet of proven high performance plus reliability. Programmes in years after 1948 became available at one shilling each only.
Graham Walker, a pre-war International motorcycle Grand Prix Champion, then editor of the green magazine Motor Cycling and Alun Williams became firm friends, set their stalls out together at Eppynt to became a marvellous team. Murray Walker is Graham Walker’s son, he too was to ride at Eppynt in 1949 International Six Days Trial where its final day was at Eppynt conducting Speed Trials. Murray fought bravely after smashing his spectacles in a heavy spill midway through a second day finishing that day unpenalized.
1949, Start time approached, final pre race check on Eppynt circuit made, a solitary travelling marshal toured gently round until he arrived at the start of long clear Gardiners Path straight. Temptation proved irresistable, he opened up his 1000 Vincent HRD, a deep thundering roar echoed around Eppynt’s hills as he blasted along on full throttle. John Powell, later to be Secretary at Carmarthen Motor club recalled an entire crowd’s attention being completely drawn, each individual craning to see. An audience thus drawn to this piece of sheer enjoyment, many had hitherto never even seen such power unleashed in peace and with enthusiasm. A wonderful character riding that Vincent HRD, Bryn Edwards of Carmarthen Club, nicknamed Oakey Tippi, unknowingly became The 1949 race Herald, alerting the converted to expect speed, skill and competition to follow such a grand opening.
Oakey Tippey had been the safe Haven which a family member had managed to transmit SOS to from a sinking vessel off Indonesia to get saved & brought back to health, even his house had been named Oakey Tippey as a result.
1949 entry, was impressively larger, spectator interest and attendance larger, machinery improved constantly, ‘the Green Un’ Magazine inside cover had a full page in colour showing only Vincent HRD’s wondrous development, Girdraulic forks. George Brown was to use a 500 alloy engined development machine to race at Eppynt, not Vincent HRD’s previously successful 500 but a forerunner of their Vincent Grey flash on which a certain J Surtees Jnr. became noticed.
1950!, Mainland TT, Clubmans race was firmly established. Gerhard Heinze, a German ex POW worked wth Eddie Stephens, raced a Vincent this year, in the programme as letter ‘B’ in a list of reserves, entered by guess who? Eddie Stephens. Gerhard was also to ride in IoM plus several times at Eppynt. Sidecar racing became established, practising simultaneously with solos, starting sidecar races at intervals a la Isle of Man.
1951. Festival of Britain TT, When a famous ‘Skylon’ stood straight in London, to mark Centenary year of the 1851 festival of Britain. Dickie Dale set Eppynt outright lap record using only a Norton 350, he had been accompanied by Geoff Duke with a very slick Support team from Norton.
1952, 500cc motorcycle engined race cars had become a most popular Formula racing mode of that period, many Marques still exist with racing pedigree stemming from those. One, called the Kieft designed and built by Cyril Kieft of Langland Bay, was to be demonstrated and driven by him at Eppynt. Kieft racer had been tested and raced at Fairwood Aerodrome on the Gower Peninsula by the likes of Stirling Moss. At the Strand area of Swansea the Showroom section of Welcombe House was used to display and market Kieft machinery. Cyril wished to produce a people’s sized bubble car eventually, Welcombe House with its showroom remains intact at 1999. Geoff Duke’s appearance on course with his wife, caused comment perhaps due to the Austin A90 Atlantic in its greeny blue livery. GD was in the officials’ canteen for lunch chatting to ex Beaufighter pilot Dave James who still sported a plaster of Paris on a broken forearm following a scrambles fall. Naturally Geoff Duke’s autograph soon appeared on Dave’s plaster. Followed by his of comment of “you wouldn’t catch me doing that” which was a classic double entendre soon jocularly pointed out by Dave.
The Red Bugatti that frequently appeared on a piece of concrete well inside Dixie’s Corner was a massive discussion point for all, though no one really ever proved it was Eddie Stephens’s own.
J. Surtees Jnr. appeared in the 1952 programme and my approach brought an explanation from a polite, helpful now Sir John Surtees. He chuckled and explained to me that his dad Jack was still then a force in British Motorcycle racing. Also he had been told at Vincent HRD Stevenage factory where he worked that it was George’s job to be the works rider and he was just an apprentice on two pounds ten shillings a week. I think we all get the point.
1953 the Coronation TT. In early practice, Wilmott Evans approached a lower area flanked by a peat bog, clouds of steam billowed from one point, well off racing track, Wilmott stopped, leaned his bike safely then investigated, to find a young rider pinned beneath a 350 BSA. He helped the lad to get his bike to safety and carried on. When Wilmott was giving a talk to a Vintage club meeting in Carmarthen many years on he referred to that incident. In the bar later, Henry Adams chirped up “that chap you spoke of was my brother”! the same JR Adams of Tenby, that had gone to Eppynt with over a coachload of supporters all those years ago to encourage him. His bike carried race number 32. nostalgia itself warrants our scrapbook section carries visual record of such entourage and transport.
Compiling this stems from collected data C.B.Jones (Bryan) has accumulated and diligently researched to guard as an archivist for Eppynt. Bryan used to cycle as a schoolboy to those races to watch in awe, he still has a vintage motorcycles collection which somehow includes a racing Norton of that period!, Another aspect of interest is land ‘appropriated’ in 1940 by the War Department had been an area where villages, churches, farms were compulsorily bought and occupants were moved out over a short period, something that would not be acceptable in this day and age. Bryan was a farmer’s son on one of those very farms through which Eppynt course ran, and remains visible today along with remains of those buildings aquired.
Noel Knight Jnr. of Carmarthen recalls his father’s strong and long involvement on Eppynt Race committee in charge of ‘Equipment’ each year, a vast range of equipment too. Leading from the front to prepare a circuit in a very short space of time each year, his brother Gordon too, we can see entered as G. Knight listed to ride a Rudge in 1952, and Royal Enfield in 1951. Noel has also laboured to locate much, submit and research some treasured pictures and facts that enrich all.
My own interest stems from getting luck on my side to take part in winning 2 Cups from Builth Wells Club’s collection at the Royal Welsh Show in 1965. Our original methanol fuelled sidecar racer ridden by myself & Ken Jones, (passenger who has his well deserved ½ share of the 2 Cups), has been found, badly corroded, but lovingly restored now to an ordinary road race Norton itself, it remains in my garage, like Eppynt, awaiting that call!.
When receiving our Cups at the 1965 Royal Welsh Show, with a fair bit of mud spatter, an old chap wearing a forerunner of the Columbo designer mackintosh & told me quietly in a low voice to Guard these Cups my passenger Kenjo (Ken Jones were to receive) since they had not been awarded since Eppynt TT.
I knew nothing of Eppynt at all, & my Diving/Survey profession saw me living at Dubai for 10 years, only when I returned did I find my bike again and begin to wonder what was the chap on about, where is Eppynt, now I know from others & his description that the chap was the man who had provided those Cups. I still have mine & I do know a little more of Eppynt.”