Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

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Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by bbenxe » Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:08 pm

The sky's the limit on a BSA unit single...
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CCM landing hard, and then caught in the melee...
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Smart B50 MX
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Victors at rest
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Some from around the paddock...
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'66 Matchless G2 CSR scrambler, '71 BSA B50 street scrambler, '75 Bultaco 250 flat tracker, '81 Montesa 200

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Re: Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by AJ CCM » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:16 pm

Did you get stuck in the Car Park, I didn't go because of the weather conditions, due to having problems getting off the car park a few years ago.
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Re: Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by bbenxe » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:55 pm

I did not! I carried speed up a hill and strategically parked at the top to ensure an easy roll down to the gate to get back out...

Morning was damp for practice but brightened up nicely for the racing.
'66 Matchless G2 CSR scrambler, '71 BSA B50 street scrambler, '75 Bultaco 250 flat tracker, '81 Montesa 200

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Re: Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by beat » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:10 pm

:thumb :thumb :thumb

:mrgreen:

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Re: Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by minetymenace » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:26 pm

:mrgreen: :thumb
There is no evidence to support the notion that life is serious.
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Re: Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by AJ CCM » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:05 am

bbenxe wrote:I did not! I carried speed up a hill and strategically parked at the top to ensure an easy roll down to the gate to get back out...

Morning was damp for practice but brightened up nicely for the racing.
:thumb
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Re: Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by bbenxe » Tue Apr 03, 2018 11:14 am

Some history for those unfamiliar with Red Marley, and probably interesting too for those that are!

Can be found with illustrations here: http://www.redmarleyhillclimb.com/History.html

The Old Hill

Motorcycle Hillclimbing started at Red Marley in the early twenties. The first track was known as the round course, and included several turns. The Birmingham Motorcycle Club later settled on a quarter mile (440 yard) straight climb, with a 1:1.25 gradient over the famous jump (known as the pimple).

Apart from the war years the hillclimb continued in the same two at a time format until 1971.

The New Hill

Members of the AJS & Matchless owners club decided to revive the event in 2000. The site then had to be changed as the original land was no longer available. Walsgrove Hill, which stands just a mile away seemed to be the ideal alternative, with the contours being very similar. The 440 yard straight climb format is now also run four at a time.

Uphill Racers

An excellent historical account of this famous Midland event. First published in the Off Road Review in 1999, researched and written by Bob Light, the well known motorcycle scribe and past member of the Birmingham Motorcycle Club. Bob spoke to the late Len Vale-Onslow, the only man who really knows how it all started.

The news for the year 2000 is that Red Marley is back in business, and that bikes will tackle the famous gradient for the first time in some thirty years. The West Midlands Section of the AJS & Matchless Owners Club are literally carving the track anew from the now wooded hillside. It is a formidable challenge, but they have started early and they really mean business.

So to Len Vale-Onslow, the man who found the hill all those years ago, to tell us exactly how it all began. For it was Len who had the vision and the inspiration to start the wheels turning, and some 75 years after he first tackled the formidable gradient, this is the story:-

I had a garage on the Worcester to Great Witley road. One day a farmer customer saw me printing a sign, asked if I would print the name on his lorry, and I agreed. Well the following Thursday was market day, so he brought the lorry in and left it with me, while he went to market. On his return the job was done, and he said Very professional, how much? I said there was no charge as it was just practice.

So he invited me to his farm the following Sunday, when he was having a shoot. Knowing that I would be riding my bike, I took my haversack, and four of my motor cycling friends came with me. The farm was in a lane just off the road from Great Witley to Stourport, about a quarter mile from the Hundred House (a hotel with a hundred windows!) where the roads from Worcester and Stourport meet. My friends and I stopped outside the farm gate, looking across the Stourport road, where there was a police house, at the back of which was a garden, then an orchard, and beyond that was the hill, which looked very steep!

I said to my friends Wouldn’t that make a good American-style hill climb? Well the shooting stopped and the farmer came to his gate with his gun over his shoulder, with a pheasant, a brace of partridge, two wood pigeons, and a rabbit or hare. I chose the partridges! I asked the farmer who the hill belonged to, and he said it belonged to him, and was a white elephant as he could not cultivate it or graze it. I suggested that he could make money using it as a hill climb, and asked if we could have a look at it. Well about half way up, there was a bit that was almost vertical for about thirty feet. Two of my friends went up to the steep part and turned round and came back. Then it was my turn. Well, with a 1000cc Croft-Cameron Anzani with an 8-valve racing engine - and a 40mph minimum speed! - my momentum took me up the steep part and I was the first to scale the hill.



I ran the Hallow and District Motor Cycle Club, and we made the steep part rideable, and we held about three meetings a year. We charged the spectators, giving the money to the farmer. We had about two thousand spectators, mainly from Stourport and Birmingham. We foolishly let the Stourport Club come and join us for a meeting, and they approached the farmer direct, promising him more money. They in turn approached the Birmingham Club, who ran meetings until the war, when it had to be suspended. One of the stars of the early years was Jack Amott when he was riding for Rudge and there was a local lad called Bob Abberley, who used to ride up standing on the saddle!

The hill was 550 yards long, with the start on heavy duty wire mesh to protect the surface, and controlled (at least in later years) by traffic lights. Two riders left the line together and raced for the summit tackling the high ridge in a bold, full frontal assault.

For the first 150 yards the gradient was 1 in 10, then it steepened to 1 in 5 and then 1 in 1.5 at the approach to "the pimple". That's the bit that Len and his friends made rideable years ago. Clear that and it was 1 in 3 for the last 300 yards to the finish. In the pre-war days there was also a "round course", but no details of this have emerged.

Great Witley is true hill climb country for in the next valley lies Shelsley Walsh the famous old hard-surface timed climb where the Midland Automobile Club have operated since 1905. Bikes first competed at Shelsley in September 1946, when Manx Grand Prix winner Ernie Lyons scored another famous victory on the 500cc Grand Prix Triumph, and they still compete there once a year.

Red Marley has had famous winners over the years too, many engraved on the classic 'Silver Helmet'which Bob Hargreaves presented to the Birmingham Club in the mid-twenties. However no club archives survive to give us a list of winners, and the shiny old pudding-basin, complete with its club badge, misses out quite a few years. Indeed we cannot be sure that the helmet was always a Red Marley trophy, though certainly in later years it was the main award in the annual uphill struggle.



Hill climbs - or 'American Freak hill climbs as they were known'- were very popular in the early days before scrambles took hold, though it seems that Red Marley was not the first of its kind. The West of England Club first ran a hill climb at Fingle Bridge in the early twenties, moving to nearby White Hill after the war. Up in Yorkshire there is the West Leeds Club's famous old climb at Post Hill, Pudsey, and the story is that it was so named when the local daily paper, the Yorkshire Post, put up trophies for and reported the early meetings! Their support was withdrawn when there was a fatality on the 1 in 1.4 main slope when a local farmer tried to take a tractor up it and it performed the ultimate "wheelie" before cartwheeling back to the bottom of the hill. Subsequently the 'hill' (actually formed from the spoil tip of the millstone grit quarry at the top of the hill) was incorporated in the scrambles circuit of Post Hill, which later hosted one of the earliest - if not the earliest - TV scrambles, but that's another story



Ken Taylor of the Kings Norton Club told me that his father was a Red Marley pioneer. 'At the first meeting in the mid-twenties, my father Len Taylor was the first rider to make a successful climb, riding a 500 side-valve Ariel. The first prize was £5 for fastest time of the day, which he thought he had won, until they decided to have a second run at the hill. This time he also got up, but so did Gordon Baxter, possibly riding an ohv Zenith, who set a faster time. 'There was also a sidecar event, and my father fitted a sidecar to the Ariel, but he could not get a passenger!'



Bert Perrigo was the first Silver Helmet winner, back in 1927 and in his second year as a BSA works rider. The outstanding Red Marley climb of those early seasons was in 1934, when Len Heath (doubtless on a 500 Ariel) climbed in 25.8 seconds and set a record that stood for twenty years. Midland stars from the thirties included Bob Foster, Len Vale-Onslow, Doug Perks, Ollie Bevan, Fred Povey and Wilmot Evans, but the challenge from visiting riders was always strong. Norton works rider Jack Williams came up from Cheltenham and always went well, for example winning all four of his events in 1937 in front of a 10,000 crowd. The ever popular Bob Foster brought the works V-twin New Imperial to Red Marley pre-war - what a ride that must have been - and won again in 1939 aboard his 500 Levis. Bert Shorey from Banbury was a Non-Experts winner on his four-valve 250 Rudge, and it was this bike that got son Dan started in his racing career many years later.



Red Marley drew big crowds, the Midland Red ran special buses from Stourport, and thousands lined the hillside to watch the action. The BBC broadcast the commentary and newsreel camera crews came from British Movietone and Pathe News. As well as Red Marley, the Birmingham Club had a full grass track programme at Lillieshall in the late thirties, and re-started after the war with a race meeting on Easter Monday 1946 at Mappleborough Green near Redditch. The following Easter Red Marley was again cleared for action, and in the 25 years that followed there were some outstanding individual performances.

Red Marley drew big crowds, the Midland Red ran special buses from Stourport, and thousands lined the hillside to watch the action. The BBC broadcast the commentary and newsreel camera crews came from British Movietone and Pathe News. As well as Red Marley, the Birmingham Club had a full grass track programme at Lillieshall in the late thirties, and re-started after the war with a race meeting on Easter Monday 1946 at Mappleborough Green near Redditch. The following Easter Red Marley was again cleared for action, and in the 25 years that followed there were some outstanding individual performances.



It was top grass track rider Dick Tolley who was established as the master of Red Marley in the late forties, with a string of victories on Enfield-JAPs, always against strong opposition. In 1948 Norman Vanhouse (Ariel) scored an outstanding win in the Unlimited event, disposing of Harry Taft, L S Mills, Dick Tolley, Bill Nicholson and Cyril Jones (the Birmingham one!) along the way. Winning at Red Marley was never easy. Bill Nicholson was a great supporter of Red Marley and always a formidable opponent. However in 1952 Bill lost out in the 350cc final to 17 year-old Jeff Smith in his year as a Norton works trials rider, equipped with a 350 cammy Norton on his first (and last) visit to the famous gradient. His father J V Smith Snr. was Clerk-of-the-Course that day. Bill Nick's last visit to Red Marley was in 1956 aboard a 500 Velocette, when he beat Clive Bennett (500 Ariel) to win the Unlimited event, but, like Dick Tolley, Bill never held the Red Marley record. The honour of beating Len Heath's formidable target finally went to Coventry’s Len Bayliss in 1954, using his JAP-engined Ellbee Special which had given him so much grass track success round the Midlands in post-war seasons. In the fifties, Birmingham linked up with the Sidcup Club who ran the 160-yard Knatts Valley climb at Farningham in Kent. South Eastern Centre riders were regular visitors to the Worcestershire hill, including Geoff Daryn (500 Triumph) and Nobby Hogg (500 BSA), who were both very successful.



Another visitor was Alf Hagon, armed with a specially prepared Kirby Special to attack Len Bayliss' record. He did it too, reducing it to 24 seconds dead in 1958 on the way to winning the Unlimited event from Jimmy Bray (500 BSA) and Paul Taft (500 BSA). The 1961 event is logged in BSA history as the winning debut for the first B40 prototype scrambles BSA ridden by Brian Martin. Brian won the 250 event on a C15 from Chris Horsfield (Cotton), then took the 350 final ahead of Bernie Andrews (BSA) and the Unlimited with Gerry Goodwin (500 JAP) second. Both these victories were on the B40. Sammy Miller made it a clean sweep for Small Heath that day, winning the Experts Barred event on a 650 BSA, and that one was a bit special - it was Len Vale-Onslow's Super Rocket! Stourbridge flyer Gerry Goodwin was a winner at Red Marley for years. When Arthur Frost of DMW saw Gerry scale Red Marley on a scrambles Ariel, he offered him a ride on a works DMW but Gerry's most vivid memory is when he was matched against Alf Hagon.



"There were two separate lines, and it varied from year to year which was the best. This time I was matched with Alf Hagon, and I was in the left lane. I jumped so high over the pimple that I landed in the spectator area!" Stratford-Upon-Avon clubman Charlie Reynolds was also a Red Marley regular and raced with Gerry Goodwin. "We used to go every year before I started riding and it was always a good day. When I took part, I found that the start on the wire netting could be tricky. You had to be sure that the bike was pointing straight when you went off the netting, or it would go sideways very quickly. "On a two-fifty two stroke you had to change down to second after the Pimple, ideally while you were still in mid-air. If you did that the chain would come off, and if you tightened the chain, it would break! "Once you got to the top, you returned to the paddock down the return road - finding your way through the families enjoying their picnics! "When Bob Cooper went to the Lomax trial, I borrowed his 500 Gold Star scrambler, which was exciting. "One Easter I was riding a Greeves Hawkstone scrambler against Gerry Goodwin on a 250 BSA C15 grass bike. I lost it and came off the back. It was the only meeting that I ever left on a stretcher!" In Red Marley's last decade, the best of Midlands scramblers and grass track riders battled it out on the hill.



All-rounder Scott Ellis was the final record holder on his 500 BSA B50 grass tracker, clipping Alf Hagon's time. Scott remembers: 'I did not go every year because it clashed with the Lomax, but Red Marley was always good fun. The best times were often set in the heats, and I remember that when I got to the final I usually had to elbow Gerry Goodwin on the way up!' Back to Len Vale-Onslow. 'I rode there myself for some forty years, and sons Len and Peter competed there every time after the war. We all had some successes from time to time. 'In 1971 the Birmingham Club returned our entries, saying that they had not got enough. When I asked how many more they needed, they said about 15, and I rang up my friend Les Davis (chairman of the Western Centre) who offered 25 riders. I rang the Birmingham Club with the offer, and they said that it was too late, they had already cancelled it. I told them they would never get it again and I was right.' After Red Marley ceased, the Birmingham Club turned again to grass track, and the silver helmet went too. The last winner was grass track star Chris Baybutt in 1977, and he received his reward from Club President Bert Perrigo, just fifty years after Bert's name was the first to be engraved on this very distinctive trophy.

And so, after 28 years, I took the road to Red Marley again. My first job on the hill had been assistant to timekeeper Albert Taylor, as we both huddled against the fence at the summit. Albert took the times and I phoned them down to the start line. Albert was a great enthusiast, who's timekeeping skills helped clubs galore across the Midlands for many years, and who scaled the heights of Red Marley for years because there was a job to be done up there, wet or fine. Albert's wife Doris was long-time Secretary of the Midland Centre, and also of the Birmingham Club. Their joint contribution to motor cycle sport in the Midlands was beyond measure.



As I came over the hill above the Holt Fleet bridge that spans the Severn, a plume of smoke on the distant hillside marked the spot. The AJS & Matchless squad was out in force, with a digger clearing decades of nature's work and the course emerging again, reclaimed yard by yard.

THE END
'66 Matchless G2 CSR scrambler, '71 BSA B50 street scrambler, '75 Bultaco 250 flat tracker, '81 Montesa 200

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Re: Unit Singles at Red Marley 2018

Post by Ian Hingley » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:37 pm

Hey Ben

Did you see Keith Barnes? Occasionally posts here as CCM55. Good guy and great rider. Got through to the semi finals apparently.

Ian
66 BSA Victor Enduro, 72 BSA Lightning, 62 BSA B40 trials, 89 H*nda Bros 650, 96 Aprilia Moto 6.5, 2000 Aprilia Moto 6.5

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