On March 13, 1937, Joe Petrali set the land speed record for two-wheeled vehicles on a 4-valve 61 OHV with a speed of 136.183 miles per hour on the beach at Daytona, Florida. He rode a blue 1936 EL equipped with a 61 cubic inch Knucklehead engine that was specially designed for the attempt. It featured low-slung handlebars, and a fairing made from a cut and reshaped gas tank, also a rear tail fin assembly was fitted for aerodynamics. The tail fin had to be removed for the official attempt, though, because it produced excessive vibration. Petrali won his 49th and final AMA national on August 29, 1937 at the national hillclimb in Muskegon, Michigan. In 1937, the AMA introduced a new class called Class C which featured street-legal motorcycles in an effort to make motorcycle racing less expensive for ordinary motorcyclists. Petrali saw the change as rank amateurs taking to the track on heavy street bikes rather than a track full of seasoned pros like Class A racing. But manufacturers were cutting back on racing budgets during the Great Depression, spelling the end of Class A competition and, the Class C championship became the most important championship. Petrali’s final race was at the Oakland 200 in November of 1938. It was his one and only Class C race. It was on an oiled-down one mile dirt track. Bikes were sliding everywhere and Petrali was almost hit several times. Smok’n Joe pulled off the track and hung up his leathers for good. The last great Class A champion walked away from racing.
Monday, June 28, 1914 saw the 2nd running of the Australian Grand Prix at Sunny Corner, near Bathurst. It was held over 100 miles and the start was delayed to allow snow to clear from the racing line. James Meller on a Matchless was the winner.
James E. Meller with his Matchless on which he won the, June 28, 1915 Australian Grand Prix, held in the Bathurst District
James Mellor 1917
Bill Lomas during the 1955 Isle of Man 350cc Junior T.T.
Aged only 18, Ray Seymour was already an accomplished racer. During the 1909 season, he set several records at the LA Coliseum at 72 mph and 73 mph in June. Then in July he secured the world record for the mile at 76.6 mph. He went on to win more races at Playa del Rey, the LA Coliseum and other locations across America riding a Reading standard.
Reading Standard decided in 1910 to stop sponsoring racers, so Seymour moved to Indian and got his own factory tuned 8 valve. Seymour was leading the race in the New Jersey Motordrome on Sept 8, 1912, when his Indian teammate Eddie Hasha lost control and crashed. The accident killed Hasha, racer Johnny Albright, and 6 spectators. The spectators were children who were watching the race from the stands just above the upper guard rail. All but one of the dead were less than 21 years old. This was the deadliest event in board track racing history, and the public outcry from it forced the NJ Motordrome to close forever on that day. In time, the outrage from this and other accidents ultimately killed off the sport of board track racing.
Two of the injured later died in hospital bringing a total of eight spectators killed.
This Norton is pretty special. It is believed to be a ken Sprayson frame built in 1957 for Geoff Duke to run a 350 in. In it’s current guise it has a Norton 500 twin in it. The frame is unusual in having a tapered single front down tube. Chain oiler built into the frame.