|Chuck Sun's Report on the 70th Year Anniversary at the British Farleigh Castle Vintage Motocross
Special Report from LeoVince Rider and MX Veteran Chuck Sun
In June of 1938 the first motorcycle race was held on the grassy slope next to the six hundred year old Farleigh Hungerford Castle, 100 miles southwest of London close to the ancient roman city called Bath. Within 18 months the world would be at war, but once the war was over the racing action went on.
Don Rickman won the first GP held in 1966 with World Champion Jeff Smith winning the second moto for second. Great rides by Dave Thorpe at Farleigh mark the last English MX World Champion. Over 30,000 raving British fans would swarm the hillsides to watch an American proclaim the Castle as his own, Brad Lackey would win in 1977 and again in 1982 in which Bad Brad became the first American World Champion. Wild Child of the day was 1979 World Champion Graham “Rolls Noyce”, who took his only GP overall win that year at the famous Castle. In ’79 I was struggling with injuries riding for Husqvarna in the first half of the season, but upon return to the US round at Carlsbad, Eric Crippa prepared a special motor that gave me the boost I needed to put it on the podium as top American! On a visit home to Oregon before returning to Europe, I injured my knee ending a chance to enter at Farleigh Castle. So, on this 4th of July I celebrate our independence from the Brits by racing the hollowed grounds of the Castle nearly 30 years later!
Four Seasons of racing conditions:
Nothing but green grass is what greets riders coming to the Castle’s annual event held traditionally at the same time the GP was held each year on the 4th of July. Darren Hudson had invited me to the Pontrilis Twin Shock World Championship just a fortnight ago. With the Championship in hand the good folks at the Herefordshire Twinshock Club invited me to take part in the annual “King of the Castle” as Rob Kinsey & Rob Poulton from RPM played host before hooking up with Peter Lightfoot of Gillside Farm in the lakes region, just across from Scotland. Peter rides Maico and is twice the over 50’s twin shock champion and among hosting campers on the Gillside farm, The Lightfoot family manages over 1000 head of sheep. I found out as I was pressed into service with sheering duties!
A light rain overnight was welcome to the dry hard ground lying under the wet grass. Unbelievable just how slippery wet grass is on complete off-camber turns! Barely into the first lap of the over 50 moto, Rolls Noyce was all over me as I overshot a slippery grass turn proceeding into a rope track barrier, which in turn drew me into a 4” post. That’s gonna leave a mark! Noycey went on for the win. Graham was on a ’79 250 Honda Red Rocket that he handled quite well on the technical slippery surface. In the 2nd moto it was like a completely different track as it dried out and was actually dusty in places. For the most part it was down to firm dirt and tacky in the woods. Riders could really lay the bike over and carve some fun lines. The sun was out and I was racing with one of the legends of Farleigh Castle, Graham Noyce! What a fantastic experience, as I went on to win the moto. Later that night we would stroll over to the pub for dinner and drinks to hear many a story of the golden era of motocross. I was telling Graham that it looks as if I’m staying over until the FIM Vet race at Lommel, Belgium Aug. 3 and look forward to practice in the sand. Graham recalled his first trip at 17 years old to Lommel in the brutal sand. Noyce was frustrated in being lapped 4 times by an unknown incredible strong rider. Turned out to be Finnish World Champion Heikki Mikkola! Graham was determined to figure the sand out and stayed for over 2 weeks until he just held it wide open in the bumps for a huge crash! Noyce did go on to master the sand with a world title. Outside the pub the sky’s opened up and the rain did not let up all night.
Herefordshire Club members have had previous experience with rain and they immediately closed off the woods section before practice. Not to many went out for practice including me. A shiny greasy main line was absolutely unridable. So every one shifted to the deep mud on the outside only to add considerable weight to the bikes in an endless wrestling match to keep the bike upright and see through what little daylight was left on the Scott goggle lens. Graham was right at home in the slop and was like old times, as I was pleased to keep him in sight for 2nd. Once again the sun came out and now it was a tacky choppy surface for the 4th dif ferent condition of the weekend. No longer a greasy mud fest, track conditions made riding extremely fun and went on to win. Overall for the 2 days went to Noycey with myself second, CI Sport distributor Stewart Miller in third and 4th went to Holeshot king Peter Lightfoot who ran up front all weekend but had a few to many excursions into the track posts.
By all accounts Farleigh Castle was a fantastic event to take part in and well worth missing my flight as I continue to wander around the UK with one great moto experience after another. Thanks to enthusiastic motocross racers that have opened their homes to me, is making this journey all good. Wulfsport’s Bill Brown has kept me looking good in the stylish Wulfsport gear and has really provided tremendous support with the sweet ’81 Maico. I feel a little bad leaving Bill’s factory prepared 490 Maico packed with mud to Peter Lightfoot. Sheep shearing in my future! Having no real clue what was next, my future began to materialize as we were parked next to a hardy crew of French riders. I’ve accepted an invitation from Madame motocross of motoclub Belleme to ride a special Twin shock race next Monday to celebrate Bastille day at a hilly track called Belleme in France. I’ve hooked up with long time ambassador and rider to the sport of motocross Dennis Slythe. Dennis helps coordinate twin shock racing with the French Club, as it is just a few hours trip by ferry from his home just south of London. Dennis was once mechanic to British Champion Vic Eastwood. That’s it for now, but I have a feeling there is more to come!