VINCENT RAPIDE SERIES B RACER: Uninvited
We’ve all been there. You’re hoping to get invited to a party at someone’s place that you had a pretty good time at last time you went – but the days drag on by and you don’t hear a peep from them. Then the days become weeks, and pretty soon months – but still no joy. Eventually, after you’ve put out feelers through third parties, you get the email – sorry, but you’ve been uninvited. You had too much fun last time around, and put a few noses out of joint. Hope you understand, no hard feelings and all that – but please don’t show up, as it’ll spoil it for everyone else there. Hmmm.
That’s the scenario which Australian brothers Ken and Barry Horner have faced in hoping to be invited back again this year to the annual Goodwood Revival, the world’s premier Historic road race staged by British nobleman Lord March on his private race circuit in the South of England, in front of an annual sell-out crowd of 180,000 spectators over the three days. Since 2008 the cut-off date for the two motorcycle races held there each September alternates between pre-1954, to capture the kind of bikes which competed at the first and only Goodwood motorcycle race meeting held in April 1951, and pre-1967. That’s when the Goodwood track was closed after Lord March’s father, the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, refused to line it with the Jackie Stewart-inspired Armco metal barrier that would sadly end up slaughtering so many car drivers and even more bike racers, before his son reopened it with acres of runoff space in 1998.
Unlike the later cut-off date, which has a 500cc capacity limit making it the preserve of Matchless G50 and Manx Norton singles plus MV Agusta triples, the earlier class run in even-numbered years has a 1,000cc ceiling. This was insisted on by Lord March, in recognition of the main event of the day at that one and only Goodwood bike meeting, which saw Vincents finish 1-2 in an Unlimited race won by factory rider George Brown aboard a works-prepared 999cc Black Lightning, with Johnny Lockett third on a factory Norton 500. But the predicted domination by one-litre Vincents under the new Revival rules didn’t happen – at least not for the first three such events, with a combination of handling problems and reliability sidelining all the Vincent entries, even in the hands of a star of yesteryear like eight-time TT winner Charlie Williams. But that all changed in 2014, once Ken and Barry Horner decided to employ Aussie ingenuity in building a bike to race in the Revival, and thus demonstrate that there is indeed no replacement for displacement, with riders Beau Beaton and Craig McMartin triumphing against the cream of the British Classic racing establishment, and top riders like Kevin Schwantz, Troy Corser and Jeremy McWilliams, who this year will be joined by Isle of Man TT legend John McGuinness – many of them riding brand-new replica Manx Nortons against the Horners’ tuned-up 1948 Vincent Rapide [see History] ridden by Beau Beaton and Craig McMartin..
But the Horners’ hoped-for invitation to return to Goodwood this year to try to defend their title has finally been thwarted, by an email from organiser Gordon Russell pointing out the imbalance in performance between the Aussie Vincent and the single-cylinder British competition, and stating that because of this there will be no invitation for the Aussie team for this year’s event. “It seems our performance at the 2014 Goodwood Revival was deemed too dominant against the opposition – it was hinted that if we had a single we’d be invited back, but not with the twin,” says Ken Horner. “So be it, then – we’ll go where we’re wanted. I feel the Goodwood attitude is a little disappointing – it’s supposed to be all about the show, and I do think in 2014 we certainly put on a good spectacle at the event. But these days I’d rather go to where we’re wanted rather than push for where we are not wanted. So we’ll most likely go to the Barber Vintage Festival in the USA, since they want us to be there with our big twin for the Battle of the Twins. We’ll retire the Rapide to our little museum – raced one, won one is a pretty good record!”