Castle Combe’s ‘Grand National’ was billed to be its biggest event in recent years. It turned out to be one of the biggest ever with a crowd, which must have been more than 20,000, thronging this historic Wiltshire circuit.
What brought them out? Was it the glorious sunshine; was it the presence of stars such as Freddie Spencer, Guy Martin, Stuart Graham and John McGuinness; was it the fantastic display of classic racing machinery.
All of the above but most of all it was ‘Mike’s Bikes’ parade - a tribute to Mike Hailwood still seen by many as the greatest rider of all time. And the prospect of seeing, and hearing, that 297cc Honda six on which he set that incredible TT lap record of 107mph from a standing start in 1967.
It was Guy Martin who had the privilege of throwing his leg over that iconic piece of machinery, watched carefully by classic builder George Beale, followed by Hailwood’s team-mate Stuart Graham on one of of the 250 fours.
Then came David Hailwood on the Sports Motorcycles Ducati which powered Hailwood to TT victory in his famous 1978 comeback. And then one of the greatest of modern racers Freddie Spencer, a 500cc world champion in 1983, at the age of 21 on that championship winning machine. Accompanying them was a galaxy of classic racing machines providing that cacophony of sound much missed today
The Hailwood family, wife Pauline, son David and grandson Mike, were thronged by fans who still, even fifty years on, are entranced by legendary ‘Mike the Bike’ and his winning TT comeback at the age of 38 ten years after retiring from motor cycle racing.
Circuit boss Rodney Gooch confessed to being amazed at the turnout and thanked all those who had brought bikes.
Hailed by many as the biggest and best race meeting ever seen at the circuit, there was one name who not only drew the crowds, but was happy to entertain them with his trademark boundless energy.
Guy Martin, now as famous for his TV exploits as he is for his racing, made an emotional union with one of the many bikes being demonstrated as part of the ‘Mike’s Bikes’ parade.
Martin took a keen interest the 1968 297cc Honda 6, a legendary winning machine which Hailwood took to many victories and which is renowned for the amazing sound it makes from its tiny engine.
Alongside Martin in the pit lane and on track for much of the time was the equally legendary Freddie Spencer, a three time world champion, who rode the later Honda NSR500 three-cylinder two-stroke, playing to the crowds with wheelies.
“These two Hondas were ground breaking bikes. The NS500 as much as the Honda 6. Just like the 6 moved everything on at the time, the NSR did the same in 1984. So I thought it would be nice for everyone to see them together. I hope the photographers caught it. I can’t believe the crowds here, a fantastic turn out and they are so enthusiastic,” said Spencer.
Dozens of other famous bikes associated with Hailwood were also ridden by some of the biggest names in the sport. Martin’s Honda team mate, McGuinness, a 23 time TT winner, Bruce Anstey, a multiple Superbike and TT winner and Steve Plater, another multiple TT winner, all delighted the crowds.
After his demonstration was cut a little short due to a technical issue with the Honda, Martin was introduced to the grandson of Mike Hailwood, also named Mike, some 60 years since the legend had his second ever motorcycle race at Castle Combe at the age of 17.
Aside from the superstardom, the weekend provided a huge programme of racing action, courtesy of the ‘NG Road Racing Club’.
Sunday’s ‘King of Combe’ 10 lapper was the race every rider aspired to win, with Josh Day from Cirencester on his Kawasaki ZX10R, reiterating his dominance by taking his 6th victory of the weekend.
Three time ‘K of C’ winner Dan Cooper from Stroud had to be content with another runner up place on his 600cc Honda, some 8 seconds behind Day.
Neil Sutton from Odd Down, Bath, took a class race win in the second ‘Pre Injection 1300’ race, having finished second in race one on his Yamaha R1.
Chippenham’s Nick Brown took 5th and 4th places in the pair of EDP Open 500 & Moto Mini races on his Kawasaki ZXR400 and also notched up a 3rd and 4th overall in the combined Formula 400 races.
Melksham’s Russell Hynes took his Triumph 675 to a 4th and a 3rd place in the Pre Injection 700cc races.