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Bonhams Motorcycle Department

August 2009 - Racing Around The Castle

After 73 years AJS R12 'VX6663' takes a trip home to the scene of her most memorable ride.

The year was 1936 and the place was Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, where the annual 'Castle Drive' motorcycle road races were run over a mile and a half course and regarded as one of the highlights of the motorcycle racing calendar during the 1930s.

Run between 1931 and 1937 and intended as a fundraiser for the town's new hospital, Falmouth gave host to what were the first ever motorcycle races to be staged on a mainland British public road. Run around the 1.5 mile Castle Drive circuit, the event attracted some of the then biggest names in the motorcycle World, the fastest ever recorded lap being set in 1936 by none other than George Rowley on his 350cc AJS.

Well attended and in aid of charity wasn’t enough to ensure the road races survival past 1937 and the only thing that you will find if you take a ride around ‘Castle Drive’ now is a memorial stone recording the events history and an image of George Rowley’s AJS.

'VX6663' was entered to compete in the 1936 races by her then owner Maurice Nichols of Penryn, Falmouth. She was also used as his daily commute and ridden until the 1980s whereupon she was loaned to a local museum and became part of the display. Her stay at the museum was rather prolonged and even after its closure, ‘VX6663’ didn’t return home.

However, after some 29 years she has now been awarded a new lease of life and is being cared for by her current VMCC member owner. With new oils, fresh petrol and a general fettle, the little ‘AJ’ was recently returned to ‘Castle Drive’ and put through her paces on the circuit for the first time since 1936! She performed well and managed four laps of the old circuit whilst still managing to turn some heads along the way at the ripe old age of 79!


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