TT racing - a family affair

David E Langford continues his series on Oxfordshire motorsport heroes who have inspired his work



Jim Pink, of Wallingford, is one of the best-known motor dealerships in Oxfordshire. But, in his younger days, Jim, the founder of the company, started out as a motorcycle dealer and was a regular competitor in the International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races, held annually in June.

His son Tony who now runs the Wallingford business, competed in the Manx Grand Prix, which is the national event held over the same course every year in September.

The painting (top right) was commissioned in the 1980's, depicting Tony on his TR2350 Yamaha rapidly approaching the left and right at Braddan, part of the 37-mile Marx course.

The black and white photo (bottom right) shows him at Quarter Bridge, a short distance before Braddan, during the 1967 ultra lightweight TT riding a rare 125cc Tohatsu.

Along with his racing expertise, Jim was a well-respected sponsor of champions and founder of what came to be known as The Southern 67 racing club. The Dolphin pub in Wallingford was its unofficial headquarters, and I have fond memories of meeting there in the late 1960's while aspiring to race a Triumph 240 'hybrid' purchased for a song - but sadly our of tune.

Jim Pink's more serious involvement in motorsport went back to the 1950's when he began racing a Morgan three-wheeler at the Silverstone classic event run by the Motorcycling Club (MCC).

Eventually specialising in the ultra lightweight class of motorcycle racing, Jim gained success with his CR110 50cc Honda alongside international world championship leaders in the Isle of Man TT.

During the 1965 event he was seventh in the 50cc TT behind Swiss champion Luigi Taveri and New Zealander Hugh Anderson. Both these men were world title holders in the 1960s. In 1966 Jim took seventh place behind the works teams which included the East German Suzuki team champion Ernst Degner, and in 1968 his best place of fifth earned him a TT replica. It must be stressed that at the time the works 50cc racing bikes, although technically the same size as a moped, were capable of over 120mph when the riders made full use of the available 22,000 RPM and the seven-14 speed gearboxes! To be able to stay with opposition like this was an achievement in itself, but that is what riders of Jim Pinks' calibre were doing.

The opposition, in the shape of works machinery was formidable, it has been stated before how the Japanese owed a debt to Italian genius in engineering, but Honda went to extremes with the miniaturization process.

Luigi Taveris' 50cc works Honda had a twin cylinder, double overhead cam engine with four valves per cylinder. At 25cc per pot, the maximum revs were 22,000 rpm. To put these dimensions into perspective, an average family car engine is flat out at 6,000rpm.

Tony Pink started racing in 1967 on a Greeves 'Silverstone'. During his first test session at Brands Hatch, a circuit that is difficult to get used to, he was having a challenging time until an unofficial 'instructor' overtook and signalled for him to follow in his wheel tracks. The 'instructor' was none other than John Hartle, one of Britain's greatest riders. Tony later raced in the Manx Grand Prix during the late 1960's on a TR2 350 Yamaha (see illustration).

In the 500-mile production race at Thruxton he shared seventh place on a CB250 Honda. Jim Pink sponsored two other well-known riders of the 1960's; Dave Simmonds and Charlie Mates, who were entered for the 24 hour endurance race at Montjuich Park, Barcelona, on a 250 Royal Enfield Crusader. The unfortunate Mates fell during the race, thankfully he was uninjured.

Dave Simmonds was the 125 World Champion for Kawasaki shortly before I met him at Silverstone in 1971. Sadly he was killed away from the race track when he attempted to rescue someone from a caravan fire at a site near Paris.

Rod Scivyer, Headington's 125 British champion on more than one occasion, was sponsored by Jim Pink in the beginning and his appearance at any club or national meeting would result in easy victory most of the time.

Tony Pink is one of the few riders I know to have survived intact after racing at the Crystal Palace circuit in London. The track was closed in the 1960s after it was considered too dangerous.

The beauty of racing daring the 1960s and early 1970s was the general informality of it all. As mentioned before, 'privateers' were up against full grand prix works teams and in some instances could get the better of them. The modern trend toward professionalism and high finance has spoiled that special experience.

The author would like to thank Tony Pink for permission to use his photos and painting and for helping with details, dates, results etc

August 2006 Oxfordshire Limited Edition