A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


The Oval Race Track - Chariot Racing to the 50cc Wasps

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia. The Circus Maximus (Latin for "largest circus") is an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue in Rome, Italy. In the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. It measured 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width and could accommodate over 150,000 spectators. In its fully developed form, it became the model for oval race tracks throughout the Roman Empire. The site is now a public park.

The Circus Maximus was designed for chariot racing and although other events were held there, at one time they had one hundred races a day but reduced the number of laps to five to fit them all in.

In the present time, in  Europe, Oval track racing is a form of Cycling and Motorsport that is contested on an oval-shaped race track. An oval track differs from a road course in that the layout resembles an oval, as in Old Rome, and generally the bends are taken in only one direction: the direction of traffic is almost universally anti-clockwise.

Brooklands was a 2.767-mile (4.453 km) motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England, United Kingdom. It opened in 1907 and was the world's first purpose-built 'banked' motor racing circuit as well as one of Britain's first airfields, which also became Britain's largest aircraft manufacturing centre by 1918, producing civil airliners like the Viscount and VC-10.

The circuit hosted its last race in August 1939 and today part of it forms the Brooklands Museum, a major aviation and motoring museum, as well as a venue for vintage car, motorcycle and other transport-related events.

Requirements of speed and spectator visibility led to the Brooklands track being built as a 100 ft (30 metres) wide, 2.767 mi (4.453 km) long, banked oval. The banking was nearly 30 feet (9.1 m) high in places. In addition to the oval, a bisecting "Finishing Straight" was built, increasing the track length to 3.369 miles (5.422 km), of which 1.250 miles (2.012 km) was banked. It could host up to 287,000 spectators in its heyday.

Currently smaller oval tracks often have similar banked turns and some, despite the name, are not precisely oval, and the shape of the track can vary. Going back to the 40s 50s and 60s many were out-door and consisted of dirt or cinders. 

Three of these track types were used for 50cc motorcycle racing in the late 1950s and on into the 1960s. The Gosling Cycle Stadium, California Kart Track in Dunstable, and The Paddington Cycle Track, London. I have some information on racing at the Gosling Stadium, Welwyn Garden City but little on the other two. Picture left: A 50cc motorcycle race in 1962 being held on a banked corner, oval track in England.

Did the British club members take to these small circuits? Well three meetings were planed for the 1960 calendar, at one of these tracks and they were well subscribed. good comments were received from the floor at the club meetings.

Paddington (London) Recreation Ground, 

Currently I am unable to find data on this race apart from the information from Geoff Bedford. The map is of the Paddington Stadium in 1962 and the page is from Geoff's race notes. As you see the race took place on the 29th September 1962 . If anyone has information or a program I would welcome a copy. If you have motorcycle magazines for the weeks after the race, please look through them and see if information is there.

From Geoff’s notes on fettling the GSB prior to the meeting at the Paddington cycle track, London. (Editor: Some poetic licence used.)

Stripped the engine after the last meeting and checked all parts. Piston crown needed polishing and a new ring fitted. Only running a single ring at present. Inlet and exhaust ports polished to a mirror shine. Noted that the screw-in inlet port stub was not a good match to the port and so filed and polished to get a better gas flow. Geoff had extended the cow horn exhaust for the last meeting but no improvement so cut it back to normal. Re-timed the spark to 40 degs. BTDC instead of 38degs.

Gearing: changed the sprockets to 14 teeth on the front and 28 on the rear wheel.

At the track: Checked the spark plug, Lodge R49 with a 15 thou. gap. Checked the main jet in the 19mm Dell’Orto carb (ran a No.87 main jet). Motor was running excellent, smooth, and cool. She was the fastest bike at the meeting. This was Barry Blackbird’s first ride on the GSB and in the 6 races he finished 1. 4. 3. 1. 2. 4. A great result and the GSB was ran well. Geoff. "I rode in the Mechanics race and came in 2nd, one more lap, as I was catching the leader, I could have been first". On this circuit, the GSB could pull a gearing of 15 front and 30 on the rear wheel.

Dunstable - The California "Chalk Pit" Kart Track.

Dunstable, is a market town in Bedfordshire, England, east of the Chiltern Hills and 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of London. A chalk quarry on the Dunstable Downs was the venue in 1960/61 for a short-lived effort to introduce kart racing to the town.

This photo was taken before the California Ballroom was built and was taken from  Dunstable Downs. It shows the rear of the California Swimming Pool, which was on Whipsnade Road. The distant chimney to the far left of the photo shows the location of the old cement works on Houghton Road, which was fed with raw materials from the chalk based landscape. The road in the front of the photo by the  side of the pool would have been used as access to a chalk quarry and its workings.

Fortunately the heavy transport needed to carry the chalk diggings, compacted the drive and the turning area in the lower pit area and this gave a good grounding for the race track. there was also a banked area of the track, which could be used by two and four wheeled race vehicles. This track, redesigned using the straw bales was also used by the Racing 50 Club for some of its 50cc racing events.

An aerial photograph of the California Swimming Pool before the Ballroom was built.

An enlargement of the aerial photograph showing the Chalk Pit workings and the oval area, located at the rear of the Swimming pool,  that was used as the Kart Track.

Access road, off the Whipsnade Road, leading down to the Chalk Pit.

The California Ballroom built on the remainder of the Swimming pool site. The road in the bottom left corner is the track that used to go to the chalk pit, but now to a carpark.

This picture shows the same area of the chalk pit and shows how, with the march of time, the Pit Carpark/ race track has now formed a new housing development.

Richard Gadsden: "This photo was taken at the first meeting on the California ‘car park’ track. That’s me standing close to the karts". 

This shot depicts the lay out of the Kart Course. No Health and Safety in those days, the track was marked out using straw bales. The races were run in a clockwise manner.

A close up of the previous picture showing in a little more detail, the banked section of the track in the top of the picture..

The Motorcycle track was created in the shape above and was passed by the ACU as suitable for small motorcycle racing. it was used in anti-clockwise direction and kept the banking.

Fixture list f or 1960

The Editor has not been able to find any details of the three races held or programs for them. If anyone has some information it will be gratefully received.

This is a comment from Facebook concerning the race track: Chris Godden "yes I lived only 100yds away. One of the drivers I remember was Mick from the fish and chip shop at the top of Houghton road, he used to practice in the fire brigade car park in 1960. 

Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City

The Velodrome at Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, has been an important local and national asset to the sport of cycling since the 1950s - breeding national and Olympic champions and inspiring so many more, also during the early 60s it hosted a number of 50cc race meetings.

The track in wonderful surroundings

The banked outer ring

THE first motorcycle race meeting on as banked track since Brooklands closed after the outbreak of -the last war, was held at the Gosling Stadium at Welwyn Garden City on Saturday. The cold weather and lack of prior publicity may have kept the number of spectators down but there was nothing below par about the standard of racing or the organising ability of the Racing 50 MCC.

Memories of Brooklands were brought back by the presence of the Weybridge track, record holder Noel Pope, who acted as starter for the first heat. Here is a small extract from some documents on Noel: 

Noel Baddow Pope was born in Toxteth, a sub-district of Liverpool, on Christmas Eve, 1909. He moved with his widowed mother to Surbiton before 1926 and died there in 1971.  His second forename was the stage name of his father, who was a ventriloquist. As a schoolboy, Noel saw Lawrence of Arabia riding by on his Brough Superior motor cycle. Thus was born, in Noel’s own words, the germ of a lifetime’s devotion to the risks and thrills of motorcycling and racing.

As a spectator at the famous Brooklands racing track, he was inspired by the great motorcycle racers of the time. After acquiring an electrical engineering diploma, between 1933-1939, Noel’s professional motorcycle racing career developed as he participated in meetings at Brooklands, the Isle of Man, elsewhere in the British Isles, and on the Continent.

In 1938-1939 he gained many motorcycle speed records at Brooklands, including the fastest lap for solo machines at 124.51 mph on a supercharged Brough Superior: a record that stood for all time.  He was an officer in the Royal Army Service Corps from 1939-1945, was evacuated from Dunkirk, served in North Africa, took part in D-Day and finished his war in Berlin very soon after the German surrender.

In September 1949, on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, supported in part by Comerfords, the motorcycle dealers of Thames Ditton, he made an unsuccessful attempt on the world land speed record on a streamlined version of essentially the same Brough Superior that he had used for the Brooklands record, ten years earlier. He crashed at about 150 mph and the attempt had to be abandoned. Thereafter, he wrote his autobiography, Full Chat, and engaged in many other pursuits. He was an active member of Kingston Sub-Aqua Club, was a writer of science fiction, he started a local newspaper, was the vice-president of an avant-garde art group and was president of the Kingston and District Motor Cycle Club.

Race Day at the Gosling Stadium

This was first motorcycle race meeting 14th April 1962, on a fully banked track since Brooklands closed after the outbreak of the 1939/1945 war, and was held at the Gosling Stadium at Welwyn Garden City on Saturday. The cold weather and lack of prior publicity may have kept the number of spectators down to well below the stadium’s capability, but there was nothing below par about the standard of racing or the organising ability of  the Racing 50 MCC.

Rider of the day was Mike Simmonds mounted on the machine of the day, the Simmonds Water-cooled Special. This man/machine combination proved faster than any other and he won the third heat, although bad starts cost him two of his races. Picture: Mike Simmonds on the naked WCS-Itom. 

However showing everyone else the way round, Charles Mates (Charlie to his friends) riding an Itom, was bang on form in glorious sunny weather before a medium sized crowd of a few hundred. The second heat brought Mates to the line for the first time and he soon showed he is still a man to be reckoned with by shooting straight into the lead and staying there. Picture: Charlie Mates No.8 on the Itom leading the 2nd Heat. Also on this day Dave Simmonds, riding his newly acquired, privately-owned Tohatsu single, had the misfortune to run out of engine power and let John Whale (Itom) through in the second heat, to win. Another rider who was on and off the circuit most of the day was Geoff Bedford who's mount, the GSB Special had starting trouble and sporting a new exhaust pipe would not make the revs necessary to be competitive.   


In the first semi-final Mates again went into the lead although second man Phil Horsham (Itom) was putting up a challenge at the finish, where the chequered flag was being held by Howard German.

In the second semi-final Ian W. Ager led most of the way, until mechanical trouble with his ITOM allowed similarly-mounted A. R. Tye to hurtle past him, to win from G. Votier.

In the third semi-final a newcomer to 50cc. racing, R. 'Jasper' Smith (Itom), showed top form by coming right through the field to race over the line in first place. This was a close race, the finishing order was Jasper Smith, Mike Simmonds, and just beating Beryl Swain over the line into third place by a small margin, was the 'up and coming' Bill Ivy. All competitors rode the Italian Itom 50cc model racer. Only the first three finishers could go forward and so Beryl Swain was not able to make the final. However she commented that, “riding on a banked circuit gave her more training and an experience she might not have got anywhere else”. 

Lapped the Field  


However, Beryl was going very well in a later race after paddling her Itom off to a good start in the 13 mile Stadium Final, where she went straight into the lead ahead of Vic Dedden (Demm), A. Tye (Itom), Bill Maisey (Maserati), Geoff Votier (Itom) and Mike Stone (Maserati).

Beryl, hair streaming behind her helmet, built up her lead to half a lap after five laps, and after the ninth lap had passed the entire field. Then, at the beginning of the tenth, the engine faltered and she almost stopped. She got it going again, but half a lap later the little Itom motor gave up the ghost and she pulled off the track, very disappointed. Later inspection showed a melted piston with a half-inch hole in the top.

Most exciting race of the day, not that any of the 13 events were dull, was, appropriately, the Gosling Final. At the start Charlie Mates on his Itom shot into the lead followed by Bill Ivy (Chis-Itom), Phil Horsham (Itom), R. J. Smith (Itom) and Brian Brader (Itom) with favourite for the race Mike Simmonds a long way behind and fiddling with the engine of his very quick ('once it gets going') water-cooled Special.

This, then, was the order at the end of lap one with Mates forty yards ahead of Ivy, and Simmonds half a lap down at the back. Then the Simmonds machine really got going and shot forward like a successful Atlas missile. Another lap and he was catching the tail-enders, and on the fourth lap was cleaving his way into second, place when a mix-up on top of the one in two south banking between him, Ivy and Horsham almost put the three of them on their ears.

However, disaster was averted and half a lap later Simmonds was clear of the bunch and chasing Charlie Mates.

At the end of the fifth lap Simmonds really flying was catching Mates Who, suddenly finding Simmonds breathing down his neck, speeded up a bit but not sufficient to keep Simmonds away.

This was the order at the front for the rest of the race. Mates, going absolutely flat out kept on the inside of the track. Simmonds, with not enough extra speed to get round him, tried everything he knew to get past but could not do it.

Behind them, Smith had moved up into third place while Ivy and Horsham battled for fourth.  At the finish Mates won by half a length from Simmonds with Smith third. Jasper Smith was specially praiseworthy with him winning his heat, first in the semi-final and third in the final, a name to watch.  

Pursuit  Racing

An interesting interlude was the pursuit racing. Two teams of two runners started at opposite sides of the track, and the race finished when one rider from one team had caught one from the other. There were heats, but in the final, Charlie Mates and David Simmonds, who was riding the semi works Tohatsu, catching Bill Ivy who was partnered with Mike Simmonds.

To answer the critics of 50 cc racing, there wasn’t a dull moment in this meeting, Lap speeds of the fastest men were over 60 mph and there were  plenty of good scraps, mid-field as well as up front.

Humour at the Circuit

The camaraderie of the members of the Racing 50 club can be seen in these pictures, When a girl blows her top there is always some one there to help.  

and if one or two can't fix it, there always others to help.


Gosling Final: C Mates (Itom) M Simmonds (Simmonds WCS) R Smith (Itom).

Heat winners: 

1st heat: J Whale (Itom) D Whapshott (Dewton), L Ferreira (Itom). 

2nd Heat: C. Mates, P Horsham (Itom), B Brader (Itom).  

3rd heat: M Simmonds, R Smith (Itom), A Abbott (Itom), 

4th heat:  W Ivy (Chis-Itom) M Wright (Itom), P. Latham (Itom).

1st semi final: Mates. Horsham, Brader, 

2nd semi-final: Smith, Simmonds. Ivy.

Stadium final: V Dedden (Demm),  A Tye (Itom), M Stone (Maserati).

1st semi-final: Tye, G Votier (Itom), M Stone. 

2nd semi-final: B Swain (Itom), V. Dedden (Demm), W Maisey (Maserati).

Pursuit final: Mates (Itom) and D Simmonds (Simmonds Tohatsu). 

1st Heat winners: Mates and Simmonds. 

2nd Heat winners: M Simmonds and B Swain.

What happened to the Racing Fixtures at the Gosling Stadium?

Extract from the 14th September, 1962  issue of the WELWYN TIMES AND HATFIELD HERALD.


Junior Brooklands Motor Cycle racing has been called off at Gosling Stadium, W.G.C. This follows a new row over facilities and cash at the stadium.  A race meeting scheduled for Saturday was cancelled this week by the Racing 50 Motor Cycling Club of Potters Bar. They say too much money has been lost by the Club and the Corporation is asking for a larger share of the proceeds.

But the main argument is over the quagmire at the Stadium, which the Corporation calls a paddock. The conditions are so bad during bad weather that many riders have threatened not to turn up at future races. Said an official of the Club: “We were told bluntly by some of the leading riders with expensive machinery that they took one look at conditions and headed for home. They say they will not come again unless things are improved.

“Our racers were unloading their machines on to the field only to find they had either fallen over in the mud. or sunk deep in the quagmire, “It just isn’t fair on these chaps. They need at least a hard shoulder of concrete about 100 yards long on which they can stand their machines to make adjustments and tune”.

Another complaint has been that riders have been unable to warm up their machines properly. A hard standing area is needed so that machines can be push started and run for a short distance while adjustments are made “from the saddle”.
Recently the ACU regulations have been very strictly applied at the circuit forcing additional expenditure for a stand-by ambulance and stand-by fire brigade unit plus double roping of spectator’s areas. Added the club official: “A lot of these precautions have been quite unnecessary on a circuit like the stadium. It has meant considerably increased expenditure. “Before the last meeting, conditions we had agreed with the stadium authorities were suddenly changed. We were called on to reimburse the Corporation for all out-of-pocket expenses.

“In the end we had to reduce prize money for the riders and there was quite an amount of grumbling about this. We are now in a position of owing the Corporation money.  "We don’t blame the Corporation for the bad weather or the lack of spectators, but we are calling off future meetings until something is done to improve conditions for riders. We don’t want to advertise an attraction with star riders and then find none turning up because of these complaints". A Corporation spokesman said that certain changes were made because it was felt it was unfair for the Corporation to stand the cost of advertising meetings.

This ended the relationship between the Gosling Stadium and the Racing 50 Club.
The club did not use Oval Circuits after 1962

Articles from the Sport