Bruce's background notes to some of the photos

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The 1955 photograph of myself with my Editor Bob Holliday was not published in "Motor Cycling" in this form but the instead the background was airbrushed out. I have restored it with a wet sponge and my computer's Paint Shop Pro version 7, a handy tool for diabolical image faking. (One can no longer say a photograph never tells a lie!)

But here we have the truth. The scene is the TT's Mountain Box on Snaefell and was a telephone point for reports back to the start in Douglas; "Rider Going Well" or "Thick Fog, invisible riders just passed by" or some such jollity. If memory serves there were six telephone points round the near-38 miles. The bike actually is the prototype Venom as used by travelling marshal Terry Shepherd and both had to be quick enough to keep up with the race stream of course. Hall Green camouflage claimed it was a well-tuned MSS......

Bob managed to get me police clearance to ride it DOWN the Mountain Mile on open exhaust and no number plates, on open roads, turn at The Gooseneck, wait for preceding cars to vanish over Snaefell, and then fire it off UP the Mountain Mile. Lots of fun and nobody of course bothered about bikes in race trim scorching round Douglas so returning it to Velo's depot was no problem.

The 1961 Venom worlds record photograph of self & 500 has been seen often enough. Despite the speed the pic is so good you can even see how the remote float is rubber mounted. The control tower at Montlehery does truly have a tilted front. Indeed such is the clarity you can even spot the rider's terror for this was no doddle whatsoever at a venue the concrete banking of which was so rough that both suspensions repeatedly bottomed. Of course, g-forces did compress the springs too.

The 1963 photograph of that intrepid Man From Motor Cycling is the abortive 350 attempt discreetly passed off as engine trouble which was true enough. I quizzed the Hall Green mechanic Jack Passant who told me it was piston failure. I observed that at 10:1 on the petrol of the times and a gearing so tall to get the revs down yet lap at 108mph --- 500 gearing really --- detonation was certain to occur despite the tailored air-blast via the Mitchenall fairing. He agreed in as much as a factory employee dare not quite do so. It was simply asking too much. Note the writing on this fairing. Neither the 61 nor 63 bikes had headlamps of course and since Montlehery had no proper track lighting I leave you to wonder. Me? I was outright scared.......

A few days before we notched the 1961 success a BMW rider had stuffed himself over the top so a recent fatality in a similar undertaking did little for our morale. I never got to ride the bike until I was let loose after the first 12 hours, and this after the bike had just had its gearbox rebuilt following French riders stamping on the pedal. Gearbox seizures on the level are bad enough; declutching does nothing; you ride it out --- if you can. The thought of such a locked back wheel on steep banking at 105+ was not to be dwelt upon. So I didn't. Just set sail.

The late Georges Monneret, a veteran French racer and Parisian Velo dealer, supposedly made all the 1961 arrangements. His idea of the promised TT quick fillers was a bucket and large funnel causing Esso's competition manager Geoff Murdoch heartache. Did we have fire extinguishers? Who knows!

Another shortcoming was that the bike was prepared to run on SAE 50. Georges had arranged car-stuff, 10W-30, so it is a tribute to a Veloce single-track caged big-end that it survived. Georges, being under contract to Marchal whereas Velocette were to KLG, put the attempt in jeopardy by starting, as number one rider, with the soft warming-up plug in it. The engine survived. Veloce Director Bertie Goodman almost didn't. After it had been going for about half an hour he decided that it would possibly last the distance and who wants to change a very hot Venom sparking plug shrouded in deepest Hall Green tinware; we've all been there. I know I have and gained the incinerated finger tips to prove it.

For those who care about such things, I did not have a beard then (nor now); and my helmet was vivid yellow with a black triangle. It became something of a road test trademark when the Temple Press photographer was doing the obligatory riding pictures. -