When Gentleman Joe Raced a Works Greeves at Daytona

Legendary Manx Norton tuner Francis Beart once prepared a two stroke racer, and just as successfully.

Sixties road racing ace Joe Dunphy, who returned this year to the Manx Grand Prix as guest of honour to celebrate 50 years since his first victory there in 1962, is well known for his Isle of Man exploits on the immaculate Manx Nortons prepared by legendary tuner Francis Beart.

Less well documented is that Joe was, for a while, equally dominant in the 250cc class on a Beart-tuned two-stroke, clocking up race wins and lap records. He campaigned a factory-supplied Greeves and, more remarkably, raced the bike in North America to pick up the factory s first road racing world championship points.

A dignified grandfather, who belies his 74 years, we caught up with Joe and wife Valerie-who he met at Brands Hatch and later married in 1964-at his South London home, not far from the old Crystal Palace circuit, where he was so dominant, to find out more about the Greeves connection.

I had a personal interest, in that the same machine had later been bought by a friend for use in club racing in the early Seventies. I wanted to know more about the background to this racer, for which I still retained the tuning notes written by Francis Beart showing the same meticulous attention to detail which the Guildford tuner was famed for on both his own Manx Nortons and those prepared for customers?

As a teenager in the mid Fifties, Joe Dunphy used to be one of the many motorcyclists who gathered nightly at Chelsea Bridge. The lure of the track was huge, and his first race was at Brands Hatch in 1956 using his 650cc Triumph T110. “But I fell off at Paddock and that put me out for the rest of the year while I saved the money to repair the bike,” he recalls. More commitment in the next season was rewarded with a win at Brands Hatch in a nonexperts race, which resulted in being promoted to the experts where he found the quality of riding much higher.

Triumph T110

Working as a van driver, Joe says he couldn t afford to race farther afield than Brands Hatch or Crystal Palace but he had dreams of racing in the Isle of Man. He scraped up the cash to buy a 500cc Norton from John Surtees and entered for the 1957 Manx GP “The con rod broke on the second lap and I retired, but I was hooked,” he says.

In 1961, Joe bought a pair of Nortons for short-circuit racing from Joe Potts, Bob McIntyresponsor, and had them prepared by Francis Beart. It paid off with a sixth place, and he caught the eye of the tuner who offered Joe his own machines, a 500cc Norton and 350cc AJS 7R, for the 1962 Manx GP. It was the beginning of a strong relationship, with Joe winning the 1962 Senior in what was a hugely popular result with the fans.

This was followed by Joe racing the Beart machines in the following TT races. In 1963 Joe was fifth to win the newcomer s award and the team award along with Paddy Driver and Jack Ahern. One of the most memorable results was in the 1965 Senior TT, which was held in horrendous weather and Joe might have won but for the tenacious heroism of Mike Hailwood.

After Giacomo Agostini had fallen off his MV Agusta, Joe was running second to Mike, who then fell off his MV Agusta at Sarah s Cottage and restarted the battered but still serviceable machine. Technically speaking, Mike had bump-started the bike downhill in the wrong direction and could have been disqualified, but Joe doesn t begrudge the great man s victory, by two minutes. “Mike was great. I remember he was well into traditional jazz.”

TWO-STROKE TESTER

Joe s racing career was distinguished but other things had started to take his attention. “By 1967 I was beginning to lose interesting in racing so I retired at the end of the season and opened a motor accessory shop in Sydenham,” he says. “After a word with Ferodo s Alan Campbell I started up a brake relining business there. I had previously been going up to Ferodo at Chapel-en-le-Frith to have my brakes relined and I knew that a similar service in London would work. And I would still have an interest in motorbikes.”

Francis Beart had been so heavily linked with Norton racers from the pre Second World War Brooklands era that the fact that he had tuned a two-stroke racer is barely known. But he applied his techniques just as diligently.

It was said in Jeff Clew s biography of Francis Beart that during a practice session at Brands Hatch early in 1963 he noticed that Bert Greeves was there testing a prototype two-stroke racer and after a conversation offered the loan of the bike for a year.

With Dave Bickers twice winning the European motocross championship, the predecessor of the world championships, the Greeves factory in Essex wasn t a stranger to success. Neither was it completely new to road racing, having entered a two-stroke twin in the 500-mile endurance race at Thruxton in 1961.

But, according to Beart s notes, the racing tie-up with Greeves was much earlier than 1963 and likely before April 1962. Joe Dunphy, who wasn t unfamiliar with lightweights, having once raced a 125cc Honda CB92 at Silverstone, recalls that he was testing BeartManx GP machines at Brands Hatch, which provides confirmation that it was that year.

Joe also knew the Greeves hierarchy well because in late 1960 he had been involved in a publicity stunt organised by directors Derry Preston-Cobb and Bert Greeves. Following a conversation during a practice session at Brands Hatch with sometime racer and film actor Richard Wyler, who had starred in movies with Elizabeth Taylor and Gene Kelly, Joe agreed to join him in a tour around Europe to demonstrate the reliability of the then-new 325cc Sports Twin roadster.

The decision to accept the offer from Bert Greeves to try out the prototype racer early in 1962 must therefore have been simple. The machine was powered by what appears from photographs to be of a 34A Villiers engine with a square finned barrel and a right-hand side exhaust system. Joe was impressed: “It was so light,” he says. A similar one-off machine had also been raced privately that year by Reg Everett.

Francis Beart took over development of the racer which from his notes appears to have been more like the production machine with the smaller primary drive cover.

The racer (frame number 24RAS, engine AN1073) was typically a Greeves, featuring a spine-type frame with a cast-aluminium-alloy front down member, the engine supported in a subframe and the leading-link front fork using rubber torsion springs and separate damper units.

Receiving the machine less the engine and gearbox on March 9, Beart wrote in his notes that he spent 51/2 days rebuilding and lightening the cycle parts. For example, he meticulously weighed every component, even the tyres and rims, comparing 18in and 19in WM1 rear rims, the larger of which was 3lb 2oz, or 2oz more than the smaller one. The front Dunlop racing tyre in a 2.75 x 18 size was 11b 6oz lighter than a 3.00 x 19. Beart opted for a WM0 front and WM1 rear rim using 250 x 18 and 275 x 18 Avon tyres.

During a test session at Brands Hatch on Wednesday, April 3, Joe recorded 60-second laps, despite the cold and windy conditions and the bike being undergeared. Later modifications included a set of close-ratio gearbox internals and a new mainshaft, adjustment of the ignition timing and the fitting of a harder R50 spark plug.

Running gear changes included a new front wheel assembly and rear shocks half-an-inch longer than standard. A new front hub was specially cast by R J Francis (Parts) in Richmond, cost ?22-10s and saved half a pound. Overall, the Beart front wheel weight 15,5lb compared with the Greeves wheel at 18,75lb.

Attention to details such as spacers and shims in the rear wheel brought a 3lb saving. Sundry high-tensile Dural alloy nuts and bolts, which were drilled through, and alloy strip cost ?4.7.6. A Bough slimline fairing cost ?4-10s.

The 34A engine, in which the four-speed gearbox was bolted to the crankcase, enabling by the use of gaskets the tensioning of the primary drive chain, also received close attention from Beart. A polished Alpha connecting rod made from EN19 60/65-ton tensile steel, replaced the original.

Compression ratio was reduced and the flywheel magneto ignition replaced with a coil and contact breakers, also to save more weight. Even Lucas and Bosch batteries and coils were compared, the German units winning out because they each weighed half a pound less than the British counterparts.

FIRST TIME WINNER

The production version of the 250cc RAS Greeves racer made its debut at the Earls Court in November 1962. It was called the Special but this later changed to Silverstone. Production started in time for the beginning of the 1963 season.

By March 1963, Beart s attentions had reduced the machine s overall weight by 8,5lb to 181,5lb, but with the revised ignition system this was cut to 176lb 9oz. Sporting a revised exhaust system supplied by Greeves that lifted the power an extra two to three bhp to about 30 at 8000rpm, the bike was race ready for its first outing at the Crystal Palace national meeting on Easter Monday, April 15, 1963.

During practice on the Saturday, Joe covered 12 laps and found that with 20/50 final drive sprockets the Greeves was geared too low. Beart switched to a 48-tooth rear sprocket for the Monday morning practice and after three laps Joe reported that with a 410 main jet for the Amal 1 3/8in 5GP2 carb and ignition timing at 28 degrees the bike was spot on.

Despite clutch slip Joe won his heat, and easily won the 250cc final by 40 seconds without being pushed. Joe, who didn t use the clutch, and said that it “clung well” cut the 250cc record lap to 1min 7.2sec at 74.46mph.

Checking the engine after the race, Beart found a slight high spot on the rear offside of the piston and a slightly nipped ring. It was rebuilt for Mallory Park, using the same gearing but it suffered from gearbox problems. There were other wins such as that at Cadwell Park, where Joe lowered the 250cc lap record to 1min 52.6sec at 71.94mph.

Towards the end of 1963, the factory arranged for the Beart Greeves to be exhibited on the British Cycle and Motor Cycle Industries Association stand at the Boys  and Girls  Exhibition at Olympia in London.

Triumph T110

RIDING THE BANKING

Just how the bike came to be raced at Daytona in 1964 has been difficult to track down. Joe thinks that Greeves and Shell had a hand in funding the trip to what was the third United States Grand Prix for motorcycles, which that year would for the first time count towards the FIM world championship series.

The flight to Florida was a special charter organised by the British Motor Cycle Racing Club, Bemsee. “All I had was my riding gear and a box of spares and tools strapped to the seat of the bike, which was loaded in the hold of the aircraft,” Joe recalls. “The Daytona races were mostly using the speed bowl and in practice it was a real struggle to get the Greeves high up the banking so we just circulated at the bottom of the banking.

“In the 26-lap 250cc race my Beart-tuned machine was the fastest of a number of Greeves machines racing there but because the others were drafting me around the bowl I couldn t shake them off.”

Meanwhile, the works Suzuki of Bertie Schneider, and the factory Yamahas of Phil Read and Fumio Ito had retired early in the race, leaving Alan Shepherd to lead by miles on the works disc-valve MZ twin.

Along with the other Greeves riders, Joe had to refuel towards the end of the 80-mile race. “I came in to refuel-my friend Cyril Jones helped in the pits-and we put in just enough to finish, and the quicker stop meant I got to zoom away from the others.”

The drama didn t end there. “I ran out of fuel just after crossing the line. It was that close.” At first, because the lap scorers had thought that Shepherd on the flying MZ had lapped Joe s Greeves again before the line, he was placed 12th. After it was explained that Shepherd had passed Joe after crossing the line, about the same time that he s run out of fuel, he was given fifth, which meant the Greeves factory had collected its first two world road racing championship points.

Ahead of Joe, four laps down on Shepherd who had finished at 91.19mph were Ron Grant (Parilla), one lap down, D Gahring (Bultaco), two laps down, G Rockett (Ducati), three laps down.

Getting home again on the Bemsee charter flight was another adventure, because time was tight. So Joe, still in his riding kit, hitched a lift for him and the Greeves to the airport. “You should have heard the applause from the passengers when they saw me stepping aboard with my helmet and leathers, it was great,” he said.

Joe can t recall what in the way of rewards he received for his efforts. “I got a congratulatory letter from Greeves and Lew Ellis of Shell was happy.”

SAD END

Using the experience with the factory Greeves, Francis Beart fettled the similar machines used in the Brands Hatch racing school run from 1963 by Charles Mortimer snr, who had raced Beart-tuned Nortons in the 1950s.

Greeves continued to develop the Silverstone racers until 1967, by which time even club racers were using the much quicker Yamaha twins, so production ceased.

What happened to the Beart Greeves immediately after its Daytona glory isn t known. But the author s friend Joe Wright bought it five years later in 1969 for ?80 after seeing an advert in MCN, but cannot recall who from. “It still looked immaculate and retained all the original preparation of Francis Beart,” said Wright. “It was so light and the special seat and tank were beautiful. With the special Bosch ignition it was such an easy starter.”

Not really understanding the significance of this Greeves at the time, we thought we could do better and fabricated a Seeley-style frame to accept the engine, the original frame being destined to the back of the workshop.

Five years later this was joined by the engine, replaced with a tuned Suzuki TS250 single. I m told that after the remains of the Greeves had later been taken to the local tip, the only parts to survive are the Amal GP carburettor, a selection of the dural bolts and the rev counter. It was a sad end but inevitable at the time.

An original RAS Greeves has been restored by racing fan and former commentator Andy Chapman. The bike, which forms part of a collection of racing machines from the early 1960s, has been shown at a number of classic events.

Respect for Joe Dunphy s classic racing style remains, which is why hebe welcomed in the Isle of Man for the Manx GP It s 20 years since he was last in the Island and he has been invited by organiser David Mylchreest to appear at this year s races to highlight the half century since his Senior win in 1962.

Joe, accompanied by wife Valerie and long-time mechanic Jim Freeston and his wife Barbara will be at the Glencrutchery Road start and making guest appearances at a number of Manx GP events. Look them up if you re in the Island.