Ask Brian Maxted

I am delighted to have a rider, who many consider to be the greatest of his era in grass track racing BRIAN MAXTED as the next ‘ legend’ and to be able to ask him some questions  about his illustrious career:

Welcome Brian:

1:  As a ‘Yellow Belly’ born and bred in ‘Bomber County’ it was quite appropriate that you began your career on a 197 Villiers bike, at a Sleaford Meeting. Tell us about those early days, and how you got started.

A: Since I was about nine years old, I had an old motor bike to ride around the fields. My first meeting at Sleaford was on a 197 Villiers Sun bike, which I had striped down, and it had a small tank fitted with normal road tyres. I finished third in my first race, and then fell off in the final whilst in the leading three.

My Dad wasn’t keen on me racing, as I had forged his signature on the regs to take part! For the following season I decided to build my own bike. I purchased a 197 Villiers 9E engine, but Dad wouldn’t help me, and I couldn’t weld at this time, so Fred Derry (the local blacksmith) with a lot of persuasion, taught me to weld. I designed my frame and Fred helped me every night, after tea. I started the next season by winning the first race, on my own bike! I was struggling for power, so I bought a Parkinson alloy square barrel 250 conversion. From that day I rode unbeaten for two years, apart from a few ‘blow ups’. I remember riding at Spalding on a wet Saturday night, winning the 250/350/500/ races on the 250, winning massive £90 prize money. I went to a Skegness meeting the following day, again winning the 250/350/500 races (the gear box broke in the Unlimited) picking up another £90 which was more than I earned in a year working in the garage! 

2:  You are first mentioned in my collection of programmes, riding at a Lincoln Club meeting at Navenby Low Fields in the early 60’s riding a 250 & 500 BGM & a 350 Elstar. Were the BGM’s your first attempts at building your own machines?

A: Yes they were my first attempts at building my own bikes.

3: In those early days in the East Midlands, it was a real hotbed of good, talented riders like Dennys Goodacre/Jackie Sewell/Dave Nourish/Arthur Stuffins/ Arthur Pell with visitors like Alf Hagon/Bill Bridgett/Ivor Brown/Harold Sandsby/ and Ron Taylor. What tips did you pick up from them and how did Ron’s ‘ big off’ at Sleaford on July 7th 1963 when his frame broke, affect you?

A:  I modelled myself on the ‘dash’ of Arthur Pell (From Wigtoft who rarely rode out of the E. Midlands) and Bill Bridgett, and the less ‘dramatic’ style of Demys.  I decided from these two styles that you needed much more speed going into the corners, making an early turn, then picking the bike upright to keep more rubber on the track surface, whilst still ‘sliding’ on full power. The design of most of the frames was one & three eighths down tube, but after Ron Taylor’s crash at Sleaford (his frame broke at the headstock) my new JAWA engine frame was made with one & five eighths down tube with two frame bolts at the bottom to the engine plates. This frame design, with the single loop top tube is the one that all my grass frames were based on. The first of which was made in the winter of 1966, and the design I used for my four years unbeaten record. By then I was building and welding all my own frames in Dads’ garage. It was my brother Peter who came up with the name MAXMADE when he built his own bike, and we kept this name for the bikes from that day.

4: You didn’t win any of your National Titles at the ‘one day’ meetings up to 1966. Your first 500 title came in 1969 on Sept 14th at Odcombe. How did you feel that day and were you a big supporter of the ‘Multi-Round series?

A: I recall competing in the Nationals at Sleaford in 1964 on the 500, and setting one of the fastest heat times, beating Reg Luckhurst, Dave Baybutt and Don Godden. I then didn’t ride in a National till 1969.   It was a great moment for me to compete at Odcombe, as I thought that I would never race against the ‘so called’ top riders. I was really pleased that I didn’t let down the FIVE buses that went from Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, plus all the other fans of mine that made the long trip, (pre Motorway days!) in their own transport. I had no particular thoughts as to whether it was a Multi-Round series or a ‘one-off’ meeting.

5: During seasons 1967/68/69 you rode unbeaten in any heat/semi or final which was at the time, and I think still is a British Record. It all came to a head in a series of ‘Match Races’ between you, Malcolm Simmonds and Chris Pusey at Smarden. Tell us what went on that day?

A:  I was approached by Chris & Malcolm during the interval that we took a win each, in the three match races, to make it more interesting for the crowd, and split the prize money. This ended my long run of wins, and also took the pressure off me for future meetings.

6: Bill Chesson was keen to have you race at one of his big end of season Internationals at Lydden and you went there in September 1969 against the likes of Ivan Mauger and won what many regard as the best 6 lap race ever. What do you recall of that fantastic day in your career?

A: It was a great day at Lydden and as well as that win over Ivan, I also beat the legendary Alf Hagon, on his unbeaten 250cc Hagon, with a BSA C15 motor, at a Boston meeting in 1963. Alf made a good start, but I was able to catch and pass him. It was one of my greatest moments.

7: For season 1971 you teamed up with Vic Camp to supply you with Ducati motors for the Maxmades, and had Tim Pepper and Chippy Moore in the team. How did these perform on the grass?

A: The Ducatti engines hadn’t got a lot of ‘bottom end’ power, and were very wide.

I had to mount the motor high in the frame to stop them hitting the ground when cornering. They weren’t competitive against the new breed of 250 Moto Cross engines that were coming along like Bultaco, Maico, C.Z. and others.

8:  Around this time you were hospitalised with yellow jaundice which prevented you from doing a full season, and in 1972 only did 7 meetings. Did this forced time away affect your keenness to ride?

A:  Since having the jaundice, I never got back to my original form.

9: For 14 years you rode speedway for Wolves and Sheffield. Did you enjoy the shale as much as the grass?

A:  No! It was more of a money earner than the sheer pleasure I got from riding on the grass.

10: In 1974 you got a 350 CZ from Moto Cross Star Dave Bickers. How did that come about, and was it competitive?

A:  I rang Dave to see if he could supply C.Z. engines to me, as they were very competitive, but I only ever got a 360cc factory engine, with a smaller bore, to make it eligible in the 350 Class.

11:  Your own frames were all hand crafted and were the first to have a complete loop frame, and diamond down to the swinging arm pivot. It was once estimated that you had built ‘over 200’. Is that true and did you export any?

A:  Yes it’s true I built over 200 bikes (making me the largest bike manufacturer in the East of England!) and I also exported bikes to Australia, New Zealand, and of course, all over Europe.

12:  Your biggest disappointment came at a Skegness meeting when you were odd-on to win your fifth 500 title (to add to the ones in 69/71/73/76) what happened?

A: I had qualified for the 500 Final and I always ran on Reynolds Chains, which had been boiled to make them run smoother. On that day  for the final, I was given a new ‘Japanese’ Chain to use, which had not been boiled, and it seized up solid. A very disappointing day, as I was sure that I could have made it five titles on that day, in my home Centre.

13: Is it true that you never raced on the continent because you never modified the JAWA in the Maxmade, they were bog standard?

A: Yes, that is true, they were always a ‘bog standard’ JAWA motor.

14: Out of all the riders that you rode against, who do you rate as the one you most admired or feared on the track?

A:  On a good day, any of the top riders were a threat, but I think that the most ‘wasted’ talent, on the grass, and someone I admired a lot, was Malcolm Simmonds. He never seemed to have his own bike, and always turned up on borrowed machinery. The most feared local rider was, and this may surprise a few people, Tim Pepper from Lincoln. Tim (who usually rode as number 25, with a Red sleeveless T shirt over his leathers, and  a yellow duster as a face mask) suffered terribly with nerves before a race, and could often be seen ‘throwing up’ behind his van. He also had trouble with his gearing on occasions, but could be relied on to turn a few ‘bits & bobs’ on the lathe at Rustons, where he worked, for the team.

15: The last time I saw you was at an ‘Auto Grass’ meeting at the Lincolnshire Show Ground driving a 1000cc Class One Mini a few years ago. Is that your sport now, or have you retired completely?

A: Since the death of my son Charlie, I have lost the will to race. I  still have the Mini’s, and maybe, one day I might have a go again. My Granddaughter may take an interest and if my arthritic back will let me, I might be persuaded to have a go and show her the ropes.

Thank you Brian for taking the time to answer the questions for those many fans of the sport, who still regard you as one of the all-time GREATS of our sport.

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