1933 - 1939 Motor cycle races

Motor cycle races were held in the Home Park stadium before 1930 when its oval banked track was replaced by terraces on a more rectangular plan.  At the time, motorbikes were little more than pedal bicycles with a small engine added whilst their riders would race in flat caps, sometime worn with their peaks backwards.

The 5-mile MOTOR SCRATCH race underway in Home Park stadium.
(Western Daily Mercury, 27th June 1904 – British Newspaper Library)

A day of motor cycle races was held on the new paths in Central Park during Plymouth Week in July 1933. The organisers, Plymouth Motor Club claimed it as a great success and looked to organise another event in 1938.  When first considered by the Parks and Recreation Committee in January, it recommended to the full Council that Central Park was “not a suitable place for such races.”  Not to be put off, the motor club argued that the Bath and West Show was going to inconvenience park visitors for several months whereas the motor cycling races would require only half a day.  Their request was reconsidered in February and the Council gave approval on condition that the motor club would make good all damage, manage the event safely and take responsibility for any accidents.

The event was held on August Bank Holiday, 1st August 1938, but it had to be abandoned because of heavy rain.  The Western Morning News reported: “After the first event and three heats of the second had finished, giving promise of a keen afternoon’s sport, the motor cycle road races in Central Park, Plymouth, organized by the Plymouth Motor Club, had to be abandoned on account of torrential rain………….. Holiday makers in summer attire hurriedly made for shelter, and one hour later, when it seemed that conditions would not improve, the meeting was abandoned.”

Two riders were injured in accidents before the meeting was abandoned.  One had slight concussion and the other a cut face.  Both were taken to hospital.

Race marshals assist a rider after he had crashed at the first bend in the 250cc race.
He remounted and finished third. (Western Morning News, 2nd August 1938 – British Newspaper Archive)

In January 1939, the Motor Club invited Mr Stanley Woods, one of the world’s best motor cycle racing drivers, to check the triangular course for safety.  It included the paths made less than ten years previously, which are now known as Coronation Avenue, Jubilee Row, Discovery Way and Jack Leslie Way.  With the Motor Club members, Mr Woods inspected the track and declared it was good for a small circuit.  He went on to tell the Western Morning News, “I do not think it is dangerous.  For that matter, I think no track and no motor cycling are dangerous.  It is the men who are dangerous, and a foolish driver could crash on a hundred foot track.”

The 1939 races were held under the patronage of the Lord Mayor, Mr G.S. Scoble.  In fact, the previous Lord Mayor, Alderman Solomon Stephens, had presented a trophy for the competitor who made the fastest average speed of any race for the day.  As in 1938, the meeting was held on the August Bank Holiday, 7th August 1939, which was less than one month before the outbreak of the second world war. 

There were 20 races in total with classes that included 350cc, 500cc and unlimited.  The length of one lap was 1598½ yards.  Some races were over 12 laps (11 miles) and others over 16 laps (14.6 miles).  Maximum gradients were 1 in 13 uphill and 1 in 15 downhill.  Several thousand spectators turned out to watch and there were a few spills, chiefly on the corners, although no one was seriously hurt.  By the end of the day, the riders were enthusiastically agreed that the mile-lap course was one of the finest in the country and would make an excellent permanent track.