Exeter Speedway History

Vic Huxley Speedway Champion - Page 2


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The Vic Huxley Story Chapter 2

In their book, "The Record makers", Major F. A De V. Robertson and Edward Rugg, said: "Huxley is not only the creator of more records than he can remember, he is a record in himself. He has won more races than any other man in any realm of sport. The exact number is unknown, but almost certainly exceeds 5,000. At one time or another he has broken the record for one or four laps, or both, at every track of importance in this country." They overlooked the fact that the same had also been the case in his native Australia and New Zealand as well, when he raced there in 1932.

When Vic Huxley was a boy, he watched the bikes race at Deagon in Queensland. He was fascinated and desperately wanted to have a go, but he had no money and as far as he could see, no way of buying one of the expensive machines he watched.
But a chance came. In the early '20's bird lice was a great problem and City councils throughout Australia offered a bounty for the skulls of sparrows. starlings and flying foxes. Vic must have just about cleaned Brisbane out, because a few months later he had saved thirteen pounds and with a further two pounds he borrowed from his mother, he bought his first motorcycle. It was a 1913 Triumph, side valve and belt driven, nine years old.

Vic had managed to scrounge a job making the flags for his local track and was also working as a battery mechanic for Exide. He recalled that for all his hard work, the flags did not last long on the inside of the track where they were placed. By opening day, practice sessions had worn the grass away to dust, Vic had managed to do his share by sneaking in laps as often as he could.
When he won three events, Vic became worried about how he was going to tell his parents, and when confronted by his father about his movements the previous day, Vic replied he'd been fishing. "Then how do you explain this" questioned his father brandishing a newspaper acclaiming the youngster's success.

When Vic began racing in 1926, he was pitting his skill against seasoned experts like Frank Pearce and Charlie Spinks, who had over two years professional experience in the sport. "Charlie and Frank had proper racing machines. Most of us had ordinary bikes which had been stripped down for racing. My first real bike was an AJS. I lived for motorcycling in those days. There wasn't time for anything else. I never went out - I didn't even have a girlfriend" Vic recalled. He had saved all his winnings to buy the AJS and borrowed a Harley Davidson "Peashooter" to contest the 350cc events.

The Beginning.

The picture above* was taken outside the Toowoomba railway station, about 100 miles from Brisbane in readiness for a meeting being held that night. A lot of the riders on the truck were part of the original sixteen that went to England in 1928.
From the left: Vic Huxley sat on the front guard, Hilary Buchanan in the cab with Guy Walker outside. Sitting on the hood is Lionel van Pragg and the man with the skull and cross bones on his helmet is Fred Barber, next to him is Collin Arnott and there's Jock Binney (Hatless). Not sure of the next chap but on the machines are Ben Unwin and Les Codper (or is it Copper).

By the time Vic left Australia for England in 1927 he had won more races at the Exhibition Park and Toowoomba than any other rider. That he had been three months away from the track within that time made the achievement even more remarkable.

Right: Prior to the Australian invasion of Gt.Britain, there were only two tracks in Australia. One was the Exhibition Grounds in Brisbane and the other being the Royal Showground in Sydney which was a third of a mile long. Pictured Right is the opening of the Davies Park Speedway.
If you wish, you can View the Enlarged picture, though be prepared for a bit of a wait whilst it downloads.

Dirt track riding was relatively new to Britain. But they didn't realise just how little they really knew about it until Vic went into his first cinder-smoking bend at High Beach track in Epping Forest. He had only got off the plane less than 24 hours previously and much of the time between then and his demonstration was spent preparing the bike they had supplied - an AJS in full road trim, fitted with brakes, silencers and lights. That afternoon, on a strange machine, he broke the track records for both one and four laps. He was not chopping seconds off the previous best times - he was lopping the best part of minutes off them.
After his first run, back at the pits, there was complete silence from the crowd. He began to wonder what he had done wrong. The silence continued and he worried more. When the loudspeaker announced his time and how he had slashed the record the crowd went wild Vic just grinned. He was never known to lose his cool.

Although apparently daring, Huxley was one of the most controlled riders the world has ever seen - maybe will ever see. In 14 years of speedway he seldom fell and only suffered one major injury. Reports stated that Vic had caught his toes in the chain of his speeding bike. But Marsh Huxley recalls the incident.

"The spill he had was not his toe. Someone loosened the grub screw holding the throttle twist grip on, and when he went into the first bend in a stop broadside to line up for the straight, the grip came off under the pressure and down he went. The rear wheel gathered up his left leg and drove it down the side of the frame and wedged it there. They had to get bolt cutters and cut the frame away to get his leg out. The result was a badly mauled foot and forced him onto crutches for the rest of the season."

Left: When Vic dropped his machine it was usually always smooth, so much so that between 1921 and 1936, Vic Huxley had only the one serious fall.

Even in the grip of what must have been excruciating pain he remembered to signal his wife that he was not seriously hurt. He raised his arm high above the ambulance men clustered around as they tried to cut his foot free.

It was not always easy for Vic to keep his cool. He was given his share of criticism and sometimes this came from unexpected quarters. Once the mother of another competitor gave Vic a couple of good clouts over the ears with the heavy end of an umbrella. Her complaint was that it was all right to win, but there was no need to have been so far in front of her son at the finish. She felt he was just showing off.
One journalist wrote grudgingly of Vic's wins at Gosford in England "While paying full tribute to the brilliance of the visitor, it must be admitted that his presence detracted from the interest of the racing. Every event in which he appeared was a procession. Invariably he led from the first bend to win as he chose."

While most of the British press were unstinting in their praise for the brilliant young Australian rider. there were some who barbed their copy with all sorts of innuendo. Much of this was clearly prejudice, and in some cases was caused by natural jealousy. One journalist even got down to attacking the Australian mounts - the inevitable, and in those days almost unbeatable Harley-Davidson Peashooters. The Peashooter was developed especially as a board track racer and it was readily adapted to circuit racing in Australia, which began in the Newcastle area. The Peashooter, perhaps more than any other bike, virtually pioneered dirt track racing in Australia. It was the only early bike specifically designed for the sport.

* Image missing from archive.