Sir Les?

Old Bike Australasia - - BLOW YOUR OWN -

I read with in­ter­est the story on Les Bai­ley in your is­sue 50. It is good to see recog­ni­tion for this man, even many years af­ter his pass­ing, be­cause he was truly a leg­end in his com­par­a­tively brief rac­ing ca­reer. He could well have won the Isle of Man TT at his first at­tempt, had not the teeth stripped on his twospeed gear­box while climb­ing the moun­tain and while well in the lead. How­ever as pres­ti­gious at the TT was in those days, the races that fol­lowed at Brook­lands in Au­gust (also called TT) were equally as im­por­tant, and be­ing on the English main­land, ex­ten­sively cov­ered by press and ra­dio, and held in front of enor­mous crowds of spec­ta­tors. In that event, Bai­ley sim­ply de­stroyed the op­po­si­tion, win­ning as he pleased and do­ing im­mea­sur­able good for his em­ployer, Dou­glas. He had in­tended to com­pete in the Grand Prix de France on 25th Au­gust 1912, but a dis­pute over li­cences led to the Bri­tish rid­ers boy­cotting the event. How­ever on 12th Septem­ber he did make it to France for what was of­fi­cially termed Le Grand Prix de France et la Coupe In­ter­na­tionale. This was held over an 18 kilo­me­ter course link­ing the towns of Le Mans, Mul­sanne and Ruaudin, 22 laps equat­ing to a race dis­tance of 396km. There were three classes for up to 250cc, 350cc and 500cc, as well as the out­right In­ter­na­tional Cup, with 35 starters. As well as eas­ily win­ning the 350cc class, Bai­ley fin­ished an in­cred­i­ble third out­right on his 350cc Dou­glas in a time of 5 hours 19 min­utes 24 sec­onds, close be­hind the two 500cc ma­chines of De­vay (Tri­umph) and South (Rudge). This per­for­mance con­firmed what many felt – that Bai­ley was the top Bri­tish-based road racer of the day. If he had been a crick­eter, he would prob­a­bly have been knighted! It is a shame that the war brought his ca­reer (and that of many oth­ers) to a pre­ma­ture end, but his post-war ex­ploits as a designer are no less im­pres­sive, as your ar­ti­cle pointed out. Ter­rence Kaye Bury St Ed­munds, UK

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