Classic Racer - - IN DE­TAIL -

Doug Hele had a chal­lenge – four months to get six bikes on the grid. And there was more... three of th­ese would be Tri­umphs and the other three BSAS, to re­flect the fiercely com­pet­i­tive ri­valry be­tween the two prin­ci­pal brands in the par­ent BSA Group, each of which had its own Com­pe­ti­tion De­part­ment. It had been Hele him­self who de­signed the 741cc in-line three-cylin­der ohv engine pow­er­ing the BSA Rocket 3 and Tri­umph T150 Tri­dent over the win­ter of 1963/64, in his own free time and com­pletely un­aided, work­ing on a draw­ing board in his home. The de­ci­sion of BSA Group man­age­ment to fund a rac­ing pro­gramme was the di­rect re­sult of a change in the rules gov­ern­ing AMA Grand Na­tional cham­pi­onship rac­ing in the US, the British firm’s largest mar­ket. Un­til 1969 there had been a dif­fer­en­tial for­mula, with ohv and ohc en­gines re­stricted to 500cc in ca­pac­ity, while side-valve bikes (i.e. Har­ley-david­sons) were al­lowed to mea­sure 750cc. That year the ohv/ohc limit was raised to 750cc for dirt-track races, although bizarrely the 500cc hand­i­cap was re­tained for road rac­ing. But in 1970 the AMA re­moved this cu­ri­ous re­stric­tion, which had no other ob­vi­ous func­tion than to keep Har­ley com­pet­i­tive. Do­ing so also pro­vided the British firm with a chance to counter Honda’s threat to its triples’ po­ten­tial sales af­ter it upped the Su­per­bike ante with the 1969 de­but of its CB750 four-cylin­der hy­per­bike. With just four months to get ready for the 1970 sea­son-open­ing Day­tona 200, the fac­tory con­cen­trated on race devel­op­ing the three­cylin­der en­gines, and del­e­gated con­struc­tion of pur­pose-built road rac­ing frames to spe­cial­ist fab­ri­ca­tor Rob North, whose shop was just 10 miles from the Meri­den fac­tory. North had al­ready built frames suc­cess­fully for Tri­umph tester Percy Tait, in­clud­ing one pow­ered by a three-cylin­der mo­tor that Tait was very pleased with. This formed the ba­sis of the six fac­tory F750 triples shipped to Day­tona, three Tri­umphs all rid­den by Amer­i­cans; namely Gene Romero, Don Cas­tro and Gary Nixon – a two-time AMA cham­pion for Tri­umph who’d al­ready won the Day­tona 200 in 1967 on a fac­tory-tuned 500cc twin, plus three BSAS for Dave Al­dana, Jim Rice and the leg­endary Mike Hail­wood, coaxed back to bikes via a large cheque af­ter switch­ing to cars, for what he de­clared would be his last-ever bike race. Hail­wood would have been the only Brit aboard one of the triples, but Rob North man­aged to con­struct a seventh bike at the last mo­ment for his mate Percy Tait, who’d

The au­thor on his own BSA3 dur­ing TT F1 sup­port race at the 1984 British GP, Sil­ver­stone.

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