Cameron Donald joins the Egli-Vincent club for Bennetts Senior Classic TT
Cameron Donald will be riding one of the more esoteric machines at this year’s Classic TT Races presented by Bennetts as he prepares for tonight’s first qualifying session on the Isle of Man.
The Australian will be riding an Egli-Vincent but a 500cc single, not the better known 1000cc 50 degree twin powered version.
Swiss chassis designer Fritz Egli built his first examples around the Vincent 1000cc Black Shadow powerplant. As a racer at the time, he did this to improve handling performance in his bid to win the 1968 Swiss hillclimb championship. The Egli chassis name has since become synonymous with racing success with its iconic large-diameter frame designs.
Designed by Australian Phil Irving, the 499cc OHV air-cooled engine was the first built ‘in house’ by Vincent. It was used in four different road-going models, from the entry-level Meteor to the sporty Comet.
Vincent also produced the ‘Grey Flash’ racer that was not only lighter but also more powerful and strictly for circuit use. Between 1949 and 1952 just 31 examples of the Grey Flash were produced making this one of the rarest Vincent models.
Four-time 500cc World champion John Surtees first made headlines aboard the Grey Flash at the age of just 16. An apprentice at the Vincent factory at the time, John gave well-known Norton factory rider Geoff Duke a great battle at the Thruxton British championship race. John went on to win many races with his Grey Flash as he emerged a champion of the future.
Luis Gallur, the bike’s owner is a Sydney-based motorcycle collector with a passion for Egli and Vincent who longed for an Egli-Vincent Black Shadow. He succeeded in buying Fritz Egli’s own bike and the original 500cc Vincent race bike but Fritz did not want to sell the original twin-cylinder Egli-Vincent, the bike that started the famous frame and motorcycle business.
Fritz did, however, agree to build Luis a recreation of the bike, with the production of key components outsourced to Patrick Godet who builds bespoke replicas of the original Egli-Vincents and is the only person authorised by Fritz to do so.
Once the bike was completed Fritz informed Luis that Patrick had begun working on a secret project to fulfil a long-term ambition of building a competitive 500cc classic racer. One of Patrick Godet’s goals was to prove that by building his replica engine to a high specification, the bike could deliver on its potential and achieve a podium on the challenging Mountain Course circuit.
The original 500cc Grey Flash didn’t reach the level of success the Vincent factory had hoped for. It struggled against its competition, unlike the larger-capacity Vincent twins. Many, including Luis, Patrick and Fritz, believe the 500cc engine never reached its full potential.
Luis has two experienced team members working full time on the bike including former Yamaha factory racing engineer Dudley Lister and engine building guru Peter Malloy who are confident that they can find significant power improvement.
Cameron Donald said:
“I have no illusion of how difficult a task it will be to get the bike onto the podium – the TT course is brutal on machinery. Top teams have decades of experience in building bikes capable of withstanding the torture. Add to this, a single-cylinder Vincent has never been among the TT frontrunners.”
“It has been some time since I’ve raced a 500cc classic single and I’ve had to readapt my style to suit the low-powered thoroughbred. A regular diet of modern bikes makes it easy to become complacent about having excess power on hand. Aboard a 500cc single the key is to carry your speed through the turns and maintain momentum. You can quickly spoil your lap time with a mistake as simple as running off line in a corner that then requires you to close the throttle. This is what I like most about racing this class of bikes, smooth riding and precise rider inputs is the only way to get results, and that’s easier said than done.”
“We are now really close to the bike’s Isle of Man debut and I can feel a positive momentum building in the team. Luis’ passionate vision of a single-cylinder Vincent succeeding at the Isle of Man is getting closer and I'm relishing the challenge as the rider to take it there.”