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Competitor Profile: W Gibson

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Willie Gibson’s GET TO WORK BIKES [also used for racing].

1946 Ariel 1000cc Square Four used also for racing, on Prestwick sands, Turnberry Aerodrome and Girven grass track (1950 and 1951) Won three races on the grass, two on the sand with this machine, still using the original road tyres. The only tune up it got was when the cork clutch burned out, was replaced with Ferodo inserts. Fuel used then was benzene from the Dry-Salters in Kilmarnock 1946 350cc AJS standard road bike, had some success at trials, no luck at Turnberry, did win a knockout hill-climb at Old Cumnock in 1952.

Willie’s 1952 350cc BSA Gold Star semi road racing and get to work bike.

Was first sponsored by the previous owner of this bike Joe Kelly of Troon. Had my first success with his machine when finishing third in my class at Crail Aerodrome in 1953. Bought the Gold Star of Joe the same year, and went on to win nearly all experts barred races I was allowed to enter. Except Kinnel Aerodrome, where, I got a puncture in the rear tyre on the last lap while racing in the 350cc final, just managed to scrape into 2nd place. Won my 500cc heat, finished 1st in the final. The same day I finished second to Bob McIntyre in the 350 open class, and 4th in the 500cc class.

September 1953. Tried my first big race, The Carrowdore 100 in Ireland. By this time the Goldie had done a lot of racing miles, and I had never done anything to the engine. In fact, I don’t think it’s been touched since it was first rode by Bob McIntyre in the 1952 Junior Clubmans on the Isle of Man, where he finished 2nd and broke the lap record.

In the Carrowdore race that day, I was on my third lap when the engine started cutting out at 6,500rpm, it’s supposed to do 7,000rpm I pulled into the pits to tell my mechanic, Bobby Mason a work mate who was with me on this trip. told him I’d better stop now to save what life was left in the engine to get us home, he agreed with me.

I had made friends with Jimmy Morton of Killochhead farm, since being introduced to him at the Prestwick sand –racing back in 1950. He knew more than I did about where to send for spare parts, so during the winter of 1953 I left the Goldie at Jimmy’s place, where I worked with him in my spare time. He rebuilt the bike with the new and reconditioned parts as they came back from the suppliers.

Jimmy had said he fancied doing the 1954 350cc Junior Clubmans on the Isle of Man, and would I like to have a go, I sure would, knowing I was going to have him with me. The last part of the Gold Star’s engine, which took six month to come back, arrived on the Friday, the cylinder barrel. Giving us two days to get the bike finished, we’re scheduled to catch the boat for the Isle of Man Sunday afternoon. The bike was completed on the Saturday, started running in the engine travelling to Sorn Village, then Muirkirk, Strathhaven, Darvel, Galston, and back to the farm after doing four laps. Sunday we left to travel down to Fleetwood, where we got the boat for the Isle of Man.

Was still running the engine in on the way down to Fleetwood, and putting in some more miles learning the coarse on the Isle of Man.

To cut a long story short, I raced in the Junior Clubmans, finished 8th, was my greatest achievement to beat Bob McIntyre’s times, my average speed 80.5mph, my fastest lap 81.9mph, was one mile per hour faster than my Idol Robert MacGregor McIntyre.

While still in the Island that week, was watching the sidecar racing on the Clypse circuit, had parked the Goldie about 3 hundred yards back on the road beside a thousand other bikes. When the racing was finished, went back to collect my bike, it wasn’t there, couldn’t find it anywhere. I thought the boys who were with me had hidden it for a joke, I just could not believe it had been stolen.

The bike was found two days later behind a wall in a field, minus the cylinder barrel that I waited six months for, plus the cylinder head and carburettor. There’s another story here, but won’t have the space on this page to print it. Arriving back home with what was left of the bike on Monday. Cooper Bro.’s uplifted the bike for me at Ardrossan. On Tuesday took what was left of the engine down to the BSA factory, where they had been invited to a dinner and dance for their agents to celebrate BSA Company’s success on the Isle of Man.

Had the engine back in three days Friday, 1 o’clock Saturday morning had the bike ready, left Troon 7am Saturday morning riding my bike, accompanied by Joe Kelly and his wife on their Norton Dominator, heading for Kirkcaldy Beverage Park. I was entered in both 350 and 500cc races, I didn’t finish the 350 class because of carburettor problems, finished second to Bob McIntyre, who was on his 500cc G45 Matchless in the 500cc heat.

The Gold Star was going much better by the time I arrived back in Ireland to race the 1954 Carrowdore 100. Rode the bike there again with my work mate Bobby Mason riding pillion and Jerry Borland another work mate riding his 350cc AJS. I won the Handicap race and finished 2nd in the scratch.

Sold the Gold Star later that year, bought one of Sam Cooper’s 7R AJS‘s, cause he was giving up the racing. When I found transport to up lift the 7R from Coopers of Troon, was about to take it away, when Sam came over and asked me how would I like to race the Northwest 200. Sam I would love to have a go at the Northwest but I can’t afford to take a bike over there, never mind a van. Don’t you worry, I’ll see to that, I’ve got a couple of entries for it.

So that was it, after me buying the 7R from him he’s decided to sponsor me, no more worries about getting to and from race meeting now. Which I very much appreciated, no more having to ride the bike to the tracks, and no worries about getting back home. Was still allowed to enter the expert’s barred races, which I won easy with the 7R.

Cooper’s entered me for the 1955 Northwest 200 in Ireland, my first international race, had the fastest lap in practise, which gave me pole position. Made an ass of the start by stalling the engine, got going again and fought my way back into first place. Which I held for a lap and a haft, Jackie Woods on a Geoff Duke BSA Gold Star passed me and went on to win the race, I held onto 2nd place till the last lap but one, when my engine seized up. Sam’s younger brother Leslie was in the race also, he crashed about the third or fourth lap, lost a leg. We had picked up a dose of doctored petrol that day at one of the garages in Ireland. Leslie’s 7R when the engine was stripped had started to burn up the same way as mine had done.

Entered for the 1955 Scottish Championships held at Beverage Park Kirkcaldy, finished 2nd in my first heat of the 350cc class, after getting away first at the start, then the plug lead jumping off. Won my semi final, finished 2nd to McIntyre in the 350 final. Was first in the 500cc heat. First in my semi final, and 2nd again to McIntyre in the final still using my 350cc 7R AJS. The lap records for Kirkcaldy races were broken six times that day.

Sam Cooper bought a 500cc Manx Norton, which I used at Errol Aerodrome Perth for the first time, broke the 500cc lap record with it, McIntyre wasn’t there to stop me winning the races I entered. Sam entered me for the 1955 Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man, and had bought another Manx Norton, the 350cc model, I was to ride both Norton’s, Sandy Bowie was to use my 350 7R. The rev counter on the 350 Norton wasn’t working that first practise morning, didn’t notice it till I’d started on my first lap, I decided to carry on and judge the revs from the noise of the engine. This was the moment I’d been waiting for, to ride a featherbed Norton round the TT coarse. I got 32 miles round the coarse was really enjoying myself, when reaching Brandywell corner a left hander, my left footrest hit the road and through me up straight, the last thing I saw was the shadow of palings coming at me and the front wheel was in a tank-slapper. I was six weeks in Nobles hospital on the island, before they let me go home with a paralysed left arm.

Enjoy your racing while you can. Willie Gibson

Information kindly provided by John Gibson.

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