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Competitor Profile: Rob Wingrave

MGP Career Summary

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Robert Wingrave 1944 – 1998

Rob was a Yorkshire man, born in Bawtry, being one of a family of five, two brothers and two sisters. The family moved to Surrey, first to Coldharbour and then to Abinger Common in 1953, where he attended Abinger and Beare Green Schools.

After leaving school, he became an apprentice plumber with a well-known Dorking central heating company, K Frogley Ltd. He studied at Guildford Technical College and became a qualified plumber.

Rob started riding motorcycles in 1960 with various two-stroke trials bikes. He also had an AMC outfit, well, a float for carrying the trials bikes. He gained notoriety for miles around, at the way he fearlessly drove the outfit, in fact it is still a legend today. With the two strokes came a rigid trials iron. People still remember the day at a Dorking closed to club trial in the Chalk pits, how he tackled a section with large boulders up an incredibly steep hill, which had stopped many a rider. Rob stood on the pegs, nailed it, and in a superb ride, cleaned it.

After a fairly successful trials career, the highlights, of which were the quick events, he turned to Scrambles, eventually riding a Greeves challenger, where a fearless streak really started to emerge.

Rob thrived on being on the ragged edge. At a Half Crown Trial at Liphook, he borrowed brother John’s 500T Norton which ended up with the rear wheel like a three penny piece. At a Tinsley Green Scramble, with a large artificial jump, he fell off nearly every lap it was more important to get a good jump than to do well in the race.

Rob could cause mayhem. The rear garden of his parents’ house was often covered with large quantities of parts from various motorcycles, a lot of them from AMC, with Rob sat in the middle, covered up to elbows in black grease.

Then the inevitable happened, Rob meet Sam and they married in 1968. They emigrated to Australia the following year, leaving his fathers garden with large chunks of aluminium casings corroding away below the top surface. Daughter Kate was born in 1971, but by 1972 the homeland and Surrey called, so they decided to return and take in a few sights and hardships along the way. They purchased an old VW camper and drove it home, through India, Parkistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and then the whole of Europe. He eventually settled in Farnham with his family, now including Becca and Oliver.

Rob was a good engineer he knew the plumbing, heating and air conditioning business well. Eventually, he became a partner in Argent Engineering, a mechanical and electrical services company, who are well know in the refurb and refit business, particularly in London.

But the passion still haunted him. In 1980, a 1949 AJS 7R found its way into his shed but was found to be rather slow and uncompetitive amongst the quicker and more modern classic machinery. A 350cc Manx Norton was purchased and he started racing in earnest, with many notable rides on the mainland, particularly in the wet. In fact, at one rather wet Brands meeting, he became know as ‘Fearless Rob’ with head down and on the stop, using the grass if necessary. The Manx Grand Prix called and Rob with Allen Davey as mechanic made the trip to the Island and had a wonderful time. A 500cc Norton was acquired and a return to the MGP, which was to become his favourite event, gaining finishers awards every year in the Senior and Junior Classic Races.

Rob loved the Manx GP and he loved the Isle of Man. Standing on the dock waiting to go home he would say “Only 50 weeks and 2 days and I will be back” and he was, with his two unfaired Manx’s known as ‘Rob’s Old Nails.’

Thursday 27 August 1998 was dry with some sun. He put in a cracking practice lap on the 350cc bike, came into the pit absolutely chuffed with life, got onto the 500cc bike and went off towards Bray Hill in high spirits, doing what he loved most, riding his bike on the Island. Rob got as far as Union Mills.

Rob was a great sportsman. He loved the Island, the race and the pace. He knew the risks. He knew the ultimate price, which he paid.

Cynthia Wingrave 2005

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