On yer bike: Vic Proctor

Something a bit different for this Christmas newsletter – a look back at a local racer who was lightning quick…

In the late-1940s when peace had returned to the world, normal life was being resumed around the globe and here in South Africa, motor sport was springing back to life in various forms. One local participant in both two- and four-wheeled events was Vic Proctor, a Cape Town garage owner who was nothing short on ambition, including breaking land speed records on a bike. “Buy a fast bike, get a couple of chaps with stop watches, find a nice smooth surface and that was that!” he is quoted as saying in an interview with SA Motor Cycle News editor Peter Lawley in 1975. “I had heard in 1948 of the overseas performances of the Vincent HRD Black Lightning 998 cm3 machine which made all else seem tame by comparison.”

Just before an import ban was imposed on SA in June 1949, a Black Lightning found its way into the country and Vic was first to try out the bike and decided it would be the machine for him to try and beat the National record for the Flying Mile that had been set in 1932.

So, with a fast bike ticked off the list, now for a couple of chaps with stop watches. Not so fast! The rules and regulations regarding record breaking “read more like an Act of Parliament” but undaunted, Vic pressed on with his plans and decided to attempt the world record for unsupercharged bikes which stood at 150,313 mph (254 km/h). Following in the tyre tracks of Malcolm Campbell, Vic opted for Verneuk Pan in North-West Cape as the venue for the attempt.

The session got off to a good start, Vic breaking the records in the unlimited class for the flying mile at 136,26 mph (219,28 km/h), the flying kilometre 136,444 mph (219,58 km/h), the standing start mile 101,839 mph (163,89 km/h), and standing start kilometre 88,919 mph (143,10 km/h). But despite these successes, Vic decided that Verneuk was actually not suitable for his target, and after some research found a narrow stretch of National Road outside Beaufort West that appeared to be better. On 24 May 1950 – his 39th birthday – Vic set a new flying mile record with a two-way average of 149,99 mph (241,38 km/h).

At this time the world record had been improved to 174,3 mph (280,5 km/h). To beat this record, Vic decided his bike needed more power and the machine need to be enclosed in an aluminium casing to reduce drag. Vic built the latter himself with an overall shape that enclosed his body, too, which he would be lying prone on the machine. Vic’s helmet was streamlined, too. Changing gears was done via a hand lever mounted near the handlebars. Special tyres with just 2 mm of tread were made in Europe and were to be run at 450 kPa.

The venue changed once more, this time to a specially-prepared road in Kaalpan, near Hopetown in the Northern Cape. To counter being over 1 200 metres above sea level, a pressurised carburettor with no jets was used, and fuel was a 50:50 mixture of nitro methane and methanol. Vic’s first run was 174,6 mph (280,99 km/h), which augured well for the record, but on the return run, the front wheel lifted off the tar as Vic hit a bump, took off for about 9 metres, landed and bounced up in the air for another 14 metres before another 9-metre leap finally separated man from machine. Fortunately, Vic survived with minor cuts and bruises to his cheeks and hands. That was the end of his record breaking attempts.

Instead, he raced the Black Lightning and at one time held the lap record at every race circuit in South Africa. He later put the HRD motor into a Kieft racing car and continued to be successful. He retired in 1962 aged 51 years, and was one of the first men to be awarded Springbok colours. Vic passed away on 14 April 1984 as a South African motor sport legend.

Before FMM Curator Wayne Harley left for a two-week break, he attended the landmark opening of a motorcycle agency in Paarl…

On Friday 12 December, I was proud to be invited to represent FMM at the grand opening of KTM Paarl, the first motorcycle agency in the town. The agency is co-owned by Clinton Pienaar, former editor of SuperBike magazine, who in his speech to the invited guests said that this initiative was indicative of the rapidly growing presence of adventure bikers in the Boland, which boasts some of the best roads for the activity. Adventure biking was contributing to the steady growth of the motorcycle industry as a whole, and having a dealership in the heart of the area would have obvious benefits.

Clinton’s sentiments were echoed by Franziska Brandi, MD of KTM and Husqvarna SA, who cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the dealership, which is located at 28 Old Paarl Road, Zandwyk Park telephone 021 879 4630.