Chris Vincent (motorcycle sidecar racer)

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Chris Vincent in 1958 on his Championship-winning 646 cc Norbsa, a BSA A10 powered Manx Norton grasstrack outfit. Passenger may be Ivan Kitching

Chris Vincent (born 1935 in Birmingham, West Midlands) is a former motorcycle sidecar road racer who was very successful in short-circuit (tarmac) racing in the 1960s and early 1970s. He entered Grands Prix using BSA, BMW and URS engines. He also rode solo motorcycles, particularly in the smaller race classes and production-machine categories.

Early days[edit]

Vincent left school at the age of fifteen and joined the BSA factory situated in Birmingham.[1] In 1954 he joined the Norton race shop and started racing in speedway and on grass using a speedway machine with a JAP engine, later replaced by BSA engines.[1]

Vincent's outfit for 1958, showing the Manx Norton frame, forks, swinging arm and wheels with BSA A10 engine/gearbox, clip-on handlebars and rear-set footrests

Whilst working for Norton, Vincent came into contact with established sidecar racer Cyril Smith and became interested in sidecars, later becoming grasstrack National Sidecar Champion in 1958.[1]

Road Racing career[edit]

Before becoming well-known through road-racing in the 1960s, Vincent returned to work for BSA as a bike-tester based in the Birmingham area[2][1][3] involving road testing for performance and economy including regular stints at the MIRA proving ground.

After racing on grass-tracks and speedway, he graduated to tarmac courses in 1959 on a BSA. He raced a solo BSA Road Rocket in the Thruxton 500 mile endurance race partnered by Norman Storer finishing seventh,[1] and again a BSA C15 in the 1961 Silverstone 1000 endurance event, partnered by Bert Morris,[4] finishing with speedway and selling his outfit in 1961.[1]

Congratulatory telegram sent to Vincent on his 1962 TT win

He first entered the Isle of Man Sidecar TT race in 1960[5] followed by 1961,[6] with DNFs in both events. He then won in 1962[7] with passenger Eric Bliss whom he first raced with for part of the 1961 season,[8] establishing the first all-British Sidecar TT win since 1954, the first mountain circuit win by a British machine since 1925, and the first-ever international TT victory by a BSA.[8][3]

Vincent campaigned the early BSA A7 500  cc pre-unit construction engined sidecar outfits and then later the unit-construction A50 engines when these became available after 1962. During the 1960s some sidecar races particularly those carrying World Championship status including the TT were restricted to 500  cc, whereas the UK national series races had classes where 650  cc (BSA A65 in Chris' case) and larger engines were used.

He is associated with popularising the true 'kneeler' concept, and although this was earlier attributed to Eric Oliver[9] who used a semi-kneeler in the 1950s, Chris' own frame designs enabled a sidecar outfit with a much lower frontal area and smaller proportions hence better streamlining and lower centre of gravity which is fundamental for high-speed cornering. Vincent believed his road-racing success was in part due to his experiences on grass giving him an advantage over many of his rivals, stating "Where I have an advantage over many of my rivals is on corners. The power comes in much sooner and my grass track experience has taught me how to avoid and get out of trouble".[1]

BMW RS54 Rennsport 500cc engine showing low flat-twin design, camshaft drive, Dell'Orto carburettors and gearbox output coupling to shaft final drive

Chris later used the only reliable, competitive engine for Grands Prix and UK 500cc events, the flat-twin BMW RS54 Rennsport[10]

During the middle 1960s, sidecar riders sought to achieve greater engine capacities and basic raw power. This included use of car engines and three-wheeled, car-type layouts driving a pair of front wheels.[9][11]

He started to develop a new concept with a repositioned Rennsport BMW engine. Instead of a shaft driving the rear wheel, it would drive the front and sidecar wheels.[12] The outfit was soon 'outlawed' by the FIM,[13] the European road-race regulatory body, as the front and rear wheels (non-sidecar) were designed to be out-of-line, hence deemed to be a three-wheeler (or cyclecar),[14] causing Vincent to revert to his 'old', conventional outfit.[15]

For the 1972 season Vincent used a Munch-URS engine based on a Helmut Fath design. He finished fourth in the Championship with a win at the Finnish Grand Prix held at Imatra.[16]

Before the start of the 1973 season, Munch backer American George Bell pulled the finance from the race team, putting the project up for sale, leaving Vincent without machinery.[17] Vincent retired from competition in 1974 after campaigning a Yamaha-engined outfit,[18] although he continues to ride in demonstration events.[19]

Personal life[edit]

During the 1980s Chris had a motor cycle shop in Earl Shilton,[20] Leicestershire where he still lives[2]

His sons Max (born 1969) and Jason (born 1972) were both established as solo motorcycle road-racers by the 1990 season.[21] Jason 'Jay' Vincent was a successful racer at national, international and world level[22] during the 1990s and continuing into the 2000s, scoring points in the British round of 2001 500cc GP at Donington Park[23] on a Red Bull Yamaha when standing-in for injured Garry McCoy, having been released by his Pulse team for the event. He retired at the end of 2006 season[24]

Always a motor enthusiast, during the 1990s Chris had an American Vixen motorhome (a compact-size, high-quality, low-volume production, low exterior profile, coachbuilt camper with a BMW diesel engine) and owned Brough Superior vintage motorcycles.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Motor Cycle News 3 May 1961 "The 'Brummie' with the BSA bombshell. Close up on Chris Vincent" by Brian Collins. Accessed 14 November 2013
  2. ^ a b [1] Birmingham History.Retrieved 3 September 2013
  3. ^ a b International motor cycle racing book, Souvenir Press Ltd, London. ISBN 0-285-62013-4 pp.90-93 "As a tester for BSA I used to cover something like 50,000 hard-riding miles a year and that gave me the appetite for a course like the TT".
  4. ^ Motor Cycle 28 January 1965, p.123 Motor Cycle Help Club "Chris did start his racing on grass and very successful he was, too. On a very rapid 646 cc BSA he won the sidecar National championship in 1958, breaking Bill Evans' (636 Norton) four-year run of wins. Chris was thus one of the first to race a BSA twin successfully on grass; he graduated to road racing, on a BSA, in 1959. Now well known also as a solo rider, in his first race he shared a BSA C15 with Bert Morris in the 1961 Silverstone 1000 and went like a bomb between pit stops." Accessed 3 September 2013
  5. ^ [2] IoM TT Official Results. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  6. ^ [3] IoM TT Official Results. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  7. ^ [4] IoM TT Official Results. Retrieved 5 July 2013
  8. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 2013-11-14.  Watford Observer Retrieved 14 November 2013
  9. ^ a b Motor Cycle, 19 May 1966, p.640-42 In at the Deep End – by David Dixon Track test comparisons between Owen Greenwood's Mini and Colin Seeley's FCS-BMW. Accessed 5 July 2013
  10. ^ Motor Cycle, 16 February 1967, p.209 Racing Line by David Dixon. Accessed 22 June 2013
  11. ^ "Sensational BMW Three-Wheeler". Motor Cycle News. 1966. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  12. ^ "New British 3-Wheeler – 1966 British Sidecar Ace Chris Vincent unveils new 3-Wheeler". Motor Cycle News. 1966. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  13. ^ Motor Cycle, 19 May 1966, p.664 Racing Line by David Dixon. "Bad news for Chris Vincent—the FIM have banned cyclecars from the classics for 1966, though not from other International events. They say such three-wheelers are not in the spirit of what they intended for the world–championships." Accessed 21 August 2013
  14. ^ Motor Cycle, 2 June 1966, p.723 Racing Line by David Dixon. "FIM makes rules to suit themselves. As I see it, an outfit making more than two tracks is a three wheeler. If the outfits had been checked, many could have been excluded. Chris Vincent was the one most hurt...I'm disappointed but not surprised that the ACU should have let the FIM get away with such blatant rule bashing". Accessed 3 September 2013
  15. ^ Motor Cycle, 2 June 1966, p.725 French Grand Prix, Sidecar Results – 1st F.Scheidegger, 2nd C.J. Seeley, 5th C.J. Vincent. "Never really in the hunt was Chris Vincent, his BMW outfit suffering from the neglect inseparable from his concentration on his recently banned three-wheeler." Accessed 29 July 2013
  16. ^ [5] Sidecar World Championship 1972, Final Standings. Retrieved 23 July 2015
  17. ^ Motorcycle Mechanics, June 1973 On the Mega by Charlie Rous. Accessed 23 July 2013
  18. ^ [6] Bonhams Retrieved 14 November 2013
  19. ^ [7] VMCC Mallory Park 2013. "Past Masters entry list. Chris Vincent, Yamaha YX52" Retrieved 14 November 2013
  20. ^ Motorcycle News, 3 November 1982, p.25 Super Mart advertising Chris Vincent M/C, High Street, Earl Shilton, Leicester, LE9 7DH. " the 100% Yamaha Centre". Yamaha LC250/350 Belly Pans, matching fairings available. Retrieved 24 April 2014
  21. ^ Motorcycle News 18 April 1990, road-race reports Darley Moor p.20 and Mallory Park p.21. Accessed 22 July 2013
  22. ^ [8] Retrieved 5 July 2013
  23. ^ [9] Crashnet. MotoGP news. Jason Vincent filling in for injured Garry McCoy. Retrieved 5 July 2013
  24. ^ [10] Crashnet. Jay Vincent closes curtain on sparkling career. Retrieved 5 July 2013

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