Tuesday January 22nd 2019

We have dedicated the blog today, to the great Brian Stonebridge - courtesy the Vintage Press by Vince Gilligan.

I was lucky enough to see Stonebridge race the very special BSA 150cc Bantam at Hawkstone Park, when he was passing the big 500cc British four strokes  on the huge hillclimb. an unbelievable time, in the development of the small capacity 2 stroke machines.
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Brian Stonebridge biographical tribute, written by Colin Sparrow, Chairman of the Greeves Riders Association & Editor of “Leading Link.” I believe written in 2009, 50 years after the accident which took Brian’s life. It is 725 words, about same as a daily newspaper column.Brian Gerald Stonebridge was born into a Cambridgeshire farming family on June 6 th 1928. In eleven short years, from his first scrambles victory in 1948 to his second place in the 1959 250cc European Championship, he established himself as one of Britain ’s foremost moto-cross riders. Sadly killed in a road accident while a car passenger in October 1959, he was universally recognized also as a brilliant tuner and developer of competition bikes, and as one of the great “characters” of motorcycle sport.After leaving school and completing his National Service in the Royal Armoured Corps, Stonebridge trained as an instrument maker. He started scrambling on a BSA 350 Gold Star in 1948, his natural talent and skill securing him a place in the winning British team in the 1949 Moto-Cross des Nations.

Encouraged by top rider Basil Hall, Stonebridge was a works rider for Matchless from 1950 through1954, earning many scrambling successes throughout that period and a Gold Medal for them in the 1950 ISDT. He was selected for the British Moto-Cross des Nations team on no less than seven occasions, and in 1952 he won the event outright. During his AMC days, he also had a bash at road racing on a 350cc AJS.

In 1955, Stonebridge moved to BSA, with continuing success riding Gold Stars and undertaking development work in the competition shop, and in that year he was awarded the ACU Scrambles Drivers’ Star. It was while working at BSA that he met Herman Meier, the well-known tuner of two-stroke engines. Ever on the lookout for new ideas, he recognized that lightweight two-strokes could be an effective way forward in off-road motorcycle competition, and with Meier’s help he spent time developing a 150cc Bantam into a rapid and ultimately successful scrambler.

At the end of 1956, BSA decided to cut back on their competition shop staffing, and in early 1957 Greeves were the beneficiaries when Brian came to them as works rider, competitions manager, and development engineer. It was with Greeves that he found the situation that suited him best, for with this small and youthful manufacturer of competition machines there was plenty of scope for a talented engineer with an individualistic approach.

At Greeves he took the competition models in hand, developing their trials bike into the 20TA, the first of the “Scottish” line and the trials riders’ machine of choice at the beginning of the sixties. In 1958 he took his second ISDT Gold Medal on a modified version of this machine. At the same time he scientifically developed the 197cc Villiers 9E engine which Greeves fitted to their scramblers, doubling its power output and turning it into a machine which in the right hands could take on the best scramblers of the day. “The right hands” was often of course Stonebridge himself, on many occasions humbling top class 350 and 500cc opposition on the little Greeves – made to seem even smaller by its lanky 6′4” rider!

In 1958, Stonebridge saw the opportunity that the new European Championship for machines of up to 250cc presented for Greeves, and after contesting a couple of rounds in 1958, they went for it in 1959. But for injury, Stonebridge might easily have won. As it was, he finished second. Dave Bickers, riding for Greeves, went on to take the title in 1960 and 1961.

Brian Stonebridge – known as “Strawberry” by those who raced against him because his long limbs reminded them of the runners on a strawberry plant – was a brilliant rider and development engineer with an independent but endearing personality. Contemporary tributes speak of a steely determination to succeed, and a temperament which demanded that he do things his own way. This was, they say, tempered by his quiet manner and playful sense of humour which combined with a natural humility to allow him to deal calmly with success and failure alike.

That he was universally respected by the public and fellow competitors alike was supremely illustrated by the record 84,000 spectator attendance at the Brian Stonebridge Memorial Scramble at Hawkstone Park in March 1960, and by the presence there of every significant British rider of the era.


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