freddie frith

Being first is always worth something, and in 1949, the inaugural year of organized Grand Prix motorcycle road racing, Freddie Frith (#53 in above photo) won all five races to claim the 350cc championship that year on a Velocette. He also competed in the 500cc class, but wasn’t as successful. Born in 1909, Frith was already 40 in 1949, and only raced the one year in GP, but his racing career began years earlier. Frith won the Manx Grand Prix in 1930, and is one of only a few to compete in and win TT races before and after WWII.

  • Old MOron

    I normally don’t care too much for this historical stuff, but maybe I’m just in the right mood tonight. Good article, T-rod. And I like that picture of Mike “The Bike” Hailwood. He cuts a noble figure in his racer’s tuck.

    • It seems you’re about the only one who enjoys this historical Top 10 (only 4 Facebook Shares so far). Too bad, I’m fascinated by the old-timey bikes and the men who rode them from GP’s yesteryear.

      • Old MOron

        I’m not on facebook, so if it’s any consolation, those shares are from folks other than me.

      • Kevin Duke

        Rich irony in that you didn’t even share your own story on FB!

  • MikeH

    Good list. Growing up in the late 60s and 70’s I was lucky enough to see Hailwood, Sheene and Read race via TV. Mike The Bike and John Surtees would be champions in any era, no doubt about that. They were both very hard racers, but very fair, something modern racers could learn a lot about. I had a bet on Hailwood winning a Formula1 car championship; IMO the only thing that stopped him was the crash that wrecked his feet. Modern F1 cars are soooo much safer.

  • Old MOron
    • Ian Parkes

      Crazy. Someone’s going to have a big job on with the likes of Humphrey Bogart’s ouvre.

  • Mahatma

    Mike Hailwood would be a contender for the top spot in best racer ever.What a man.Way before my time,but am very impressed by him returning to IoM and winning there the senior race.Respect!

  • Jon Jones

    Great piece, great pics.

  • Ian Parkes

    Of course Fergus Anderson is British as well as Scottish. It’s just that the English are generous enough to use a term that includes others from the fringes of the island, as otherwise it might well be a list of nine English riders. Caveat: I haven’t checked the others’ birthplaces – but they are probably English.

  • Ian Parkes

    I have a tenuous link to one of these greats. Geoff Duke used to ride in tweeds, like everyone else. Leather coats offered more protection but were too flappy to race in, so he visited a local tailor – the father of my mother’s best friend – and asked him to make him a leather suit. Pop Barker said “Ee lad, right you are, but leather doesn’t give lark tweed. Better sit on th’bark and I’ll measure it oop around ye.” Or similar.

    So when Geoff turned up at the Isle of Man that year everyone had a quiet chuckle at his funny suit with the baggy arse, knees and elbows – until he sat on his bark. And thus racing leathers were born. Sadly, Pop Barker didn’t patent his invention.

  • Ian Parkes

    Good of you Tom to go into bat for your colleague but I thought Bruce had conceded Cal was just having a laugh. It’s humour, Jim, but not as we know it. (What am I saying!? Please, MOrons, continue to pick on Cal. That’s funny too.)