Monday, May 3, 2010

Fred Holmes is The Real Deal

My buddy, video game designer Eric Holmes, knows I'm a vintage British motorcycle fanatic and he put me in touch with his dad Fred Holmes, a real Isle of Man racer. These are some of Fred's photos from the late 1960s racing the Manx Grand Prix. Exact same circuit as the TT, but with no factory bikes. He shares his adventures below.

Fred writes:

"Hiya Chris,... You are obviously an Enfield fan and it's good to hear from someone who is not sucked in to the modern Japanese/Italian bikes, excellent as they are, it's sometimes difficult to tell one from the other unless you recognise the paint job.

My Isle of Man experiences were at the Manx Grand Prix and not the more commonly known T.T. races, the exact same circuit but with no "Factory Bikes", same format for the racing and also 6 laps of 37 and three quarter miles. Being an Enfield fan I'm sure that you have heard of Steve Linsdell who got VERY good results in the Isle of Man using an Enfield engine in a Seeley frame.

My experiences on the Island were, for me, interesting and being in 1969/70 really at the end of using original British made racebikes, in my case, an ex Alistair King Matchless G50. At the time I was riding it the bike was already ten years old and the years are not kind to Magnesium, and the bike itself destructed as I went round in 1969. The magnesium crankcases split above the main bearing housing (drive side) and the resultant vibration split the head steady, sheared the lockwire on the crankshaft end breather valve which then went AWOL and the end result was the rear of the bike covered in engine oil. I then fell off.

I went back in 1970 and managed to keep it going, finished 16th. and for that you get a "silver replica".
                                                                                                                                                 To do really well on the island you really have to go there for a number of years as the course is so long and on public roads with nowhere to go if you make a mistake. If you are REALLY lucky you may hit one of the few straw bales they put up as a token gesture and a nod towards Health and Safety. But nobody forces anybody to race there, its a personal choice and a bit of a challenge..."

Eric Holmes is a video game designer at Epic Games where I'm a senior artist.


  1. Awesome story love the old pictures VIVA BULTACO!
    Sorry, had to say that I rode Bulls as a young guy in the seventies. John Bolton

  2. Great post, Chris. Terrific to hear from someone who has been there and done that, with what was available to hand.