Lot 471: c.1985 RGB-Nourish/Weslake 850cc Racing Motorcycle
No one who was there at the time will ever forget what a thrill it was to see a ‘humble’ all-British twin showing the modern best from Japan and Italy the way home. Yet this seemingly unlikely scenario is exactly what happened in the early 1980s when the late Bob Smith started riding Gary Bryan’s mighty RGB-Weslake in Battle of the Twins races. A former sidecar racer, Bryan had been wheelchair-bound since a multiple pile-up at Oulton Park in the 1970s, but did not let that stop him building a series of one-off race bikes whose exemplary standard of preparation would have done credit to a professional Grand Prix team. When Smith first began riding for Bryan in 1980 his mount was a Norton-framed 950cc Weslake racer, but when the Battle of the Twins series was announced for 1982, it was decided to construct an entirely new machine around a special frame fabricated by master tubesmith John Caffrey. Built to suit the diminutive 5’ 4” Smith, Caffrey’s elegant frame achieved a 25” seat height which, combined with a width across the engine of only 15”, made for one very compact motorcycle. Equipped with a wind-cheating machine that weighed 295lbs and had more than 100bhp on tap, it was no wonder that Smith slaughtered the opposition, taking the first BoTT title with ease and beating Tony Rutter’s works Ducati in the process. The RGB-Weslake was also raced successfully in Japan by Tetsu Ikuzawa’s team, winning the Japanese BoTT Championship in 1986.
After Smith’s tragic death, Bryan took his concept of an all-British twin-cylinder racer a step further, using a Wasp 8-valve engine developed originally for sidecar moto-cross. With Mike Hose aboard, the RGB-Wasp won the Norman Hyde Thunderbike Championship in its 1991 debut season, an outstanding achievement for a hitherto untried machine.
This RGB is fitted with a Nourish/Weslake 8-valve engine. The Italian vendor advises us that the machine was discovered in Florence, having been purchased in the UK by its previous owner, and that the chassis is known to builder Gary Bryan. In the present ownership since 1992, it has been rebuilt by Domenico Pettinari in Milan. Since completion the machine has remained in the vendor’s important private collection and is presented in perfect condition. Only a relative handful of RGB racing motorcycles has ever been made, and the wonderful results achieved by the works entries run Gary Bryan’s small team are out of all proportion to its limited resources. Neither raced nor paraded since restoration in 1992, this machine represents a rare opportunity to acquire an example of what, in its day, was the fastest-ever British four-stroke racing motorcycle.
Bonhams, Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford
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