Grimsthorpe Speed Trials

Every summer there’s a chance to re-live the thrills of the Edwardian era in fine style. Vintage machines are unleashed for an afternoon in the grounds of a stately home in Lincolnshire, competing for top honours along a twisting sprint track. For some of the oldest motorcycles, just completing the distance is a challenge…

I recently heard about these speed trials and decided to go and see the event. I liked the idea that the vehicles taking part were all pre-1939. The event takes place in the grounds of Grimsthorpe Castle near Bourne. Motorsport is not new to the castle, with the first timed runs being held there in 1903.

Arriving at the castle it was easy to follow the route to the parking areas. Luckily this year the weather was dry; I was told that it was rather damp last year. I managed to obtain a copy of the programme for the day’s events. There were plenty of motorcycles parked up and the owners were making sure that their machines were ready to go. The Speed Trials started at 10am, and the first runs were to give you an idea about the twisting, half-mile course. Talking to one female rider she told me that it was quite bumpy in places. This is a fun run with the times not being taken too seriously; however the riders that I saw were not hanging about!

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Over 30 bikes and 40 cars were entered to run, and these kept the marshals busy. Lots of people were dressed in period costume and this helped to make the atmosphere complete. There were five groups of motorcycles, with the largest group being for bikes of up to 350cc in racing trim. This included several Velocettes, and a DKW 250 which was a nice bike and it sounded good. One of the Velocette owners had a little ‘fun’ with his bike – he moved off from the start only to stop 50 yards down the track. Talking to him later, he said that he had put the problem right and was ready for the next run.

The trials stopped for lunch and we were allowed into the castle itself. Entry was included as part of the day provided you wore a wristband. The castle and grounds are well worth a visit in their own right. I had purchased an early bird ticket for £10 which included the castle and the speed trials – what a bargain! There was a good choice of food and drink stands to whet your appetite or you were welcome to bring your own picnic.

There were plenty of motorcycles and cars that you could look at, and also some classics were parked in the courtyard of the castle. There was certainly plenty to see. It was announced over the tannoy that the organisers had nearly run out of wristbands, having ordered 1500 for the day, so they were very well pleased with the number of visitors.

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At the start of the second half of the trials the commentator said that they would try and speed things up a bit – several of these old vehicles had broken down when being pushed hard and the programme was a little behind time. The riders and drivers were allowed three runs down the track. The oldest bike taking part was a 1916 Norton and there were several other machines from the 1920s.

It was a great day out and it was nice to be able to talk to the riders taking part. This was a first class location and a very well-organised event. Overall it’s well worth a visit; check their site for next year’s details.

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Words and photos by Roy Workman
Additional images from Vintage Speed Trials

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