Racing history is littered with glorious and often tantalizing failures, ideas that would have worked, should have worked, but thanks to the fickle nature of the 'God of Speed' were doomed to just miss the mark.
SEELEY SUZUKI MONOCOQUE
Race Retro 2007 visitors will have an opportunity to view just such a machine that oh so nearly made the grade in it's debut race but after such a promising start sadly drifted away into racing history.
The 1973 monocoque framed (chassis'd?) Seeley Suzuki TR500 was born out of the early nineteen-seventies racing business partnership between Colin Seeley, saviour of the AJS/Matchless racing heritage and race bike builder supreme, and Bernie Ecclestone, no introduction needed in motorsport circles and at that time team principal of Brabham Formula 1.
Colin Seeley's approach to racing involved careful innovative thinking, meticulous preparation, and a high work ethic. This philosophy had already brought Colin success on the race track as one of our country's leading sidecar racers, the last man to take a sidecar GP podium with a single cylinder machine, using the Matchless G50 engine, and respect across the international sidecar GP racing scene for his later campaigning of the immaculately prepared and fiercely ridden BMW Rennsport powered FCS-B outfit.
Having acquired from the receivers the rights, patterns, part stock etc of the defunct AMC racing department Colin inevitably found that he must retire from racing himself and concentrate on providing service and support to the many riders who were using the AMC (AJS/Matchless) machines at the time. The next step for Colin was the design and development of his own Seeley racing frames to carry the venerable but still competitive AMC based singles.
Ultimately this led to the complete Seeley racing machines that were ridden to success not just on the home circuits but in full international GP's by both privateers and several of the GP stars of the period. As the time of the single cylinder four stroke engines passed Seeley's continued to win, but now power came from the best Japanese two stroke racing engines of the seventies.
As the Seeley/Ecclestone business partnership flourished the idea of utilising F1 monocoque chassis technology in place of the usual tubular frame construction of a racing motorcycle came to fruition. In a joint co-operation between the Brabham team fabricators and the Seeley team race engineers the Seeley Suzuki TR500 monocoque was born.
The machine made its 1973 race debut at Mallory Park with future world champion Barry Sheene on board and despite the bike being slightly overweight and requiring a different approach from the rider due to the monocoque's inherent stiffness for the period, Sheene found himself in command of the bike's first race. And then the God of Speed withdrew his sanction and part of the material used to line the monocoque's fuel tank dislodged to block the fuel feed and cause Sheene to retire almost within sight of the chequered flag.
Later outings for the Seeley Suzuki TR500 that season, with both Barry Sheene and Pat Mahoney on board, continued to show promise from the machine but the relationship between Ecclestone and Seeley was souring and eventually the project which had shown so much early promised quietly faded into racing history as the partnership collapsed.
But that isn't the end of the story for this unique racing machine, after being stolen in a workshop break-in and subsequently recovered from a Kentish ditch the Seeley Suzuki TR500 was restored and passed into the ownership of the Phil Morris Collection.
Always an Oliver's Mount enthusiast, despite his distaste for road racing I-O-M TT style, Barry Sheene tried out the restored machine for Phil Morris at an Oliver's Mount 'Cock 'O The North' meeting and perhaps rather unkindly from Colin Seeley's viewpoint assured Phil that the restoration was very faithful to original spec, Barry is reputed to have said something along the lines of 'it was a bag of s--- when it was new, and its a bag of s--- now!'
Look out for the Seeley Suzuki TR500 at Race Retro 2007. This is the first time that it has been displayed in public since its restoration.
Look out for Colin Seeley at Race Retro 2007 as well, he will be amongst the motorcycle racing celebrities attending the show, Colin will be autographing copies of volume 1 of his superb autobiography 'Colin Seeley Racer, and the rest!' on the AJS/Matchless stand. For more information about the monocoque bike and the inside story of the Seeley/Ecclestone partnership look out for volume 2 of Colin's book expected to be published .... TO BE CHECK!