Early Dragon Snaps II
On the weekend of 10 and 11 February 2024, the mythical Dragon will once again wake up, emerge from his Welsh lair and, let's hope for the sake of his loyal motorcycling fans, spit out some welcome flames to warm both their hearts and the chill of the Welsh winter!
The Dragon, born in 1962 as we all know, is now in his sixties. So I thought it would be a good idea, as a prelude to this reunion, which is once again eagerly awaited by his loyal admirers, to take a flashback in photos of his already busy life, focusing mainly on his youth.
So I've dug out a compilation of rare photographic documents from my archives, some of them exclusive, which have not yet been published on LPMCC. Without further ado, let's discover them together below!
The first photo probably won't mean much to most readers. It has to be said that it is one of the oldest photos, taken in 1962, when our beloved Dragon was born.
Connoisseurs of two-wheelers from that era will easily recognise a venerable Kreidler Florett in the foreground. However, they will find it much more difficult to identify the rally rider riding this one, on which he had covered 1500 miles in order to cover the event as a contributor, at the time, to the German magazine 'Zweirad' ('Two-Wheeler').
His name? Ulrich Schwab! Sadly deceased in 2021, at the age of 86, after a journalistic and photographic career spanning almost six decades.
What a beautiful atmospheric photo captured at night as arrivals pass under the banner of the meeting. If this document has no date, their helmets testify that we are still in the early 1960s. Note the face of the motorcyclist 2nd left, staring at the photographer; this one will need a serious scrubbing with soap to restore its cleanliness before leaving for the rally...
Another photo showing the meeting banner, displayed by a group of participants remembered forever on photo paper. We're still in the 60s. The snow they were hoping for seems to have fallen in abundance this year. It will be easy for some readers to identify the year in question by the architecture of the castle in the background. Much more difficult will undoubtedly be to identify certain participants in the group and give us their names. Who will be able to do it?
Not all roads lead only to Rome; they also lead to the Dragon rally! And whatever the difficulties and atmospheric conditions encountered on the road from year to year, the rallyist is ready to surpass himself physically and mentally if necessary to achieve the goal he has set for himself.
There are no quits among motorcyclists, when the Dragon calls the tribe of die-hard rallyists to pay him a visit. Proof of this is this cliché above.
It will be the same once again this weekend of 10 and 11 February 2024. Nothing will stop them from honouring their meeting in Snowdonia with their favourite legendary magical creature, capable of its giant wings to move in the air, and to spit fire from his nostrils...
For my taste, certainly one of the most beautiful group photos taken to date in a motorcycle rally in Great Britain. There is nothing to add to perfect this historic moment captured by the photographer's lens. Once again, the year of the meeting remains a mystery but the abundance of snow and the building in the background should help to pin it down.
Among readers, those among the oldest generation of rallyists who are still alive in 2024, should be able to recognize a face or two among all these good smiling faces. Ben and I recognized at least one; and not just anyone, but a legendary figure of the time. Do you recognize him?
Vincent motorcycles were not designed for public transport. But this photo might confirm that every rule must have an exception.
Still some very jovial faces of participants to identify! I doubt any of our readers can tell us more about some of those. But I would really like to be proved wrong.
A quartet of friends posing for a souvenir photo. Note the motorcyclist (third from the left) wearing a helmet that appears to have been borrowed from one of the prop artists from the Star Trek television series.
The visor of his helmet was none other than an English invention called 'Turbo Visor' (see my addendum to learn more about this accessory), sold in Great Britain but also in France in the mid-60s, aesthetically resembling some sort of futuristic sci-fi prop.
Registered NGH 770, this metal steed that the youngest rallyists practising today would perhaps describe as medieval or ancestral. Does it still exist and function somewhere?
It's the best we could wish for him; with the hope that it has in the meantime been duly restored, if only in gratitude for its good and loyal services throughout all the past decades.
What is certain is that, whatever it has become, we cannot take away the merit of having brought its owner at the time to the Dragon rally safely. A great achievement in itself!
A well-deserved break to eat and regain strength. No date for this photo either, but these HD style caps suggest that it was taken in the late sixties or even very early 70s.
With so much mud on the site, and motorbikes that the participants must get out of the quagmire with the means at hand, including with the help of a rope as seen here, you should probably not be mistaken about the year of this Dragon meeting if you bet on 1970.
We hope that the conditions this weekend will not be comparable to those in 1970! Have a good trip, be careful in the saddle, and thank you to those who will send us photos and reports from this 2024 meeting of Britain's most famous winter rally.
Attached to the helmet by an elastic strap, the advertising of the time guaranteed that this revolutionary product, dispersing water by air -driven centrifugal force, gave unequalled visibility despite bad weather.
WORLD CHAMPION JIM REDMAN says You really can see in the rain with TURBO VISOR SPINS THE RAIN AWAY 100% VISION AT ANY SPEED Crystal clear vision—even in a downpour! The sensational Turbo-Visor is hailed by experts as a boon to motor-cyclists and scooterists. The Turbo-Visor fits any standard helmet and can be attached in seconds. Aerodynamically balanced ... beautifullv engineered to give years of service. The distortion-free visor, made of incredibly tough C.Ä.B., can be instantly swung clear when the rain stops. Available either Polypropylene Mounted at 39!6 or Anodised Aluminium Mounted at 47/6 complete. CLEAVER-HULME 29 WRIGHT'S LANE LONDON, W.8 Tel:WEStern 9861
Jim Redman had endorsed this product, which in January 1964 cost exactly 39 shillings and sixpence old money (£1.97½ plus inflation!)
When one of his friends asked Redman if he had ever used one during a race, he simply replied that, with this accessory, it was impossible to turn your head to the side, otherwise it would be torn off.
Graham Hill himself used one; among others during a race in Longford in Tasmania
Extract from my archives, below the advertising insert published in France in specialized magazines, dating from March 1965, and praising the qualities of this same product.
~ Jean-Francois Helias
Look back at Turbo-Visors (if you can) and add comments to our Rear Observation page.