Pictures: Motorbike fans celebrate 70th anniversary of Beveridge Park races

In its heyday during the 1950s and 60s motorbike racing in Kirkcaldy's Beveridge Park regularly attracted upwards of 15,000-strong crowds, with one year recording 18,000.

Thursday, 19th April 2018, 1:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th April 2018, 4:34 pm
The start of the last ever Kirkcaldy Grand Prix in 1988
The start of the last ever Kirkcaldy Grand Prix in 1988

The very first event in 1948, the Kirkcaldy Grand Prix, was the first road race for motorcycles in Scotland, and attracted 7000 people, while football games of the time struggled to bring in 1000 spectators in the cash-strapped post war years.

This year marks the 70th anniversary since the first park race in 1948 and, to mark the occasion Kirkcaldy and District Motor Club, which ran the Scottish Road Races for 40 years, is holding a special commemorative Bikes in the Park event on May 12 and 13.

The fifth annual event on the Sunday will see an eyewatering collection of over 40 bikes representing those which raced the Kirkcaldy circuit during each of the 40 years of the race, showing the development of motorbikes over the period and the huge advances in engineering.

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There will be the chance to speak to some well known faces of the current motorbike racing world, and the organisers are hoping to get Harry Grant, believed to be the only surviving racer from the Kirkcaldy Grand Prix days, who is now in his 90s, to come along on the day.

There will also be a selection of around 150 bikes on display, from vintage to modern, as well as posters, old photographs and memorabilia from over the years, with a huge helping of nostalgia on offer, and visitors are encouraged to walk around the old racing track to see for themselves the challenges the riders encountered.

During the 1940s talk of racing in the Beveridge Park had been under discussion, but the local authority had refused to entertain the idea until prominent businessmen from the motor club put forward the case, with the promise of increased visitor numbers coming along to see the top motorbike racing stars of the time.

And crowds for the event grew steadily from the first year as people flocked to the park to witness the many thrills and spills of the race.

A map of the Kirkcaldy Grand Prix circuit

The circuit followed roughly the current boundary path of the park, although with a lot less furniture.

When the racing first started, there was only a small section of the track covered with tarmac, with the rest just gravel, which made for interesting racing.

Within a few years, as the council realised its importance, the track was all tarmac.

During the latter years with bike speeds continually increasing and average speeds of 73mph being regularly hit, damage was caused to the surface by the bikes.

The motor club eventually called a halt to the races in 1988 for safety reasons.

As well as the exhibition day itself, which will also include trade stands, vintage bike displays and other bike-based attractions, there will be the now eagerly awaited talk the night before in Kirkcaldy Rugby Club.

This was started up as part of Bikes in the Park to provide something for exhibitors, who came to set up for Sunday’s event the day before, to do on the Saturday evening.

Over the years various speakers have given informal talks, and this year to mark the anniversary, Ben and Sean Waters will be bringing their impressive display of Joe Potts memorabilia along.

A map of the Kirkcaldy Grand Prix circuit

Joe Potts was the man who sponsored three of the top Scottish motorbike racers – Bob McIntyre, Alastair King and Charlie Bruce, enabling them to compete with the top racers of the time. His sponsorship and unique engineering skills ensured they were able to keep pace with their competitors, and he was known as the driving force of Scottish motorbike racing.

“We are trying to make this a special event to mark a special anniversary and we are hoping for a good turnout from the public which is always more likely if the weather is nice,” said Jake Drummond, club secretary.

“The Kirkcaldy Grand Prix is still held very warmly in the hearts of bike enthusiasts and this is going to be a very nostalgic event.”