What the papers say
Newspapers, motorcycle racing and classic bike magazines have long reported on the fortunes of British teams who race MV machines. Over the last few decades, the Kay family have been at the heart of the action, both as owners, riders and as engineers. Inevitably, their endeavours have been featured in much of the racing literature. This page contains extracts of some of these articles, along with downloadable pdfs
Michael Dunlop 'honoured' to ride Bob McIntyre Gilera Tribute lap
Michael Dunlop is honoured to ride the Bob McIntyre Gilera tribute lap on the 60th anniversary. Fans were treated to the recreation of one of the greatest moments in TT history at the 2017 Classic TT presented by Bennetts with Michael Dunlop’s tribute lap for the sixtieth anniversary of Bob McIntyre’s first 100mph lap of the Mountain Course. Scotsman McIntyre made history on the Gilera on his way to victory in the Senior TT Race in 1957 and Michael Dunlop, complete with replica kit and on board an identical dustbin faired Gilera meticulously recreated by Kay Engineering, even down to lapping at over 100mph on the hugely popular parade lap. Afterwards a clearly emotional Michael said: “It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was so strange to ride. I don’t know if it was me or the fairings – it felt like the tyres were flat. It would have been great to run the bike in the Senior race. It was a real honour to ride the bike and I’d like to thank Mark (Kay) and Paul (Phillips) for making it possible.” He continued: “We had a great reaction around the course. Everyone loved hearing the bike. What I did doesn’t compare to riding eight laps. It’s much easier now. I spent the whole lap trying to find sixth gear – I didn’t realise there were only five.”
Michael Dunlop had a lot to adjust to when attempting the 100mph record
Modern superstar grapples with classic tech on the 100mph tribute to Bob McIntyre Michael Dunlop’s demo lap on the 1957-replica 500cc Gilera might have appeared like an unpressured doddle, but in fact he had to draw deep on his motorcycling skills to put on a great show for the public. Consider this: the four-cylinder Gilera represents the peak of fifties’ grand prix technology. The rider is stretched out with his backside over the rear wheel, instead of being bunched towards the front end as on today’s bikes. The alloy dustbin fairing puts an additional 10.5kg (23lb) over the front wheel, which required Black Eagle Racing, who built this bike 13 years ago, to stiffen the front front fork springs. So Michael had a lot to adjust to, especially as he’d never ridden the bike before his demo - not even a test spin at Jurby. Add to that the anticipation of a 100mph lap, and the boy had a handful to contend with. A 100mph lap 60 years after Bob McIntyre first achieved one on the Mountain Circuit on the Gilera? The course is faster and tyres and suspension are better, so no problem, surely? But the Black Eagle bike is a pretty close copy of the Gilera. It’s got just 65-ish bhp, and there’s that weird wheel-enclosing fairing to deal with. And McIntyre’s bike was a full factory entry, while the Black Eagle crew also had to get four MVs to the grid for the 350 and 500cc races. “It was so strange to ride,” Dunlop said after his lap. “It wanders at the front end - it was just dancing about all the time. But it was the best experience I’ve ever had, just to be out there on your own on that thing.” Michael lost the clutch half way around, and he was always looking for a sixth gear because no one had told him that in 1957 hi-tech meant a five-speeder. He lapped in 100.5mph, which couldn’t have fitted the storyline better. McIntyre’s 1957 mark was 101.12mph, and no one wanted to better the great Scotsman’s effort. That Michael Dunlop pitched into this gig with passion and finesse says a lot about the 28-year-old Northern Irishman. They once said he was hard on a motorcycle and jumped teams too often. This of a stocky rider who won his most unlikely event last year, the Junior Classic TT, on a little 350cc MV. And he’s loyal year after year to his classic teams, Team Classic Suzuki and Black Eagle Racing.
Picture: Stephen McClements
Michael Dunlop celebrated Bob McIntyre's historic 100+mph lap in style by equaling (almost) his time on the superb replica Gilera machine built by Mark Kay
On Friday June 7th 1957, Glasgow’s Bob McIntyre made history by becoming the first man to lap
the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course at an average speed in excess of 100mph.
STOP PRESS FOR THE 2017 IOM CLASSIC TT On Friday June 7th 1957, Glasgow’s Bob McIntyre made history by becoming the first man to lap the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course at an average speed in excess of 100mph. The tough, no-nonsense Scot was riding a four-cylinder Gilera 500cc, and over the gruelling eight-lapper he recorded 97.2mph from a standing start, then 101.03mph, 100.54mph and 101.12mph, winning from MV Agusta’s John Surtees by over two minutes. Fifty years after the first TT, and 46 years after Oliver Godfrey won the first Senior TT over the Mountain Course at 47.63mph, Bob made sure his name was well and truly scribed into the history books. In 2017 The Classic TT presented by Bennetts will pay tribute to the anniversary of that remarkable achievement with the help of Michael Dunlop and a stunning Grand Prix Gilera replica built by the Kays of Black Eagle Racing fame. This iconic combination will be at the centre of a series of themed events celebrating a remarkable achievement in an era when the TT was a battleground for the powerful exotic multi-cylinder Italian thoroughbreds and the plucky, sweet-handling but essentially outdated British singles. All this will be brought back to life in glorious sound and colour at the 2017 Classic TT presented by Bennetts.
Bob Mc Intyre on the Gilera 500
Where Eagles Dare
Click the image for full
Red and Raucous
An Article by Mat Oxley for Classic Bike Nov 2015. Photos by Stephen Davison
When Dean Harrison rode to victory in the 500cc Classic TT, he gave MV its first 500 cc win on the TT Mountain course since Ago won the 1972 Senior. Mat Oxley took Harrison’s magnificent-sounding 500 triple for a lap of the course. It was a nasty trick: wait for the euphoria and Okells ale to take hold of Mark Kay before asking to borrow his stunning MV Agusta 500 triple for a lap of the TT course. But strategy is everything in racing and all’s fair in love and war. So I sidle up to Mark in the beer tent behind the pits, just as his crew are making merry after taking first and third places in the 500cc Classic TT, with Dean Harrison and Lee Johnson. The man has never even met me, but to my astonishment he agrees. And he’s gentleman enough not to change his mind in the cold light of the next day. Kay’s Walsall-based engineering company builds exact replicas of the Italian stallions that dominated Grand Prix racing from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. Their 500 triple retails at £135,000, which explains why most of the bikes they sell live gentle, cosseted lives, the exact opposite of four flat-out laps of the TT course, a workout notorious for its destruction of the most carefully-fettled engines and chassis. To get two bikes on the podium after Patons, Manx Nortons and Matchelss G50s fell by the wayside says plenty about the abilities of the three generational Kay operation: Mark, father David and son Mitchell. They produce all kinds of MVs, but it’s possible there’s never been a better-sounding bike thrashed around the island than the MV triple, the original of which took Giacomo Agostini to victory in five consecutive Senior TTs from 1968-72 The engine’s 120 firing intervals create an explosive cacophony that goes unbated, thanks to straight-through pipes. My main aim throughout the ride - during the Classic TT’s Bank Holiday lap of honour for old gits - is to make sure the engine is properly wound up exiting every corner, so the spectators lining the course get a proper earful of a proper motorbike. Some clap hands in appreciation while others clap their hands over ears as the MV thunder echoes off the walls and shakes the ground beneath their feet. It is easier for the rider. You leave the noise behind, and the faster you go the quieter it gets. Aggravating my tinnitus is not my main concern before the lap. Having seen the Kay’s price list , I’m terrified of missing a gear and lunching the valves, even though Mark reassures me “Don’t worry, she’s solid, just enjoy the ride”. So I do enjoy the ride and I only miss a couple of gears (hope Mark isn’t reading this) when my brain mistakenly reverts to race mode and into a one-up/five-down shift pattern, instead of the MV’s one-down/five-up arrangement. I can only apologise to spectators at Union Mills and Glen Helen for the hellish racket, as I searched brain and gearbox for the correct ratio. Harrison revs the bike past the 12,000 rpm redline wen he’s racing and, thank ye gods, there’s a rev limiter at 12,500. i had promised the Kays I would stick to eleven grand most of the time and after those mistakes I resolve to be extra-nice and stay below eleven when I can. I shouldn’t have bothered, the engine really is rock solid. Carburation is spot on, too, without a single hiccup of hesitancy throughout the rev range. And this from a family who cast their own carburretors! Power gets interesting from 8000 and the close ratios make it easy to keep the triple spinning between eight and eleven. Kay says the engine makes 76bhp at 12,000 which took Harrison through Sulby at 144 mph, slightly down on the 146mph of the fastest bike, Ian Lougher’s Paton twin, which split the MVs on the podium. At Chimay in Belgium a Kay 500 tripped the timing lights at 156 mph. It takes me until Ballagarey to feel confident with the bike, at which point I decide I should get down to it properly by screwing myself under the bubble. But my head doesn’t fit. . After a gentle wheelie over the Crosby rise and the headlong rush past what used to be the Highlander pub I shift my backside rearwards, but that doesn’t work either , so I try sitting on the seat hump, which is stupid. In the end, I just sit there, eyes bobbing up and down an inch or two above the screen, which works fine; at no point do I feel like my head would be wrenched off my shoulders, which is a typical problem when rattling round the course. So the MV is tiny; narrow, short and low, more like a Moto3 bike than a modern MotoGP machine, of which the MV is an important ancestor. Strangely, the MV’s 1360mm wheelbase is only 40 mm shorter than the Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha YZR-M1. The bike rides much better than it should for a motorcycle design that is half a century old. Steering is beautifully neutral and the bike changes line without a protest as I thread my way along the banks of the river Neb, over Ballig Bridge, through Doran’s Bend and Laurel Bank. I keep religiously to my TT adage: late entry for a tight exit. Most TT corners are blind, with the apex well out of sight, so you force yourself to wait before diving in, looking for the apex. The alternative is an early entry, which means a wide exit, with potentially disastrous consequences.A short bike is invariably a nervous bike, but the MV is about as easygoing as it gets, even with the steering damper on minimum setting, as recommended by Kay mechanic Pat Sefton who says the bike has a tendency to weave on stiffer settings. This suits me just fine, because it’s better to hold on tight through the fast, bunpy stuff than get caught out by over-stiff steering when negotiating Ramsey Hairpin or Governor’s Bridge. The bike steers effortlessly at speed and is stable as can be expected through the only part of the course I hate - the hellishly bumpy run from Ginger Hall to Ramsey. I don’t even have to hang on too tight (unlike a couple of years ago when I did a lap on a very un-classic Yamaha R1 which shook its head worryingly through Glen Duff, where some years ago, John McGuinness has his all-time scariest moment when his R6 let loose and smashed the lock stops). The sun shines brightly throughout the lap, creating strong contrasts of light and dark through the trees towards Ramsey, and a few slightly scary moments as my ageing eyes struggle to separate hedge from kerb from racetrack. Reaching Ramsey is always a relief. A bit of clutch slip out of the hairpin, gingerly through the heavily-shaded - and thus often damp - run up the hill to Waterworks and finally we are into the open, rushing through Tower Bends, the Gooseneck and out onto the Manx moorland. The engine howls up on the Mountain Mile, the six-speed gearbox engaging every ratio with a precision that says a lot about Kay’s engineering skills. The MV feels like a production bike, in the best sense of the term, with no idiosyncrasies or nasty surprises hiding away. Everything works exactly as it should - so no compensation is required for things that don’t work as they should, which is what’s needed on most classic bikes. The Mountain’s wide open spaces are where you can get a decent wriggle on, because you can actually see where you are going most of the time. With the throttle wound on tight and full power driven through the rear Avon, the bike starts to load up and move around as the 21st century tyres deliver too much grip for the mid-20th century frame. At the Bungalow it’s slow in and fast out, just to make sure we deafen as many spectators as possible, pulling a little over 11,000 in every gear. It’s the same on the downhill rush into Creg-ny-Baa, which I exit unnecessarily wide, only to tickle the toes (and ears) of the spectators dangling their legs over the grass bank. In the distance I see another bike, and as we yowl our way through the final few miles of the lap it gets closer and closer. Accelerating out of Schoolhouse and Bedstead I realise who’s ahead of me: it’s legendary classic racer Dave Roper (Rave Doper to his friends), riding Rob Iannucci’s 1954 AJS Porcupine twin. We round Governor’s Bridge line astern and ride down the Glencrutchery Road side by side, ‘60’s horsepower finally prevailing over ’50’s horsepower as we roar towards the finish line, creating the kind of apocalyptic din you’ll never hear at the modern TT. It’s a suitably cacophonous end to a lap on a bike that’s more than sound enough to handle the rigours of the TT course.
A Memorial Service for Geoff Duke
in St Ninian's Church
From an article published in Classic TT News
Gilera fired up in Duke’s honour A replica of the 500cc Gilera Geoff Duke OBE rode to countless victories was fired up in St Ninian’s Church on Sunday evening The bike, built and prepared by Kay Engineering of the West Midlands, took centre stage along with a beautifully restored 1950 works Manx ‘featherbed’ Norton at a memorial service to the six-times world champion. Former riders in attendance at the service included Sammy Miller MBE and Bill Smith who both recounted stories of their early memories riding alongside the great man. Local riders George Costain and Jack Wood, who was sponsored by Geoff Duke in the 1950s were also in attendance, along with former TT winner, Alex George, Mick Chatterton and Dave Roper. Dignitaries included Lieutenant Governor Adam Wood, MLCs David Cretney and Geoff Corkish, and Lady Mayor Sara Hackman. The Duke family were all in attendance. David Cretney also gave his memories of Geoff as did fellow former Tourism Minister Adrian Earnshaw, who was instrumental with Geoff Duke in setting up the Mike Halwood Foundation more than 30 years ago. The final word came from Murray Walker, via a video recording as he is currently out of the country. Murray said that he first met Geoff Duke in 1949 when he worked at Ford Dunlop and Geoff was at Norton’s Bracebridge Street factory. “Geoff was always very calm, cool and deliberate in everything he did. He was also very helpful and frinedly. Precious few can say they were the best in the world but Geoff was a legend in his own lifetime and will always remain so. He was one of the greatest riders of all time.” Mark Kay fired the Duke replica Gilera up inside St Ninian’s Church much to the delight of those in attendance. He then rode it out through the side exit to the church and directly back to the race paddock!
Built to be thrashed!
An article by Mike Nicks. Photos by Tim Keeton
You expect that replicas of technically straightforward racing bikes such as Manx Nortons, Kawasaki ZXR750s or Matchless G50s will be raced and thrashed mightily. But copies of factory exotica ` Honda sixes, the Moto Guzzi V8, MV triples and fours and the like - you assume will be built for parades. Off-the-shelf parts are not available, component life may be short, and the initial purchase price is usually sky-high. These bikes will lead a sheltered life. But the Kay family - grandfather David, son Mark, and grandson Mitchell - blow conventional thinking out of the water.. At the 500cc Classic TT on August 31 they will hand two replicas of the twin-cam, 12 valve, MV triple that Giacomo Agostini rode rode in the 1967-72 era to two 25-year-old young-bloods of the modern bike TT, Lee Johnston and Dean Harrison. And they will be told: “Redline ‘em. Take ‘em to 12,500 rpm.” just as Ago did when he won five consecutive Senior TTs on MV triples from 1968-72. “We are there to win,” says 22-year old Mitch, with all the conviction of a crew chief with years of TT experience. “There’s no point in spending all that time and energy and money just to pose around,” says David, 74. “A lot of people around MVs just want the gold dust of riding them. Having an MV gets you into places that they wouldn’t get to if they had a BSA.” So you have both youthful idealism and age-tempered realism behind the Kay family’s ambition. And their dreams do not rest just on the 500cc race. For the 350cc Classic TT they’re putting Johnston on a three-cylinder MV of the ’67-’72 period, and Harrison on a four-cylinder bike of the kind that Phil Read and Ago raced in the mid-seventies. Four bikes, three different models, two riders - this is on the scale of a factory team, yet the bikes are manufactured by this family trio in modest workshops behind their house in the West Midlands. Their audacity is towering - they’re pitting their home-built machines in 151-mile contests against the 37.73-mile Mountain circuit, the greatest bike-breaker of all tracks. But they have recent form - Johnston won last year’s 350cc race on the same bike that he will use this year. He beat Davies Motorsport’s Alan Oversby, on a Honda twin, by 45 seconds. The Kay Family’s MV obsession began in 1958 when David first saw the Gallarate machines at the TT. “I was 18, earning 32s 6d a week (!.62) as an apprentice gas fitter in Nottingham. I slept in a bus shelter at the TT. Since then I’ve been to the Island every year except three. It’s where my heroes raced. In ’58 he witnessed a total MV domination of the TT solo races. John Surtees rode the fours to a Junior Senior double, ad on the 10.92-mile Clypse course an MV twin won the Lightweight 125cc Ultra-Lightweight TT (Carlo Ubbialli). Mike Hailwood, Gary Hocking, Ago and Read.... David saw them all win on MVs. He didn’t actually own an MV until he was 37, in 1977. “I read that MV was going bust, so I decided that I had to have one,” he says. “I was skint but I paid £3,250 (£60,000 today for a 832cc Monza road bike, depending on condition and provenance”) The Kays started manufacturing replica parts for MVs in the 1980s, when genuine parts became scarce. They later acquired a compete set of castings for a 1972 500cc four, and many engine drawings from the MV factory. To make their race replicas , they also borrowed original 500cc three-cylinder and four-cylinder bikes from the German collector Willi Marewski and the Brit Dave Bedlington. Making race reps isn’t cheap: there was a £10,000 investment in having engine drawings made, and £80,000 for the equipment. Their manufacturing techniques are a little old-world, but they’re actually proud of that. “We build the bikes with the same kind of equipment that MV would have used in 1954,” David says. “We don’t use CNC, and our Bridgeport milling machine is 60 years old. “All our parts are interchangeable with the factory bikes. All right, we use special coatings like everybody else does - diamond coatings on cam buckets, for example. We’ve got a set of drawings for every road bike ever made by MV up to 1980, and we took the time and trouble to convert the Italian material specifications into EN numbers so the material is the same.” They buy in fibre-glass parts, tanks and megaphones, and their frames come from the chassis specialists, Mojo, in Malvern, Worcs. Major engine components they create themselves. The conversation about manufacturing techniques leads David into a comprehensive rant about the Classic TT’s technical rules and the kind of bikes that are now appearing in the races. “It’s getting to be a Wild West show,” he says. “We race the Isle of Man because we think it’s the gold medal of motorcycling for a guy who’s built his bike in a shed in Brownhills. But take the Patons. The cylinders are made out of solid - they’re not cast any more. And they’ve altered the vlave angle so they can use downdraught carburettors. “You begin to think, ‘what’s the point?‘ You don’t want to disgrace what Agostini and Hailwood did. But the public think, a two-valve Paton, a twin - and an MV can’t beat that? But the Paton is a modern bike made out of solid. If they say there’s no rules, fine - we could build a 130bhp 500cc engine using modern techniques, but it wouldn’t be a true MV.” David also feels that the four-valve Manx Nortons and Matchless G50s, which Molnar Engineering build, and ultra-short-stroke Manxes, were not made by the factories in the classic period and are not in the spirit of the Classic TT. It was the TT organiser Paul Phillips who approved the fairly loose Classic TT regs in order to attract a colourful field of bikes to tempt spectators. But while he is critical of the rules, David is equally grateful to Phillips for the help they received in 2014. Phillips has a vast pool of contacts, and can put teams that run into problems in the Island with people who havr a solution. “We got to the Isle of Man, but our rider Dean Harrison had broken both legs and his ribcage at the North West 200,” David says. “We went to Paul and said, we need a rider. He said try this guy and that one, but not that one because he doesn’t ride classic bikes and he’ll probably wreck it.” Phillips suggested Lee Johnston, who then delivered that impeccable winning race performance. “Lee was perfect for the bike - his size, weight, and the way he treated it,” Mitch says. “He used his head as well - he wasn’t riding it as though he was on a 200bhp superbike. On a superbike, you can just bang it down through the gears going down to Quarter Bridge. But we don’t have a slipper clutch, so you have to use the clutch and get the revs right. The tyres are smaller on a classic bike, the geometry is completely different to a modern bike, and it’s important to be in the right gear all the time.” The Kays first raced on the Isle of Man in 2007, when they finished seventh in the 500cc Classic Manx on their replica of the Gilera four on which Bob McIntyre recorded the TT’s first 100mph lap in 1957. In a later race their MV triple recorded a lap of 109.089mph, which beat Ago’s fastest lap of 108.30mph (of course the Mountain circuit has been much improved since then, but there’s another TT bar-room discussion). Now the Kays, under their Black Eagle Racing banner, will go into battle later this month against the Patons, the Molnar’s multi-valve Manxes and G50, the two-valve Brit singles such as Ian Garbutt’s G50, on which Michael Rutter broke the 500cc Classic TT lap record at 109.102mph last year. The 24-litre tank capacity means that the singles will be able to power through the four-lap, 151-mile race non-stop, while the multis will have to pit for fuel. Technically, and despite the controversy over rules, it will be probably the most varied and fascinating motorcycle race of 2015. “We’d rather blow-up halfway up the mountain than come tenth,” David says. “That’s our philosophy.”
THE ISLE OF MAN VICTORY
(Extract from MV Agusta Fours - The Complete Story by Mick Walker, continued)
MV Agusta had won just about every solo class in the Isle of Man, but not the sidecar class. However, all this changed in 1988 when the Classic TT was moved to the bumpy Billown circuit near Castletown (the home of the Southern 100 races), and classic sidecars were included for the first time. This time, the driver was Dave Kay's 20-year old son Mark, passengered by Richard Battison. Commenting later, Mark Kay said, "We geared for 8500 maximum revs because of the bumps, we normally use 9500 on short circuits, but over there they have so many bumps that you could be up to 10 000 and more before you could shut it off. So we just geared it high and used the torque of the motor" After bad weather during practice, race day 6 June dawned dry and sunny. By the second lap, Kay junior and Battison were up to third place; on the third lap, the pairing made their first challenge for the lead, but spun out on the notorious Four Ways Hairpin Bend. After this setback, it took another lap the get back with the leaders again and this time the MV got past and stayed there, increasing its lead on each lap. At the finish, it was thriteen seconds ahead of its nearest rival. The win was an unforgettable first, not only for the victors, but also for Dave Kay, who had worked so hard in preparing the machine. It was the first time in over a decade that an MV had won a TT race, so the team was in great demand among both radio and newspaper reporters. The cup won by Mark Kay and Richard Battison was given to Mark's dad 'for all his invaluable help and advice over the years, and considering the lack of any real trade sponsorship. I cannot stress too highy the debt of gratitude we owe him', said Mark after the victory.
Black Eagle Racing Make Comeback, Align With TT Entrant Hornby
Road Racing news - Stevie Rial
Photo credit - Nick Wheeler
Mark, Mitch Kay’s Black Eagle Racing team are making a welcome return to racing paddocks, having struck a deal with TT 2023 participant Andy Hornby. Hornby due to sample June’s Carole Nash Super Twins TT encounters, piloting a Legacy Moto backed S1-R Paton, finished top Mountain Course debutant in last year’s Senior Classic Manx Grand Prix, placing a very creditable 14th, lapping close to the 100 mph lap mark. His new yesteryear racing deal, will see him race at selected events, courtesy of aforementioned machine suppliers, fabulous sounding, top class 350, 500 MV Agusta’s. One of the most successful squads during the Classic TT’s duration, the hard-working, respected Black Eagle outfit event record includes three victories. Those three triumphs were taken with international road racing royalty, Lee Johnston (2014 Junior 350 race), Dean Harrison (2015 Senior 500 race) and 21 times TT winner Michael Dunlop (2016 Junior 350 race).