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Frank Sinclair
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It wasn’t until early 1956 that Graham Hoinville, on behalf of British Petroleum (BP), began scouring the country for a satisfactory location to hold Australian Land Speed Record attempts. BP was willing to underwrite the exercise, however organising the venture was quite another problem. It took Hoinville over a year to eliminate all but one site; a dead-straight four-mile stretch of road beside the Coonabarabran to Baradine railway line in northwestern NSW. The road, which ran past the gates to Tipperary Station, came to be known as the Tipperary Flying Mile.

Organised by John Pryce, motor sport manager for BP, the Speed Tests were set for the last weekend in September, 1957. Unfortunately strong winds swept the district, the accompanying bushfires at one stage threatening postponement and – despite the Flying Mile appellation – in accordance with FIA rules the records were actually attempted over a flying kilometre. Although recently sealed, the road was only 18 feet wide with a distinctly high crown and narrow shoulders. Dirt tracks leading to properties joined the road at various points, and the incessant winds continually deposited loose gravel from these junctions onto the surface.

Primarily organised for automobiles, there was a last-minute decision to include motorcycles. Among those invited were Jack Forrest, with his ex-works 500cc BMW Rennsport and Trevor Pound who brought along the famous Eric Walsh 125cc BSA Bantam. Jack Ahearn had his 350 Manx Norton and a 250cc NSU Sportmax, whilst sidecars were represented by Frank Sinclair’s 1080cc Vincent and Bernie Mack’s 500 Norton.

With the Phil Irving-built 1080cc engine installed, and carrying 136 pounds (62kg) of ballast in lieu of a passenger, Frank Sinclair’s HRD outfit was first to hit the traps but the engine would not run much over 5000rpm. A pair of two inch exhaust pipes improved the revs – still 1000rpm short of potential – and the speed; giving Sinclair a new 1200cc sidecar record of 124.4mph (200.2km/h).


Frank Sinclair Rider, sponsor, philanthropist

Old Bike Australasia 1 Dec 2019

A butcher by trade, Frank Sinclair was a legend in Victorian motorcycling (as well as a dab hand at car rallying) and was a Life Member of the Harley Club of Victoria – a club he joined in 1930.

During WWII he served with the Marine section of the RAAF in the South Pacific and was discharged as medically unfit for further war service and sent home in 1945. He managed to purchase two ex-army 1200cc Indians for £125 each, using one for delivery from his butcher shop in Windsor, Melbourne, and the other for pleasure riding. With help from his mate Clarry Rial, the second Indian was soon turned into a racer and used for scrambles and track events. Despite being huge and heavy, the Indian proved surprisingly useful and gave Frank a serious taste for racing. “The weight of this big monster was 928lbs (421kg) dry,” said Frank. “Clarry was soon to make this drab outfit into something worth looking at, straight through pipes, two Amal carbies, foot gear change and 356 lbs (161kg) weight off was enough to make this a worthwhile outfit to race in the late ‘forties.”

However after being soundly beaten at Ballarat by Frank Pratt on the first postwar Vincent to come to Australia, he decided he had to have one and put down a deposit of £25 with Disney Motors for a new Rapide. Frank recalled some years later, “When it arrived it was run in on the road by Clarry Rial and his business partner at Clarex Motors, Rex Tingate.” Over the next few years Frank raced the Vincent sidecar against many similar outfits ridden by the big names of the day – Lloyd Hirst, Keith Johnson, George Skinner and Les Warton – but was always down on speed until he met Phil Irving at a meeting at Ballarat Airstrip. Noting the performance deficit, Phil suggested Frank bring the Vincent to his home in Seaford “so he could have a gaze at it”. The result was a transformation and many successes followed at Darley, near Bacchus Marsh, Ballarat, Flinders Naval Base and Fishermans Bend. The last two circuits named, Frank actually had a major hand in gaining for the purpose of motorcycle racing. In both instances, he broke down bureaucratic resistance by pledging that all proceeds from the meetings would go to a deserving charity. “Not long after becoming president of the Harley Club, I realised that road race circuits were very scarce so I decided to try for “The Bend”. It took a while, but Frank’s persistence eventually won over and Melbourne had a circuit right smack in the middle of the city. In 1952 he ventured further afield and cracked the big one, the NSW TT at Bathurst, winning the Sidecar TT from Sandy McCrae’s Vincent and Bernie Mack’s Norton. He also won the Australian TT at Little River, Victoria in 1952 and a few months later took the 1953 TT at Longford, Tasmania. However Bathurst 1953 was a disaster, as Frank crashed his newly-built 750cc Vincent twin at the Cutting when the front girder forks collapsed, pitching him and passenger Alan Smith into the wall and leaving him with concussion. In 1957 he set a new Australian Speed record for sidecars at Baradine, NSW. Gradually business commitments, including two butcher’s shops and running a Shell garage at Camberwell, took up more and more of Frank’s time and he began to allow others to race his outfits, the first being George Murphy, followed by Bob Mitchell and Noel Heggart. Later came the chance meeting with Alec Corner at Ballarat, and the string of successes that quickly followed. The Vincent was developed methodically to not only be fast and reliable, but handle well, as Frank described. “A lot of re-designing of the outfit went on with advice from Phil Irving and Lionel Ernshaw. As we wanted to keep it looking like a Vincent, we kept the front forks and the same basic frame which we lowered to one inch (ground) clearance on full bounce. The rear end was strengthened and a hole drilled up a bit in the front forks to take the wheel axle, all this to lower the works. The rear central spring and shockers were scrapped and two spring shocker units fitted, one to each side, to permit a lower seat. This also made necessary a four-inch longer wheel base, so longer engine mounts were made up and fitted, with a support bar each side and a plate across the engine side for strength. The head angle we also straightened up to give better steering, with spacers between the fork blades to enable a wider front tyre. Alec later used a full alloy disc plate clutch in place of the Lightning Ferodo and this worked very well. The last time Alec rode this bike for me was at Surfers Paradise in 1966, when Clive Smith, at that time president of the Harley Club, took Alec and his passenger all the way (from Melbourne) and paid their expenses. They won once more and it was a good win, the Australian Grand Prix, plus a record lap.”

As well as racing and running his businesses, Frank was president of the Harley Club for 16 years, and a tireless worker for charity. He was a Life Governor of the Royal Institute for the Blind, Life Governor of the Sutherland Homes for Children, and worked for 25 years as a volunteer at the Respirator Ward at Fairfield Hospital.


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Frank at full speed on the Tipperary Mile, Baradine, NSW, where he set a new Australian record, with sand bag in lieu of passenger
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The three musketeers; Frank Sinclair, Rex Tingate and Clarry Rial
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The Clarex Special: Frank's indian at Ballarat
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First time out for the new Vincent, at Bonnievale, near Geelong with passenger Norm Meades
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On the short lived track at Altona
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In his winning ride at Bathurst in 1952, frank drifts the Vincent through Hell Corner
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Leading Ian Hogg at Phillip Island in 1961
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Frank with passender Roger Quick at Longford, 1961
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Passenger Jim Hocking swinging hard at Victoria Park Ballarat
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Towards the end of his career, Frank on the much modified Vincent heads under the viaduct at Longford


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