Alf Hagon's story and history - Part 5

As told exclusively to

In the fifth and final part of Alf’s story he concluded our interview with recollections of his retirement from racing in order to concentrate fully on his business commitments. However with the JAP sold to the other side of the world he began to build a new machine that he felt had the capability to run down into the eight second bracket. His business went from strength to strength and his products continued to be world beating. He also told us how, many years later, he and Martin found and bought back the JAP, restoring, displaying and running it once again.

It must have been 1968. I had a phone call from a Mrs Davies from Newport club in Wales, asking if would I ride at their Sprint. I said, "It’s a long way", but she offered to pay me £100 to attend. At the time it was a fair bit of money. I agreed, then she asked me to give a talk the night before. It turned out to be in the Rugby Football stadium, it was packed and that went well.

Anyway we got down there to find this road for the sprint was part of the Army Camp. The road was not very wide, going down at first, then a slight bend, then up over the top to the finish. There was a curve, which if you were going some speed you’d have a job getting around anyway. To crown it you had the road, about a metre of grass and gravel, and the place was littered with rocks as big as a Transit van.

We got there and put the bike on the stand and my mate pulled it back on compression. The crankshaft was going round but the valves weren’t going up and down. A big thing was made of us going there so we pulled the mags and all that off and found the half time pinion had stripped the key. What had happened was this oil breather gear wheel, about 40 mill diameter, turned a rotary port. Some of the teeth had broken off and gone round the gears and sheared it. So we did away with the breather, and where the key was sheared off levered it out and stuck a bit of welding wire under the key. The gears were in a sorry state from the broken tooth, but there were no other broken teeth. So we bodged it all up.

In the meantime practice had finished. I had a ride on the back of the ACU steward's bike to see over the top of the hill. From where I was all you could see was the horizon, and what was on the other side I hadn’t a clue.

Unsurprisingly it turned out that this event was a Hill Climb rather than a Sprint. Undaunted by this detail, and wanting to put on a good show, Alf competed anyway and took the event win comfortably, much to the surprise of the local riders. Alf commented afterwards that the brakes were of no use whatsoever at such an event so he had to shut off halfway up the course and coast to the finish line.

1968. Dave East pic

At the May 1969 SPR Big Go meeting, Alf was resplendent in a new set of white leathers and he ran a best of 9.55 at 151 mph. He made demo runs at SPR’s Big Go meeting the first weekend in June. His best time was 9.432/153.85 mph. The September SPR Motorcycle Drag Racing Championships meeting was eventually rained off but not before Alf had recorded 9.3/157.73.

At the May 1969 SPR Big Go meeting, Alf was resplendent in a new set of white leathers and he ran a best of 9.55 at 151 mph.

1969 Alf Hagon looked good in his new blue striped white leathers at the 1969 Big Go. Each of his three runs were in the nine second bracket the quickest being 9.55/151mph. Nigel Dodd pic.

1969 August Championships. Alf Hagon on Les Turner's Soopa Doopa. Nigel Dodd pic.

1969 August Championships. Alf receives instructions from Les Turner while next door is Mick Warne on his Little Red Riding Rod Triumph. Nigel Dodd pic.

At the end of 1969, Alf decided to retire completely from racing and concentrate on his business interests. His bike was sold to a racer in Australia. Alf had run a best of 9.208 seconds at 157 mph on the bike and this was never bettered by the Aussie. He did however make another appearance on the quarter mile the following year. In May 1970 he put in some runs on Norman Oatham’s Vincent at the NDRC meeting at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. The slick track limited the 10 second machine to eleven second runs.

We sold the bike to a guy in Australia for £400.00. We put an advert in the American paper which we thought would be the one. We were working in the shop and a Rolls Royce pulled up front and this guy came out. He was a promoter from Surfers Paradise in Australia and he’d bought it. It won the Australian Championships a couple of years running and then it blew up in a big way and dented the tube in the frame.

We bought it back in about 1984. Before it went I would ride it at Santa Pod or somewhere. I did my demos up the strip then back down the strip at 50mph fiddling with the injectors and the gravity thing, but it’s such a lovely bike to ride.

I enjoyed the challenge of Drag Racing. We’d normally start up on 10% nitro, just to warm up, then we’d run either 25%,50% or 60% nitro, but it would then get hot with 60% as they do with nitro. Seeing the size of the fuel lines today I can see now the restrictions we had, and all we needed to have done was to increase the size of the fuel line.

When I finished racing I was building a horizontal. I’d made the mock up. First I looked at Douglas, then a BMW engine and made the mock-ups out of wood for the crankshaft and things. Then Martin had started riding and then racing. I'd lost interest in Drag Racing, and what was I going to prove? I didn't really have a lot of competition and my record was beaten by John Hobbs 6 years later.

(Pointing to a photo in his book) The last one we built. We only tried it once. Martin had started racing and I’d lost interest. This bike, the big JAP, won every one in the last 28 meetings. The new Triumph we never raced.

The Triumph was built with the aim of becoming the first into the eight second zone. Alf planned to again use a JAP V-twin, but by 1973 suitable specimens were scarce, and so the Triumph was installed to test Alf’s innovative clutch and blower ideas. The Wade supercharger, which had been narrowed by an inch, was mounted behind the engine, and doubled as a countershaft. The slipper clutch was Alf’s design and utilised a combination of spring and centrifugal action with iron friction plates.

During testing at Santa Pod in late October ‘73 it was the clutch design that came to the fore as the area that needed more attention. Once the correct set-up of toggle weights and springs was achieved the thrust rod, which rotated at engine speed within the blower shaft, mushroomed against the pressure plate and shortened itself by ¼ inch when the lever was pulled in. Further development was hindered as Martin was now racing himself and Alf concentrated on his business. The project was eventually abandoned.

Martin had gone to Australia a couple of times, and on one trip to someone's house the JAP was mentioned, and this guy said the bike was only just up the road from where the guy who bought it lived. They went and saw the bike, then the following year my managing director went out and saw it. We were in negotiation over the price and at the time George Brown had sold one of his bikes for £65,000.00. We paid under £10,000.00 in the end but don’t remember the exact amount.

I did get a bit enthusiastic once I got it back, but again it’s one of those things that takes a lot of your time up. I’ve thought a lot about it now. The JAP as it is, which is displayed in the showroom, would still start today by just putting the chain on. When we got back from Australia with the engine blown up we welded all the cases, I made new flywheels, conrods and increased the stroke and size and it should have gone quick but didn’t. I then rode it at North Weald (1994, at the age of 63) and I was second fastest and only a little way behind John Hobbs, that was 30 years later or so. I did 2 runs and Martin one run, but he burnt the clutch out.

Martin Hagon

When I last had anything to do with Drag Racing was 2009 Dragstalgia with the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame, that year I was inducted. The noise of the cars was something else and the bikes were so big and heavy. I’m glad to have the bike back but all the bikes you see in our own showroom are Martin’s that he’s created.

Martin’s done a couple of strange things. He very seldom comes up to the farm, in fact I haven't seen him since Christmas and it's just a walk to where he lives. One day he came in and said “I’m thinking of sponsoring some Speedway riders,” and the conversation goes on a bit longer. “I’ve ordered 16 brand new Jawa Speedway bikes,” I thought “He’s gone mad.” But that year I won the Speedway World Championship with Jason Crump. Jason’s bike is worth a fortune.

After I packed up, I come in now and again to make a few things. I should show you around the special purpose machines. I’ve made a machine that puts the oil and the gas in the shocks. Martin is only interested in Speedway but that’s fair enough, he enjoys doing it. With all these bikes he’s bought, and by the end of the year had sold most of them, and the publicity we got on the television was unbelievable, just unbelievable.

Honington. Alan Turner pic.

In 2008 Alf returned to Honington air base in Suffolk to be present at a motorcycle event held to mark the fortieth anniversary of the record run. A wide range of machines, vintage and modern, were present for quarter mile sprints and some attempts at breaking Alf’s 206mph record. Despite the best efforts of a number of Hayabusa based machines only Tony Foster managed to break the 200mph mark, recording 202mph, just short of Alf’s mark. It is also interesting to note that the quickest time over the quarter mile that day came from the Suzuki GSX of Steve Hobbs, with a 9.14, only just surpassing the best time laid down by Alf and the JAP.

Alf’s achievements during his illustrious motorcycle career include four 500cc British Grass Track Championship titles, seven 350cc British Grass Track titles, and two National League Speedway team championships and one National Trophy title with Wimbledon. Astride the famous JAP drag bike he became the first into the nines, the first UK motorcycle to top 200mph, the official standing start kilometre world record holder in 1966 and the official standing start quarter mile world record holder in 1967. The bike was unbeaten in its last 28 meetings and Alf held the Santa Pod strip record for bikes from it’s opening year in 1966 up until June 1974.

Alf concluded our interview with this comment:

I won the Rifle championship in 2017 at Bisley. It’s another hobby, a bit like motorbikes, where you get there and all talk a load of rubbish to one another.

Programme and magazine scans: click thumbnail to enlarge, click back to return.

Ramsey Sprint, 12th June 1969

Ramsey Sprint, 12th June 1969

Classic Bike

Classic Bike

Classic Bike

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Classic Racer July-August 2001

Classic Racer July-August 2001

Classic Racer July-August 2001

Classic Racer July-August 2001

Classic Racer July-August 2001

Scale Models April 1970

Scale Models April 1970



Trakbytes' story of Jim Gough's scale model JAP bike

Gallery: click on any thumbnail for a large image.

Feature ©

Alf Hagon's story and history - Part 1

Alf Hagon's story and history - Part 2

Alf Hagon's story and history - Part 3

Alf Hagon's story and history - Part 4

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