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The PEGASUS story - Part 2

Ian & Derek with Pegasus at a magazine photo shoot 

 The Pegasus story - Part 2

As there are no manuals to follow when building double-engined, ‘blown’ motorcycles, there were the inevitable hold-ups - read cock-ups. At last, in July of 1974 to much fanfare, the new bike hit the strip and by the end of the day, burning straight methanol, not the power producing nitromethane it was ultimately designed to run, produced a respectable 10.40/140mph pass. Things looked good for the future, but life and drag racing are never that simple. Over the next few months a series of spectacular blow-ups, covered in gory detail via the monthly media coverage provided by the main sponsor, meant ending the year on a very low point.  But just like any sport you have to pick yourself up and try again.

Oh dear, a very expensive weekend – showing a broken Carillo con-rod and Venolia Piston

In 1975 the results began to appear. This cumulated in three consecutive Top Fuel Bike wins, beating their arch rival (and friend) John Hobbs on a number of occasions and ending the year with a best time of 9.15sec/155mph. Obviously the idea of our sport is to beat the guy in the other lane. But when it came to the indomitable John Hobbs, over the years, Derek & Ian tried to give that little bit extra, which helped spur on both protagonists to quicker elapsed times. These results prompted “Bike Magazine”, perhaps a little hasty at the time, to claim across a double page spread – “Number One in Europe” 

Taken at Blackbushe in 1975 with Derek winning the NDRC’s “Radio Luxembourg Nationals”

With all this publicity generating a higher profile, PEGASUS was for the second time in its history, featured in a prominent position at the annual International Motorcycle Show at Earls Court. This created quite a stir, appearing alongside the manufacturer’s works road racers of the day and in turn introduced Drag Racing to a wider audience. Joining Ian & Derek now was Eddie Keightly another long standing friend, whose help and dedication on race weekends was invaluable.

Ride’em cowboy! This was the moment in 1978 when Ian discovered they needed to fit wheeley bars!

During those halcyon days the bike was still using an original road going AMC gearbox, but after many breakages it was not long before something much more substantial was needed. This came in 1976 with a major upgrade in the equipment stakes in the form of an American made Lenco two- speed transmission, Miller/Baskerville slider clutch and Hilborn injection. Added to this, the engines already boasted many custom made parts, including Crane cams, pushrods and retainers, W&S springs, Venolia pistons with Childs & Albert gapless rings and Carillo con-rods. And most important of all, after a previous “evacuation of internal parts” - steel billet flywheels. With the exception of the injectors, this was how the bike was campaigned for the remainder of its competitive life.

By now the bike was running in the mid eights at around 165 mph. However the tide was beginning to turn in favour of multi-cylinder single enginde bikes in the form of the late Henk Vinks “spend what it takes” Kawasaki machine. Which Team PEGASUS were never able to beat in open competition, despite going on to return a best time of 8.39sec at 169mph and taking other wins, including two at the BDR & HRA’s “Supernationals” – the UK’s most prestigious event of the year. However, Derek & Ian are convinced if they were to have got a grip on their errant fuel system, the machine would have challenged for the UK’s first seven second motorcycle. To much consternation from their fellow competitors at the time, the lads also managed a virtual lock-out on the “Best Engineered or Best Appearing Machine” awards on offer. This was due in no small part to the trick paint jobs from well known artists Mike Webb & Ray Mumford.

Ian seen burning out at Santa Pod Raceway, showing off the artwork of Ray Mumford in 1979, prior to Pegasus’s fastest run. Photo: Keith Lee

But alas, all good things have to come to an end. After enduring miserable 1979 & 80 seasons and with funds and time at a premium. Ian & Derek decided to place PEGASUS at the National Motor Cycle Museum in Birmingham, to pursue their respective careers.

PEGASUS in it’s final guise before being shipped to the museum. Photo: Ian Messenger

PEGASUS still resides at the museum preserved for future generations to see, narrowly missing being engulfed in flames from their tragic fire last year. It was last seen in print in “The Birmingham Post”, with the Duke of Edinburgh taking a close interest during his official visit to the museum. 

The Duke of Edinburgh taking a close interest in PEGASUS at the National Motor Cycle Museum, Birmingham. Photo: Birmingham Post

Stop Press!
In a last minute addition to this story, we have just learnt that the inspiration for the Norton powered PEGASUS, American TC Christianson’s “Hogslayer”, is now a resident of the National Motor Museum alongside its younger pretender.

Story: Elliot Jacobs
Photos: Ian Messenger & as captioned



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