In its May 1975 issue, Bike Magazine was asking: ”When a Club Racer can buy a bike almost identical to Kenny Roberts’ big Yam, what makes Lance Capon plough his lonely furrow round the circuits with a big, old fashioned British V-Twin. Could it be there is still magic lurking in that Vincent ‘s dark soul?”
This question was quite relevant, as any logic or norm would have led any pilot willing to win, to choose the most modern and competitive machine available on the market; but Lance Capon was one of these knights, who would uncompromisingly and exclusively race 4-stroke bikes. A choice which was however not a hopeless combat, as Lance on his Capon-Vincent won the Bemsee (BMCRC) in 1972, 1973 and 1974 and, despite his fatal crash at Brands Hatch on September 20, 1975, the BMCRC and Newmarket MCC Championships posthumously.
This was almost 40 years ago, but for the enthusiasts who had the privilege to be around the track at that time, Lance and his famous red Vincent flanked with the white C-V logo are still printed in their mind. For the others, here is the story of the Capon-Vincent, 8 bikes, which were designed and built exclusively for the track. Lance debuted in 1967 on a Velocette 1939 KSS in a modified Gold Star frame, but having just acquired a Rapide, he shifted gears in April and finished the season with the Vincent along with an AJS 7R. At the end of the 1968, his assessment was quite clear: “the Vincent engine was reliable, quick and powerful, but the handling and the brakes left much to be desired”.
So during the winter 1968, Lance designed and built the first Capon frame, the Mark I, which was similar to the Egli frame with its 4” spine oil tank, but also quite different due to its geometry that made the bike much lower. When the 1969 season started, Mark I was yet to be ready so Lance used the stock Rapide while he was completing the new rolling frame in his garden shed. Finally after rebuilding the engine due to a seizure, the Capon-Vincent Mark I took the track for the first time August 23, 1969 at a Brands Hatch in club event, where Lance was able to clock the lap in 1’55” compared to the 2’00” he made with his stock Vincent frame. Mark I was raced during all 1970 season, achieving 2 wins, 8 seconds and 5 third places.
Mark III (1) development started in 1970 and had considerable modifications over Mark I, particularly the back half, including the swinging arm and the foot-pegs, which were raised and brought closer to the sub-frame. The bike was raced in 1971, an awful season marked with numerous technical issues, a major breakdown with a con-rod devastating the crankcases and even a crash after the engine was rebuilt, leading to Mark IV, an exact replica of Mark III that Lance made during his convalescence;
The new bike was just ready for the 1972 season, which turned out to be Lance’s best performance: 6 wins, 6 seconds, 9 third and 7 fourths and 1400 miles racing with no problems. This was also during that season that the motto “if it’s going, leave it be” was coined, talking about the Vincent mill. Mark IV was also raced in 1973. With 44 finishes out of 47 starts totaling 1200 miles, Lance won again that year the Bemsee championship.
Mark V frame was built during the summer 1973 with some modifications were made to improve the handling and it was ready for the start of 1974, which was made of the same ilk, although marked by a major crash at Snetterton where Lance injured his left shoulder. The front of the bike was seriously smashed and a crack testing revealed that the frame was also damaged, so during the summer, Lance started to build Mark VI. When Lance was ready to race again, Mark VI was not, so he borrowed Mark II for a couple of meetings. The 1974 season ended by a 3rd Bemsee championship and 10 won races to his credit.
1975 started great like the three previous seasons, until Brands Hatch on September 20: Lance won the first race and was fighting for the lead in the second one when he got a major tank slapper coming out of the paddock; he hit the Armco barrier and died from his injuries. As in the 1972, 1973 and 1974 seasons, Lance was then leading the Bemsee 501-1000cc championship and was attributed posthumously the 1975 BMCRC (Bemsee) and the Newmarket MCC. Beyond love, Lance and his wife Anne were bonded by the passion for the race and this fabulous Capon-Vincent. Once Lance was gone, Anne’s first reflex was to repair his bike to bring it back to the track. In 1976, Mark VI was back for 2 or 3 outing piloted by Keith Tyler, but these events were dogged by various mechanical problems, and when a valve dropped into the cylinder, Anne decided to let Mark VI be silent for the next 13 years, tugged between the desire and the sorrow to hear it again.
Philippe Guyony © 2014 | End of the Part 1
Lance Capon Championship Results – 501-1000cc
1972 Bemsee (BMCRC) 1st Newmarket MCC 4th
1973 Bemsee (BMCRC) 1st Newmarket MCC 4th
1974 Bemsee (BMCRC) 1st Newmarket MCC 2nd
1975 Bemsee (BMCRC) 1st Newmarket MCC 1st
I would like to thank Anne Callagher, Lance’s widow, who was an incredible resource for me to understand the chronology of these 8 Capon-Vincent and Lance’s own story.
(1) Mark II was in fact the Mark I modified to take a Vincent chopped engine own by Bob Richardson and was also being prepared to race.
Bike Magazine May 1975
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