The way we were: August 1938

By Richard Rosenthal, 9 March 2013
Eric Fernihough

The motorcycling world was left reeling following the death of Eric Fernihough (shown) who died in hospital from injuries sustained on April 23 while attempting to establish a new outright world record on the Gyon Road, near Budapest, Hungary...

Having started racing in the 1920s, during the early 1930s Eric established a garage at premises on the Byfleet Road near Brooklands. In 1935 he built a normally aspirated 996cc ohv V-twin Brough Superior JAP for racing and record attempts. Soon he was lapping at over 113mph and on July 23, 1935, took the Brooklands’ outer circuit record at a speed of 123.58mph.

Faster and faster was the way of the Cambridge graduate, leading to supercharged engines and his first outright motorcycle land speed record, set in 1937 on the Gyon Road, Budapest, of 169.68mph. Sidecar records were taken too but ‘his’ solo record was then broken by Piero Taruffi (Gilera) and then Ernst Henne (BMW). After an abortive attempt around Easter 1938 spent waiting for the weather to improve, Ferni returned to the Gyon Road for what was to prove his final run. At over 170mph the fully enclosed Brough wobbled inducing a tank slapper before crashing. The cause of the crash was open to conjecture – later Eric’s friend and fellow Brooklands workshop proprietor, Rex Tilbrook, stated that after stripping the Brough it was discovered the rear piston had seized in the barrel.

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The Classic MotorCycle Issue 41-11 - Nov 2014

Where legends come to life

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