Topping the bill was reigning 500cc world champion Geoff Duke and Gilera team-mate Reg Armstrong. They had a ‘four’ apiece. From Associated Motor Cycles came works AJSs (350cc 7R3s and 500cc E95 Porcupines) for Rod Coleman, Bob McIntyre and Derek Farrant and Norton riders Ray Amm and Jack Brett arrived with six current factory racers between them, with youngster John Surtees making up the Bracebridge Street trio, using a brace of ‘last year’s’ works models.
There was plenty of other talent too, while the sidecar field was also strong; Pip Harris, Cyril Smith, Bill Boddice and Jackie Beeton being the ‘stand out’ names.
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The specially constructed three mile ‘Grand Prix’ circuit was 35ft wide, and ran alongside the Grand National horse racing circuit. A crowd estimated at between 15,000 (Motor Cycling) and 20,000 (The Motor Cycle) packed in, to watch seven races, with races for solo 125, 250, 350 and 1000cc machines, and sidecars to 1000cc, plus two handicap races – one for solos, one for sidecars.
Winner in the smallest capacity class race of the day was Bill Lomas (MV Agusta), leading home like-mounted John Hogan, with another Italian machine – Maurice Cann’s Moto Guzzi – 250cc victor, ahead of Lomas’ Beasley-Velocette and Dave Chadwick’s Reg Dearden Velocette.
In the 350cc race, Brett and Amm came out on streamlined Nortons, Brett leading initially, before Amm took over. The Rhodesian, though, crashing at 100mph – the accident appeared to ‘spook’ Brett, with McIntyre, Coleman and Surtees passing him.
The 1000cc class, the day’s highlight, was slightly undermined by the absence of Amm and Farrant (who also crashed in the 350cc race), both hospitalised, Amm with a broken collarbone and three busted ribs, Farrant a sore foot, and won by Duke, though Surtees chased him ‘valiantly’ and got the better of Armstrong. Coleman was fourth on the Porc’.
The sidecar scratch race went the way of Harris from Smith and Beeton (all Norton) and then to the handicaps – a rain shower during the solo race meant lead 500cc man Surtees had little chance, Brett winning comfortably from Benny Rood’s 250cc Velo, while the sidecar version went to M Klein on a 500cc Norton.
Aintree hosted the British F1 car Grand Prix the next year, as well as in 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1962. The full three mile circuit was used for the last time in 1964 but the 1.5 mile club circuit still holds six motorcycle meetings a year, with classes for classics.