Joe Wright

Carrigrohane Road Cork – Early Motorcycle History

“A new world motor cycle speed record of 150.74 MPH was set up by J.S. Wright, the British Rider, on the Cork Carrigrohane Road yesterday. This speed beats the record of 137.61 miles per hour made in September by the German rider, Henne. The road has been pronounced the fastest road in Great Britain or Ireland” (Irish Independent, 7 November 1930). 

Joe Wright,  a works rider for Zenith motorcycle manufacturers  had numerous records under his belt including the highest number of over 100 MPH laps at Brooklands from 1925 until 1935 on a Zenith JAP Motorcycle.  Zenith produced motorcycles from 1903 to 1950.

Zenith held the FIM motorcycle world speed record on two occasions, the first in 1928 by Owen M. Baldwin at Arpajon, France at a speed of 124.55 mph and once again on 31 August 1930 by Joe Wright again at Arpajon on an OEC with a 994 cc JAP engine with a speed of 137.23 mph. But that record didn’t last too long as it was broken again by Ernst Jakob Henne on a supercharged BMW at 137.85 mph at Ingolstadt, Germany.

Meanwhile back around 1927… us lot in cork were busy.. building a road. A big long straight concrete one, at Carrigrohane, Cork.

In 1930 the Cork and district motor club thought it would be a good idea to see if this record event could be held here, so they made a few calls (Could you make a call then ?) Claude Temple thought it would be an ideal opportunity to organise for Joe to call over and get the record back with his supercharged OEC-Temple-JAP. Good timing as the London Motorcycle exhibition was also on in November. Good for sales…

The French official FIM timekeepers also made their way here for the official recording.

Now, as any good racer does, they’ll always have a spare. Joe Wright had a supercharged Zenith-JAP.. different bike. He had raced this numerous times at Brooklands. It looked ‘similar’ (Bear with me on this one) to the OEC, but had a 1920s Zenith frame and he brought this along. I did mention that Zenith was in business until 1950, but this was a result of a takeover. In 1930 they were bust. So Joe was on his own in relation to his spare bike.. not a penny of sponsorship or support, Didn’t matter anyway as the OEC bike was centre-stage and footing the bill. Road closures, Police, Marshalls, two ambulances.

So.. On 5 November, they all lined up on the ‘Straight Road’ (it was straight then and it’s still straight now and that’s what we call it in Cork). But it pissed rain all day and everyone went back to the hotel.

So.. On the 06 November, they all lined up on the straight road. Bit of tinkering, photo opportunities etc.

The film crew was there. Joe was nearly ready, getting all taped up from head to toe, neck, sleeves and donning a new fancy aerodynamic helmet and off he went. You need to do two passes in opposite directions in order to achieve an official record and Joe can be seen in the ‘video’ being towed off in the direction of the finish line. You need to tow these ‘cos the engine is too strong to push or kick start.

Few passes East to West and West to East and yes!!! He did it. 150.74 Miles per hour.

A new world record set by Joe Wright on the OEC Temple Jap. Photo opportunities, pints all round. !! and into the FIM official record books.  All at the Straight Road, Cork.

Cool looking bike too, with the nice curved aerodynamic front fairing over the headlamp shell. You can see how that works on the road at speed in the film clip. Er.. hang on.. the front of the bike in the clip .. the one making the passes up and down the road at speed has a flat plate in front. It’s.. It’s very like the spare bike that Joe brought .. the Zenith JAP.

So, the story goes that there was an issue with the OEC, a woodruff key holding the drive to the crankshaft broke and the bike ‘Allegedly’ couldn’t be used. So maybe they had to use the spare.

Not at all… shur the sponsors, the money, the timekeepers wages.. OEC would have to cover these expenses and they sure as hell weren’t doing it if they didn’t grab the record, not alone to lose it to a ‘Bust’ Zenith JAP !

Nope.. the OEC broke the record, we saw nuttin, and that’s what’s going in the books.

Now .. Photoshoot anyone...  

Conspiracy ? who knows, Joe might have just been taking the Zenith for a quick spin before taking the record on the OEC and er.. the film crew ran out of film.

Anyways .. two years later BMW took it back on a 500cc Supercharger which held for over 14 years.