On a perfect summer’s evening at seven O’clock on the 1st of August 1928,
Bill Lacey, wheeled his immaculate, nickel plated Grindlay-Peerless JAP, 500cc
twin-port single onto the concrete track at Brooklands, Surrey, England
and was push-started.
One hour later he became the first motorcyclist to achieve 100 miles in the hour on British soil.
After extensive research at both the National Motorcycle Museum, where the original bike now resides, and also in the photo archives at Brooklands Museum, I began this painting. I had got to know every nut and bolt on the bike, but very little about Bill Lacey the man.
I followed scores of leads trying to track down people who might have known him, including Gerry Belton, author of ‘All the years at Brooklands’, but with little success. However, I did discover that he had a daughter who had worked with him, tuning and race-preparing Manx Nortons (and also Mike Hailwood's first racing mount). After countless emails and pleas on the Internet, I at last got a name, an address, and eventually a telephone number.
There followed a series of fascinating conversations about the thrills and spills of her father's (and mother's) pioneering days; details of what he might have worn and what sort of person he was. A rather precise person, it seems, and not someone who suffered fools easily (or at all). I think I would have liked him.
After the painting was finished, I had the good fortune to meet Ann Lacey on the 80th anniversary of her father's record-breaking triumph at the Bill Lacey Memorial Run. I presented her with a print of the painting and was very pleased that she approved of it and thought that I'd captured him well. Later, she wrote me a sweet letter saying how much she enjoyed having the painting to remind her of her famous father.