47. Vic Eastwood
It’s tough at the top in the world of moto-cross and Vic Eastwood, now 31 years old, has been celebrating success and shrugging his shoulders at the occasional failure. Just over four years ago nobody would ever have believed they would see Vic Eastwood back at the top and challenging for a top place in the World Moto-Cross Championship. This was because of that really nasty prang which caused multiple fractures leaving him on crutched for many months. But the doubters hadn’t reckoned on Vic’s very special brand of determination, which not only brought recovery and his return to peak fitness, but also meant that his will to win hadn’t been even dented.
AJS Stormer 410cc / 1973
This was proved last December by him taking his new AJS and winning the Television Moto-Cross Championship against some of the toughest opposition on the British circuit. Afterwards I met up with Vic to find out about this very special new AJAY moto-crosser, which he has been developing for Norton Villiers.
How long have you been back at AJS, as their rider and development engineer?
Just over two years. I first started work for Associated Motor Cycles at Woolwich back in 1960 and I rode the ISDT for them in 1961 and 1962, riding their big, old AJS 500cc single cylinder four-strokes but you can’t really compare the AMC company days with the present AJS set-up.
What’s the difference?
Well in those days we were riding big, heavy machines, which weighed over 300 lbs, now we’re riding lightweight two-strokes with equal, if not more power, like the 410cc Stormer.
AJS Stormer 410cc / 1973
What’s the new AJS like?
At the bottom end it’s much the same as the works BSA that I was riding a few years ago, but where the BSA would run out of steam fairly quickly, and you would need to snatch another gear, this machine just keeps revving. It is very much a prototype, virtually a one off machine, which is being used to test all the ideas we have up at Wolverhampton for a top moto-cross machine.
We’ve seen you racing this machine and it appears extremely competitive against works Husqvarna’s, CZ’s and the like! Is it the bike or you as a rider that makes it a winner?
Obviously I would like to think that I play a part, but all the credit must be given to the machine. After two years work, we are at last getting somewhere and given really top-flight riders, I think this current machine stands a chance against the worlds best.
Who has been responsible for developing the new AJS motor?
A guy named Graham Evans. The motor started off as the original Stormer 250 but Graham inlarged it and developed this prototype engine. I pinched it off him before I went to the USA last year and it did seven races out there with no trouble.
AJS Stormer 500cc / Vic Eastwood / 1973
What’s the capacity? Is it the same as the original 410cc Stormer motor?
No…. it’s more than that, but I can’t say at the moment, the bike and motor are still under development.
Winning the television championship must have improved its chance of going into production, this must have meant a lot to you, but can you see ways of improving these races?
Yes, I think they are far too short to be of any real value to the riders and spectators. If they were half an hour, then you could watch the start, then feature a few riders before going back to the finish. This would give the riders a real test of their riding ability and a test of their stamina, which they will need if we are ever to compete successfully in the longer GP races across Europe.
You entered the 100-mile Enduro and finished third overall, an excellent result. Did you enjoy it?
It was great. But I was surprised to see so many riders, absolutely shattered, after only a short distance into the race.
When you think that Robert and Geboers do that every weekend racing in a Grands Prix, you realise that there is just not enough moto-cross in this country which comes up to these standards. It is essential that we have competions in length and toughness of course so that we can prepare our riders for competing successfully in the World Championships.
AJS Stormer 500cc / Vic Eastwood / 1973
I remember talking to you when you were at BSA and then you were preparing all your own kit, does this still apply?
In a way, yes, Graham Evans obviously does the work on the engine, but I still do the final bike building at home. I don’t work a nine to five, providing I have all the bits and pieces, plus the motor, I can work without interruption when ever I like, night or day, and put the bike together and get it race ready.
What about other new ideas and modifications you would like to see built into the new machine?
There is no lack of ideas. This new AJS motor was developed by Graham in his own time, we are now proving that his machine works, I’m hoping that soon we will get full factory backing so we can really push on with the job.
At the moment though, Norton Villiers are obviously busy with the John Player F750 and developing the Commando range. I suppose they can only do one thing at a time.
One of the things I noticed during the 100-mile Enduro was how quiet the new AJS was in comparison with other machines. Yet, you still seemed faster than most, is it necessary to have a noisy bike to go fast?
Not at all…. We have a chap named John Favill working out of Wolverhampton, who is a wizard. He’s responsible for silencing the Nortons, and he’s also done a great job with the AJS, he originally built the Stormers excellent gearbox. At the moment we are running a system at 96 decibles, which is well within regulations but we can also run it at 90 decibles without any real loss of power.
You mentioned John Favill was also a gearbox king, how many gears does this machine have?
Four at the moment, but with the wide spread of power available we don’t really need any more than three gears, and on some courses we get away with using only two. One of the reasons for this is the lightweight of the machine.
It tips the scales at around 210 pounds, with a little more pruning we will achieve a very competitive weight to power ratio.
Will you be competing with this new big AJAY, in the next World Championships?
Yes, I really hope so, this AJS has the potential, it handles, and has the power, if we can get a works team together, we can get out there and topple the continentials from their domination of World Moto-Cross.
Thanks for the chat Vic, and the very best of luck in achieving just that, in the 1973 Season.