Captains Rayborn and Smart – Transatlantic Match Races (1973)

American Cal Rayborn, on his factory Harley-Davidson, leads British rider Paul Smart (Suzuki mounted) in the 1973 Anglo-American Transatlantic Match Races at Brands Hatch. Rayborn proved his performance in the ’72 Match Races was no fluke when he scored victory in this race in spite of riding in pain after suffering a broken shoulder in the Imola 200. Rayborn and Smart were team captains for their respective squads. (Jim Greening Collection)

American Cal Rayborn, on his factory Harley-Davidson, leads British rider Paul Smart (Suzuki mounted) in the 1973 Anglo-American Transatlantic Match Races at Brands Hatch. Rayborn proved his performance in the ’72 Match Races was no fluke when he scored victory in this race in spite of riding in pain after suffering a broken shoulder in the Imola 200. Rayborn and Smart were team captains for their respective squads. (Jim Greening Collection)

This is the final photo in the incredible Jim Greening Match Race Series we’ve been fortunate enough to share.

Cal Rayborn became an instant hero in England by virtue of his totally unexpected performances in the Anglos-American Match Races in 1972 on an outdated iron-barrel Harley-Davidson XRTT. Rayborn tied as the top scorer that year, but the Americans again lost to the Brits. Twelve months after their narrow defeat the ’73 American team was eager to give the U.S. its first win in the transatlantic series.

The expanded 1973 American contingent featured the Harley-Davidson road race team, consisting of Cal Rayborn, Mert Lawill, Doug Sehl and young Gary Fisher who normally rode Yamaha’s, but borrowed one of the thundering twins for this event. Kawasaki had a strong presence for the American team as well. Riding for Team Green was Gary Nixon, Canadian Yvon du Hamel and Art Baumann. Cliff Carr, a reserve rider, was also Kawasaki mounted. The rest of the American team consisted of the always tough Dave Aldana on a borrowed John Player Norton and lone Suzuki rider, Ron Grant (a British born rider living in America).

With the addition of rising star Barry Sheene on the Suzuki TR 750, Mick Grant on the John Player Norton and the return of Paul Smart, the British team looked as strong as ever.

Rayborn (who was riding in pain from a broken shoulder he suffered in a crash at Imola) repeated the success of the year before and won the second leg at Brands Hatch. With du Hamel third in that race, the American team found themselves with the lead after completing two rounds at the first circuit. It marked the first time the Americans had ever actually led in the series point standings.

As the green flag fell on the final leg of the series at Oulton Park, so did the hearts of the British fans. Nixon and du Hamel set the pace early and held the first two spots. When Paul Smart crashed for the British half-way through the race, it seemed certain that the Americans would win. Unfortunately for the U.S. team, Peter Williams mounted a late race charge on his John Player Norton and was able to win again. Finishing in second was du Hamel, then came two more late charging British riders Sheene and Percy Tait.

The Brits had done it again. Against the best challenge yet by the American team, Great Britain remained undefeated. The soft-spoken Williams was a hero to the legion of British motorcycle enthusiast. Tragically for road racing fans everywhere, Rayborn was lost later that year in an off-season crash in New Zealand.

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