The term giant-killer is often used in sport, but rarely is it used more aptly than when describing the outstanding performances of Brian Chapman riding his Vincent machines over many years of drag racing.
He was there at the beginning of Santa Pod, with his 998cc Vincent sidecar outfit, which was initially used for speed trials events, and ended up as a towing vehicle for his newly built small capacity race bike.
For many years Brian developed his tiny, unfashionable single cylinder Vincent Comet 500. A number of the most successful riders of the period raced using Vincent engines, but it was always the revered vee-twin motor.
Every year Brian continued to modify his tiny machine, which was called Mighty Mouse – and every year it got quicker. A blower was added, and the nitro started to be tipped, causing the times to tumble, which confounded those who said it would not go any quicker!
Somehow he managed to get under 10 seconds, which was a massive achievement at the time; but when he became the first 500cc rider anywhere in the world to run under 9 seconds – that was frankly unreal.
When you consider that the self employed carpenter from Waltham Abbey started drag racing with the 500 single because he did not want to go as quick as legendary Vincent riders like George Brown, Ian Ashwell, and John Lloyd, then you begin to realise the scale of his achievements. He picked up more than his fair share of Top Bike eliminator and championship wins along the way, on such a modest looking bike. If Brian could make it himself, then he would, which was all the more to his credit.
Brian, and his wife Renee, were always to be found in the pits on race day, along with their 2 young children; and over a 10 year period at Santa Pod he did not miss a single meeting. They also ran at many other venues in Europe as the sport progressed.
One of the races at Santa Pod that stands out, is the time in 1975 when he match-raced against Danny Johnson on the 3500cc Goliath double-engined Harley. Mighty Mouse would take on all-comers, no matter how big! The crowds loved watching Brian up against big guys – and often winning.
Brian and his amazing machine raced in many countries. He is an enthusiastic Vincent Owners Club member, and he and his machine were invited to go to America by the club in 1978. There he took in some drag races, and proceeded to shut down the odd double Harley or two along the way!
Mighty Mouse finally reached the end of it’s development progress at the end of the seventies, notching up a best of 8.81s; so Brian decided to build a vee-twin Vincent in his own special way. Debuted in 1981, Super Mouse ran like a double-engined 500, with twin blowers, so all his knowledge could be incorporated.
It was immediately successful, and Brian rapidly headed down towards the 7 second zone. Unfortunately he got thrown off the bike in 1982, having recorded times of 8.25s/169mph. Brian himself was thankfully only badly bruised. Although he rebuilt the bike and ran again, it was not long before he retired from full-on racing.
Happily both race bikes are still very much in one piece, and after a spell in a museum, have appeared on show occasionally.
As for Brian and Renee – they still have that same Vincent sidecar combination, which is still used by them to this day!
Profile by Keith Lee
Click here to view the Kaz Aston interview with Brian & Rennie Chapman at the 2013 Hall of Fame presentations http://youtu.be/NCws6RagjPU