From the early 1970’s to present day Frank, Phil and Alex Brachtvogel’s names have been associated with drag racing.They spent years at the top of two-wheeled drag racing, developing Top Fuel motorcycles in co-operation with Pete Davies and John Clift. They were innovative in their approach, sometimes leading the world. Their bikes became a classic route into Top Fuel for many of today’s stars – and they were British built. This, along with Alex’s dedication to improving the expertise and conditions of marshals, is why the Brachtvogels have been inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
There are many families involved in drag racing – quite a few inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame over the years. It is the sort of sport that requires total commitment if you want success, and that means the family too. The sport becomes your life and the Brachtvogel family members of Phil, Frank and the late Alex all fall into this category – making a difference to drag racing in the areas of drag bike riding, building and event organising.
Alex Brachtvogel was a friend of Mike Hutcherson and worked with the Houndog drag racing team for many years. So he was probably the first brother to become involved in the sport during the early 1970s – and with four wheeled machines too. As far as bikes are concerned it was Frank’s wife who was responsible for prompting the purchase of their first machine in 1978 – a 650cc Triumph followed by Terry Revill’s Kawasaki. Frank also decided he would like to buy the double Norton owned by Jonny Munn who was moving on to a new partnership with John Hobbs and the Hobbit. After three years Frank and Phil decided to focus their efforts on the Kawasaki, which they developed as an injected bike running on nitro and this is when the name Quarter Scorcher really started to impress on a series of machines being constantly developed and sold on. With Phil Riding and Frank fixing, the first blown Quarter Scorcher ran consistent 8 second passes with his first 8 put down in 1982. Alex helped out when his duties with the Houndog team allowed.
They took their first ACU Drag Bike Championship in 1988 and also put down the quickest bike elapsed time of the year at 7.17 seconds. 1990 saw the Brachtvogel team run the first UK six second run on two wheels putting down a 6.97 at 193 mph. In the same year they ran the first UK bike 200 mph and the first side-by-side 200 mph runs on two wheels alongside Mark Pemble. Along the way the Brachtvogels picked up several best engineered bike and best appearing bike awards. They were always ‘show’ and ‘go’ bikes and during some of the lean drag racing years of the late 1980s and early 1990s they were sometimes the only Top Fuel bike at an event.
While they were developing their own machines the Brachtvogels were also helping Adam Hewitt with his imported Harley Top Fuel bike. Phil and Frank acted as joint crew chiefs and together they won several European Championships as well as joining Adam for racing trips to the USA. They took their Yamaha Quarter Scorcher with them in 1998 and picked up the Best Engineered Bike AMA Prostar USA. It was sold to Ian King shortly after and, like many other ex-Brachtvogel machines, this started another story.
It’s not often that we can say that UK drag racing was ahead of American racers but after a meeting with Dennis Priddle the Brachtvogels pioneered the use of screw blowers on the third Kawasaki Quarter Scorcher. This was picked up by American rider Larry McBride and led to riders in the USA following the Brachtvogel’s lead. But the Brachtvogels always pay tribute to Pete Davies and John Clift as being instrumental in their success and are proud of the fact that their bikes were British built.
Meanwhile Alex had moved on to the organisation side becoming a track marshal and eventually a well-respected Chief Marshall for the SPRC for two years until an illness caused his untimely death in 2001. As well as having responsibilities for equipment levels, vehicle maintenance and event running, he’s especially remembered for being a real work horse and a person who would help anyone. He was a Mentor and friend to many and he certainly improved the role and conditions for marshals. He is remembered by the Alex Brachtvogel Memorial Trophy awarded each year to a person giving outstanding service to drag racing; most fitting. Phil and Frank have been resting for a few years but are developing a V-twin drag bike and have purchased the third Kawasaki Quarter Scorcher that they hope to restore for nostalgia events. See you at Dragstalgia guys.