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Vila Real and the motorcycles, bend like John Grace!...

NORTON Manx 500 pilotada por John Grace em 1953

NORTON Manx 500 raced by John Grace in 1953

When I was a kid, I was born in 1962, they used to say, in Vila Real, to classify the most skilled or daredevil motorcyclists: “bend like John Grace”. I looked for some information about this character and what I got is scarce, but here goes: Born in Gibraltar (the name John Grace is in fact a pseudonym for Juan Manuel Gracia Yome), he won five times in Vila Real (all international races held between 1952 and 1958). Owner of an imposing figure and great sympathy, he lived as a young man on Madeira Island, was a professional pilot, having started his career in a race in Madrid (where he crashed three times in the same place), thus earning the nickname of Michelin for looking like rubber and don't get seriously hurt. He participated sporadically, but with some regularity, in the World Speed ​​Championship between 1951 and 1956 in the 350cc and 500cc classes, without having great results. His best championship records are 14th in the 350cc class in 1954 and 36th in the 500cc class in 1953. In racing, in the 500cc, his best results were 10th places in the GP of Spain (Montjuich) in 1952 and in the GP of England/Isle of Man in 1953. Throughout his career he rode NORTON motorcycles.


Interestingly, due to his good relations with Spaniards (he usually competed in Spain), when Francesc Xavier Bultó, - grandfather of Sete Gibernau - of the diminutive Paco, left MONTESA, the company he had helped to create, to found a new brand, it was Grace who proposed the name BULTACO (a contraction of Bultó and Paco), having been the brand's first sales manager. In 1952, the first international motorcycling event was held at the Vila Real International Circuit. In the 350cc class, Grace set the best time in practice and won the race clearly. In the 500cc, he repeated the best practice time, however, in the race he was delayed on the first lap, being forced to stop at a roadside workshop where he asked for a wrench to tighten the rear axle, with this operation he lost many positions, without lowering his arms, he started a great recovery (the race was played in 18 laps) that would lead him to victory. In 1953, the second international edition was held. Once again Grace's dominance was overwhelming, having set the best time in practice and won the 350cc race. In the 500cc he took the second time of practice (behind António Pinto in NORTON), in the race he took the lead on the third lap and won. In 1958, the third edition of this international event took place. There was only one race that included the three classes present: 250cc, Sport and 500cc. Grace was second in practice, behind Albino Pinto in Norton, in the race he was once again the winner.


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