Roland Free Sets New Straightaway Record At Daytona

By Chet Billings, Photography by Unknown

From the April 1938 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

In any English speaking country of the world, the word “Indianapolis” is understood to mean speed. The same is true of the word “Daytona.” In the American motorcycle world there is another word that means the same thing and that word is “Free.”

Combining all three is certain to lead to something new in the way of records and just such a combination came about on the 17th of March when “Rolling Rolly” Free, of Indianapolis went to Daytona.

Every motorcyclist loves speed. If he doesn’t like the taste of riding it, at least he likes to watch it. But there are few if any who would drain the cup of speed to the last drop with any greater pleasure than Rolly Free. It permeates his system all the time even though it may come to the surface only upon occasion.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is a story that is releated by a friend of Rolly’s. It seems Rolly, his wife, and the friend, all embarked from Indianapolis for Chicago, in a car. Rolly was fretful and nervous as they worked their way through city traffic and onto the open highway. He continued to drive with short erratic spurts even when away from city congestion.

The friend wondered about it, but could not quite get the angle.

Finallv Rolly’s wife spoke up and said. “O.K. Here is the place. Get it out of your system.”

At once the accelerator hit the floor. The needle smacked the 90 mark and quivered.

The friend quivered.

It was a beautiful stretch and no traffic. Like a race horse out in the breeze, Rolly’s jittery nerves smoothed out and he reveled in the pure joy of speed.

A few miles and the wife spoke again. “Alright, now let’s settle down.”

Just a bit reluctantly Rolly put it back at a seasonable mark and the rest of the trip to Chicago was without a blemish.

It was just such a spirit coming to a head that brought about a series of incidents which ended in two new Class “C” speed marks for Rolly and for Indian.

Having tuned up a Scout and a Chief to his satisfaction, Rolly and his mechanic, Ray Stearns, who also worships the higher figures on the dial, set out for Daytona. It mattered not that weather of cyclonic proportions was sweeping several states.

Loading the two machines into a trailer they left Indianapolis Tuesday morning. March 15th, at the crack of 6:15. All day they drove through blinding rain and raging winds. Cyclones were sweeping sections of Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and the western edge of Georgia.

Rolly said, “This gave us strong cross Winds.”

But the two pushed on to Daytona, arriving there on Wednesday at 5:30p.m.

They awoke on St. Patrick’s day in the morn’-to find it raining. It was to have been the day of their trials. And it still was the day of the trials. About 12:30 it cleared of rain. And out on the beach went Rolly and Ray.

Wind was blowing offshore, which sent light sheets of sand from the dunes along shore, out to sea. T he beach was rough. with a possible course about 25 feet from the soft sand at the water’s edge. One bad hole gaped midway of the run. But, the boys called for officials.

Demonstrating why Daytona is famous for its speed trials, Mr. R.O. Eberling, Superintendent of the Recreation Department, put out men with surveying instruments, who sighted the location for timing switches. Then appeared the official timer, Mr. John La Tour, who timed Sir Malcom Campbell’s automobile runs.

The boys had driven out on the beach at 12:30 and at 1:30, E.C. Smith signaled that all was ready.

The first machine taken out was the 74 and it was stock even to the point of having its fenders and headlight. The first run was from south to north, it being purely a test run. Riding slowly back to the stand, Rolly was surprised to learn that the one way trip had been made in 31.51 sec. or better than 114 m.p.h.

He then made his official ride, both ways of the course, and his average through the measured mile was 108.18 m.p.h.

Next taking- the Scout-fondly referred to as his “Chickadee”-he made the north trip in 32.76 sec. or 109.89 m.p.h. and the south trip in 31.78 sec. or 113.27 m.p.h., for an average of 111.55 m.p.h. This beat the former record by approximately 9 ½ m.p.h.

Taking the 74 again, Rolly completed the round trip for a higher average of 109.55 m.p.h.

The wind was a trifle shifty and hoping for a better break, the Scout was taken out again, but it was impossible to top the first ride.

Still not satisfied, one more ride was taken with the 74 and this time the north trip was made in 32.98 sec. and the south in 32.68 sec. for an average of 109.65 m.p.h.

The remarkable part of the trials was that every ride taken was faster than existing records. There was no change of gearings from those installed in Indianapolis. E.C. Smith measured both motors and took samples of the gasoline from each machine.

All this was accomplished and the boys were off the beach by 5:30 p.m.

A report from the Daytona airport for March 17th, gives the following wind figures:

12:41 p.m.: direction, S.W.; rate, 14 m.p.h.

1:41 p.m.: direction, W.S.W.; rate, 15 m.p.h.

2:41 p.m.: direction, W; rate, 15 m.p.h.

3:41p.m.: direction, S.W.; rate, 16 m.p.h.

4:41 p.m.: direction, S.W.; rate 17 m.p.h.

Ordinarily record trials at Daytona involve days of waiting and testing. Officials were naturally surprised at a speedster who came, set his records under existing conditions, and left.

Said Rolly, “St. Patrick smiled on us that day. We are very happy about the whole thing.” The two recorcls-111.55 m.p.h. in the 45” class “C” division and 109.65 m.p.h. in the 74” class ‘’C” Division have been certified by the American Motorcycle Association.

Additional items of interest are that Rolly used Texaco Gasoline, Indian oil, Firestone tires, Diamond chain, Splitdorf magneto and plugs and Perfect Circle rings.

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By Chet Billings
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