Roger went over to the continent a number of times during the 1970’s, racing his Scott. On this early foray his Scott was pretty much as it is now, having been rebuilt by me around 10 years ago. By the late 70’s he was thick into development and had commissioned a new frame, tank and radiator and this is where his iconic current racing machine came into existence. The pictures are from Montlery, which was a great experience. One of the French racing contingent was a man called Christian Olivaux, who invited us all (the whole family went) to his apartment in Paris to stay, which we duly did on our return.
Many years have passed since this time, but my dad was sent a picture recently by Christian from Montlery in 1975. He remembers coming third in the race. Others in the picture are ( I think): Geoff Pollard (second in the race on his 1939 Tiger 100) and his son Derek (or Bill.. one was a nickname), Fred Ellis, Tim Maton (won on a Vincent twin). If anyone remembers anyone else let me know…
The picture of the group of them together is from Christian, the others are from the same meeting that Roger had already.
Happy Memories indeed.
I’ve not written much recently but there’s plenty been going on.
My racer is still on the stand, although I now have a new front aluminium mudguard to replace the one damaged in the lowside crash at Anglesey earlier in the year. I also set about the paintwork on the headstock to try and find trace of a frame number, which would help me to register it for the road if I so desired. I found it in the end (but not before I’d removed a decent amount of perfectly decent paint) and amusingly it confirmed that the frame was never a Super Squirrel frame, but a 1932 Flying Squirrel. I have actually called it a Flying Squirrel in the past (and a Sprint Special when I was very young and simply wanted it to be one…) but the idea that it was a Super Squirrel stuck for some reason and I can’t even remember why. It’s not even that the engine type was the same.
So from this moment on I shall call my noble steed by its rightful title: My Flying Squirrel racer.
Although Anglesey was a while ago now, one of the other things that happened at the time was that my dad’s bike was due to be tested the following Tuesday for Classic racer magazine by Steve Plater, a former motorcycle racer and TT winner. I made the journey to Cadwell the day after getting back from Anglesey and we were very interested to see how he got on and what he made of the bike. He’s used to modern machines and I don’t think he’d ever ridden anything like it before. My dad advised caution through Charlies because of it’s tendency to get out of shape on the exit, but apart from that let him work it out himself.
We changed the bars to give him a different position and he seemed to be gaining confidence quite quickly through hall bends, where we were watching. He was certainly moving. However, maybe the confidence was a little premature as he lost it out of Charlies as a result of a tank-slapper that he couldn’t control.
Noticing that he hadn’t come round for another lap, I feared the worst and ran up to the van just in time to intercept the recovery vehicle. I took a deep breath when they opened the back door as the steel Vincent straight handlebars were bent vertically both sides, like bulls horns. I could see the top fork links had bent significantly before I even got it on the stand, and by the time Steve told me that it had gone over a couple of times I already had a mental picture of what, in all honesty, was the worst racing incident it had ever endured in over thirty years.
Of course, we were all relieved that Steve was ok. It could have been very nasty for him. On reflection, I think we were naive to think that even a highly successful professional modern rider might just sit on something with as lowly relative performance as my dad’s Scott and be able to work it out easily. Riding a rigid bike, or more to the point, racing a rigid bike requires a whole skill-set of its own. The feedback to the rider from a rigid chassis with girder (almost rigid) forks has little comparable in the modern motorcycling world. Racing with modern tyre compounds winds up the chassis and causes some instability that you get used to and some you know you can’t. Even though you ride a different line to avoid the ripples or the sudden dip in track surface etc, arse off the saddle.. damping with your knees like a jockey… there are some corners where you don’t want to try to push the line, and the exit of Charlies always has been one.
At the end of last year, Bill Swallow had a ride on my Dad’s bike in one of my races and he got into a tank-slapper coming out of Charlies which certainly caused him to wind it back it little. He knew he couldn’t push any further.
Maybe Steve felt a little under pressure to perform? Possibly, although he is obviously a great rider with a lot of experience of real racing pressure so it’s difficult to believe. I think the truth is, that he just didn’t know what the bike would do and assumed that he’d be able to tame it. It was a sad end to a day which promised some exposure for the British Historic Racing Club, plus a wonderful chance to see what a well respected modern champion might achieve with the bike in the way Paul Dobbs did with such style, ten years ago. Rest in peace, Paul.
In the end, it was a mistake, just unfortunately one which will take a while to sort out. Now stripped, his racer needs to have to frame checked for straightness, the bearings, the wheels etc. The fork blades are bent and most likely other parts of the assembly too.
Of course it will be done, but at 74 Roger has a lot of engine work for customers and it’s just difficult to find the time for minor developments, let alone complete re-alignment and rebuilding work. It won’t be done until next year, for certain. We have to remind ourselves that beyond the feelings of sadness and regret over the incident there must remain one clear point:
This is what racing is.
Anglesey is a long way from Devon. This became more and more obvious over my 6 1/2 hour traffic-jam-filled journey to the circuit on an inclement Friday afternoon.
Roger had cancelled because of the flu. He sounded dreadful and had done for some time. His voice had become more and more hoarse and he couldn’t sleep for coughing, propped up on the sofa was the only way he could get any rest. His lack of spleen doesn’t facilitate recovery from viruses as far as I understand, being an important part of the body’s immune response. It has to be bad to miss a race meeting too.
So it was that I found myself erecting my tiny backpacking tent in what I understand now to be good Anglesey conditions: unrelenting high winds but without rain.
The wind is something else. I had heard about it but now I can really imagine what it could be like. The circuit is right on the Atlantic and the drive through Anglesey itself starts to give clues to the general conditions. A lack of trees and the prevalence of very gnarled bushes with what scant tenacious foliage they had swept at an acute angle an indication of life on this coastline.
Saturday was clear and dry. I went through Scrutineering and signed on.
Practice gave me my first taste of what was to come. When you rounded ‘Church’ corner in the middle of the long back straight you hit a wall of wind which made me think that the bike was seizing up. Then, on the third lap, it did seize up, though I caught it pretty quickly and rode back though to the paddock.
I took the needle up a notch and got ready for the first race.
My first race was the ‘up to 63 unlimited’ which is my second choice event to give me another couple of rides. It’s almost collapsed as an event at the moment and there was only one other guy entered in this on a BSA twin. I don’t know what happened but I guess the people have all entered different bikes in different classes or simply stopped. The ‘up to 48’ class is better supported. It’s not a big deal as long as you are sharing the grid with a mixture of other classes and so there were plenty on the grid. All far too powerful for me, but I was starting on the back anyway just to see how it would run.
It was better, but it still nipped up accelerating out of Church corner into the back straight. I nursed it round and went back to the van.
A Scott owner, Bernie Dunmore, offered his assistance. We’d never met before but he spent the following few hours helping me get to the bottom of the seizure issue. It was puzzling because it was theoretically running richer than the optimum needle setting chosen on the dyno, and they seemed to think that I’d be running rich in the real world even at that setting. The wind was a considerable force though and maybe that was causing the engine to have to work so much harder that the engine was getting too hot? The timing had changed also, possibly jumping a tooth on the slightly-under-tensioned belt when it nipped up… the momentum of the rotor forcing the jump. I checked the fuel flow to the carbs and thought I noticed the fuel flow to one of them increase as I moved the feed pipe. Was it possibly an air lock in the flexible hoses? In plumbing, air locks can cause all kinds of problems. Maybe it was this? For good measure, I thought I’d go up in the heat range on my plug. Ken Inwood was there and I bought a couple of NGK’s, heat range 8. That’s two up from where i was. It shouldn’t be this but I needed to cover all the bases.
By this time it was the end of the day with one race left… I got out and it didn’t seize up. It was obvious that the torque I’d lost at the start of my rev range since changing from Methanol was causing me a problem as the engine wasn’t able to pick up in third when shifting up from second at 5000rpm as I rounded Church corner into the wind. It was bogging down and I was losing a lot of time here. I started to learn the track at last though and really enjoyed this last race of the day. The rear tyre, already pretty worn out by the end of last year, danced its last dance and I could feel it drifting though ‘Rocket’ but mostly through ‘Peel’ which is before the drop down the hill toward the left that leads into the corkscrew. I really enjoy racing tyres when they are finished… you can’t really carry speed because they’re not gripping any more but you can feel them drifting far earlier and it’s great fun. Fortunately, I’d arranged for Roger to send me up a spare with another competitor (as well as a new final drive chain from ‘The Chain Man’, Andy Forsdick)
I changed the gearing, just by a tooth on the back, to try and get into third before I hit the wind and then I changed the tyre. Unfortunately I ended up pinching the tube so it was a case of waiting for Ken to return in the morning.
I made a sandwich for my tea, and crawled into my tent.
Sunday morning. Overcast and windy.
I was first to get to Ken and he changed my tube, very graciously not mocking me for making a mess of doing it by myself. He did note however that the tube had been too big for the 90/90 profile of the Avon roadrider, undoubtedly a legacy from the days when we were running 3.25 section GP’s.
I think I had a race first thing, which was the big class. Again I just started from the back and just scrubbed my tyre in, taking it steady.
Things were better but still it was a struggle to pick up on the back straight. I resolved to just do the best I could, and investigate further when I returned home.
The next race came around, which was my ‘up to 48’ class. I was feeling a bit more like it by now and though I didn’t get a great start, I was suddenly at the back of some of the ‘up to 1983 Japanese 500’ class with whom we share the grid going into the ‘Banking’, the exit of which leads into the first part of the straight that leads to Church. The brakes are good on the Super Squirrel and I passed a couple on the brakes and got through the corner well. People were passing me down the straight at a fair clip, but it did seem that I could make ground going into Church and then also at the end of the straight into the very tight left hander. It was like this for a couple of laps, where I was hauling people in from this corner to the banking and then simply losing it as bikes came past me on the straight like I was standing still. I was especially hunting an RD 400 and a CB 450, I never got to the 450, but the RD 400 was incredibly quick on the straight and went past like I was standing still. I really pushed to keep getting past him on the rest of the circuit and in the end pushed too hard, losing the front end into the tight left at the end of the straight. I saw him later and he said that he’d thought I’d never get round after I’d outbraked him on the inside going into this corner. I said that I couldn’t argue with him because I didn’t make it! My fastest lap was quicker than the 5th placed Japanese class guy (on the CB450)but I would still have been second in my class to Tony Perkin on his Rudge 500 who was 2 1/2 seconds per lap faster than me… absolutely flying.
The radiator was damaged, the front mudguard and the right hand footrest but little else. The radiator was unfortunate as it’s never taken a hit before but sometimes these things just don’t fall in your favour. You have to push when you are trying to race an RD 400 on a vintage Scott.
In all, I really enjoyed Anglesey but left realising that I still had a way to go with the new set-up. I think I need more compression, and some more development to iron out the problems with the fuel system. I was due to take the bike to Roger’s in Leicestershire in readiness to take both bikes to Cadwell Park on Tuesday so that Steve Plater could do some testing. I thought maybe if I got home to Devon I could sort out a repair on Monday morning and drive up to Cadwell on Monday evening to be there for the test.
It would be a lot of driving but I thought I could do it. I said my farewell to Anglesey, resolving to return and headed home.
I was sent a box of 35mm slides recently, taken by the sender many years before at a VMCC Cadwell meeting. He thought it was the 1970’s, but I have an idea it’s the mid to late 1960’s because of the use of pudding basins and the car registrations. I might well be wrong. I have the use of a scanner and so have digitally converted them. They are a really interesting insight into the variety of machines being used back then. I’d like to identify the machines and the riders so if anyone can help with this or any other interesting information, please let me know.
I emailed Colin a couple of days ago to ask him whether he knew of anyone who had cut the bridges out of the transfer successfully and he sent me this. Thanks Colin.
“Just a little more about the pictures. These are the barrels used by Martin Heath in that one glorious season when he won 12 events, including his first win. This was at Cadwell when he was left on the grid as the compression was so high the rear wheel just slid instead of turning the engine over, on the old downhill start by the timing/ commentary box. He managed to start it eventually by vaulting on from the greatest possible height and it fired up. The field were disappearing into Charlies by now, but he caught and passed them all to win. Proper Boys Own Paper stuff.
However, the point is that the barrel, as we had no other, was reclaimed by boring out the broken skirt from a damaged set and pressing in a flanged liner from the top. ( It sat in a machined recess). The machining had broken through into the jacket so good old Loctite sealed it all up and provided what I think is called a ‘wet liner’. We could not bring ourselves to put dividing bars back in the ports so made them elliptical as you see and relieved them to give the rings a softer time. You will also see that we needed to use a ‘detachable’ steel ring for the lower seal – and this located on a small step machined on the liner o/d.
Another simultaneous experiment was to make the liner full length down to the very bottom of the crankwell to see whether preventing any piston ‘rock’ would help. You can see the remains of this in the pics after it was later cut off. The rods had to be scalloped to clear the base of the liner, but we still use them to this day with no trouble.
The heads are a type you are familiar with and the drilled/tapped holes onder the dome on the exhaust side were so that we could use a head steady onto a frame cross tube. ( This was our super lightweight T45 frame, it was more of a frame steady than an engine steady. It was so light it sang like a tuning fork even after the engine was cut).”
I also sent him the pictures of my piston for his interest and to get his thoughts.
“As for the fuel pattern on the piston crown, by using a close profile high compression arrangement I expected that any ‘clean’ area on the side was trapped fuel ‘end gasses’ that got rudely pushed/ sucked out of the way before they had a chance to detonate.”
and of the photo of Martin:
I think it was taken at Mallory but expect Martin will correct me if necessary. Incidentally the silencer shown was our first effort after introduction of silencing regulations. This one is designed on the principle of ‘silencing by controlled leakage’ whereby multiple small outlets are provided under the crankcase all carefully pointed in different directions. From memory this set up has five intentional outlets including the official one. The theory is that one noise meter will have difficulty covering all directions at once. It worked well enough, for we would have been excluded on open pipes, and to my surprise the machine seemed, subjectively, to go just a little better than before.
Tommy Hatch came 3rd in the senior TT on a Scott on this year. The last time a Scott took such a high position in that event.
Tommy wasn’t riding the only Scott in this event and a couple of Scotts can be seen waiting for their turn to start.
In the last days I’ve been contacted by the new owners of both the Silk Scott prototype and ‘FNT’.
FNT went through a period of development which resulted in the fitment of one of the early Silk engines, Georges own, Scott based design. In the intervening years it was forced into boxes for a little while, but is now in deepest Wales and being rebuilt for use on the road. The owner confided that he had some sense of guilt about that, but the various racing focused parts will be retained for possible future use.
The Silk Scott prototype
It appears that the Silk Scott prototype machine is in Spain now and seems to have remained largely unchanged. The owners have a collection of all manner of period literature and photographs which document its previous life and the Manx GP race in the hands of Stuart Hicken, who is now part of the management of Mallory park.
The machine is for sale on ‘Car and Classic’ for £25,000. I’m not running a classified section, but I thought it was very interesting to see all the photos and documentation that they sent me and I thought that others may enjoy it too.
As well as the images, the owner also sent a number of scans of period reports of the Silk Scott’s TT adventure, as well as other relevant information.
I got the invoice from SRM today to say that the work to re-commission the Triumph Tiger 100 bronze head has been finished. It’s all money of course but if they’ve done a decent job I’ll be so happy. It’s twenty five years since I took that head off to get fixed and there’s a lot of water under the bridge since then. I like a bit of continuity.
I spent most of my School lunchtimes at Owen Greenwood’s motorcycle shop in Loughborough in 1987/88. I had my first road bikes from him. First a Simpson 50cc and then an MZ ETZ 125. I have no idea how many times I fell off them but he did call me ‘crasher’ Moss at one point. When he had the Triumph bronze head valves seats built up for me and my Dad, after my first season of racing with the VMCC, I doubt he considered that it would take this long to get the rest of the work done. He’d have called me a ‘messer’ without a doubt, but I know he’d be pleased that I was eventually getting back to it. RIP Owen Greenwood.
I’ve got to get barrels bored but I’m sure I’ve got a reasonable pair of pistons somewhere. It won’t be phenomenal but it should be somewhere in the mix in the 500 class. I don’t think the short stroke Manx Nortons need worry though…
The other main thing the Triumph needs is some attention on the breathing, I’ve looked into non return valves in the past but never got it completely sorted. It always did cover the rear tyre with a fine mist of castrol R. Nothing to the rear of the engine will ever rust on this bike. I’m sure a concerted effort will bring success, although I have seen that from 2016 all road competition bikes (two strokes too?) will have to have a complete catch tank under the engine. I think a scraper on the sidewall of the rear tyre into a dangling bucket might work better. It’s no fun hitting oil though, so I’ll do everything I can to get it under control.
The virtual oily corkboard of a vintage motorcycle racing family