The Saturday dawned a little blustery but the sky was clear. With so much work actually done to get to this point, it was quite odd to wake up knowing that there was no real rush. I’d been through scrutineering the preceding evening and had my leathers and helmet checked, and the Scott noise tested. Apart from getting a program and a transponder (used by race timekeepers to identify bike and sense when bike goes over the line) all I had to do was have my breakfast and wait for the first race.
Roger had felt a bit down on power by the end of the track day and had talked to Gerry Daine, the ACU steward for the BHR meeting, about the possibility of someone else having a ride. Bill Swallow was at the meeting and had enjoyed riding the Scott before (having 6 wins in 6 races) and Gerry would ask him whether he wanted to. Bills father had raced a Scott (which Bill still has) many years ago and I think he enjoys the connection.
So it was that Bill lined up for the first of our races of the day, not our main class; ‘Up to 1948 unlimited capacity’ but the class we enter for an extra pair of races, the ‘up to 1963 unlimited’.
This is always a bit of an effort to stay involved in this race since we are in with 950cc Nortons and Tridents as well as the 750 triumph twins of the up to ’63 class. The winner was over 15 seconds quicker per lap than me… that’s a varied field.
Bill hadn’t had the time to practice on Roger’s bike and also wasn’t able to set it up for himself. Normally he’d change the bars from the very narrow set of curled in bars that my dad has favoured since a crash at Mallory park many years ago ‘designed’ them by accident. Having had problems with his right shoulder for years, Roger’s position is also very ‘sit up and beg’. He’s raced like that for years but it’s a very odd position for someone used to the Aermacchi/ Ducati stretched position.
I have straight bars as I feel like I need to muscle the Super Squirrel around, especially since we fitted the new Avon roadrider 21″ tyre in the harder race compound as its much harder to change direction. It’s a brilliant, confidence inspiring tyre but you really need to put the effort in to get it to change direction. I feel I’ve got much more control with the straights.
Anyway, Bill got off the line before me and I took chase in earnest. I managed to get fairly well behind him going through Charlies and stuck with him like glue down the straight and through Chris’s and then Gooseneck until Mansfield where I managed to out-brake him down the inside.
Although I didn’t see Bill again, I found out when I got back that Bill had had a massive tank slapper coming out of Charlies on the following lap and had ended up on the grass. He didn’t crash but it had diminished somewhat his inclination toward riding the Scott over the weekend (he already had lots of other rides lined up) and he decided to pass. If we’d set the bike up for him it would have been totally different. I’m sure I wouldn’t have seen him for dust, but that’s the importance of bike set-up and time to do it.
In the meantime, Roger was feeling a bit more ‘up for it’ and was glad to have the opportunity to get his leathers on again. He did let Rod Graham, who races a Ducati single and sits on the racing committee with him, have a couple of rides but he apart from that he rode the rest of the weekend.
The second race of Saturday came after lunch and was the up to 48 class, bundled in with the ‘BEARS 750’ class and the new ‘up to ’83 (?) 500cc Air cooled Japanese’ class. Crikey.
Most of the other bikes in the up to ’48 class are methanol burning singles with four speeds and they are quick off the line. Having only three gears does present a challenge getting off the line. Mervyn Stratford was unassailable over the weekend on his incredibly quick 250cc Rudge but I was much better matched with some of the others and I managed to have some great battles with some of the other two classes as well as Tony Perkins on his 500cc Rudge who at one point outbraked me into Park corner. He succumbed to my excellent front brakes at Mansfield the same lap and I didn’t see him again.
In the end, I was second in every race of the weekend in the ‘up to 48’ class, but I felt that I was down on power and that I definitely needed more power to get to Mervyn! He wasn’t just escaping on the corners but he was faster on the straight.. on a 250cc!. However, Mervyn is a very good and very competitive rider and has been developing his Rudges for over forty years. It takes more than a few extra bhp to get in front and stay in front of Mervyn. See his website here.
In the end though, it doesn’t matter whether you win, just that you have a race with someone and that’s why it’s nice to have a good sized grid of equalish machines. There are always going to be faster bikes, but the smaller your grid is, the more likely to be riding in a procession. Likewise, a big grid of Tridents and a small grid of our class does not provide great racing although people like to see a vintage bike hounding a 70’s Triple.
Though there were plenty of vintage racers not there, it was good to see Arron Rogers out for the first time on an International Norton. The ‘up to 48’ class, which now has absorbed the old ‘up to ’34’ class, is such an important link to the roots of the racing club that it’s heartening to see someone else join the grid. Stewart, Arron’s dad, raced very successfully for many years with the club and is well known for his work with cammy Nortons. I remember vividly Stewart passing me on the inside at Charlies in my first full season of racing in 1989. He was so quick I couldn’t believe it. He must have been lapping me.
Hopefully Stewart will return for some racing next year.
Considering the position I found myself in when my engine swallowed the washer, just one week on I was getting consistent second places on a completely untested set-up. We both had a very good time and saw lots of old friends who came to say hello and give their support. Thank you as always.
I will continue to push, and also start to move with the Moss/Silk Scott racer. I am determined to do what I can to get the Super Squirrel even better over the winter, to do more meetings in 2015 and hopefully encourage others to come out to do the same.