Tag Archives: Steve Plater

July 2015 : an update

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.

Stafford Classic Mechanics show (Oct 2014)

The Stafford classic bike shows are apparently very popular and certainly this one was a good day out. Definitely oriented towards post vintage stuff and mostly 1960’s onwards really. I don’t go to shows that often, in fact the last time i went to Stafford was on my dad’s Ducati 750SS when I was 18 (he must have been mad). That’s 24 years ago. The best bit really was the opportunity to chat to the guys on the BHR (British Historic Racing) stand where Roger’s Scott was being displayed along with a number of other really interesting machines.
The Mogvin, a mightily impressive Vincent twin powered three wheeler with two wheels at the front and one at the rear drew a lot of interest and Robbie Browns highly developed 175cc championship winning BSA Bantam sounded fantastic when he started it up for a crowd.

The Mogvin
The Mogvin

Robbie Browns BSA Bantam in 175cc guise.
Robbie Browns BSA Bantam in 175cc guise.
Mark and Sue Whittaker, hugely enthusiastic supporters of the club and campaigners of a BSA outfit were displaying their temporarily worse for wear Enfield Bullet, which they lend out to people who want to try their hand at racing with the club.
Roger's Scott Flying Squirrel racer with Mark and Sue Whittaker's 'Bullet for borrowing'
Roger’s Scott Flying Squirrel racer with Mark and Sue Whittaker’s ‘Bullet for borrowing’

Tony Wooley’s purposeful Rocket 3, and a number of other club machines completed a very impressive display with Gerry Daine, John Lorriman, the Whittakers, my dad, Robbie Brown and others manning the stand for the weekend.
I started racing with the club back in 1988, but it’s neither been continuous through the intervening years nor am I as regular a competitor as I’d like. The best bit of the show for me was really the opportunity to talk with the guys on the stand. So much racing experience, so much tuning knowledge and such decent people. The BHR has still much of the family feeling to it that it always had. Sure, things change and the early classes aren’t as well supported anymore but I guess that’s what is bound to happen. Things change. Paddocks are still open and friendly to all who come to a meeting and anyone who fancies a go will find a welcoming reception.
There was one other notable thing which made my day.
They have a little ‘GP area’ which they bring notable bikes into so that the owner can talk about his machine and then they can start it up for all to listen to. Roger had been asked to show his Scott on the Saturday and the guy doing the interviewing, Steve Plater ( ex TT and NW200 winner) had given him the microphone. My dad occasionally likes playing to the crowd and put on a great show. I saw him present his bike on Sunday and I was very pleased to find that someone had videoed the occasion.

See the interview here.