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Bike Profile - Posted 14th August 2009

Moto Morini 350 Sport at the VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes
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Push a little harder, lean a little further and hold onto the revs a little longer. Martin Gelder rides round Mallory Park on his 1982 Moto Morini 350 Sport and relishes the experience...

The waiting is over - well mostly. I've just watched the first two sessions of the VMCC's Festival of 1000 Bikes from the embankment opposite Mallory Park's start-finish straight , and now it's time for me to go and queue up for my first session on my hacked-about 1982 Moto Morini 3 Sport.

Session One

The bike starts first kick despite the rain in the air, and I trickle down to the holding area where bikes are marshalled before being allowed out on track. The VMCC run an efficient system which tells you what time to start lining up, and it looks like I'm one of the first to arrive. I'm directed to the front of one of the three queuing lanes by a marshal and I switch off the bike and remove my helmet; there's still a good ten minutes to wait before we're let out onto the circuit.

Message board regular Martyn(CB750 ) appears from behind me and cheerily points out that I've managed to jump the queue of thirty or so people who had already been waiting when I turned up. Oops; sorry everybody!

Eventually, the bikes from the previous session are called in and we get the signal to start our engines. All around me there's frantic activity; engines being kickstarted, throttles being blipped, helmet straps being tightened and earplugs being dropped. I can't hear my own engine above the racket everyone else is making, which is a good thing as it means I won't worry about the rattling tappets.

Still slightly embarrassed about having accidentally sneaked to the front of the queue, I'm mortified to see that of the three lanes of queues, the one I'm in is going to be the first one opened to the track. I'm waved out, first bike of the session onto the track. I can feel the stares of the people behind me burning into the back of my neck as they curse the bl**dy smart*rse journalists who think they own the place.

It was much wetter than it looks here, ok?... 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport

As we reach the entry to Gerards, I realise that being first out of the starting gates is not necessarily a good thing. The track is wet, and none of us know how much grip there is. As I follow the travelling marshal for the first, sighting, lap I am all too aware of the riders behind me waiting to see how fast we can all go on the wet circuit before I fall off. We're waved past and onto the second lap and still no one comes past. Finally, a Honda 550 four sweeps round the outside of me and I relax a little. I'd never make a racer.

It always takes me a while to adjust to just how hard the Morini can be ridden; I'd never ride this... intensely on the road, and by the time I've recalibrated my reactions - and my mechanical sympathy glands - the first session is over.

Intermission

Martyn, on his immaculate RD250LC, and I ride up to where the RealClassic stand should be. All we find is Stewart, eating his packed lunch; the Official Gazebo and stocks of magazines are missing in action.

Stewart's peace is about to be shattered by two babbling idiots...

We entertain Stewart by gabbling away at twenty to the dozen, two middle aged men stoked up on adrenaline and remembering what it's like to be seventeen again; trackdays do that to you, much to the general bewilderment of those standing at a safe distance and observing.

Session Two

I diplomatically observe all queuing protocols this time, and take my rightful place in the middle of the holding lanes, as directed. The second session is always better; you know what to expect, you've remembered which way the track goes and you're more confident that you haven't forgotten to tighten up something important like a wheel spindle.

No pushing in, now...

It's raining again, slightly harder this time, and I'm aware that I'm having to clear the rain from my visor each time I clatter down the pit straight. Doing this focuses my mind somewhat on the entrance to Gerards, a very fast corner that could probably be entered flat-out on the Morini in the dry. I say probably because I'm not going to be the one to find out, not today anyway.

The track is damp rather than wet and there are two puddles halfway round Gerards. I discover that by threading my way between them I can carry more speed. I'd never push this hard on the road these days, but this is fun; it's all very polite and gentlemanly, with no one taking undue risks or riding beyond the speed at which they're comfortable. Given the mix of bikes on track in each session there is a lot of overtaking but no cutting in or blocking. Civilised.

The two 'new' chicanes at Edwinas and Charlies, and the 'old' one at the Bus Stop aren't in use for the Festival of 1000 Bikes, which smoothes the flow of the circuit nicely. However, I keep finding myself running wide on the way out of the first part of the Cooper Esses until I force myself to ignore the line that everyone else is following and turn-in later, setting myself up to drive cleanly through the second part of the Esses. The Morini is showing itself to be much nimbler than a lot of the bikes it's sharing the track with and as I become more confident I can take advantage of its strengths. It's also very good on the brakes into the hairpin, the twin Grimeca callipers working well in the wet despite the reputation of the shiny chromed discs.

At least the rain has given it a bit of a wash... 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport

Session Three

The rain starts again just as we pull out on to the circuit for my final session. It quickly seems to clear and I can feel that there's heat in the tyres and plenty of grip. I'm in the groove and relishing my last fifteen minutes on the track; I can concentrate on the traffic and on finding clear space to make the most of the Morini's abilities. And it has much more ability than I do in the conditions, willing me to push a little harder, lean a little further and hold onto the revs a little longer with every corner.

After a couple of laps the bikes are spread around the circuit and starting to overtake each other more confidently. The home built Gillette - a 150cc two-stroke triple made from three Mobylette engines in a Gilera frame - passes me and a lap later I see its rider sliding across the track on the seat of his leathers. Same corner, next lap, and a Velocette single takes to the grass after passing me carrying too much speed into the bend. He manages to stay upright and rejoin the circuit.

The sensible thing to do at this point would be to ease off a bit but I'm stuck behind a modern Suzuki v-twin. I'm desperately trying to get past him to get a clear run round Gerards and through the Esses so that I can pull out enough of an advantage to stay in front of him down the pit straight. I doubt the bloke on the Suzuki even knows I'm behind him, and I've no doubt that to the spectators on the banking by the RealClassic stand it looks like we're cruising round admiring the view and wondering what's for lunch, but in my head we're Fogarty and Chilli fighting it out for the 1998 World Superbike Championship at Assen.

Foggy and Frankie didn't have to deal with backmarkers on BSA twins and Matchless singles though, and I fail to make a pass stick before the chequered flag comes out. Time to readjust to normal life, until the next trackday...

Turns out it wasn't a Suzuki in front of me after all...
Gileras on eBay.co.uk

Get On Track

If you've ever wondered what it's like riding on a race track, the VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes is the perfect opportunity to find out. You can book one, two or three sessions, and you don't need one piece leathers or the latest sportsbike to take part. Motorcycles are grouped according to speed, age, marque and so on, and there are special sessions for the particularly... steady. There's no aggressive riding - in the road bike sessions, at least - and I can't think of a better introduction to trackdays than this.

Bikes are checked for safety and lights need taping up, but apart from that it's a very laid back event. And if you sign up for a track session, you get free admittance for two people to both days of the festival, a vehicle pass and free camping. I honestly can't think of a reason *not* to take your bike on the track if you're going to be there as a spectator anyway. See you there next year?


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