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3rd August 2005

Classic Racing

The CRMC season heads to Pembrey this coming weekend. If you've not been to a classic bike race meeting then you might not know what to expect - so Graham Lawlor and Russell Lee do their damndest to capture the atmosphere of all-out competition on old motorcycles...

The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club season continues at Pembrey on August 6th and 7th, then Cadwell in September and Snetterton in October. But earlier this year the racers made for Lydden circuit in Kent. With its succession of tricky turns and ever-changing gradients Lydden has always produced spectacular racing, and it more than lived up to its reputation when the CRMC came to the testing, mile-long Kent circuit for rounds two and three of the club championship. Add a substantial measure of controversy and you've got yourself the recipe for a weekend of high drama and excitement.

Glen English (Molnar/FWD) and Lea Gourlay (Summerfield Petty) had thrilled the crowd at the Mallory Park round on their 350/500 Manxes and this was billed as the re-match. Unfortunately for them, Alan Oversby (Craven Manx) hadn't read the script and blasted into the lead in Saturday's opening Norton Owners Club sponsored Classic Senior GP race, with English and Gourlay (in his first ever ride at Lydden) in hot pursuit.

English leads Gourlay in first Classic Junior race.

English made his move at the Devil's Elbow on lap five but Oversby came back under him at the hairpin. There seemed to be contact, and English hit the tarmac. The Cornwall-based rider sprinted to recover his machine only to discover that both fork yokes were shattered -- when Oversby stopped at the resultant red flag there was an animated exchange of words. As is usually the case on such occasions each rider viewed the incident differently, but whatever the rights and wrongs it left English with just his 350 for the rest of the meeting because Miles Robinson, owner of the 500, had to reluctantly accept that it was impracticable to repair the badly damaged bike at the circuit.

Oversby duly won the restart from Gourlay, this race also being prematurely concluded when Phil Ingle (Lidgate BSA) crashed spectacularly at the hairpin, breaking his collarbone. Despite English's absence, Oversby wasn't able to repeat his win in the remaining Senior GP rounds, Gourlay taking all three comfortably from Gary Thwaites on his Ryan BSA.

Mike Smith and Graham Wade (250 Ducatis) spent much of the weekend like this!

It certainly turned out to be a mixed meeting for Oversby. He crashed his Sunter Honda on cold tyres in his first Honda UK Classic Junior twins race and after that had to give second best to Rob Munro (one win) and Simon Walsh (three wins) in the class. But he narrowly beat Gourlay in Saturday's Summerfield Engineering National 500 race and also seemed to have won Sunday's feature Charlie Sanby Memorial race after a monumental dice with Nigel Palmer (Ellis Ducati), early leader Gourlay having dropped out with a broken carb linkage on the Lidgate Triumph.

Unfortunately, however, it had escaped everyone's attention that Oversby was on a Group 1 machine in a Group 2 race so the result was eventually amended to a Palmer win. Not bad for a road bike, as a very happy Nigel commented after the race. No doubt Charlie would have enjoyed it immensely!

Palmer had plenty more to smile about too, taking all four wins in the Carole Nash Insurance Classic Senior races despite the determined efforts of Rob Gregory (Rickman Metisse), and thereby maintained his 100% record in the class for 2005.

Nigel Palmer heading for victory in Charlie Sanby Memorial race.

A fired-up English was unstoppable all weekend on his Molnar T3 Norton, winning the three Molnar Precision Classic Junior races that he entered and also Saturday's Summerfield Engineering National 350 round. Gourlay (Summerfield Manx) took the other win and, together with Luke Notton (Walmsley 7R), harried English all the way. Unfortunately Notton was unable to join in the Sunday fun, having discovered cracked crankcases on his AJS, but Mike Russell filled the gap with a couple of strong third place rides on his Froggy French Aermacchi. Dale Wilkinson took three wins in the jointly run 500 Gold Star class.

Wright and Holmes outfits wheels off ground shortly before their coming together.

Despite a smallish entry the charioteers provided great action - and more controversy. The opening Nova Racing Transmissions race saw a terrific duel between Eddy Wright/Neil Wheatley's Windle Imp and the 2-stroke Lynx Saab of Richard and Samantha Holmes until the outfits touched at Paddock, sending Wright into the dirt and leaving Holmes to win from Matthew and Emma Kingsmill (Lynx Weslake). With Wright taking no further part in the proceedings the way seemed clear for the Holmes's to clean up but Jon Perkins and Pete Allebone (PBR Imp) had other ideas and took the next two races, only for Holmes to come back with a last race win.

Despite the absence of Phil Davenport and Barry Rodwell there was a high quality field for the Boyer Bransden 1300s. It was Gourlay (Lidgate Triumph) who took three hard fought but ultimately convincing wins ahead of Gary Thwaites (Watson Norton) and Paul Eagle (750 Norton), but it was an altogether different story for Sunday's Classic Racer Syndicate sponsored National 1300 series. Thwaites, Simon Walsh (Haylock Triumph) and Simon Sloan (Nourish Triton) flew off the grid, leaving Gourlay well down in the pack. After two laps Sloan had fought his way to the front but Gourlay was riding like a man possessed and on the penultimate lap squeezed past at Paddock Bend and held on to win by just over a second. With Sloan penalised 10 seconds for jumping the start, Walsh was elevated to third place behind Thwaites. With close battles throughout the field, and excellent prizes, this has all the hallmarks of a highly competitive series this season.

Sloan and Gourlay in first round of CR Syndicate 1300 national.

Richard Parker (350 TZ G) had an almost perfect weekend with six wins out of seven in the Hartsmere/CRMC sponsored FRC GP Classic and the Weld Tec Post Classic events. The only blot on his copybook was the versatile Mike Russell (350 TZ), who switched effortlessly between two-and four-strokes all weekend and managed to edge Parker out in the second FRC race. Without James Clark and Team Glam to brighten the Post Classic proceedings the four-stroke threat was led by Paul Eagle(1100 Suzuki), but so far it's the two-strokes that are ruling the roost this season. It will be interesting to see whether the balance changes when the bikes get to Snetterton's long straights, for the season finale in October…

Mervyn Stratford put a good display on his ageing Rudge

The Arai Helmets Classic Lightweight class saw a weekend long duel between the Ducatis of Mike Smith and Graham Wade, who each took two wins. However, it was Mervyn Stratford on his 70-year-old Rudge who caught the eye, riding to four good third places only just behind the rapid front two. In the concurrently run 125cc event Jerry Lodge and Symon Woodward (both Honda MT 125) shared the honours with two wins apiece.

Random Rudge Stuff on

The CRMC sponsored Classic Ultra Lightweight event produced some of the best racing of the weekend, with the continuing battle between Peter 'Joey' Hindley and Mark Woods (350 Gold Star) and the very quick 200 Suzukis of Fred Burbidge and Terry Brocklehurst. It was the four-strokes that just held sway, with Hindley and Woods each recording two overall wins, but they were harried all the way by the little strokers. In the 200cc four-stroke category it was the Honda mounted trio of Chris Gregory (twice), Nigel Banks and Martin Dickens who took the wins.

Sleightholme, Cheetham and Kilworth in close formation in 2nd leg of Classic Racer Syndicate 1300 race.

And so ended a fantastic weekend of top quality classic racing enjoyed by a large and enthusiastic turnout of spectators - spiced up somewhat by an unusual dose of controversy. What will happen next weekend…?

Details of the remaining three meetings at Snetterton, Pembrey and Cadwell Park can be found on the CRMC website:

There's more about classic racing in most issues of the RealClassic magazine; and in RC16 there's a full report about what happened to a racing Norton ES2 when it tried to fly without the aid of a safety net…

Photos by Russell Lee of Visit Russell's site if you'd like to order high-res or poster size photos of class racers in action


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