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21st November 2005


The Classic Motorcycle Racing Club Race Of The Year

Racing with broken ribs; a series of spills; a technical disqualification and a Triton going up in flames - it all happened at Snetterton during the final classic races of the season. Graham Lawlor reports...

The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club can look back on a highly successful 2005 season which boasted bumper entries and burgeoning crowds, and which culminated in the prestigious Race of the Year meeting at Norfolk's high speed Snetterton circuit. Saturday saw the last two rounds of the club championships while on Sunday there was a single ten lap Race of the Year for each class.

Cool track temperatures caught out plenty of riders accustomed to months of racing on hot rubber. Surprisingly it was championship-leader Lea Gourlay who led the way with no fewer than five crashes, three of them before Saturday lunch! Fortunately none resulted in serious damage to man or machine and he went on to clinch a remarkable set of awards: three CRMC and two National Championships and also the Junior, 500GP and 1300 Races of the Year!

Lea Gourlay, Summerfield Manx
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With Gourlay's regular protagonist, Glen English, out of action owing to Andy Molnar's illness, there was much speculation that the highly rated Guy Martin would prove a more than adequate substitute. After overcoming some early handling problems with his Triumph Trident the three times Scarborough Gold Cup winner did indeed impress, including what appeared to be a victory in the Norton Owners Club Senior GP Race of the Year.

However, he was subsequently excluded for an alleged serious technical infringement, leaving the overall and F750 win to Hasse Gustafson, just ahead of Gary Thwaites (Ryan BSA), with Gourlay (Summerfield Manx) happy to settle for the 500 Group 1 prize. Two weeks previously Gustafson had made a big impression at Cadwell, and the Swede was again a constant threat all weekend on the immaculate AVA Wee Two Ducati 750. He narrowly missed victory in Saturday's first club championship leg, won by Luke Notton (Walmsley G50) after Gourlay went down at Russell's, and then finished fourth in the second leg behind Gourlay, Thwaites and Alan Oversby (Craven Manx).

Gourlay parted company with his bigger Manx again in Sunday's final round of the Summerfield Engineering Senior National, and Oversby accepted the gift to win by over 10 seconds ahead of a titanic battle between Phill Sharp (BRR T5 Manx) and Mike Smith (Dunnell Manx) that Smith eventually edged by just 0.25 seconds. Despite the crash Gourlay clinched the championship, and he made it a 350/500 Series double by also comfortably winning the Summerfield Engineering Junior National on the Summerfield Manx. Behind him Sharp (BRR T3) was involved in another epic scrap, this time with Nigel Palmer (Lacey Ducati), and again he had to settle for third place by a small margin.

Sharp was also thwarted in the IHRO race, stopping at the Bombhole on lap 4 whilst dicing with Notton's Walmsley G50. Notton cleared off to easily win the race, and with it the IHRO 500 title. Forty seconds behind, Palmer took his 350 Lacey Ducati to second place ahead of Smith's 500 Manx.

Palmer put in a strong performance all weekend despite broken ribs and numerous aches and pains - a legacy from his big King of Cadwell crash. He split Saturday's Carole Nash Senior wins with John Davidson (Honda 500) and then took the Ellis 480 Ducati to an emphatic RoY win over Dave Witt (Seeley Goldstar) and Davidson. In the Molnar Precision Juniors he finished third in the RoY behind Gourlay (Summerfield Manx) and Sharp after a great three way dice and also pushed Gourlay all the way in Saturday's first CRMC leg after early leader Notton (Walmsley 7R) came a cropper at the Esses after being blown off line by a rogue gust of wind. Sharp got the win that his weekend's riding deserved in the second leg after a close dice with Doug Snow (Ducati) and Mike Smith (Manx). The combined 250 twins saw a RoY victory for John Davidson on John Lenton's TD1C while in Saturday's races it was Davidson and Danny Pullen (Suzuki) with a win apiece.

Ingle aboard Rob Lidgate's Triumph 3

Saturday's first Boyer Bransden 1300 race was curtailed after Paul Eagle went down at Russell's on lap 1 and saw his Ekquire Triton engulfed in flames. The stoppage was good news for Gourlay (Lidgate 750 Trident), who had been skittled at Riches just before Eagle's bonfire brought out the red flags, and he went on to win the later re-run by just half a second from a determined Phil Davenport (RPS 930 Triumph). Amazingly, Eagle came home 8th on the scorched Triton!

Prior to that, the final round of the Classic racer Syndicate National 1300 Series produced fireworks of a different kind on a slightly damp track. After early leader Davenport dropped back, it was somewhat surprisingly the Weslake 750cc twin of Mike Hose that gave Gourlay all the trouble, even to the point of briefly leading on lap 4. Gourlay clawed his way back to the front to win by one second, with the twins of Gustafson and Thwaites (on his no 2 Watson Norton) just behind. Like Gourlay, Thwaites prefers to do his talking on the track and his overall victory in the inaugural series has been a testimony to his hard riding and the reliability of Dave Watson's Seeley Commandos - an excellent all-round team effort.

Guy Martin on the Simms Trident

Sunday's 1300 cc Race of the Year produced another peerless performance by Gourlay as he in his own words 'put the crashes behind me' to defeat Martin by nearly six seconds. Following Martin's subsequent exclusion Davenport was awarded second place, with Thwaites capping his great season by taking the Twins laurels.

Arguably the broadest smile of the weekend was on Mike Russell's face as the Cambridge rider scored a perfect six-out-of-six on Andrew French's pristine brace of TZ Yamahas. Roy Flower and Richard Parker were absent but 26-year-old Russell still had plenty of competition in the form of Kevin Tong, Steve Clark and Ian Cunnington in the Hartsmere Logistics sponsored FRC class. In Saturday's 6-lappers Russell (350 TZ) scored narrow wins over Tong (Spondon) and then Cunnington (B&N TZ350) with the expected challenge from Clark (250 TZ) failing to materialise after a mistake in race 1 and a fall in the second leg.

However, he was right on the pace in Sunday's ten-lap RoY and it was only in the last couple of laps that Russell managed to finally shake him off, with Tong coming home third. Russell (Juchen 250) also took a hat-trick of Group 1 wins over Tong in the Weld-Tec (UK) Ltd Post Classics, including his second Race of the Year win of the day. Rob Hall (TZ 750) was the overall race victor just 1.7 seconds ahead of Paul Eagle (P&M Kawasaki), with Darren Raybould taking the under 750cc honours on his Ducati. Hall had previously won the first club championship leg after a terrific dice with Steve Dobbie (Harris Kawasaki) and Eagle, and had looked set to take the second too until Eagle got by on the last lap to win by just 0.2 seconds.

Nick Houghton & Andy Smith (Nourish 900)

Brian Gray and Alan Bedford (Windle Nourish) had been dominating the Nova Racing Transmissions sidecar event until former Champion Nick Houghton, passengered by Andy Smith, appeared on the scene at Cadwell Park to take all four wins. This pattern continued in both Saturday's races and for the first half of Sunday's Race of the Year, but suddenly the Gray/Bedford pairing recaptured their form and cleared off to win by nearly 6 seconds from their fellow Nourish rivals. After the race Houghton sportingly offered no excuses and also confirmed that he hoped to be contesting next year's series. In a race of high attrition there were no Period 2 finishers but Period 1 saw a victory for Team Eek's Adrian Dedman and Theresa Langford on their immaculate 750 Norton. Bill and Maggie Tuer completed the picture with victory in the invited Morgans category.

In a race of high attrition there were no Period 2 finishers but Period 3 saw a victory for Team Eek's Adrian Dedman and Theresa Langford on their immaculate 750 Norton. This crowned a splendid weekend for the Soham pair as they had overhauled arch rivals Dennis and Chrisine Etheridge (750 Norton) on Saturday to clinch the CRMC title by just one point: 276 to 275! Bill and Maggie Tuer completed the picture with victory in the invited Morgans category.

In the Arai Helmets Lightweight event Mike Hose carried on where he'd left off at Cadwell to take three easy wins on the Ariel Arrow. With this year's Champion Graham Wade incapacitated by a fractured wrist it was former top-dog John Hynes, together with Nigel Palmer (both Ducati), who provided the main competition to the flying Merseysider. Because of a high level of attrition the concurrently run 125's were slightly less fraught than usual. Jerry Lodge (MT Honda) took a brace of comfortable wins in the championship races but it was Symon Woodward (MT Honda), coming back well from a Saturday crash at the Bombhole, who won the RoY by a distance from the somewhat surprised veteran, Dennis Appleby (TZ Yamaha).

Alan Burman (350 K4 Honda) holds off ex-World Champion Phil Read (Duke BSA)

Simon Walsh (K4) convincingly won Saturday's first Honda UK Junior Twins race before encountering terminal mechanical problems in race 2, leaving Alan Oversby (K4) to take the win from John Davidson (Garfield Honda). In the 10 lap RoY Rob Munro (J&R TAB Honda) and then Oversby retired when leading, leaving the way clear for a happy Davidson to score an eight second victory over Richard Bryant (R&C Honda). The combined 500 Gold Stars event saw the ever-rapid Phil Read (Duke BSA) nab a pair of clear wins in Saturday's races but he was forced to drop out of the RoY with gear selection problems which meant Robin Stokes took the laurels from Dale Wilkinson. These two have had a season long battle for the CRMC title and once the dust had settled it was Stokes who had just nicked it by 6 points.

Terry Brocklehurst crowned a great season with outright wins in both Saturday's Gibson Exhaust Ultra Lightweight races on the Lea Gourlay tuned T200 Suzuki ahead of the 350 Gold Stars of Andy Kirkwood and Mark Woods. He was heading for the hat-trick in the RoY when his engine went off and although overtaken by eventual winner Woods and then Kirkwood held on to take the 200 2-stroke honours. In the 200 4-strokes Jonathan Wells (Rickman Honda) took a brace of wins, including the RoY; Martin Dickens (175 Honda) took the other leg and with it the overall class championship.

Wanna Go Racing?

Start planning for the 2006 season; competitors, paraders, marshals and spectators are all welcome to join the fun with the Classic Racing Motorcycle Club. The CRMC is the UK's most active and broad-ranging racing organisation, and it caters for solos and sidecars made from 1945 to 1972 (or 1967 for 2-strokes) and Post Classic, split into three categories. Race weekends take place across the country throughout the year.

  • See www.crmc.co.uk or contact:
  • Entries: 01142 873885
  • Membership: 01636 700158
  • Enquiries: 01953 850677

    Photos by Russell Lee (www.sport-pics.co.uk)


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