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12th December 2005


Classic Racing

He started out with an almost standard unit T100, and now he's riding a work-in-progress, tricked out Triton around street circuits on the Continent. John Randle explains why he loves racing on the roads, Dutch style...

Over the years I have raced all sorts of machines, Japanese, European and good old Brit bikes. I started at the age of 16 racing a rigid T100 in vintage races in England, then along came all the other bikes, some good, some bad and some dire.

Fast forward to 2001 and I am living in Holland and missing the racing; my last meeting was a hill climb on a Honda CR500 in 1999. So I began looking round to see what could be done about it. At first I thought about building a BOTT racer from a Yamaha 850 but the cost of making one competitive halted that idea. So what to do?

John and his bike. Don't let the sepia fool you; it was just another foggy Dutch day...

While I was at an autojumble I came across a stand from the HMV racing club. HMV stands for Historisch Motorsport Vereniging -- a bit of a mouthful especially when you don't speak Dutch. Basically the club runs events all over Holland, around 12 meetings a year for bikes that are pre-1965 and non-Japanese. So I decided this was the route I would take as classic racing is cheap… isn't it?

Next step was to find a suitable machine. After a few dead ends I ended up with a unit T100 of 1964 vintage so the die was cast.

Over the winter I stripped and rebuilt the engine, frame and rebuilt the wheels with Borrani rims. At this point I decided not to tune the motor and just see what was needed over the first season. The only things that I did to the motor was a belt drive kit from Mick Hemmings and a Bransden ignition. A new carb was also fitted along with chain and sprockets. So I was ready…

The black Triumph is what John started with, the red bike is the mid-point and the Triton is the current state of play.
Random T100 Stuff on eBay.co.uk

John and his German friend who took the other pictures, Armin Fischer. The first meeting of 2002 was at a village near where I live in the east of Holland called Holten. It is a narrow bumpy circuit around a mile in length but has some nice features; the best being the last corner which is a sweeping right hander.

After the first practice I was reasonably happy with everything so the first race came and went without much drama. Race 2 was a different story though. I missed a gear causing the revs to climb to Japanese levels and bent a pushrod: a lucky escape really.

So the season wore on with no real success but lots of fun. However I decided half way through the season that I needed more power so the winter was devoted to the engine department.

The winter was spent in the shed, a place familiar to us all. New pushrods, valves and springs were the first to arrive. Then a rebore and new pistons were the next job in hand. Only a polish of the ports in the head was done at this stage as I prefer to get one bit right at a time.

John and the Triton at Barneveld before the oil disaster.

Season 2003 again started in Holten and the work over the winter seemed to have helped, but there were still a few things to get right. During this season the highlight for me was a trip to Monthlerey in France to ride in the Coup de Legendes meeting. Back in Holland it was also going well with a fourth place in Niew Vennep (an industrial estate circuit).

What a pair of likely lads ! John's mate Ben Fitje who races a Comet. Are we having fun yet?Then the gearbox gremlins started… so the rest of the season was spent replacing just about every component in the box.

Over the winter of 2003/2004 a new pair of cams were fitted. These were my old ones that I sent to Phill Joy to reprofile them to BSA Spitfire profile. I also decided to fit twin carbs and have the head gas flowed. During this winter I was offered a Featherbed frame, wheels, tank and roadholder forks, and so the Triton was born.

2004 was looking good, or so I thought. It ended up being a year of sorting out more things than racing, but I still had a good time and by the end of the season a few top 10 places, but the gremlins were sorted.

On to 2005. The first race in Holten did not cause any problems and I finished 12th so I was happy. The next race I also scored points so things were going well but, as we all know, things do not always go to plan. Up until the half way point of the season I had gained some good scores, two 4th places, a 6th and a 9th.

Then it happened…

Barneveld is the biggest race of the year and is held on a industrial estate. The circuit is quite smooth and fast so I was looking forward to it. Practice should have told me something really; I had a dead plug, not much granted but it was just the start. Out for the first race and the bike was running like a pig, instead of retiring I decided to soldier on as I was picking up places… until going into a corner I felt my legs getting hot and the back end sliding. Yes, you guessed it, the engine decided to change the entire contents of the oil tank without telling me. There was even oil on the front wheel!

So end of game, early bath, call it what you will but I was definitely out.

Barneveld again. It gets really hot waiting here as there is no shade. The temperature was 30 +So I am rebuilding again for next season and we will see what next year brings. I will certainly have fun regardless of what ever fate throws at me. Now I am used to racing on the street circuits I don't think I could ever go back to racing on circuits again. It is a different way of thinking and riding but I enjoy it and to me that is all that matters. I doubt I will ever win a race but that also does not bother me as I am doing this for fun and the love of racing a classic bike on the roads.

The racing here in Holland is real grass roots stuff. Everyone helps each other out and the evening before the race the paddock has the delightful aroma of the barbecue. Wandering around the paddock you will hear German, Dutch, English spoken but the conversations are all about the same thing - the love of the sport.

The circuits are a mix of industrial estates and street circuits; the mixture of asphalt and block paving on some circuits takes a bit of getting used to. The residents of the villages we race at give us their full support even though it must cause them a few problems regarding access to their houses, but it is nice on the run down lap to see them all sitting in their front gardens waving in support to us.

You may have noticed no reference to Assen. The reason? We are not allowed there due to the noise as we run unsilenced machines. Do we care? Not one bit.

Thanks must be given to Safe Motors of Almelo who give me a discount, Phil Joy for doing a splendid job with the cams, Darren at Bike Bitz in Coventry who gave me a set of Bridgestone Battleaxe tyres and lets me raid his yard every time I visit. But the most thanks must go to my long-suffering partner who, bless her socks, keeps me fed and watered all season and doubles as brolly dolly, chief cook and bottle washer and all round Number 1 supporter.

John's long suffering partner. As you can see she is so happy being out of bed at 6 in the morning so she can sit in a cold field. Take note that he always flies the flag

If ever you are planning a trip to Holland come and see one of our meetings as I am sure you will find it a refreshing change to the sanitized world of circuit racing.

If you want to go classic racing in the UK, start with the CRMC: www.crmc.co.uk or try the VMCC's racing section; www.vmcc-racing.co.uk

Photos from John's archive and Armin Fischer

Why is everyone looking behind John? What was just happened? We need to know...

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