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15th April 2015

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VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

The classic racing season is almost upon us. Richard Jones goes to Mallory Park to watch the VMCC's historic racers take to the track for the first official practice day of the year...

I like Mallory. It’s not the closest circuit to Jones Towers – that’s Silverstone – but it has a very friendly atmosphere as opposed to that of a modern industrial park. I’ve always been able to park, you can wander around the paddock quite freely, people will chat to you and the bacon butties are really rather good. So it was that on the last Friday of March Tessie the Hinckley Triumph, the camera and I set off up the A5 for the VMCC’s British Historic Racing (BHR) practice day. It wasn’t raining and, as an added bonus, the sun made an appearance too – is there any better way to spend a day?

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

Things were busy in the paddock, even at lunch time although during this hallowed hour race engines could not be run. Any transgressions would result in men and machine being sent home for an early bath.

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

Simply beautiful – there is no other suitable description for this gloriously red Gilera single. I’m going to take a leap of faith and identify it as the ohv 499cc Saturno which the marque started manufacturing immediately after WWII in Arcore. I wanted it as soon as I saw it and by chance North Leicester Motorcycles have one – the good news is that it’s also red and beautiful, the not so good news is that it’s £17,500. This one was travelling around Mallory at quite a pace and it’s refreshing to see that it’s being put to the use for which it was designed (I would have mine in the living room on a pedestal).

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

There were quite a few bikes with girder forks and rigid rear ends including Ariels, Nortons and Triumphs, but those in Team Rudge were the ones that really catch the eye. The 250cc fully radial four-valve Rudge engine was designed for the 1931 season and made its first appearance that year in the North West 200. The same year it took 1st, 2nd and 4th in the IoM Lightweight TT ridden by Graham Walker, Henry Tyrell Smith and Ernie Nott respectively. This machine is a 1934 specification and has been ridden by Mervyn Stratford since 1968; apart from modifications, updates, renewals and replacements, it is largely the same bike today (like the new broom with lots of new handles and heads). If you want to know more have a look at www.stratford-rudge.co.uk

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

BMWs were the dominant force in the sidecar outfit part of the paddock and this BMW 750 is ridden by Adrian and Robert Dawson (‘Ade’ and ‘Bob’ to judge from the bike decals and their leathers). This machine competes in the BHR class for twin cylinder, two valves per cylinder up to 750cc three wheelers, and it came third in the 2014 season with 57 points. I included this one for no other reason than my mother’s maiden name is Dawson and her mother came from Earl Shilton, just a stone’s throw from the Mallory circuit (what did you expect – logic?)

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

You will recall I mentioned girder fork Ariels and here is one of the two I photographed – you can see from the look on the face of the man in the van that I wasn’t the only one who liked it. Once again I am going to take a guess and say it’s a pre-war Red Hunter but, as always, if I’ve got it wrong please let me know. This too went around the circuit at quite a pace, proving age is no hindrance to speed (unless it’s me).

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

Chatting to the gentleman riding this 250cc Ducati I discovered that the machine had not been raced for 40 years and had only recently been restored. The rider was in a better position – he hadn’t raced since 1979 so only 36 years since his last outing. That being said he was far from slow so those track days he mentioned must have paid off. I did suggest that a white Ducati was somewhat unusual but he felt a change was as good as a rest – I mean they can’t all be red, can they?

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

This is twin-engine Triumph was built by Jim Gee in 1971 and has a capacity of 1164cc, with alloy T100 motors, Norton crankshafts, Hagon liners, Triumph Bandit pistons and Spitfire cams. In addition the Quaife five-speed gearbox has a dry, all-metal Commando clutch. (I appreciate that you won’t believe I could tell all this by simply looking at, so it I will admit that MTS Classics, who race the mighty machine, had a useful information board by their van. This outfit is seriously fast and really got around Mallory in short order. Equally importantly, MTS only lies a short distance from Jones Towers and they look after classic machines for, amongst others, duffers like me who are mechanically incompetent. Perhaps Mrs J will now look favourably on the purchase of a classic bike as there is somewhere I can get it maintained locally – result!

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

I wouldn’t say that Manx Nortons were a common sight at Mallory, rather that they were popular with quite a few of the riders and, let’s be honest, they do sound amazing.

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

If we have a photograph of a Norton then, in the interests of balance, there must be one of a Triumph and this one was painted in my favourite colour and, surprisingly given its speed, is in focus.

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

I have never made a secret of my fondness for Vincents – I just wish I could afford one – so here is one for your and my delectation.

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day

Yes – there were some Japanese bikes on the circuit and this was one of the two Hondas that particularly caught the viewfinder.

2015 VMCC British Historic Racing Practice Day More Scooters, Less Zip, on now...

‘What is this doing here?’ I think I hear you ask. Well the BHR has two classes for scooters – Geared and Zip. I don’t know which type this is but it was the only one at Mallory on that Friday so the rider got to do laps on his own. Imagine that – you get Mallory Park circuit to yourself and you are on a scooter.

If this brief piece of nonsense has whetted your appetite then I’d recommend you go along to one of the BHR race days - the programme for 2015 is on their site. If the practice day was anything to go by then the racing must be epic.

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VMCC British Historic Racing: www.britishhistoricracing.co.uk You’ll find more photos from this event and many other motorcycle rides and shows at Richard’s archive: www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/


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