A Weekend by the Sea
REGULAR READERS may have noticed last month that the end of season Grand Prix races in Canada and the United States were written by A.H. and Oct by D.S.J. The reason is simple; as my three score years approach I still have the urge So compete rather than watch, and I satisfy that urge by racing a motorcycle in a small amateurish way. Some years she timing of the International calendar of Formula One races slots neatly into my clubman’s calendar and by flying back from a Grand Prix (and getting the story written promptly() I can escape lore weekend to a motorcycle sprint or a hill-climb and ride my “home-built” 650 c.c. Triumph engined special for the sheer fun and satisfaction of it Success is something that has never really entered my competition career very seriously.
This year my clubman’s calendar had two events on one weekend, both of which are favourites of mine, but the weekend was the some one as the final Grand Prix of the year. It has been quite a good Grand Prix season, starting off with great interest but suffering an attack of the “glooms” around mid-season, only to come alive again at the end, an I was rather torn between a weekend of competitive motorcycling or watching the Grand Prix season ending on quite a high note. With my active motorcycling years numbered I chose to go motorcycle racing. Fortunately A.H. who covers the Grand Prix season for our enter weekly newspaper Motoring News has very similar views on Grand Prix racing to those of my own. We both think that the name of the game is winning, we can watch with appreciation a driver like Villeneuve whose approach to racing is a breath of fresh air, we admire the down-to-earth approach of Alan Jones, the brilliance of Nelson Piquet, we like the total lack of “bull” in the Williams team, the open and pleasant honesty of the Renault team, the fervour and passion of the Ferrari team and a superb Grand Prix start makes us both stand up and cheer. Consequently, when A.H. said he was prepared recover the North American races for MOTOR SPORT in order that I could indulge in a little personal competitive riding and a stirring of the adrenalin, I was happy for my part, and I hope for MOTOR SPORT readers, to let him do my iob for me. My weekend involved a trip to the West of England, with a speed trial on the seafront at Weston-super-Mare on the Saturday and a hill-climb at Hartland Quay on the North Cornwall coast on the Sunday. The speed trials at Weston-super-Mare have been taking place annually since 1948, when they were instigated by the Bristol Motor Cycle and Light Car Club. The venue is the road running westwards from the pier, with the sand and sea on one side and the lawns and seafront gardens on the other side. These speed trials started out as a standing-start half-mile, with cars running two at a time, one on the roadway and the other on the very wide promenade normally restricted to pedestrians. The course takes a long gentle curve to the right, but not severe enough to cause any problems. When the promenade sprouted lamp standards and seats the two-at-a-time running had to be curtailed and the running was restricted to one car at a time on the roadway. This road and the gardens are the property of the town council, which is why it can be closed and used for motoring competitions. After a number of years the organisation passed over to the Burnham-on-Sea Motor Club, and today’s Secretary of the Meeting, Ren Durk, has been organising this annual affair for 17 years. The meeting is essentially for cars, from tuned-up saloons to ex-Formula One cars, but as with so many western motor clubs the Burnham-on-Sea club is sympathetic to motorcycles and each year invite nine solo motorcycles and three sidecar outfits to give “demonstration runs”, which is how I get my annual ride up the Western-super-Mare seafront. Although classified as a “demonstration” no that there is no actual competition and no awards, nobody hangs about and we all give the bikes “full noise” from the word go. Back in the ‘sixties the roads around the pier entrance were rebuilt, with a one-way system of traffic islands and so on, which meant that the starting line had to be moved westwards. As the end of the seafront road runs straight onto the beach it was not possible to move the entire measured half-mile westwards, so the distance was reduced to the International measurement of 500 metres, or half a kilometre. This did not detract from the event in any may at all and if anyone bad an eye on International records they could use the Weston course as a yardstick. Individual times are taken by. beam-timers, with the terminal speed measured over the finish line, so when you arc competing you are out to improve on two things, the time to cover the standing-start 500 metres and the speed over the finish line, which makes the event doubly interesting. This year the starting area was very slippery, with a combination of tyre rubber and a fine layer of sand, so that the first 50 or 60 yards were quite exciting, even on a comparatively low-powered bike like mine. My fastest run, which wasn’t the neatest of the four that I did, was a 15.54 sec. with a eerminal speed of 103 m.p.h., the Triumph twin-cylinder engine turning over at 7,200 r.p.m. Another competitor on a 350 c.c. modern racing Yamaha got a time of 15.43 sec. with a terminal speed of 118 m.p.h. It would have been fun if we could have run together. All this paled into insignificance when the two big bikes ran. The first was a production road-going 1,100 c.c. 4-cylinder twin-overhead camshaft Suzuki, which the rider had ridden up from Plymouth that morning complete with pillion passenger. He removed the rear-view
mirrors, fixed racing numbers on and did a time of 13.70 sec. with a terminal of 120 m.p.h. The other big bike was a modern road-racing solo 750
water-cooled two-stroke Yamaha, ridden by the sidecar racer Mick Boddice. His time was 13.44 sec. but his terminal speed was 137 m.p.h.! These two big bikes together would have made a fine sight (and sound). While we were enjoying our own little private competition and hopefully pleasing the spectators with our “demonstration” our sense of proportion was kept in check when we beard that the fastest racing car had just clocked 154 m.p.h. over the finishing line. That must have been exciting; it certainly sounded impressive from the paddock. The whole atmosphere at the Westonsuper-Mare speed trials is very pleasant and relaxed, everyone is friendly and courteous and the proceedings run so smoothly that you are hardly aware of all the people involved in the organisation. Competitors are funnelled up to the starting line along a single-car-width avenue of barriers, with spectators on both sides and as each one comes out of the funnel and into the start area the marshals are ready to line him up and send him on his way. At the far end of the braking area if your brakes fail or your throttle socks open you go straight onto the beach, but if all is well, and it invariably is, you turn a corner to the left and stop in the marshalling area where there is a young lady on a telephone ready to give you your time and speed. On this corner is the municipal hospital, whose authorities are very tolerant indeed, and the organising club go out of their may to impress upon competitors the fact that there is a hospital at the end of the course, not from the point of view of its convenience should any competitor have an accident, but to get everyone to co-operate in keeping noise down to a minimum. C.-operation seems to be the keyword at this pleasant event, and competitors switch their engines off as soon as they can after finishing their run. Any manoeuvring of cars in the finish-paddock is done by hand by a band of willing marshals. During the meeting one of the staff from the hospital was going round the paddock with a tape-recorder making interviews and so on for a programme that was being compiled to be broadcast over the hospital radio. This seemed to be an excellent idea so that the inmates could hear something of what had been
going on outside all day. He had a chat with our fastest rider, she one who had docked 137 m.p.h. over the finish line. When she class is finished you return along the promenade, skilfully avoiding the seats and lamp standards and enter the paddock to one side, so that the next class can be all ready, lined up in the funnel leading to the start-line. Everything is over by about 5 p.m., everyone having had two practice rims in the morning and two competitive runs in the afternoon, and when the weather is as goad as it was this year you could not wish fora more pleasant day by the sea. As I was loading my bike into my van I was chatting with Reg Phillips, who used to be one of the leading RAC Hill-Climb Championship contenders and who still enjoys a sprint meeting or hill-climb with his turbo-charged 3000 AC coup, I was well satisfied with the four runs I had done on my home-built special, having clocked well over “she ton” on each run, but I was watching my friend Dave Place taking the numbers off his 1,100 c.c. Suzuki, putting the rear-view mirrors back on and preparing for a quick ride home to Plymouth. I tried to imagine what a bike with that sort of performance must be like on she open road. and I began to wonder if I hadn’t got it all wrong, going to the trouble of spending many hours building a racing bike, carrying it about in a van, and going through all the motions of beings racing motorcyclist, when I could go and buy a fast modern touring machine that, fully equipped, was so much faster than my bike that it was silly. Reg Phillips said, “yes, but the Suzuki is nearly twice the capacity of your bike, and probably cost (2.500 whereas yours cost
£ 250 and you had all the fun of building it”. He was absolutely right, satisfaction is relative. Leaving the pleasant atmosphere of Weston-super-Mare I drove for three hours along the North Devon coast onto the promontory of Hartland Point, arriving at the Hartland Quay Hotel in good time foes few drinks in the bar with the other lads that were staying there for she hill-climb on the following day. This nagged coast-line of she most wonderful rock formations is wild and woolly at the best of times, and the hill-climb is equally wild and woolly. Although I describe Hartland Quay as being in Cornwall, I believe it is actually in Devon, but the boundary between the two West of England counties is somewhere very close by. The Quay itself is virtually cut out of the rocks and dates back to the days of Sir Francis Drake and at the foot of the cliffs is the hotel and pub. From outside the public bar a narrow road winds up the side of the cliff in a series of left and right hand bends and is a private road until it reaches the top of the cliffs, which is why we are able louse it foes motorcyck hill-climb. The road is bumpy, but the bumps are the same for everyone and if you haven’t got both wheels clear of the ground at about 70 m.p.h. over the finishing line you are not trying. IneyitablY someone falls off on one or other of the bendi . but injuries are rare, as speeds are comparatively low and no-one would think of riding without leathers, boots, gloves and crash-hat, even if they were allowed to. A ride up the Hartland Quay course doesn’t take long I’m still trying to break 3lltec. and keep up with the fast boys!, hut it is immensely satisfying and it makes the adrenalin (kw iust to look at the cliff face and the rock (nncroPs. This event has something in common with the Weston-super-Mare speed trials, in that It takes place by courtesy of the land owner, and the goodwill and tolenince of the landlord of the betel. Because the Weston-super-Mare Speed trials only happen once a year, the noise and disruption they cause is tolerated. If clubs tried to run six events a year, for example. everyone would soon get fed up. Equally, we can run events at Hartland Quay beftire the summer tourist triton begins and after it is finished. To try and run events in the summer would not only be ridiculous but would be anti-social. I find that People are generally tolerant providing you don’t exaggerate, but too man, sporting venues have
been lost due to “flogging-them-to-death” and exaggerating. It is very easy to have too much of a good thing. Before going to bed on the Sunday night I listened to Simon Taylor on the BBC telling us about the last Grand Prix of the year and hearing how Alan Jones, in spite of having sewn up the World Championship at the previous race, drove brilliantly after a first corner mi.ke that dropped him to 12th place. and battled through to second, behind the flying Alla Romeo of Giacomelli and took over the lead when the Alfa expired. “Good old Jonesey-boy” I thought, “he’s a real racer and a very worthy World Champion”. He could so easily have cruised round after his excursion off the track and trailed honie eighth or ninth or something. but then Alan Jones is not like that. As I west to sleep I thought. “that’s odd, there were 22 other drivers in that race who could have been in second place when the All, expired. and ten of them were ahead of Alan Jones on the opening lap. I wonder what they were all doing.” I slept soundly after a very pleasant weekend by
the sea, sale in the knowledge that AIL would tell me all about it when he returned to London.
The Things They Say
driving a Scoot vs Saioull III the Minot’ Show Trophy Race at Donington Park. Alan /ones , 1980 World Champion Fl driver, is quoted as saying “It will be totally different — it is a lot heavier than a Formula I car, a lot less powerful, has no ground effects. hut it is for these reasons I am looking forward to the race”. The Press hand-out stated that the challenge of driving the Rests V8 saloon WOS an attractive proposition to Jones.
He has been racing a car like that for most of the European season. No, not a Williams FW0713. but the BMW “Procar” MI coupe. The “one-make” circus races have accompanied most a the Grand Prix events in Europe this season and Jones has been one of the regular comp. itors.