Through the visor of Tony Perkin
The newly laid tarmac at Paddock Hill and Graham Hill Bend belied its wet look at first inspection but was to provide superb grip for the Avon control tyres and so, with the weather set damp to changeable we all prepared for timed qualifying.
Ripley Land head honcho Ian Garbutt, has been a staunch supporter of Lansdowne for many years with a keen eye for placing fast bums on his machines. With Mike Hose at the helm the team took pole from the series leader ‘Gorgeous’ George Thomas who was on home turf and piloting one of Tony Dunnell’s superb Manx Nortons. Tony has also been involved in sponsoring riders for many years also canny as you like.
Next up was Luke Bailey, the big man hammering his underweight Manx (no transponder) like he stole it and looking the ‘dogs danglies’ in his black and gold RSTs. Another sponsored rider, Mike Russell, slotted Richard Adams’ latest creation, a big Velo-engined Manx into P4 and first of the Pre-55 riders. The eloquent and charming Robin Stokes topped the Clubman class in P5. Second Clubman in P8 was the battered Andy Glasgow, still fast as hell whilst feeling 70%, just wait till he’s fixed!
Third Clubman was Steve Parrott, who didn’t take too kindly to being pulled away from plucking his eyebrows, knocked out an impressive P9 grid place. The CRMC machine of the weekend belonged to our man Ben Kingham with his fabulous Vincent Black Shadow, Ben powered to P11 whilst cooking the brakes hauling down this proper beast of a bike.
Another rider worthy of a commendation is Nick Bedford in P14 on his first ride back from a broken collarbone, they still build some of these teachers tough these days. Ex-motocrosser Richard Hann took P19 as third Pre-55 , always a good bet to make places come race day. Of the 350 class one man stood head and shoulders (not literally) above the others. John Cragg, resplendent in snooker players glasses and the biggest grin in the paddock, bossed out a P23 on the grid ahead of possibly the pinnacle of the Lansdowne characters – the ever cheery Cliff Ransley in P28, just in front of Jack Hebb in P29. The 350 class must run on nitrous oxide, or be just great fun to ride?
Andy Glasgow was sent skywards exiting Clarks Curve like so many before him. The bike took the brunt of the damage whilst in the sky the circling Spitfire pilot must have felt proud when we awarded Andy a genuine spitfire spanner… well an old Honda spanner with ‘Genuine Spitfire Sponna’ written on it. Andy made good the repairs and was back on track later.
Saturday race one
An overcast sky and drying track greeted us riders to our start positions, a drop of the union flag orchestrated the simultaneous straining of throttle cables, thunderous bellow of noise and thrust off the line. I roasted my new clutch chasing the rampant Mike Hose and George Thomas as they peeled into Paddock Hill bend, a swooping down hill right that requires full commitment on cool tyres.
With the baying crowd behind, the pack all made it through. Snicking gears, we charge through the compression from down to up Hailwood Hill before vying for position on the approach to Druids hairpin. Stamping down the gears whilst really hauling the anchors; less peeling, more throwing, our bikes onto their sides at these first corners with entry, apex and exit not as important as position! I felt fairly calm in 3rd until accelerating towards Graham Hill Bend, first of the left-handers. My Norton’s revs not matching it’s forward thrust? Luke Bailey and Robin Stokes accept the invitation slipping through as I balance throttle to clutch slip knowing worst is yet to come.
Ex-champ Sam Clews gave his ACR Manx the beans and soon found clear track ahead only for a determined Thomas, Hose, Bailey and Clubman Stokes out to make a battle of it at the pointy end. I just held station awaiting attack at every bend. Just behind us Chris Bassett was having fun with plenty of traffic to weave through, coming from sixteenth to finish eighth and taking second Clubman. A class ride from Chris even with the amazing Ben Kingham on his Vincent on his tail booming round with plenty of power going forward, but very little retardation. The wee brakes pummelled into submission enough to take second pre-55.
Steve Parrott had a steady ride finishing tenth overall and third Clubman whilst Richard Hann completed the Pre-55 podium fighting off the attentions of Angela Cragg, Richard Dawson and the immaculate Jimmy May. The 350cc riders continued to impress with John Cragg pinging the valves off the piston a little more than Jack Hebb who had Cliff Ransley close enough to sniff his deodorant right to the flag.
At the front Thomas continued his purple patch taking the flag by a gnat’s todger. Just 0.4 of a second from Clews with Bailey, Hose and Stokes a machine’s length behind.
Mike Russell got fed up snorting my clutch debris all race powered his pre-55 Velo past, on what was to be the last lap at Clark Curve. Paul Stephen and Stevan Radakovic came together crashing at the fast Paddock Hill Bend which brought out the red flag. Both riders OK although Paul Stephen’s 350 Norton looked much the worst for wear. With a little encouragement Paul put in a Herculean effort to sort his ex-Guthrey machine to be back on the grid for Sunday’s races. A commendable effort and rewarded with a small presentation of a bottle of vino.
Saturday race two
Thomas once again took the hole shot into Paddock Hill Bend and had the tiniest of hesitation allowed Hose through, who then pulled the pin and pulled a small gap to the flag. Whilst Luke Bailey’s gold coloured leathers reflected the glorious Brands sunshine, he dive-bombed the leading pack into submission at Graham Hill’s left hand bend lap-after-lap. Bailey secured a cracking second to Hose at the flag and just ahead of a simmering battle between Thomas, Russell and Clubman Matt Hebb who was making amends after a mechanical in the first race taking first in class.
Ben Kingham once again set the Vinny on ‘full steam ahead’ taking a deserved second pre-55 and eighth overall, incredible ride Ben. Second Clubman Chris Bassett put his smooth style to great effect holding off the bad boy Radakovic/Parrott battle from a subdued Robin Stokes canter, who just couldn’t get in a rhythm this time out.
Harry Cole had a cracking race keeping the Nick Bedford, Mike Farrall and Gordon Russell group honest, all swapping paint on track and later tales of daring-do over a beer, as it should be! Great close racing.
Ian Lucas gave a lesson in how not to start a race, going from twentieth to twenty-eighth then fought through to a superb seventeenth ahead of another great battle between Jimmy May, Stuart Tonge, Angela Cragg and Richard Dawson, finishing in that order with fag papers crushed between them. Derek Bunning had his hands full as he engaged in a race long battle with the wiley old fox and 350cc pilot John Cragg. Derek finally getting the better of John on the last lap. Jack Hebb once again kept Cliff Ransley at bay, second and third 350cc.
Sunday race three
Sunday dawned with not a cloud in the sky, the track ripe for racing and the toilets overused! The riders were anxious but excited as we waited in the assembly area, just wanting to get on with it.
Same grid positions carried forward from qualifying, each pilot deep in thought and envisaging the perfect start. The red flag points at the starter so I close my visor and examine the starter as he lifts the union flag. The revs rise, the clutch just bites, then I just concentrate on the clutch release as it matches the meaty part of the revs with forward thrust, it still amazes me how much these ‘old’ bangers can accelerate when everything is in sync.
I managed to gain a couple of places at the hairpin and slot in behind Hose and Thomas in third, although Russell must have used spurs on the thundering Velo to really tramp on. By lap five he was past Thomas and sniffing victory, moving onto the back wheel of Hose, only to have a determined Thomas inch past him on the dash to the line a whisker behind Hose and finishing in that order with Luke Bailey and myself not far behind.
Poor Matt Hebb suffered another mechanical DNF handing top Clubman to Chris Bassett who had another cracking ride finishing sixth overall. Stevan Radakovic finished second Clubman being pushed all the way with a v-twin thrum in his ear by that man Ben Kingham heading for another second pre-55 podium just ahead of final Clubman podium man Steve Parrott.
With great battles being fought through the field like the Richard Hann, Gordon Russell and Mike Farrall dual all split by less than half a second at the flag, Hann taking the 3rd pre-55 points. Those 350cc nutters repeated their previous race positions with John Cragg gagging on class points whilst Jack Hebb and Cliff Ransley appear to be joined at the hip being that close every race. All good fun.
Sunday race four
A long delay from another race saw many riders decide to leave for home early, and so a small but perfectly formed group took their grid positions.
With the temperature high and the bikes crooning that double bass tune as the flag dropped, through a dark visor Hose, Thomas, Bailey and Stokes were away in front. I abused the brakes entering the hairpin and out braked Stokes to take the position. Good drive at the exit I expected more but Bailey was mustard into Graham Hill Bend, with the cement dust from a previous race oil slick more of a mental distraction than physical. It certainly didn’t affect his speed as he gapped me and latched onto the G50 tail of Hose, who in turn had a firm grip on Thomas’ rear end.
The action was that close all race with Thomas taking the win from Bailey and Hose with only 0.3 of a second between them, I just didn’t have the pace to join the party though finishing just over a second behind them gave me a great view, roll on Mallory.
Just behind me Ben Kingham was in a right battle royal with Chris Bassett, Robin Stokes and Nick Bedford, Ben’s Vincent having the extra horses when it counted but all very close and cosy. Jimmy May had another great ride just ahead of Stuart Tonge with Adam Wilson now Manx mounted ahead of lone 350cc pilot Jack Hebb.
To sum up…
To sum up, a fantastic meeting organised by the CRMC, superb weather, great banter and plain great fun. Thank you to the very friendly and professional marshals, medical staff, sponsors and PJM Photography for the superb pictures which can be viewed and purchased on his website…