Thanks be to Darin Frow and Rob Beale of Classic Bike Trackdays/Endurance Legends for taking up the massive labour of love and financial commitment required
to make this event happen. The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club also got behind the idea and made it possible. I’ve heard talk for years about the desire and concept to bring classic motorcycle endurance racing to the UK, but it still caught me by surprise when it actually happened!
In order to give ourselves the best chance, I decided to find a nice, reliable (haha) Honda VFR750 and enter the F2 class. Although the bike was purchased early in the year, the various parts and work all came together very late in the day. I tried the bike on the road months ago, but the practice on Saturday morning at Snetterton was the first time our VFR had ever actually taken to the track.
Previously a 70,000, 3 owner non running bike bought for £400, it seemed very fit and willing. Dyno testing and a little rejetting of the carburettors further confirmed that it was producing 90hp at the rear wheel. Obviously 70,000 miles is enough to get these old Hondas nicely loosened up!
Race preparation involved the usual service, removal of road specific pats, lockwiring of certain fasteners, swapping coolant for water, adding a race exhaust, rearsets race bodywork, Avon AM22/23 tyres, new pads, a new Nitron shock at the back, Hyperpro springs and S1 Suspension cartridge emulators in the forks.
Conditions were fairly good for qualifying. We got 12th of 16. The carburettor setup was spot on. There were no glitches or flat spots, just seamless drive! Straight line speed wasn’t an issue but we all needed to gel with the untested bike. We reasoned that in a four hour race the starting position was not crucial in any case. Gear selection issues were our biggest problem but we managed to mitigate the issue before race day arrived.
In the garage Alan Hudson had us all well organised, sorting out who was responsible for each task, keeping track of laps, lap times and even cooking a fried breakfast! Nolan Freebury kept the bike topped up with fuel, wearing full leathers for fire protection and wielding the quick fill tank. (After Alan repaired it!) Nolan has since decided that he must get his Clubman’s licence in order to compete next year!
The weather could have been a lot better! Words that spring to mind are damp, greasy wet, wetter and cold. A garnish of oil here and there too! Since this event was run under the umbrella of the Classic Racing Motorcycle Club, wet tyres were not permitted! So, with caution I executed the start (running across the track to the bike was a novelty) and all seemed to go well. The track was wet but drying slowly. I was able to pass quite a few bikes on the first lap while feeling fairly safe about it. A few laps later, he track began to dry and I was able to push harder. However, arriving at the bomb hole amidst the wreckage of Phase One’s formula one bike did give me pause for thought!
Just as it seemed that the track would get dry, the rain returned with a vengeance! I had eventually remembered to check for the pitboard and missed it the first time it was shown. It’s safe to say that visibility was not good! I did my first ever pit stop. I was careful to halt at the stop line and observe the pit lane speed limit. It was actually a relief to step off the bike and relax while the next rider, Chris Withey mounted up. I was flabbergasted when the guys told me that our team was running second in class! I was almost on cloud nine! I tried not to get too excited, a I knew there was plenty of time for things to go wrong.
Unfortunately, soon after I began to clean my helmet it became apparent that Chris was having problems. He’d broken down at Corrams and manfully pushed our big old VFR back to the pitlane in the rain. Our first suspicion was that the wet weather had caused us some ignition problems. We sprayed everything with a good deal of silicone, wrapped a few things in tape and the bike ran. Off he went again and stopped halfway up the pitlane. Another fiddle and the bike flew off while the rest of us bit our nails furrowed our brows. Chris and the VFR didn’t reappear for quite a while. Eventually they returned in the recovery van!
Precious minutes were wasted while we tore bodywork off, checked and rechecked electrical parts, consulted wiring diagrams, pulled hair out, all to no avail! Eventually it was discovered that pulling the wiring loom around at the front of the bike caused the problem to disappear. We got it cable tied in an operational position and sent the bike out again.
I was told that the drama cost us over twenty laps! Although the bike gave no further problems, the damage was done. Despite all three of us riding at a good pace considering conditions, it was impossible to catch the others teams except in cases where they had their own problems. The most dramatic event was a miscalculation of fuel load leading to an unfortunate splutter around Corrams before Chris made his stop. We worked out what had happened and refilled the bike! Brows were mopped after that pitstop.
Simon Hindley was our rider at the helm during the final leg of the race. Although the whole race had been run in challenging weather and we’d all had our share of scary moments, conditions were getting worse and worse with each lap. He did well to keep the bike off the ground and it seemed the closer he got to the flag, the more slippery and difficult the circuit got! The whole team was overjoyed when Simon crossed that finishing line on the final lap!
We’re successfully addicted. Next year we hope we can get a real result!
Writing: by Steve Panter
Pictures by Claire Mackintosh, Clickers Photography Ltd. All rights reserved.