Mallory Park BSSO scooter racing – from the hot seat | FEATURE
The 2018 British Scooter Sport Organisation championships (BSSO) well and truly kicked off at Mallory Park recently. It’s a new season, there are plenty of new riders (and the odd new class), grids are bulging, spectator numbers are growing and the scooters are getting faster.
This season we want to bring you as much racing coverage as we can, from as many angles as possible. It’s probably the most exciting time in scooter racing since the late 198os. Developments in technology mean it’s an ultra-competitive sport and lap records are likely to be broken on a regular basis. To shake the coverage up we’re getting our racing reports written by the poeple in the hot seats. Riders, team managers and mechanics. We’re be employing the skills of Lee Hollick to provide the photography and will include some on-board action when possible.
We need you
If you’re involved in racing and want to have some input we’d like to hear from you. We want to mix things up a bit, so whether you’re an orange bib wearing novice or a seasoned pro, whether you’re racing on a budget from the back of an estate car, or operate from an exotic race truck we want to share your experiences, good and bad. You can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Bristow #63
Team: Hornet Racing
Thin man rides fat girl (at Mallory, quite quickly!)
Anyone who follows BSSO racing will know I’m a long-time Group 4 Lambretta racer, but I do try to race something else as extra track time from the “main event” This year it was supposed to be a Zipper (auto class 6a) but some issues thrown up at Cadwell practice meant that was out for a few meetings.
Step into the breach Paul Kent who lends me his P Range with an untested Quattrinni 256 motor I’d built for him. A swift dyno to check carb settings at Jahspeed and we’re ready to go.
Under the new qualifying rules anyone who races two machines must practice both, so that saw me do three laps on the group 4 and straight down the pit lane for a Marquez style jump from one bike to the next. First impressions were what the hell have I let myself in for? You sit ‘in’ a race Lambretta but most certainly ‘on’ a Vespa. So off I wobbled around Gerards and out down the straight, open the throttle and have my eyeballs pressed into the back of my head – ye gods this thing is fast, I spend a couple of laps trying to work out where to sit and put weight round corners and how to control the front end from smacking me in the face whenever the throttle is opened.
On to qualifying and let’s see if we can string a quick lap together, the front end is tying itself in knots on a bump coming out of Gerards and the John Cooper Esses, grit teeth and open throttle, all else seems okay. When the grid positions are announced I’m gob-smacked to find I’ve qualified second in the geared scooters!
I had a chat with long-time Vespa campaigner Stewart Mckenzie about the front end and he suggests sitting further forward to get more weight on the front.
Race time and I have a slow start – not 100% confident in the clutch biting point- sees me slip back a little but I’m back to third geared after the first lap, a bit of weight on the front helps and I tag onto the back of Stephen Wright on his 250RB special, even getting in front once or twice. Grinding noises round the hairpin tell me to climb off further as the gear selector is turned into aluminium fillings. As we continue I’m getting a bit faster but the clutch starts slipping so nurse it home and the race ends with my wrist screaming at me (Pauls got dropped bars fitted) but a third place.
Stewart comes to the rescue between races with some outrageously strong Cosa clutch springs, a refuel and ready for race 2. A better start this time and some retirements in front of me elevate me to 2ndplace! Clutch still slips a bit, but got on top of the front end issues and can start to explore the Vespas potential a bit, the front brake is almost too good – back end waving around on the brake into the hairpin but the general handling is a revelation, it’s keen to turn and you don’t notice the extra engine weight on one side at all.
Race 3 is coming up and the heavens open – wets on and out for the sighting lap – every time I drive through a puddle (there are lots!) the bike cuts out and restarts with a bang, not safe I decide and retire before the start – water is being thrown up from the wheel into the backwards facing carb.
What do I think to racing a P range? Grin factor 10 (but all scooter racing is) it handles surprisingly well and is a viable alternative to the ubiquitous Lambretta, I can see why Stewart and newcomer Rob Fielder like it so much. Finishing my first weekend with a 3rd and a 2nd is brilliant but in all honesty I would have been further down the field were it not for a few retirements. I’m going to continue on it for the rest of the season and we’ll see if I can’t pick up a first!
Mikey Bonett #69
Casa Performance JB Tuning – Group 6
Flake Racing, Team Scootopia – Production Class.
As the alarm went off at 03:30 on Saturday morning, I knew it could only mean one thing (not that the butterflies and nervous sickening feeling wasn’t enough). The day had come to dust off my leathers, run through the morning checklist and set off to Mallory Park, for the start to my 2018 BSSO Championship.
We arrived at the cold northern circuit (well, it is past Watford Gap!) in good time and I was already in race mode, getting the gazebo up and unpacking the van in record time. After scrutineering my trusted Group 6 then polishing the new Casa Performance JB Tuning paintwork, setting tyre pressures, wrapping the tyre warmers on and fuelling the scooter I was ready. Then came the wait…
This year the BSSO have introduced qualifying which also added to my nerves as it’s something I have never done. The scooter nipped up in practice so I knew straight away qualifying would be more of a ‘bedding in session’ than a ‘fastest lap, all guns blazing’ qualifier – unlike I had in the previous qualifying session on-board the all new Flake Racing, Team Scootopia production scooter where I gained pole position and broke the lap record in production class.
After qualifying second to last bedding in the Group 6 engine I had to wait until Sunday for the first race, which certainly didn’t help with the nervous sick feeling and the ‘Do I or don’t I’ need to go to the toilet scenario. Somehow I slept like a baby Saturday night so as soon as my eyes were open I was chomping at the bit to start racing.
Practice lap: Warm up tyres, check. Line up in 15thposition due to my super impressive qualifying time… not, check.
I was eagerly awaiting the red light to come on, buzzing off my trolley on adrenaline. I didn’t even notice that a few riders were missing, which I later found out they hadn’t heard the race call so missed the race. Anyway, the lights went out and every single thought I have ever had went out the window – I was in attack mode. From my starting position (15th) to the first corner I was already fourth overall and in first position in Group 6, where I didn’t look back until lap three. In the meantime I kept a heavy eye over the EGT reading and the cylinder head temperature to make sure everything was as it should be. I took a glance over my shoulder on lap three and noticed I had a healthy lead, with Steve Wright and Dave Bristow battling it out for second position. I took this opportunity to give the engine a bit of a rest and backed off but kept a healthy gap between me and second place. There wasn’t any point in chancing falling off or pushing the engine too much if I didn’t have to. I ended up winning the first Group 6 race which was my second win of the weekend but the first win in Group 6 this season. I was chuffed to bits as the winter’s preparation had paid off and taking the first win made it all worth it.
Race two was very similar to the first race – loads of nerves beforehand and every thought possible but when those red lights went out, my concentration was firmly on keeping the front wheel down by transferring all my weight to the front and making sure I got 2nd gear cleanly. I got a cracking start and was once again first in Group 6 (4thoverall) going into Gerards – one of my favourite corners for its super-fast entry and one of the first corners I ever got to grips with when I first started racing. Once again, round about lap 3 or 4 I took a glance back up the track at the hairpin, where to my surprise I saw I had another good lead, with Doug Turner in 2ndplace followed very closely by Dave Bristow. I remember it well as I thought I saw Dave on a Vespa PX, yes – a Vespa. I did a quick a double take, then another look to be sure and yep, Dave was definitely on a PX. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a Vespa being so competitive as Stuart McKenzie has been flying the Vespa flag for quite a few years now with great results. But to find Dave in that position was great to see.
I got my head back in the game after that little shocker and backed off the throttle, keeping an eye out to make sure I maintained the gap between me and 2nd place contenders Doug and Dave. I kept a good lead without pushing myself or my awesome scooter more than I had to. I crossed the finishing line in first place for group 6 and my 2nd win in this class this weekend.
This was my last race of the weekend and as promised, the English weather started to draw in the thick grey, wet looking clouds. 40 minutes before the race the poxy ‘R word’ started…RAIN (the forbidden must not say word). It quickly got heavier and heavier and after a quick chat with my good old team mate, Tom Russell, wet tyres (and the waterproof gimp suit) were decided upon – which was a good decision as five minutes before the race it smashed it down!
I was sitting in the holding bay and couldn’t help but notice a few riders were out on their dry tyres still. Had I missed something? Is my dark visor making the rain seem worse or are they just pure nutters? I lifted up my visor and yep, they were just pure nutters – Dave Bristow being one of them on the Vespa PX! The gate opened and we were let out on the starting lap. We all lined up and set off on our warm up lap but I noticed a few riders darting back into the paddock (Dave being one of them). It crossed my mind to do the same as it was so wet and I wanted my shiny new scooter to stay that way but then the racing brain kicked in so I carried on with the warm up lap.
We lined up, the lights came on and with a blink of an eye we were off. I had a great start once again and everyone was very careful into the first corner but half way round I saw Lee Bamber become the first victim of the rain, losing the back end of his Group 6a Gilera Runner. Darren Connelly narrowly avoided a collision with Lee’s scooter which forced him onto the grass and somehow re-joined the track. Lap two saw the legend Stuart Day overtake me and I just didn’t have the confidence to keep with him in the wet but on the second to last lap I grew a pair and somehow started to close the gap. On the last lap I caught and overtook Stuart on the back straight and I was in the lead to the hairpin where Stuart out braked me. I got on the throttle a little too early and the scooter gave me a stern reminder that it was extremely wet by stepping out at the rear. I followed Stuart through the bus stop but he got on the power a lot earlier and pulled a good gap to cross the line in first position. Even still, I was happy with second place in such wet conditions and chuffed to bits to see Stuart get his first win of the year in Group 6.
I had a great weekend away racing with even better results across the board – not just in group 6 but also in the production group with Flake Racing, Team Scootopia. If you don’t know the results for Production Class then keep your eyes peeled. The next meeting is at Cadwell Park – it would be great to see you down there. Please come and say hello.
Chiselspeed Racing #30
Having been born into the world of the scooter lover, with a father whose business was partly born on the back of racing, it was inevitable that I would follow suit. The rush you get from sitting on the start line, beads of sweat running down your forehead staring at the red light anticipating the start is something that is hard to describe unless you’ve actually experienced it! Flying around corners on the edge of grip; hunting down the man in front that at that moment is the most hated man in your life is like a drug.
A race weekend always starts on Monday before race weekend. It’s a manic logistical nightmare of ensuring we have a complete set of spares for each bike including bodywork, jets, coils, pistons, rings, tyres… you name it we probably bring it. A service of all parts of the machine including brakes and checking the engine is running perfectly using the dyno. Then it comes to Friday. It’s the day you have to become not only a Pickford’s man but also an expert at Jenga… packing the van takes several hours. You arrive at the circuit, make your home and workshop for the weekend and relax until the madness of Saturday!
Well let’s get down to the real business of telling you what it’s like! Well Mallory, is in my opinion one of the easiest tracks to get to grips with, but with that ease and that lack of technicality compared to circuits such as 3 Sisters and Cadwell Park (my favourite) it means that if your not brave enough and get to grips with it you can lose so much time.
The new/old circuit layout comprises of the fast sweeping right-hand bend of Gerards, the John Cooper Esses, the tight and up hill hairpin of Shaws, Devils Elbow and the Bus Stop. On the production bike you are full throttle from exiting the Devils Elbow to the end of the John Cooper Esses! A some what of a head down arse up affair…
Practise went well on the Production bike but the Group 6 had a fuelling issue so more development is needed for the next round! BSSO now has a qualifying round for each race weekend. So qualifying started at 10:00 on the Saturday for the production bike and after putting together a 3/4 pace lap I qualified 3rd!
So to the first race… this is where it all went wrong. Darren, the pole sitter stalled his bike on the start line, and with nowhere to go I hit him at the rear, followed by me getting hit twice in the rear by Stuart Day and Stewart McKenzie. After the mayhem finished I ended up being pinned to the floor with my Production Lambretta on my foot. Nothing broken apart from my pride, but I do have a foot that is a slight shade of turquoise and bile yellow! Anyway that’s racing and it’s onto Cadwell Park!
Graham Tatton #47
Team: Scootopia Racing Team/Flake Racing
Having not raced since the late 1990s/early 2000s it was the new LCGB Production Class that lured me back to the BSSO last year. The old Group 4 bike was dragged out of the back of the garage where it had been shoved unceremoniously after a high speed off at Anglesey almost 18 years earlier. With not too much effort I dragged it up to date with the standard proddy RB20 engine setup.
As the season progressed it all started to come back gradually and the lap times and placings started to improve with each round until I was regularly running in the top 3. With 3rd place secured in the overall Production Championship thoughts turned to what I could do to improve things over the winter to try and push even further and ultimately challenge for race victories. So when Andy Barnes rang to ask me to join his newly formed Scootopia Racing Team with engines prepared by JB Tuning and with Mikey Bonnett as team mate to garner tips and advice from it didn’t take more than a second to say “Yes, please !”
Pre-season testing went well with the bike feeling really solid and well set-up and it was hardly noticeable that it was a slightly taller SX, and a nice change from my old Indian GP race bike, which was a bit tired to say the least! New for 2018 in the BSSO race series are qualifying sessions for grid positions, so after a quick 10 minute untimed practice in the morning at Mallory Park the first real test for 2018 came with the 15 minute timed session to determine grid positions for the whole race weekend. This proved to be a much more interesting (and at times frustrating!) experience than a lot of us had anticipated. A good lap could be ruined by coming across a slower rider in the middle of the slow Bus Stop chicane or even something as simple as a missed gear costing valuable tenths of a second. I came in from the session fairly pleased but with a lingering feeling of “what might have been”. When the eagerly awaited timing sheet appeared it was a 7th place grid position for me and a host of top quality riders both ahead and behind me meaning that when the flag drops you are immediately surrounded by riders on near equal terms.
Race 1 came later on the Saturday and the new season got off to a bang (literally) with a start line crash seeing 4 scooters on the floor and a red flag to stop the race before it even got started. The restart saw me in a race long battle for 4th place with Dave Delaney on the super quick small frame Vespa, which shows just how close the Production Class racing can be even across marques. Dave and I had many similar battles back in the early 1990s in Group 3 (Standard 150cc) and as often happened then the Vespa again had the upper hand, beating me to the line by just 4 hundredths of a second.
After a fabulous Thai curry on Saturday night, prepared by Team Scootopia’s Tom (For 8, cooked on a two ring motorhome hob no less) Sunday arrived with two more races to come and I was determined to try and drop my lap times by half second and run nearer the front.
In Production Class that’s easier said than done with the field so closely matched and in Race 1 I ended up in a 5-way battle with places swapping each and every corner and us haring down the back straight 5 abreast to see who would blink first before entering the Esses nearly flat out in 4th gear. Whilst it was great fun to go to toe-to-toe with 4 others a 6th place finish and a lap time half a second SLOWER than in race 1 left me feeling a little dejected.
Before the last race of the weekend Andy and I had a chat and with team mate Mikey battling for the race wins with reigning champion Justin Price. We decided he must be doing something right and mirrored his settings and tyre pressures onto my bike. With a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude I was determined to go for it from the off and try and break away from the pack in the opening laps and get a bit of breathing space, this time the plan came off and at the end of the first lap I was running in 3rd with Mikey and Justin just ahead. A hard charging Lee Bamber came past me on lap 2 and I tried to let him pull me up to the front two as he set some blistering lap times, unfortunately for him he charged too hard and came off at the hairpin causing me to run wide round the stricken bike and rider and the gap to the front two was now too big to do anything about. All that was left to do was bring the Scootopia bike home safely in 3rd place. The results sheet later showed a lap time nearly a second better than Saturday meaning the weekend finished on a high for me personally and for the team even more so with Mikey taking two wins and a 3rd over the course of the weekend.
So all in all a great start for the new team in Round 1, next up is Cadwell Park and hopefully I can carry on the Race 3 form and start to run at the head of the race. Many thanks to all at Scootopia Race Team (Andy, Martin and Tom), JB Tuning for the engines (John and Mikey), Team mates Mikey and Tim and all at Scootopia HQ for their support.
Chalky White – Replay Racing (team boss/tuner/mechanic)
Looks after #1 Darren Conneely
We were on pole for both grids (Group 4 and Six) after qualifying and all looked rosy, unfortunately Darren bogged the group 4 bike on the line and was t-boned from behind by Chris Cook. That wrecked the exhaust, which took the full brunt and put him out of the race.
The first group 6 race gets called and we’re all busy trying to fix the Group 4, Darren gets the big bike ready himself and joins the grid. He couldn’t get it started and sat the race out. He thought he’d turned the fuel on, but it was already on! He’d turned it off. Darren needs his glasses for close up work and with his helmet on couldn’t really see. Second Group 4 and we had a DNF after leading, due to the crushed tailpipe.
The second Group 6 was the race of the weekend, Darren diced it out with the quick 6A lads and took the overall win.
Last Group 4 and Darren led by 50 yards after the first lap! Unfortunately this was short-lived as the bike packed in again. Good potential, but a little fragile at the moment, I’m confident we can sort it though. Last race of the day and it’s wet, the autos go out with dry tyres, and put Darren on the grass at the entrance to Gerards. Half a lap down he sets off with more than a bit of red mist, incredibly, after 5 laps he’s leading! Then the bad luck kicked in and he lost the front at the hairpin. So we ended up with poles, a win and led every other race!
I’m really pleased with the Casa 265 water-cooled engine as it worked perfectly all weekend, without having to touch it. Also, with coming back to racing at a late stage, we’ve not had as much practice as I would have liked, so Mallory was a reality shake down for us.
All images by Lee Hollick Photography
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