The Tside6 Endurance race – Part 2 | FEATURE
In part one yesterday Sticky talked us through the preparation, last-minute problems and the Le Mans style race start for this six-hour scooter endurance race. In part two we let the rest of the team tell us their version of events, with thrills, spills and plenty of drama along the way.
Iggy’s take on things
When I first heard about this endurance event my rather large ears pricked up. I’d done an endurance race on a Piaggio Zip with Chiselspeed back in around 2005 and knew a geared only event would be great fun. Shaun Hodgkin agreed. We needed something to ride though and Sticky came to the rescue with his well used and abused SS90, Underdog.
Fast forward a few months and his last-minute check over of the scooter went a bit pear-shaped. I think he under egged the week leading up to the race. Not only did Sticky need to source some new engine casings but he also had to spend a full day porting them to suit the Quattrini top end. He also had to have some machining done and didn’t actually get the engine in one piece until Friday afternoon. Even then he had to do a bit more machining to get the stator to seat correctly. Then he had to get the engine in, run it and fine-tune things before he could have a quick late-night razz down his street. It ran.
Call of duty
He really did go above and beyond the call of duty to get this scooter to the track. Even so, he was disappointed that it was down slightly on power. We were just glad him and Sam had put so much effort in to get us something to ride. We decided to take along my road-going Quattrini Series 2 as a spare bike and I was to stick a box exhaust on at the track on Saturday evening. This went slightly wrong when I cross-threaded one of the manifold studs, Mark Shirley helped us out with a time sert but as we lost light that went a bit wrong as well. Luckily we didn’t need to use the spare bike anyway.
As well as riding for Team SLUK I was honoured to be asked if I’d stand in for SRP’s injured Chris Geyton on their Group 4E Lambretta Imola 200 #41 above).
After clearing it with our team I agreed to help them out with a couple of stints in the saddle. This meant I’d be doubling my track time and riding both Vespa and Lambretta. Bonus.
Paul Baker was trusting me with his pride and joy… what could possibly go wrong?
VIDEO | Race day action
After waking up in the SLUK hospitality suite (air bed in the back of my Transit) and fetching a healthy McDonald’s team breakfast in a battered old Renault it was time for a quick riders briefing and the track was declared ‘Open’. The beauty of this type of meeting is that there’s no hanging around and very few formalities. During the 1.5 hours of morning practice, I took both scooters out, both very different beasts.
Underdog is so forgiving, an SS90 is sublime, nimble and great fun to ride – you won’t find a better Vespa model, fact. The Quattrini motor may be eight years old but it still packs a punch and other than some fuelling issues coming out of the slower corners in second gear it was quick. Sticky had worked his magic with very limited time.
Despite spending most of my road riding time on one recently, the Lambretta felt very strange in comparison to the 90SS. For starters I had no tank to grip with my knee, the rear runners deck out very easily on track – the grind enough to lift the scooter mid-corner, along with the exhaust (as I found out on numerous occasions during the early sessions). It takes a different riding style to the Vespa, hanging off is the best way to gain ground clearance – as demonstrated by Jason above. My foot slipping off the rear brake pedal as well due to the angle of my leg and the weight-saving pedal with no rubber. Even so, this thing was every bit as lovely to ride as I imagined. Paul Baker and Matt Clarke build a very tasty race scooter and engine for sure. The driveability and precise feel made it very exciting but not overly aggressive to ride.
Six hours and counting
A ‘Le Mans’ style running start is always good to watch. 30 scooters being held by team members as the flag drops and the riders run to their machines to power away. The track was still pretty wet and it was raining again as the flag dropped. Sticky was out on our scooter for the first hour and the live timing on your mobile made it very interesting to watch. Spectators and teams could keep a close eye on who was doing what, where they were placed and who to watch out for lap by lap. Sticky steadily picked up the pace and made places up quickly. We were soon leading the field. Not bad for an engine cobbled together the day before.
20-minute engine swap
My first ride came in the second hour for SRP. The #41 machine had already been crashed by Jason Metivier his first of three on the day (Jason above left) and he’d blown an engine just before I was due to go out. Paul and Matt swapped the motor in 20 minutes flat and soon had me out on track but they’d lost plenty of laps. I took my time for a couple of laps and adjusted my lines to try and make better use of ground clearance but I was still showering sparks according to James Lancaster.
I was pulled in to refuel and sent back out again so I can’t have been slowing them down too much. After an hour we swapped riders and Stuart Day (above right) went out.
In my absence, Shaun had been doing the second hour and steadily improving our lead. We lead the Road Class for the whole day. He swapped over with young Sam for the third hour. He may just be 18-years-old but Sam really impressed us all. He learnt the track in Saturday practice by taking things easy, then put some quick laps in during qualifying. In the race he kept a level head and rode very well indeed and was soon on a par with his dad time-wise. It rained again during his session and we heard the familiar sound of metal scraping tarmac but couldn’t see who had fallen… Sam hadn’t appeared though and we started to get worried. Thankfully he appeared riding the scooter but had fallen at the top end of the track.
VIDEO | A crash and a lap
Sticky brought him in and gave the scooter a quick look over – aside from a bit of minor scuffing, the crash had snapped the clutch lever but it was still useable. He sent me out on Underdog with some words of encouragement…
Those bastards raped your sister” was ringing in my ears as I left the pits.*
I did a few steady laps as the track dried out and then was able to get back on the pace. It’s hard to not get drawn into battles whilst racing, you’ve got a fine handling scooter with a quick engine and a nice twisty track shared with 29 other playmates. What’s a SLUKER meant to do?
I found myself picking off the vile rapists as much as possible, whilst being respectful to the less sexually active orange vest-wearing novices of course. As I picked my way past a couple of other riders on lap 128 I ran out of talent and lost the front end. A minor slide though and I was back on the scooter quickly after straightening the handlebars and checking for any obvious damage. Sticky analysed the laps afterwards and reckons it only cost us 28 seconds and we were still running in first at this point, in both class and overall. I carried on with the session until being waved in by our helpful timing lady and pit board wielder, Linsey.
*I found out later that I’d misheard team boss Sticky’s instructions, he’d actually said “Take it easy out there, alright?” I’ve not actually got a sister either.
SRP Race Tech
No sooner had I had a quick drink and a Jaffa Cake and I was back on SRP duty. Black clouds formed ominously partway through the hour-long session but I was kind of hoping they’d stay over the other side of the tarmac. Sadly they didn’t and it absolutely lashed it down. We were still running on dry tyres and riders were sliding off right, left and centre. I was more worried about breaking Paul Baker’s scooter so rode sensibly for the rest of the session, following Barrie Braithwaite on the D.S.C bike to make sure I brought it home in one piece. To be fair, I may as well have slid it down the track because that’s what Jason did not long after he took the scooter off me, he handed it back to Paul minus one handlebar and a flywheel. Game over for #41.
Back on the Team SLUK scooter again for a shorter session I ended up running out of fuel (sort of). We had an auxiliary fuel tank on the SS90 and in typical Scooterboy style the tap was a bit cock-eyed. ‘Off’ was on and ‘reserve’ was upside down, or something like that. Linsey waved the ‘Tap’ pit board sign to tell me to swap over, which I did. Then a few laps later the scooter started to die as I came down the back straight. I coasted around to the pits and pushed it in. The team quickly started refuelling it but had an issue with the fuel nozzle. This mistake and subsequent slow fuel stop put us down to fourth place, we’d been leading all day. It seems like I’d not got the tap at exactly the right 90º angle so the extra tank hadn’t flowed when the standard one ran dry.
Sam was trusted with the final session of the day where once again he kept calm on a drying track to bring it home but he can tell you more about that after Shaun has his say…
Shaun Hodgkin back on track
Attending Mersea Island Rally, near Colchester on the Friday night is not the best kind of preparation for a six-hour scooter endurance race up in Middlesbrough the same weekend. Especially when all of my racing kit is at home near Northampton.
The Darkside silent disco was awesome and for some reason wouldn’t allow me to get the planned early night I anticipated. That coupled with the huge pre-race breakfast, meant I was considerably late leaving for the ride home.
A mad dash home, quick shower, change, chucked my camping kit off the scooter and into the car, chucked my racing leathers, boots, helmets, etc in, plus anything else I could think of (just in case) and then booted it uphill to Middlesbrough. With the target of arriving in time to meet my SLUKing teammates for a bit of practice on the Saturday evening (between 5 pm and 7 pm). I will use this expression a few times in this piece I’m sure, however Sod’s law, I arrived at 7:02 pm, just as the scooters were coming off the track at the end of the session. Oh bugger, but just another bit to add to the fun of the challenge.
Back in the old days
I raced back in the 1990s for Team MB, however, I haven’t raced on a track for 25 years, let alone this track! I also haven’t sat on a smallframe Vespa since I was 17, let alone raced one (I know I don’t look it, but that was a couple of years ago as well). Now I’d lost one opportunity to put to bed all of those challenges. I’d now only got a short practice stint before qualifying on Sunday morning ahead of the race.
Keith Terry and his family deserve medals for organising this event, as with the help of the circuit team it ran very smoothly. Keith called all of the riders together for a briefing about the ‘dos’ and ‘dont’s’ of the race, etc ahead of practice.
Practice went well and I managed to get an idea of the track layout and the surface, plus getting used to the riding position, power delivery and handling of Sticky’s awesome SS90 Underdog. That done we decided to agree on our strategy of who was doing the Le Mans start and who would race when, there’s nothing like planning ahead?!
Sticky went up first and on a drying track did a brilliant first-hour stint. I had no time to be nervous as after refuelling it was my turn to wobble around. What an adrenaline buzz it was to be out on the track again, with a real mix of riders and machines on the track you had to be mindful as on many of the corners you would find yourself faced with two or three scooters in front of you caught up in their own little battle, picking your way through them was great fun, especially as some of those corners were slippery even in the dry.
Wet, wet, wet
I had just started to get the feel of Underdog, it rides beautifully, then… it started to rain! Now it was a case of learning how to ride on dry tyres on an even more slippery track. Thankfully the shower stopped after several laps and the track started to dry. A drying line is helpful as it can also give you a clue to more favoured racing lines, until someone drops their scooter right in front of you and then you’re back on the wet!
I chipped away at my lap times as the track dried and I gained more confidence, only for me to catch up with another scooter and a novice on the double hairpin slippery section. I cut in tight on the first hairpin as the other two drifted wide then as I set myself up to ride around the outside of them on the next hairpin one of the Lambrettas sat up and swiped in to the side of me, it was nothing more than a racing incident. The main thing was I stayed on, but sadly Underdog had suffered some damage. I limped back to the pits and our professional pit crew got to work. Sticky used a spanner to lever the squashed flywheel cowl out of the flywheel fan. Back up to the refuelling area and it was time to hand over to our star Sam.
After Sam had to cut short his first stint it meant we had to quickly change our strategy and add a short 30-minute session for me. Are you ready for another Sod’s law? Now, this is a big one, you guessed it, it decided to rain just as we were getting to refuel and for me to take over from Sticky. This wasn’t like the previous showers though as it pissed down. A quick change of front tyre to a wet and off I surfed as the rear was still a well worn dry tyre!
I’d also made things even harder for myself as I had a black visor on that had got rain on the inside whilst we refuelled, so visibility was not great. The first few laps were very interesting as scooters were performing pirouettes on most corners, I tiptoed my way around trying to avoid spinning up the rear and also avoid the large puddles that had formed around the track.
My new (second hand) racing leathers felt good, during this session they didn’t feel quite so good though. I know they say it’s an area that the sun doesn’t shine, but also it’s an area where the rain shouldn’t flow either?!
I was enjoying a battle with the overall and race class winner from Team DSC for several laps of that session with both of us having the edge in different parts of the track, despite the heavy rain I really enjoyed the session and Underdog proved it could cope with all conditions.
Just time for one final Sod’s law, Team SLUK’s glamorous brolly dolly, Linsey held the pit board out for me to come in and it only bloody stopped raining?! Just my luck, but I loved every second of it! Can we do it again please Keith? One final refuel and changeover of riders again to Sam so that he could take the chequered flag on a slippery, slowly drying track for Team SLUK.
Super Sam spills the beans
The experience is one that I won’t forget. Especially the utter limpness of my first session crash. At least it gave me first-hand experience in why you shouldn’t ride on dry tyres in the wet, and why you shouldn’t lean your scooter over too far when cornering. After taking over from Shaun, halfway through my stint, I noticed it had started raining, three corners later both wheels simultaneously lost grip on a tight left-hand corner. I picked it up, straightened the bars and calmly rode back to the pits, where Iggy haired off on his stint half an hour earlier than anticipated.
Pushing for the finish
Also, in the final stint, which I rode, on the last lap the clutch cable snapped, so team SLUK’s plan of me bringing it home ended in me, red-faced and melting, pushing it across the track and over the finish line. My personal highlight was having people comment on my ‘Slow Demon’ tabard, stating it was completely wrong. To fill you in, novice riders have to wear reflective tabards on track and naturally, being the son of a pair of Speed Demons, I wore this one.
I was proud that we achieved our goal of winning our class and very impressed of how we did overall too, I am very grateful to every member of Team SLUK, they made the experience truly amazing for me and I can’t thank them enough.
Although we missed out on the overall win we did still win our class by 11 laps. This wasn’t a bad result at all, especially considering the last-minute bid to get the engine built, plus the fact we had two crashes, Shaun got sideswiped and we had a fuel issue/dodgy pit stop.
Affordable and great fun
Aside from the great results we also got to spend an absolutely fantastic day of racing with some great teams and riders. We also saw the birth of what will hopefully become a firm fixture on the calendar. Keith is already planning another one for next year. We all owe him a great deal of gratitude for pulling it off in a safety-conscious country where the ACU have controlled most forms of motorsport for decades. Endurance racing at this level is affordable and exciting for riders of all levels and abilities. From rally going scooter riders, who just fancied getting a team together (like the Glevum Stax on their PX 210, to the full-on BSSO teams like SRP, DSC and Hornet Racing). There was plenty of talk around the paddock of new teams for next time, including an all-girl team so the future looks rosy.
If you enjoy riding scooters and have always fancied a go on track this is the easiest and potentially cheapest way to get involved. We calculate that we raced for close to 300 miles, as Keith Terry pointed out:
The leaders covered the distance from my house in Essex to Lands End using around 1225 hairpins and 245 chicanes with no motorways in six hours…”
1: #10 Team D.S.C. OB Racing – 245 laps
2: #11 The Three Musketeers – 244 laps
3: #160 Team D.S.C. – 243 laps
1: #71 Team SLUK – 237 laps
2: #60 Grim Racing – 226 laps
3: #53 Kettering Massive – 216 laps
1: #207 Valley Scooter Club 204 laps
2: #14 Spire Tarmac Surfers – 199 laps
3: #40 Glevum Stax – 197 laps
Since Sunday our group WhatsApp has been analysing what we could improve on, talking tactics and looking to the future. We came away from Teeside feeling like we’d just been part of something very special. I’m pretty sure everybody who was there would agree. We’ve also been talking about Underdog, should we subject this rare SS90 to sustained abuse in the future? Should we build a complete new endurance racer? If so, which engine should we choose? It looks like we may be building a new SLUK racer soon and we’ll be looking for sponsors for parts and equipment. If you can help, email us at editorial@ScooterLab.UK
What cost Team SLUK the overall win:
- Sam’s wet spill (all part of learning limits – not much lost)
- Shaun’s coming together with another scoot (worked around it, but not too bad considering it needed work to free the flywheel)
- Iggy’s spill (hardly anything lost – we are still running in 1st at this point)
- Iggy – Sticky changeover (Iggy not putting the reserve tap on properly and pushing the bike back in for a slow fuel stop cost at least 5 minutes and dropped us from 1st to 4th)
- Sam’s clutch cable snap (Sticky’s fault – poor maintenance)
The lessons to take from this are two-fold. Everything needs maintaining properly and everyone needs to understand all the instructions given. The failure that cost us the win was one of communication, not one of riding or equipment.
Tesside6: Sticky’s Parting Shot
Ultimately the overall win went to #10 Team D.S.C OB Racing (Old Bastards presumably) riding a production class RB20 smallblock de-tuned slightly to run on pump fuel (they normally race on Avgas). It was followed home by two more production class Lambrettas From The Three Musketeers (a JB Tuning chassis) and the younger D.S.C. ‘A’-team.
This result told us several things. Those who’ve had experience in endurance racing before had a real advantage because the winning is done not just on the track but also in minimising pit-stop time. Darren Scott who manages the DSC team has recently been helping out with the Scootopia Team’s forays into Europe and operated the same systems.
Secondly it proved that power and outright speed aren’t king for this job. The scooters with the fastest lap times either had mechanical issues or crashes that wasted their speed advantage. No point having a fast scooter that is in pieces or in the gravel.
Finally, it proved that highly entertaining scooter sport can be accessible to scooter clubs and groups of individuals on a limited budget if they all chip in; which is exactly how clubs should function. Keith will force the podium placed clubs from last time into the Road Class for next time, leaving the Club Class as a section that true novices can still win outright.
If you want to know more about entering the next one then follow the British Scooter Endurance Club on Facebook.
Full results and lap times
If you’re the kind of geek who likes statistics and would like to analyse the lap times of each team in great depth you’d better get your favourite anorak on and head over to this web address: Alpha Timing.
We would like to thank
Wayne Hayes (emergency Vespa casing), Paul the engineer, Barrie and Team DSC for hospitality, Keith Terry and family for organising the event and the staff of Teeside Karting for running the event so efficiently. No stoppages in a six-hour race is a fantastic achievement in itself, especially with the number of crashes during the wet sessions.
Thanks also to all those who helped us build Underdog as a magazine project back in 2011: Max Quattrini (M1L-R kit), Sei Giorni (Vespatronic ignition kit) Denis Racing Team (close-ratio gearbox), LTH (crankshaft), K&G (clutch) and anyone else we’ve forgotten.
We’d also like to thank Dunlop for the excellent TT93 race tyres (review coming soon once we’ve got some road miles on them).
Pictured above: Dunlop TT93 (left) after over 300 track miles and seven and a half hours of use in both wet and dry, compared to another race tyre (right).
Gallery by Iggy, Sticky and Linsey
Col’s walk around the paddock
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