What an epic weekend that was. We all know 2020 has been an unusual year (putting it very mildly) and none of us expected the British Scooter Endurance Club TSide6 endurance race to actually go ahead. In fact, there’s every chance if it was held a week later it would have been cancelled – unless of course, we added some grouse shooting as part of the sport.
Thankfully with balls of steel, Keith Terry and his small team of helpers (wife Bev, daughter Kirsty and the ever-jovial Mikey Bonett) stuck their necks on the line to make this event happen – against all the odds. Talking of odds, 32 teams entered the Tside6 endurance race this year. Sadly a couple of them had to pull out due to travel restrictions from France and Ireland and we lost Nick Prince from the IOM but still we had a very healthy looking grid. That’s healthy as in full, rather than MotoGP style athletic riders.
As much as I love watching BSSO when I get a chance (mixed auto and geared grids of full-on race-spec scooters with real live racers piloting them), there’s something special about seeing a classic geared scooter only meeting. Especially one that’s accessible to pretty much anybody who can ride a scooter. From youngsters like our Sam (son of Sticky) to road-going scooterists and club mates who just fancy a go at racing on a budget. Then you’ve got BSSO race teams and veteran racers like Bob West and for this particular meeting, scooter racing royalty, in the form of Norrie Kerr. Mr Kerr (he should really have an OBE by now for his services to Vespa and scootering in general) was back competing on the track for the first time since 2001 and it was a pleasure to share a track with him.
What is endurance racing?
If you didn’t follow our coverage from last year’s Tside6 here’s a quick look at what it’s all about and the classes involved.
Most scooter race meetings are held over a set number of laps. With endurance racing, it’s a team event held over a set time. Tside6 is held in Teesside over 6 hours. That’s six hours of continuous racing (unless the event is stopped due to an incident on track).
Teams can be a maximum of seven (including support crew). Riders can only ride for 65 minutes per stint. Rider changes/fuel stops/tyre changes/mechanical issues/crashes will eat into your track time and lose you laps. The team with the most laps wins their class. Endurance racing is a strategic event.
Here’s a quick guide to the three endurance racing classes…
Race Class – sponsored by AME Auto
Race class means what it says on the tin. Race spec scooters as found in BSSO and European race meetings. Tuned motors, upgraded suspension and brakes, possibly larger fuel tanks fitted for endurance purposes (rather than their usual 8 lap meetings). This class is open to all riders.
Road Class – sponsored by Lambretta Club Great Britain
This class is open to anybody with a full road motorcycle licence or road race licence. The scooter has to be up to normal MOT standards and have lights fitted (although these are taped up for safety). There’s no need for the scooter to be standard though so tuning is allowed, as are upgraded brakes/suspension/larger tanks and even frame bracing.
Club Class sponsored by five local scooter clubs, A19’s, Wearside Wanderers, Darlington S.C, Smugglers S.C and Norton Commandos.
The class is also open to road-legal scooters with the same rules as in road class but none of the riders can have held a race licence. In theory, you can build a reliable RB20 Lammy, Vespa 210, or even a bog-standard scooter quite cheaply and compete at endurance. Outright top speed and power aren’t everything but do help if the scooter remains reliable.
Value for money racing
Track time and value for money are two attributes of BSEC. You got two solid hours of practice on Friday night, then a 1.5-hour qualifying session on Saturday morning, followed by six hours of racing. Cost-wise it’s £280 per team, plus £40 for the practice session and £10 if you hire a transponder. In racing terms that’s a bargain.
Our Team SLUK riders (pictured above) were, myself (Iggy), Sticky, Sam Round and Shaun Hodgkin. We were also lucky enough to have Al Terry of Diablo Moto (red overalls) to look after refuelling/tyre changes/any mechanical issues (we had none) and to wield the pit board to pull riders in for changeovers and fuel. Our team is almost professional but not quite as good.
Sticky talks us through ‘Underdog’ and the modifications he’s made since last year’s class-winning endurance performance.
Frame: Vespa SS90
Forks: Shortened PK125
Front brake: SIP Caliper on modified PX disc hub
Fuel: standard 5-litre tank + 5 litre Pro Porting SS90 fuel tank
Tyres: Dunlop TT93 and TT92
Front shock: Malossi RS24 on modified top mount
Rear Shock: SIP
Seat: Bodyworx ‘Smallframe Slimline’ with gas strut support (more details on SLUK soon)
Crankcase: Piaggio PK50
Cylinder: Quattrini M1L-R 2009
Crankshaft: 54mm stroke DRT 105mm rod – built by Harry Barlow
Gearbox: DRT Close ratio
Carb: Dellorto PHBH 30mm with powerjet
Exhaust: Ludwig & Scherer ‘Franz’
Ignition: SIP Vape sport (new for 2020) – see our SIP Vape article
Clutch: Fabbri ‘FB 36’ (new for 2020)
Primary: Fabbri ‘Performance’
If you go back to last year’s article we found a crack in the welded-up crankcase at the last minute and had to rebuild the motor around a quickly modified stock crankcase.
What I didn’t remember was that the old crankcase had the gasket face skimmed by 1mm to increase gasket sealing area. Now effectively the cylinder was 1mm higher making the port timings wild and also increasing the combustion volume by 1.75cc (thus lowering the compression).
What these changes created was an engine that was no more powerful, would happily scream around to 10,000 revs but was boggy in slow corners because all the low rpm power had gone. Still, it survived and was good enough for 4th overall, won the Road Class and was the first Vespa home.
This year I managed to put the port timings and compression back where they were supposed to be by the simple expedient of getting 1mm milled off the cylinder packing plate, which is a far easier job for an engineer than milling the crankcase gasket face.
You can see the results on the graph below:
What a difference 1mm makes!
If you only look at the peak power there’s not much in it between 2019 (red) and 2020 (blue), but one look at the torque curve tells a different story. Everywhere up to 8,500rpm is significantly improved. At 7,000rpm this engine is making 5.5hp more!
What this equated to on the track was a scooter that would pull out of every tight corner in a taller gear, probably saving six or eight gear-changes per lap. It makes riding faster much less tiring which is perfect for endurance racing.
Obviously more power would make the scooter go faster. All three of the scooters that finished ahead of us could blast us on the straight, but then they are also using more fuel and potentially are more likely to suffer a mechanical problem.
For 6-hour races, or particularly for longer ones, this is a recipe that the whole team is happy with.
Friday night’s practice went well, although we delaminated a rear Dunlop and also found the engine casing was still rubbing on the rear tyre. Our homemade rear crash bung was also too long and had the potential to ground on some corners. Al was more than happy to get the grinder out and make some noise. Scotty from Team D.S.C OB Racing brought us a used tyre to use in qualifying the following morning.
Practice over and we nipped into nearby Middlesbrough for an Italian Parmo (northeastern coronary care delicacy) and a couple of beers. Myself and Shaun got back to the track just before the 10 pm curfew (the gates are locked for the night) to do some press-ups, lunges and generally getting ourselves race fit. I was roughing it in the back of my van and Shaun was sleeping in the car but we were conscientious and had an early night ready for the important day ahead. The rest of the team thought they were being clever by stopping at a local friend’s house for the night.
I emerged from the blackness of Hotel Del Transit into bright early morning sunshine just before the rest of our dishevelled team arrived. We had a problem, a tall problem. Sticky (who can’t drink for toffee) had overindulged. Mixing grape and grain isn’t clever, he’d been up all night ejecting the poison from every orifice. In fact, he was so ill that after launching his guts down a drain in the paddock he went to bed in my van and didn’t even get up for the start of the race at 11 am (he was meant to be doing the first stint) and he didn’t think he’d be able to ride later. It also meant we had to swap our rider order around – meaning I was going out first for the Le Mans style start.
A smokin’ start
We’d qualified in 7th place, not really where we wanted to be but the timing had been restarted after a red flag incident and our earlier quicker times weren’t counted. Luckily, I’m a fast runner so when the flag dropped I sprinted across the track to the running Vespa 90SS being held by Al and set off to try and make up a few places. Things were looking good into the first corner, or at least I thought they were until I locked the scooter’s cold rear tyre up big style. I swerved across the track with about 20 or so riders right behind me, regained control then slid again. Thankfully Stuart Day took evasive action and everybody else got through unscathed (sorry folks). I picked up a few places but a red flag meant we had a restart after four laps.
Moving on up
The rest of the session went well though and I settled into the race. The circuit is 1.3 miles long (2.1km), it’s twisty and keeps you moving all the time, you soon work up a sweat out there. Scooter racing is an all-over aerobic workout. After my hour-long stint we were up into second place overall, first in our class. Hornet Racing were in first overall and Chiselspeed Racing in third. Our fuelling/rider change strategy was honed perfectly the night before with some practice in the paddock (see outtakes on video) and Shaun was soon out to do his second hour.
Shaun put in another good hour, finding his rhythm and having his own on-track battles. The great thing for a rider at this event is that there’s always somebody to set your sights on and try to beat, if you can’t do it on power you might be able to get them on braking or cornering. They could be caught up with backmarkers and you gain the advantage. It’s great fun and when you’re out there it really is a quick pace.
Shaun’s session was over and he’d done well, getting down into 1:15 second laps, he was chuffed to consistently improve his times from last year. Sam was out next. Just 17-years-old last year he was back for more race action. Over the last year he’s grown a bit (remember his dad is eight feet tall) and filled out but he was looking great out on the track, putting in ever quicker laps and staying on the scooter (that was one of our primary aims for the event), he was battling a fair few experienced riders but keeping his cool.
Then the red flag came out and we couldn’t see what had happened, whatever and whoever it was was hidden behind the banking at the top end of the track. Sam hadn’t come back around and his mum was watching the live timing at home. Before long she was messaging us trying to find out what was happening.
Find out more tomorrow in part 2….
Words and video edit: Iggy, additional text Sticky
Thanks to John Chitoglou (Hornet Racing) for extra footage
Iggy and Shaun’s gallery
Sticky and Mag’s gallery
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