UK Endurance Racing - blast from the past

By Alfonso Lygo -

 02 December 2008 09:59

Dave Railton (Ducks Cross’ Jon’s dad) was kind enough to give me some photocopies of race programmes that I had consciously taken to the tip, along with a full tea chest of documents in a similar vein back in the 1980s when moving house. This was a decision I soon regretted and have spent the last five years re-collecting the programmes so hastily parted with, at great expense!

The copies were of race meetings with an endurance racing content, of which Dave had played a big part in during his highly competitive career. One common link we shared was that on Saturday 1st July 1978 we had both entered the Jeff Brett 200km Production Machine Series Races at Cadwell Park. The whole series was run at three venues and totalled 1000km – 200km at Cadwell, 700km at West Raynham in Norfolk where machines would run with two riders and an end of season sprint race also at WR of 100km.

Classes were 175 – 250cc, 251 – 500cc and 501 – 1300cc. For the Lincolnshire encounter 17 250s entered, all RD Yamahas apart from a lone RG Suzuki and the field included Hilary Musson from nearby Scartho ably supported by husband John. Hilary was the marshall involved in that terrible accident during the 2007 that caused the organisers and authorities to re-examine safety provision on the Island.

Local aspiring racer, Colin Pole from Leicester was also part of the quarter litre class. The burgeoning 500cc field consisted of around 30 machines + riders including a 500 Velo, Alan Walsh from Grantham on the latest Jeff Brett 460 four cylinder Honda and Dennis McMillan on a venerable Triumph twin. Also, to be found near the rear of the grid was Alan Lygo of Radcliffe on Trent riding a Black Bomber (450cc Honda twin and it was red).

Not without it’s problems the bike had a perennial oil leak from the gear selector, oil level kept low for scrutineering, topped up fro the race and an oily rag hidden behind the fairing to catch the prevailing slick – HMRC’s Bob Covey and Sean would have loved it! Luckily for me and the rest of the field the Honda went sick and it was game over!

In the big bike class our own Dave Railton was #1 and down as riding an 860cc Duke, other runners included Roger Winterburn (of Windy Corner fame), respected journo (Motorcycle Illustrated) Ray Knight who had a distinguished Isle of Man career and settled there on retirement.

Hartley Kerner was on an 888 Dresda built by Dave Degans and Roger Moss was on yet another Ducati – Roger being partly responsible for getting me so involved in motorcycle sport back in the early seventies when he campaigned a mercurial two stroke Scott twin which is still being rattled around the circuits in historic racing.

Dave remembers finishing in either 8th or 9th with a fastest lap of 62.4s – the track hasn’t changed hugely in layout apart from the silly bus stop before you commit to the Mountain section. History shows that Colin Pole won the 250 class at Cadwell on an RD Yamaha with local rider Hilary Musson in 10th place, Andy Key took half litre honours on a CH400 and Martin Sentence won the 1300 class on a well prepared Jota.

The second round of the championship with one bike and two riders saw a massive entry of 86 machines and 172 riders! Starting with the big guns (1300 class) Dave as back on the 860 Ducati, Roger Winterburn on a Laverda Mirage shared with Nottingham fast bloke – Arthur Giles, from whom I bought an Yamaha RD200 back in the eighties. Both my sons learned to ride on the RD as it had leccy start and was simple to ride!

Arthur is also the father of Phil Giles who took the BSB Privateers Cup two years running and has recently dabbled with international endurance racing – another top Nottingham rider! In the nineties I bought a silver Laverda triple, in full production racing trim from a Nottingham car dealer who needed the cash at the time. He said it was the ex Arthur Giles race bike and came with a couple of photos of the bike in action at West Raynham as well as the enlarged race tank.

I put the Laverda back on the road for a couple of seasons before it came to rest in the back of the Lygo garage. A couple of years ago it went on eBay as a non runner and was bought by a restorer from Denmark who gave it the love and attention I couldn’t, I kept in contact with the Dane and the Laverda was sold to a Japanese collector in concours road trim!

Tony Harris from Leicester rode an 850 Le Mans Guzzi and Mick Hemmings (now world famous for Norton production racers) was riding a…….Norton Commando. The 500 class was huge and carried quality in the form of John Hackett on a RD400, Dennis McMillan on a Triumph T100, Manxman later to win the Manx GP Allan Brew who was on an RAF Yam, Dave Kirby who went on to build very effective racing frames on a Honda 400.

Alan Walsh was teamed up with Roger Bowler (I am sure he went on into international endurance racing later on). In the less populated 250 class John and Hilary Musson shared an RD250. The race programme carried the results from the previous four years – characters you may know that finished in the top six in their class included George Fogarty (twice on 500 two stroke Suzuki), Lester Harris, of Harris Performance on a 250 Yam, Chris Revett (we still charge down the Revett Straight at Snett) and Malcolm Wheeler – experienced journeyman and now Editor of Classic Racing magazine.

That was the seventies; Dave R also furnished me with the classified results for the BFRC Castrol/Metzler 4 hour race for 1983 and 1984 at West Raynham. For 1983 and West Raynham played host to a British Formula Racing Club event with 60 entries with 56 making the grid and only 36 finishers after 4 hours of action. Dave R was in second place on a 1062 Honda shared with Derek Bates – they finished less than a minute behind the winners – Ian Wilson/Brian Goodall/1089 Kawasaki.

The top six were all Jap four stroke multis and then the next twenty crews were all two stroke screamers apart from a Honda 900. Notables amongst the runners were Eamonn Cleere who went off into the equivalent of WEC, Neil Haslam from Derbyshire – not related to Ron/Leon but now runs NCT Supersport Racing 600 team at national level, Graham Harker on a Triumph Cub (finished 32nd), a certain Martin Agombar (any relation Jim?) and last finisher was one Mark Linscott (obviously still in short trousers) who peddled a 250 Yam with Mark Heywood.

Of the non finishers we have Ken Irons who went onto stardom prior to an untimely death, Ricky McMillan (father ran Honda racing for a while), Alan Walsh (from Grantham who’s son still races at historic level), John Hackett – yes of JHP fame, Stuart Noon, Ray Knight and Norfolk’s Greg Page (anyone remember the Blue Boot Nortons or Iceni Hondas?).

A year later the entry was again 60 machines (probably the maximum grid allowed by the ACU) with 55 coming under starters orders – Dave Railton took the top step of the podium with Derrick Bates on a 1062 Honda just 31 seconds ahead of a chasing 900 Kawasaki. Grant Goodings was fourth, a rider who fairly recently excelled at Oliver’s Mount, a role taken over now by son, Mick.

Dave Hill and Les Burgan were fifth on their 989 Cheylesmore BMW – a bike which used to regularly embarrass more powerful sports machines at Superbike level in the UK. Barry Utting was 20th on a 250 Yam – Baz can still be seen around the classic and historic scene racing a similar machine.

Also on an RD250 was Leicestershire ace Andy Muggleton – one of several riders to live within earshot of Mallory Park and who won at national level on a regular basis. The Mussons were 43rd on a 250 Yam, one place ahead of the Tiger Cub That’s the sort of memory invoked in me by merely reading old race programmes – don’t do a Lygo and chuck them out when you move house, they deserve a better resting place.