I’ll be going back in time at 9am tomorrow when practice kicks-off for the Barry Sheene Memorial race, at the 2011 Goodwood Revival.
This year's Revival meeting promises to be the best ever, with the biggest depth of field. I'll be racing against the likes of Jeremy McWilliams, Keith Amor, Cameron Donald, Sean Emmett, James Haydon, Steve Brogan, Michael Rutter, Scott Smart, Ian Simpson, Iain Duffus and the usual cluster of hard-as-nails classic racers on 1960s motorcycles.
We all buddy up with a partner and you have to change riders half way through the race and like last year I’m riding with Stuart Tonge on his 1961 Manx Norton. We managed to finish third last year, but I reckon it’s going to be a tall order to get on the podium again.
I tested the Manx at Mallory recently (see pics – yellow 17), just to get familiar with the old girl. I’ve never ridden it before, as the bike I rode with Stuart last year was his Matchless G80, so it was a chance to get used to drum brakes and a right-hand-upside-down-race-pattern-six-speed gearbox.
It's a cracking bike and thanks to Stuart’s meticulous preparation (he runs his own classic bike building business) it performs far better than you’d expect from a machine made half a century ago. In actual fact, as long as you’re relatively gentle with it, it stops, goes and handles better than many modern bikes. Around the long Gerards right hander, it was a match for R6s and Blades, until the straight opens up, then they’re gone.
I didn't have a problem getting used to the gears, but did the rear brake, which you need to use to compliment the drum front. Muscle memory in the left foot meant that I was tapping down on the brake lever, like it was a gear lever, instead of putting constant pressure on it. It’s like learning to rub your stomach and tap the top of your head. You don’t need to brake much at Goodwood anyway, the track is mostly flat-out sweeping corners…
Stuart’s brother Simon will be helping out with the imperial-sized spanners, and if that name rings a bell, he was chief mechanic for Kevin Schwantz during his 500GP career.
I’ll be posting regular updates on twitter (MCNneevesy33) over the weekend and a report in next week’s MCN.