A sprinters story.
Somewhere around 1994, the phone rang. Tony on the other end of the line said ‘what you doing this weekend?’
“Not a lot” said I.
“Fancy going to a Classic Bike Sprint?”
“What’s a Sprint?” I replied.
“Don’t know, I think it’s like drag race but different”.
“OK I said. What’s to lose?”
And so it began. Our first Sprint meeting. I really liked the informality of it all and the friendliness of all those involved and the huge variety of bikes. I also liked the idea of competing against the clock as opposed to the guy in the other lane, although the guy next door does help focus the mind. It also meant that you can turn up with just about any bike and race yourself or, if you wish, you can be concerned about the time the others are laying down. I chose the clock option for reasons which will become clearer later.
I was also enamoured with the idea that you start when you break the beam. Unlike Drag racing, the green light simply indicates the track is clear and you may start in your own time. Very British! The other thing I like is Sprinting is not restricted to ¼ mile or standing start. We have been known to run flying ¼’s, flying and standing miles, and flying and standing kilometres as well as twisty sprints, however, these are increasingly few and far between as the venues for these activities are becoming few and far between and very expensive to hire and put on.
A few weeks passed and Tony & I were the proud owners of a fairly ratty but surprisingly quick Z1000J. It turned out to have been breathed upon by a Mr Moriwaki but still had the handling of a hinged banana
The next year was the first full season. A lot of fun was had and lots of new friends made. A great combination of speed and petrol fumes followed by beer and a social, again, very British.
One of the friends made was Mervyn Evans. He builds and rides very fast blown Triumph twins and currently holds track records for most of the southern sprint tracks, and a few in the north too. He approached me one day and said ‘I have got a box of shrapnel in the van which I think will be right up your street’. He knew my heart was with British bikes and the aforementioned ‘shrapnel’ was the bones of the Morado Triumph. We assembled what we had and gave it a run at Bovingdon. To be honest I would have bought it if it only did 50mph because, to me at least, I thought it looked great and I could see the potential from the word go. The deal was done and I set about a rebuild. I Found that the frame was built around 68-70 by a guy who’s name escapes me but he did a really good job. Everything is triangulated, thus transmitting all the forces along the tubes in compression. I have only managed to break the frame once and that was due to a collapsing sprocket carrier bearing. The Engine is a 1961 5TA. It still runs the 7.5 – 1 compression pistons but the valves are larger and the head has been ported and runs via two 32mm Mk2 Amal’s. The Crank has been lightened and balanced with fancy polished rods. The cams are really wild and I cannot find a comparable cam so I have assumed that they are either American or made to the original engine builders spec. The usual lightened cam wheels and a Morgo pump complete the tune. A fairly simple set up but is a compromise between speed and reliability. The gearbox is its Achilles heel as 2nd has a tendency to chew the dogs so spare boxes are a necessary evil. The bike has evolved in my hands over the past 15 or so years and remains in the spirit of a period sprinter of its day. I have added oil filtration and electronic ignition. It is not competitive in its class but that’s not what it is about for me. I enjoy giving a piece of history a real good handful, after all that is what it’s for isn’t it? I would be mortified if it found its way into a museum because it would be a dead exhibit. It really comes to life when you prod the kick start and the whole world seems to shake in sympathy. Its fastest time thus far is 13.20 @ 99.95mph standing start ¼ mile. Not a fast time by modern standards but bearing in mind its a 60’s 500 twin on petrol and I weigh 14 stone that isn’t half bad, especially when the best time on the Kwak was 12.55 and that was a tuned 1980’s 1140cc four.