Brooklands pre 1939 classic motorcycle meet.
The unmistakeable smell of hot Castrol R racing oil in the air. Girder forks. Square section cross-ply tyres. Acetylene headlamps. Ignition advance/retard levers. De-compression levers. Manual oiling plungers. Dropped handlebars. Exhausts heated a thousand times until their chrome turns the deepest blue & gold. Exposed rocker assemblies. Fishtailed megaphone silencers. Coil sprung saddles. Drum brakes, rod operated brakes, no brakes at all.
Damp, creaking, ancient leathers worn by damp, creaking, ancient riders. Hob nailed soles on highly polished boots. Elbow length gauntlets. Cork lined pudding basin helmets. Aviator goggles adjusted over steely eyes. A fine array of neatly trimmed moustaches & determined chins.
White overalled marshals & time keepers. Bump starts. Rain falling on rainbow hued oily puddles. Clouds of white smoke drifting in the Autumnal breeze. Slumbering athletes from races long since gone, awakening & ready for action once more. Machines lined up at the tape. Waiting riders. Red flags, followed by green & Union flags. The cacophony of clattering pushrods & rattling chains, spluttering carbs & roaring exhausts. The clunk of gears being engaged. Throttles opened. 70 year old machines & riders lurching forward once more.
Demonstration runs. Bikes in groups of half a dozen riding around the tarmac parade route. Sedate perambulations hiding discreet jostling for position. Grins & waves. A little more speed, hunched over the bars down the straights, scraping around the turns, heading for the flag. More groups, eager for their turn. Engines fettled, constantly adjusted. Friendly rivalries between riders & manufacturers disputed yet again.
Test Hill. 200 yards of concrete ramp rising to a 25 degree gradient. Marshals flagging the all clear at the top of the hill. Rolling starts. The Union flag dropping & riders taking their turn. First gear all the way to the top or risk changing to second? Tactics reviewed & another go. Flying up the hill, over the top, grabbing the brakes & a sharp turn to the right. Through the woods & back along the remains of the historic banked circuit to the makeshift pit area. Checking times, tweaking carbs & cleaning plugs. Maybe just one more go. The weariness of age forgotten for a few hours of oil smeared fun.
The brarp, brarp, braarrp of big single cylinder engines resounding around the hangers & workshops of the Brooklands circuit. A hundred years of racers revived. A thousand leather clad ghosts cheering them on.
Then all too soon, it’s over. The final flag is lifted. Engines silenced. Gloves tugged off. Helmets unbuckled. Hands shaken. Machines wiped down & carefully loaded back on their trailers or readied for the gentle ride home. Dashing young riders become old men again & their steeds return to their cosy garage slumbers –waiting for the next time.