175 laps (and more) of retro ex­cel­lence

Classic Racer - - PEOPLE -

Track day or­gan­is­ers and self-con­fessed en­durance rac­ing nuts, Rob Beale and Darin Frow have long dreamed of hold­ing a ma­jor en­durance event in the UK, rem­i­nis­cent of the golden years of the sport. In May, the plan hap­pened – and it was crack­ing good fun.

Alow-key event was held in Oc­to­ber 2015 at Snet­ter­ton, and such was the pos­i­tive re­ac­tion that plans were put in place to or­gan­ise a ma­jor week­end event with a four-hour en­durance race at its core. Thus En­durance Legends was born. The CRMC agreed to pro­vide the or­gan­i­sa­tional back-up and in Donington Park sport­ing di­rec­tor, Bob Adams, Rob and Darin dis­cov­ered a kin­dred spirit who, like them, be­lieved that there was po­ten­tially a great ap­petite for a re­vived and re­freshed en­durance event. The dream be­came a re­al­ity at Donington on the week­end of May 6/7, with a su­perb event that in­cor­po­rated En­durance, ICGP and Lans­downe rac­ing plus a wide range of other mo­tor­cy­cle-re­lated ex­hibits and ac­tiv­i­ties, the cherry on the cake be­ing none other than guest of hon­our Fred­die Spencer. Un­like the ex­per­i­men­tal Snet­ter­ton race, this time it was a full-on event com­bin­ing a large entry of UK teams with the first round of the 2017 FIM ECS (Euro­pean Classic Se­ries), mean­ing that the fastest and most pro­fes­sional teams in Europe were all present. A to­tal of 53 teams were en­tered, of which 50 (the max­i­mum al­lowed) be­gan the race.

In­ter­est was hugely stoked by the much pub­li­cised entry of the stun­ning Team Classic Suzuki GSX 1100 Katana, built in part­ner­ship be­tween Suzuki GB Vin­tage Parts and Steve Wheat­man’s Classic Suzuki Rac­ing team. The even big­ger news was that it was be­ing rid­den by re­tired Bri­tish legends James Whitham and Steve Par­rish, along­side Michael Neeves. Fur­ther­more, they showed they were right on the pace by qual­i­fy­ing in sixth, with all three rid­ers within three sec­onds of each other. Sun­day af­ter­noon wit­nessed the glo­ri­ous sight of 50 ma­chines lined up in the sun­shine ready for the Le Mans style start and at pre­cisely 15.00hrs they left the line for what turned out to be a drama-packed four hours. Be­fore most could even set their stop­watches sen­sa­tional news came through that Whitham, who was in­tent on tak­ing an early lead, had crashed the Suzuki heav­ily at Roberts Chi­cane. The mor­ti­fied for­mer Su­per­bike, Su­per sport and GP star walked backed to the nearby pits only to dis­cover that the team had been ex­cluded for the rider not re­main­ing with the bike, as re­quired by the event regs. Dis­cus­sions were un­der­way to run the Katana on a non-points scor­ing ba­sis but when it was re­turned to the garage it was dis­cov­ered to be too badly dam­aged to con­tinue. On news of the crash a few mo­ments of dis­be­lief and dis­ap­point­ment de­scended upon the gath­ered thousands but en­durance rac­ing is about more than just one team and very quickly the race set­tled into an en­thralling bat­tle with the UK Legends teams, many of them well known CRMC names on 600/750cc For­mula 2 ma­chines, mix­ing it with the su­per-rapid ECS bikes.

For the first half of the race it wasteam Force (Gre­gory Fas­tre/bruno Le Bi­han, Har­ris F1 Suzuki 1100) and fastest qual­i­fiers, Team Alfs (Michael God­frey/spike Ed­wards/john Bar­ton, P&M Kawasaki 1100) lead­ing the field but as the fi­nal hour loomed both teams hit ma­jor prob­lems and it be­gan to look like the over­all win would come down to Sweat­shop Phase One’s premier team of Peter Lin­den/ Ian Simp­son (P&M Suzuki) or the 2016 ECS cham­pi­ons, Neate Rac­ing (John, Steve and Sam Neate, Har­ris Mag­num Honda 1123), with SCERT (Steve Boam/steve Clark/jonathan Lodge, Har­ris Suzuki XR69) and Italy’s Team Tau­rus (Gior­gio Can­talupo/caprara San­dro/ Ale­jan­dro Martinez Mas, Suzuki XR69) also in the reck­on­ing. As the fi­nal 40-minute shifts be­gan we learned that the Neate Honda had lost its third gear but the Sweat­shop Phase One Suzuki was in even more trou­ble and a des­per­ately dis­ap­pointed Simp­son was forced into park­ing the badly smok­ing bike in front of the main grand­stands with just 20 min­utes to go. John Neate duly nursed the big Honda home to take the che­quered flag with 175 laps, four laps ahead of Team­tau­rus and SCERT – a vic­tory that was noth­ing like as com­fort­able as the mar­gin sug­gested. As with all en­durance races, there were tales of dis­ap­point­ment and bad luck and also of good for­tune and great achieve­ment. Among the lat­ter were CRMC stal­warts, Liam Mc­carter and Derek Cripps, who took their Su­per­stock GSX-R Suzuki 750 to F.2/750TT vic­tory and, in­cred­i­bly, fifth place over­all, leav­ing many of Europe’s lead­ing ECS teams in their wake. In the same class it was young Lans­downe reg­u­lars Sam Clews and Sam Rhodes, teamed up with Richard El­lis, who took an heroic sec­ond place on their vir­tu­ally stan­dard VFR Honda 750, an achieve­ment that saw them cho­sen by Bob Adams to re­ceive the Spirit of En­durance tro­phy. Among other no­table rides were QRG Mo­tor­cy­cles (Nigel Palmer/ Kon­stantin Moraglis/dan Walling) who took their BMW R90 to Classic class vic­tory on the BMW R90 and third place in the F2 for Alan Oversby and Nor­way’s An­ders Hel­gerud on the Davies Motorsport CB500/4RR Honda.

Be­low: Apart from the crash hel­mets it could be the start of a 1960s GP as the Lans­downe field leaves the grid. Lead­ing the charge are the Manx Nor­tons of Glen English (25), Chris Firmin (1), Dean Stimp­son (78), Chris Bas­sett (64) and Mike Rus­sell (68).

Left: Leg­endary Bri­tish En­durance out­fit, Sweat­shop Phase One, were the only en­trant field­ing two teams but me­chan­i­cal is­sues meant that nei­ther of their P&M Suzukis made it to the fin­ish. hor­ri­bly wrong in the race as Whitham crashed at Roberts...

Above: Steve Par­rish (pic­tured), James Whitham and Michael Neeves qual­i­fied the Team Classic Suzuki Katana in to an im­pres­sive sixth place but things went

Left: Phil Atkin­son (Ver­yard Har­ris TZ350) on his way to vic­tory in the first ICGP race. Above: Pit lane com­men­ta­tor Jono Yard­ley grabs a few words with Nigel Palmer of the QRG Mo­tor­cy­cles team (Palmer/kon­stantin Moraglis/dan Walling).they had a...

Left: Warner Rac­ing (Sam Rhodes/sam Clews/ Richard El­lis) had no pre­vi­ous en­durance ex­pe­ri­ence yet rode their vir­tu­ally stan­dard Honda VFR750 to eighth over­all/ sec­ond For­mula 2.This in­cluded push­ing in for fuel with just 10 min­utes of the race...

James Whitham (blue leathers) braces him­self for the Le Mans start. Sadly, it was to be a brief ap­pear­ance, much to the dis­ap­point­ment of the watch­ing thousands.

It’s 3pm on a glo­ri­ously sunny Donington Park Sun­day af­ter­noon and the race is un­der­way.

It’s lap 11 of the sec­ond ICGP race and leader Phil Atkin­son flies over the top as the rear wheel locks up on the TZ350 at Roberts Chi­cane. Atkin­son suf­fered a dam­aged shoul­der as a re­sult of this scary-look­ing crash.

Right: With a slightly wist­ful-look­ing Fred­die Spencer in the wings, Neate Rac­ing (Steve, Sam and John) proudly pose with their racewin­ning 1979 Honda Har­ris Mag­num Mk1 1123.

Right: In goes the fuel on the Amici Miei 1983 Du­cati 750 TT. Un­for­tu­nately the Ital­ian team (Gian­carlo Maestrini/roberto Catani/gior­gio Ga­bellini) went out af­ter 92 laps.

Left: Alan Oversby and the Davies Motorsport Honda CB500/4R are a fa­mil­iar sight at CRMC events and the Classic TT but the lit­tle Honda is prob­a­bly not ev­ery­one’s idea of your typ­i­cal en­durance racer. How­ever, Oversby and Nor­we­gian An­ders Hel­gerud, who...

Above: For­mula 2 win­ners Liam Mc­carter and Derek Cripps (FB Rac­ing GSX-R750) re­ceive their awards from guest of hon­our, Fred­die Spencer.

Be­low: En­durance Legends or­gan­is­ers Rob Beale and Darin Frow look con­tent with the out­come of their months of hard work at the post-race pre­sen­ta­tions.

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