Matt samples his hero’s resurrected racebike. We wiped it clean after the pics...
powerband as such, just a good 5000rpm spread of zingy grunt.
Head down, throttle open and start toeing through an amazingly slick gearbox, augmented by a decidedly non-period quickshifter. The revs hardly drop between changes, and there’s little change in momentum. You chase the vanishing point and peer through the bubble screen. Baaap, baap, baaarp. It’s pulling over 12,000rpm in top and it feels like about 160mph. I’d imagined myself in this position many times before. It’s one hell of experience, even if these days even a 500GP bike doesn’t offer the motive shove of a modern stock litre bike.
Time to brake – the AP master cylinder and monoblock calipers originally grasped carbon discs, but now they grip 320mm steel full-floaters. There’s power there, but the master cylinder gives little in the way of feel and you need at least two fingers to generate any power. But it still sheds speed with amazing alacrity. I brake at the same marker that I did on PB’s GSX-S1000 earlier in the day and need to accelerate again long before I make the corner. That’ll learn me.
The chassis simply astounds. K-Tech had the difficulty of making forks that were little more than a pair of outers into functioning units, but work they do, and there’s loads of feel flooding up the fork legs. As the laps go by I’m able to carry more brake into the corners and I’m never near the bike’s limits. It isn’t surprising – I suspect the fork action and grip from the modern slicks far outweigh what Kev & Co. had to deal with in the ’80s. The riders of this era are my heroes, but I left my Schwantz-rep Arai at home: only one person is worthy of wearing it on this bike...
When a machine is worth as much as your mortgage, it’s hard to ride it like you would a £2k trackbike, but over the next laps I get hints of how life as a GP racer from that time would be. The first example comes as a surprise. I’m behind a track Fireblade that’s faster in a straight line but slower in the corners. So, to get by, I outbrake him into Luffield, carrying loads of brake, with my knee already grinding. I then ask the bike to turn a little more and I’m met with gentle chatter. “Ah, that’s what it must be like.”
Later, as I get really good drive out of the final part of Becketts on to the back straight, the front lifts off a bump, then lands slightly sideways. The bars dance in my hands as it sorts itself out. “Ah, that’s what it’s like.” Finally, as the laps go on I get braver through Woodcote until I’m exiting at the top end of fourth gear, the rear moving a tad and the revs slightly rising as it pumps over the bumps. Again, it’s a snapshot into a world people of my talent can’t normally visit. But I’m conscious this is where proper racers start going to work and where I give up.
These bikes are monuments to a very special time in motorcycling and despite this being a 27-year-old chassis, housing an 18-year-old motor, the performance is still impressive in a modern context.
Bikes like this need to been seen, heard and smelt, and, if you’re a flukey git, ridden. And thanks to the likes of Nathan and Steve they’ll be doing that for a long time to come.
‘Toeing the slick gearbox the revs hardly change between gears’
Not for the first time, Matt gives Chris a good faceful