A racing pedigree developed from a special relationship…
The legendary NK1 – Vespa Racer. This is a scooter with a true racing pedigree, developed and constructed from a special relationship.
Steve Chapman and Dave Delaney’s love affair with scooters developed from an early age, and they shared a passion for scooter racing, which developed through the bumps and scrapes of the 80s... Way back when
When Steve was growing up he regularly went on family camping weekends to the seaside and sometimes the traffic would be swallowed up by a sea of young people on scooters. “I was slightly scared and very curious. When we were in Dorset in 1982, driving down some beautiful country lanes, three scooters passed us – all chrome and mirrors. However, it was the menacing message on one of the scooter’s flyscreens, ‘Millions like us’ and the girls on the back that really did it for me.
It was an invisible, glamorous army of young people and that’s what I wanted in the next few years, a scooter to carry girls!” Steve explained. In 1983 Dave watched Quadrophenia and was hooked. And not long after a few trips to Nelson House and Oasis in Birmingham he was kitted out with a parka, Jam shoes and boating blazer!
With plenty of funny stories and interesting moments under their belts, Dave and Steve now work alongside each other on the BSSO scooter racing committee. With the 2016 inaugural season success of the new Production Class open to both Lambretta and Vespa Steve approached Dave wanting to build the first smallframe Vespa for the class, with Dave as the rider and engine builder. At that time Stuart McKenzie on a P200 was the only competing Vespa rider in a class dominated by Lambrettas.
“The LCGB BSSO Production Class was such a success. Vespas were allowed to enter but no-one had and I was curious to see how a smallframe would fare. It’s a 132cc versus their 200cc and is obviously down on power, but lighter with incredible handling. I hoped it might encourage some others to try and in that it’s been a great success, and we have four more headed to the track this season.” Steve explained. In 2016 their good friend Norrie Kerr made his old grass track frame along with a set of Primavera casings available to Steve. The frame was showing the scars of competition with a story from Norrie on each and every ding and dent
of its history; so the frame was sent over to their team paint sponsor, Hodge at Supersprint Restorations, for some Black Country magic.
Developing the dream
Wanting to keep Norrie’s racing spirit alive, master fabricator Hodge set to work on caressing the frame back to its former glory. When the legshields were removed it released all the stresses from its racing history but Hodge managed to realign it perfectly before fitting new ones. While all this was going on and after transplanting a new set of 90SS legshields along with dummy tank, mudguard and headset. Hodge was then left to ponder on a fitting paint scheme; and a few ‘chuff’ breaks later the NK1 tribute was born, complete with its 80s survivor race paint theme!
With the motor, rather than buying new casings Dave opted to save a Primavera engine, from which the cylinder and crank had to be removed by angle grinder. “It was a labour of love but saving something that was ready for the skip is most satisfying!” Dave explained. At the same time Dave had already set to work specifying all the required components for the rebuild along with building NK1’s race engine. Rules for the Production Class only permit type-specific components, the idea being everyone has the same setup, the rider making the difference.
This provides some very close racing throughout the field: the Lambrettas get an RB20 kit, Franspeed pipe and 30mm carb with no tuning allowed. For the smallframe Vespa there’s a Malossi MHR 132cc cylinder kit, NFK signature exhaust, Malossi reed valve and a 30mm VHSH Dellorto carb. Suspension is open to the rider’s preference so Dave opted for the proven Malossi RS shockers along with fitment of a nicely crafted Crimaz hub mounted disc brake as PK forks would have spoilt the line and handling. “The usual route for racing is to fit the PK forks and PX disc brake. However, I’ve tried PK forks before and they do increase the ride height and for me upset the original smallframe handling. The scooter’s now fitted with the latest Zirri disc brake, and the original hub and forks have been retained. It eats brake pads but has a terrific feel and its single piston is ample for its power.” Dave explained. “If only we had these back in the 90s!” he added with a smile.
The Ignition was later uprated from a PK HP4 to Malossi Vespower and Steve bought a Scitsu rev counter for the scooter, which Hodge loved. When Steve took the bike to a dyno before Cadwell Park last year he left the rev counter with Hodge. When Hodge arrived he used another frame to fabricate an amazing bracket for it and even painted it to match the bike! Steve has to confess, the standout part for him is the inboard front disc from Zirri with master cylinder, which pops on with no modification to the SS headset.
Power from the motor is circa 20bhp and with the NFK exhaust providing bags of torque the ‘bolt-on’ set up is on par with the competing RB20 Lambrettas of the same class. “The NFK signature exhaust provides terrific grunt through the gear changes and holds the top end revs perfectly. The Malossi RS suspension works well, keeping the scoot settled when fully cranked over,” Dave explained. “As regards its top speed; that’s around 85mph depending on gearing/race circuit and cruising is just for the cool-down lap,” he added.
Is the scooter reliable? “Fingers crossed; yes, so far it has been. We did had some clutch niggles initially but they were easily rectified and the PK ignition and HP4 flywheel gave a miss-fire at top revs. So for 2018 we have fitted the Malossi Vespower kit which now has it revving freely,” Dave explained.
1: Mr Kerr handing the scooter over to Dave. 2: Norrie’s off-road frame. 3: Dave and Hodge. 4: Legshields off. 5: Legshields strengthened for racing. 6: Legshield work in progress. 7: Realigned. 8: Ready for the horncast. 9: Undercoat. 10: Seized bolts adjusters and stripped threads to mend. 11: Engine stripped. 12: Some of the small items for assembly.