Gordon Clark took his GSX-R750 racing, went on a 2500 mile holiday, then took it racing again
Racer Gordon Clark did exactly what you’re supposed to do with a Superstock bike. He took it on his holidays to Spain – and then raced it at Oulton Park as soon as he got back
A CRMC Superstock race bike isn’t just for track competition, it’s for life. That’s clearly the case for 2018 Superstock newcomer, Gordon Clark. As if racing in one of the Classic Club’s most competitive classes wasn’t challenge enough, Gordon decided that he’d squeeze in an epic 2500 mile blast to the sun between rounds two (Snetterton) and three (Oulton) of the series – on the very same GSX-R that he’s using week-in, week-out in the championship.
“I like a challenge,” says Gordon wryly of his adventure. “It all came about because a friend of mine from the Isle of Man, John ‘Butters’ Buttery, who always lets us stay at his place when we go over to the island, had wanted to do a big continental trip and I said I’d go with him. Originally, I was going to do it on something modern, and then I thought, ‘no, sod it, I’ll use the GSX-R’.YEARS back me and my mates used to do crazy trips to the Bol d’or at Ricard on old inappropriate stuff and sleep rough on the way so it wasn’t as if I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for…”
Having finished all four races at a wet, windy and decidedly Siberian Snett (fifth, seventh, tenth and sixth), Gordon headed home to prep his ’85 GSX-R750F for the trip. “I’d originally bought the Suzuki three and a bit years ago to use on the road, but after having a go at Brands at the last round of last year’s championship [Gordon last raced 30 years previously – JM] I decided to do the whole season this year. I had planned to use another race-prepped GSX-R I’ve got for Superstock but I’m still waiting for the engine to be finished, so that’s how I’ve ended up using this one instead. I’ve kept all the road stuff for the bike, so that all had to go back on after Snetterton, plus I had to sort the loom to get the lights operational again, then get it Mot’d and taxed.”
With Yamaha Tracer-mounted Butters having already travelled from Manxland to Gordon’s father-in-law’s place near Aylesbury, the pair set off from Hertfordshire to Portsmouth to catch the overnight ferry to Bilbao in Spain. “The GSX-R was running perfectly until I turned off the M27.the carbs must have sucked
“I HOPPED OFF THE GSX-R, NIPPED ACROSS THE ROAD, BUT WHILE I WAS DOING THAT THE TARMAC UNDERNEATH THE SIDESTAND GAVE WAY AND THE BIKE TOPPLED OVER”
some crap through from the tank and that blocked the pilot jets, so after that it ran like a bag of nails lowdown with no tickover for the rest of the trip. Stripping the carbs is a four-to-five hour job to do properly, so it wasn’t possible to do it on the trip with the tight schedule we had, so I just had to ride around the rough running.”
The pair docked at Bilbao mid-afternoon the following day. Ahead lay a four hour ride through the Picos Europas mountains. “Butters had worked out our route and the plan was to ride across the Picos on the first day, get to Leon and stay the night there, but we only made it as far as Potes. A rockslide had blocked part of the route on the N621 so we had to make a long loop back to Unquera and an even longer loop to Potes. The roads though were fantastic – a mix of fast sweepers and super-tight mountain hairpins and valleys.”
A long trip just wouldn’t be a l-o-n-g trip without a calamity or two, and the Picos mountains delivered their own curveball on only the second day. “When John and I got to the highest summit of the Picos mountains, some 10,000ft up, we stopped to take a picture. I hopped off the GSX-R, nipped across the road, but while I was doing that the tarmac underneath the sidestand gave way and the bike toppled over. It broke the top fairing and screen, so I had to lash it all back together with cable ties before we could move on.”
That second day was a biggie – 466 miles and 12 hours in the saddle, from northern Spain to Caceres in the country’s central belt, via a 200-ish mile stretch across the border in Portugal. “We’d deliberately chosen to stay off the autoroutes and dual carriageways so it was scratching roads all the way. It was really obvious once we crossed the border because compared to Spain the roads in Portugal were crap. It also chucked it down for the last 20 minutes of that day’s ride and we got soaked.”
Despite the annoyance of blocked pilot jets and jammed accelerator pumps on the GSX-R, Gordon and John made day three another biggie; although at ‘only’ 342 miles and almost eight hours on the road it was a mere sprint compared to the previous day. “We were heading for Butters’ place in Estepona near Marbella on the Mediterranean coast. It was a great ride
through country parks and even the occasional goat track.we made Ronda by mid-afternoon and hid out from a belt of thunder storms, before ripping down to the coast near Marbella, stopping off at the infamous Venta El Mondroño bike cafe, situated on the outside of a big wide, fast bend. Then back to Butters’ place to sleep and rest the following day (Motogp on Sunday).”
Day five was a loop for Gordon and Butters to Cádiz on the Atlantic coast via a look around Gibraltar, then back to John’s place. “We could see the north African coast from ‘the rock’, which was nice, but we still got robbed by a group of macaques, then got stuck in a long jam getting back into Spain.” The loop up to Cádiz added a further 206 miles to the total.
The following day was the start of the return leg, hugging the Mediterranean coast from Manilva past Marbella and Málaga to Almuñécar, then north to Gordon’s parents’ place in the mountains west of Granada. “Recent earthquakes and tremors had ripped the roads apart in places, and I nearly stacked the GSX-R on a downhill right hander. Luckily the roads were pretty empty so I had the space to pull it back. That was the only ‘crapped myself’ moment on the whole trip, including racing at Oulton at the end.”
Riding back to the port at Bilbao was a two day grind, the GSX-R getting more and more grumpy as the miles piled on. “It hadn’t been able to hold an idle since Portsmouth. By the time we got 50 miles from Bilbao and back onto the twisties for that last section the Suzuki was stalling into every turn.the oddest thing, though, was when we were parked up at the port. We were totally blanked by all the ‘adventure bikers’ there, all fully laden sky-high with kitchen sinks. They just gave dirty looks to the Slabbie with my kit bag bungeed on and back tyre run to the edges.”
Once back in Blighty at 3.30pm local time, the race was on to get to Oulton for the Superstock races. Gordon had ordered some new accelerator pumps for the GSX-R while in Spain, so he raced through rush-hour traffic to get to Suzuki dealer Ford & Ellis in Chesham. “I made it minutes before closing…”
Back home shortly after there was just enough time to walk the dog and bolt down a curry before switching the GSX-R back to race trim. “The bike was filthy from the trip and it took until midnight to get it ready and loaded. I grabbed three hours kip on the sofa (Butters nicked my bed) before setting off for Oulton and scrutineering at 7.30am. The bike failed the noise test so I had to borrow a db killer.
“I had 10 minutes to learn the track and qualify; managed 15th out of 29.The bike was running terribly because I still hadn’t
Below: at Snetterton round two, before the Slabbie went on its holidays (above)
Old school all the way, piled high with gear and still having it large in the mountain turns That’s what you call a nice round trip (without the Gibraltar loop) Left: sidestand incident led to a few more running repairs. No big deal
Arrived at Granada, but only just, after earthquakes had ripped up the roads The Venta El Mondrono bike cafe – top spot Practical Sportsbikes 29
Macaque in Gibraltar – thieving bastard