Practical Sportsbikes (UK)
Road rider, drag racer, and now classic track man too
Just like yours, except much more disorienting
At a casual glance, Mark Carrelswatson’s Hampshire garage appears packed with a collection of seemingly fairly normal 1980s and 1990s sportsbikes with the occasional newer two-wheeler thrown in for good measure. However look a bit closer and you spot race fairings, fried tyres and all the telltale marks of a classic superbike racer...
“I love the whole classic superbike racing scene,” enthuses Mark. “Although I’m relatively new to competing, I only started in the CSBK and North Glos Formula Pro Stocks series in 2015.Years ago, when I was a lad, I mucked about with an X7 and even went to the Chas Mortimer race school in the early 1980s but the costs of trying to race when you are 19-years-old are hideous. I did a few races, but as I had to ride the bike to the meetings because I couldn’t afford a van, it meant that if I crashed I couldn’t get home again, which puts a damper on your enthusiasm.”
A life-long biker, Mark’s love of two wheels is down to his older brother Paul, whose bike he rode when he was just 10-years-old. Not always legally or with Paul’s full knowledge, it has to be said.
After his initial dabbling in the race scene, Mark did the adult thing of university and got a proper job as a quantity surveyor while keeping his two-wheeled thrills going with various road bikes, and a Z1000 drag bike, which he still owns.
As is the way, kids (or kidults as Mark calls them as they have yet to fly the nest) meant that racing took more of a back seat. But in the 2000s he returned to the drag strip with a Hayabusa before an old university mate encouraged him take to short circuits.
“Dave and myself had been to the
Bol in 1990 (two-up on a YPVS – not recommended) and at university we discussed how we’d love to do endurance racing,” Mark says. “We bought a GS1000 and started prepping it but the Classic Endurance series switched its rules, meaning you needed an International licence, which we didn’t have.we were still keen to race, and so we joined the German CSBK and North Glos Formula Pro series instead.”
In his garage, Mark prepares all his own race bikes and where he can fabricates parts and rebuilds engines.and with older racing motorcycles, there is always a fair bit of fettling required.
And he does like to throw them up the road too, as we found when he crashed at Oulton the day before we were initially due to interview him.
“The costs are hideous trying to race when you’re 19”
1. Race poster
“The poster is from the 2017 Oschersleben round of the CSBK series, which I raced my Yoshi GS1000 in, and got a trophy. It was horrible and wet, which worked to my advantage as I’m British...”
2. Yoshi banner
“This is just an ebay buy but it looks like I might be a Yoshi dealer – I might as well be, the amount I’ve bloody spent on their parts...”
3. Michelin map
“If you look, this map is missing the M25, it’s that old. I got it for £10 from a mate. I actually worked on the M25 and helped build the part at Redhill, so when you are stuck in a jam there, think of me.”
“I have a few more trophies but they are tucked away in the house. I was second in the NG Formula Pro Stock 2 Championship in 2018 and last year I won it on a Slabby 750, which I’ve now sold. Not bad for an old fart. I’m certainly getting better.”
“I bought this brand new and it is amazing. I’ve had it remapped but otherwise it is stock aside from Maxton suspension. I took it around Spa and put a bloody hole in the radiator, which is exactly what the salesman warned me about. Luckily a bit of Araldite sorted it out. It’s a great bike, but I don’t take it on track. If I come off I’ll be going really fast and it will cost me lots of money.”
6. Kawasaki Z900
“This is my girlfriend Jane’s bike. She is hardcore and has ridden for years and used to have GSX-R1100S and specials, in fact she was in Streetfighter mag with one of them! She rode the RGV but didn’t like it much so she bought the Zed, which is a great bike and really underrated.”
7. 1976 Rickman RC
“This will have a GS1000 in it, which only the last few RCS had, the rest were Honda CB750 or Kawasaki Z900/1000. The Gs1000-powered ones were called ‘The Predator’ and only about ten were made before they made the Ranger car. I bought the frame for just £40 and the plan is to race it in classic racing with 18-inch wheels and two-piston brakes, which will be a lot of fun.”
8. Kawasaki Z1000
“This was an ebay special I got for £600 as the chap misspelt Kawasaki. I put a bid in for a laugh and I won it – and he even delivered it. It’s a Us-spec bike so had a stupid little tank, and lots of other US Type Approval differences that I didn’t realise were done to make it a US bike.
“In America they were worthless back in the day, but nowadays they are very sought after. Uk-spec ones are worth more but I should do OK if I sell this one – apparently the Japanese are lapping them up.”
9. Suzuki GS1000
“I worked out I had accumulated enough spare parts that I could build another Yoshi GS, so I have. I copied the bracing Harris did to the GS’S frame I owned (the wooden shocks are my own design...) and it’s well on its way now. The problem with old bikes is that when you buy one part, inevitably the seller says ‘I also have this bit...’ so you end up with loads of spares.”
“This costs just £4.99 from The Range and is worth every penny. I’d love to pretend it’s organised but it isn’t...”
11. Harrison lathe
“I got this from a chap in Blackburn for £350. I was looking at transporting it myself but the guy said ‘don’t’ as he had seen someone who didn’t know what they were doing crush their hand trying. If you buy a lathe, pay a professional to move it.”
12. NOS bottle
“It is far cheaper to buy NOS in bulk than get a canister filled up. This is 100lb of the stuff which you decant into a canister, being very careful not to over-pressurise the bottle, so you do it on weight.”
13. White board
“I can never remember anything, even how fast to take a certain corner at Oulton .... ”
14. Loft ladder
“I I can’t even start to imagine what is up there, it’s a sea of stuff.”
15. Pillar drill
“I do drill for lock-wiring but it is far easier to buy it pre-drilled.”
“This was liberated from Kew Gardens’ Palm House, which I helped restore. This is only 1/3 of the bench, it nearly killed me dragging it into the van. I covered it in stainless steel and it’s so sturdy.”