By Gerry Johnson CB500 # 55
It was Jan and I that arrived at East Fortune Circuit, mid afternoon in lovely sunshine for the final meeting of the 2015 Road Racing season for Team RBRacing/Labman. With compatriot rider Richy Johnson away in the US of A, and after hanging up his racing leathers, it was left to myself and Jan to see out our final racing.
With the sun shining, and a decent forecast for the weekend, we set about unloading the van and erecting the “garage” that would be our home for the next couple of days. I was racing the CB alongside the “Post Classic” and “Pre-Fuel Injection 600’s”. The CB500 is pretty competitive against the Post Classic bikes but would struggle against the very rapid Supersport 600’s. These bikes have very similar performance to a modern day racing 600 except they are from the era before Fuel Injection became standard on machines. Still, we were looking forward to mixing it with whoever was around me in the actual races, with a target of top 3 finishes and doing my best to get the bike into the 1′.09″ lap times. Fastest lap to date for myself was 1’10” with Richy previously circulating at 1’07”. He Text me on Friday Night with the following advice – “so remember Dad, you are representing the best Team in the Paddock, so be smooth, brake hard, full throttle and nowt in between and make no mistakes! Oh, and have FUN!”
Three little CB’s in amongst some very rapid 600’s
There were only 5 or so CB’s out this weekend, but, talking to other riders and officials, there is a big push to get many more on the grid for next season. Some of the “Post Classic” riders have either bought CB’s already, or have pledged to get one for next season. It looks like there could be at least 15 ready to race next year with both the Scottish Melville Club and the NEMCRC. The interest has been raised in part, we think, by the excellent results and racing that the fans have been treated to this year from our little blue bikes. They have been fast, reliable, mixing it with much bigger and faster bikes, and are cheaper to run than a thoroughbred race bike. We will have to wait and see?
Following Technical Inspection, which again signed the bike off with a clean bill of health, Friday night saw Jan and I settle down to tinned mincemeat, tinned potatoes and tinned carrots. No caravan this weekend and our bedroom would be the back of the van. It was Jan’s birthday on the Sunday, so what could be better than a weekend away in Bonnie Scotland? A glass of wine and an early night, with a clear, sunny and dry day forecast for Saturday’s busy racing schedule.
Throwing it into the “Esses” at the thick end of 100 mph
After a decent nights sleep we were up to watch a glorious sunrise, followed by a nice cuppa tea and some breakfast. The schedule consisted of a ten minute practice session, qualifying session and 2 races. Practice was steady away really. Get a good look at the track, familiarise yourself with braking points, gearshift points etc etc. A bit of fun with top runner on the CB’s this weekend, Max Knights, bode well for some exciting racing to come.
Qualifying was a bit more serious, trying to get a good run for a couple of laps. Keep smooth and don’t push too hard as the best times seem to happen when you don’t feel like you are trying. Weird. I was happy with the outcome – 3rd fastest CB with a time of 1’10”.4. Not bad as I had equalled my previous best time and the top 3 CB’s were in order on the grid with no other bikes from the other classes between us. Max Knight grid 17, Allan Brookbank 18, and yours truly grid 19 but on the row behind. The 3 of us seperated by just a second or so.
Top fuel up, check bike over, go to toilet several times, drink Lucozade, eat chocolate. Check bike over again, clean visor then final dash to the toilet before our first race. It turned out that Allan would be a non starter as his bike had blown a head gasket in qualifying. His plan was to nip down to Belford and borrow Richy’s old bike that we had sold to his cousin and be up for the second race later in the day. Looked like I would be racing against Richy’s old bike later!
Four CB’s ready to pounce!
Well cranked over into the final section “Hannahs”
I had a good start, and slotted in behind Max, who usually has demon starts. We all funnelled through the first corner, elbows and knees out before head down, arse up, back straight. Max and I followed each other in our overtakes of other bikes and were running a good pace, with Max able to stretch a small gap on the faster stretches. The laps reeled off and I was on his back wheel going into the final lap. I tried slipstreaming him along the straight but was just not close enough to get up the inside on the brakes for the awkward Railway Bend. I managed to hang on through Snake and the heart – stopping Esses and was determined to have a real go up the inside at the hairpin. Max is a seasoned, determined rider and made sure he protected his line. I tried around the outside but couldn’t out drag his bike up to the final corner. He pipped me for the CB500 win by less than a second! What a great race! It turned out that I had set the fastest lap for the CB’s at 1’09”.4 set on the final lap of the race during my battle with Max for the lead. Thats an average speed of over 80mph for the lap! Well chuffed and another nice piece of silverware for the trouble.
A real bonus for everyone was to happen at lunchtime, a fly – by from an Avro Vulcan Bomber! Apparantly it was on its final series of flights and as the race circuit is adjacent to the Scottish Museum of flight, we got to see the fly by as well. A wonderful sight.
To see this on Saturday was a bonus
The second race saw Allan Brookbanks back with Richy’s old bike. Bodywork had been swapped and numbers etc changed, but it was going to be weird racing against his bike, without him riding it! Lights out, and in a flash the 3 of us were side by side down the back straight. Max then got his head down and started to pull a small gap, leaving me to do battle with Alan, on Richies bike! He was all over the place, running wide, drifting off line, trying to get used to the bike. The CB’s are all the same, but ride very differently. Allan ran wide at the hairpin after a couple of laps, in trying to overtake me, so I didn’t hesitate to take the position back and pull a gap. I was holding 2nd place for most of the race but made a couple of minor errors in my efforts to ensure I could keep Allan behind me. Last lap, setting myself up for the “Esses” at close to 100mph, I saw a yellow bike slip a wheel up the inside of me. Bloody Allan was alongside me! The Esses are not the place to do anything silly, and wily old Allan edged me out to put me off line for the next 2 corners. Fair game, he did a good job and I didn’t have the luxury of another lap to return the favour in re – passing. Thats racing. A good 3rd place and another lap time well in the 1″09’s.
Chasing eventual race winner around a very slippery hairpin
Don’t often see this. Me in front of Richies old bike!
Setting it up for the last corner.
Jan and I were made up at the results of the day’s racing. Good fun, good results, great lap times and good company. The bike must come first though and a forecast of rain for the following day saw me getting wet tyres ready, adjusting the chain and fitting (another) set of brake pads. Then it became time to relax, this time with tinned chicken curry, rice, and chips from the cafe. A stroll round the paddock and track, followed by a couple of beers in the Bar, rounded off a great day’s racing.
The pitter patter of rain on the roof of the van, saw in Sunday morning. Bugger! There was a bit of time before my first race, so we hoped the rain would stop and the track start to dry. No such luck, but as they say, its the same for everyone. The rain did stop but there was not much sun or wind to dry the track, and the odd shower of drizzle made sure that the whole day’s racing would be on our wet tyres.
I love the first corner! Nice reminder of our sponsor.
Jan helped me get the wets’ on, fuel in, bacon buttie demolished, time to get on with it! I have ridden in the wet but never raced in the wet. I did feel quite confident as the wet tyres do grip very well considering. The warm up lap saw lots of puddles and ice – slippy painted kerbs. Smashing! Lights to red – little bit of wheelspin (at least no wheelie) and away we were splashing down towards the first corner. 4 Cb’s gathered together along the back straight, riders peering through wet and murky visors. I was doing OK but started to lose just a little bit of ground on the others. No excuses but I was probably the only CB rider not to have raced in anger in the wet! The fastest parts of the circuit I felt quite confident with. It was the slow hairpin and tricky, slowish, Railway bend that had me struggling for grip. I decided to get my head down and get on the throttle earlier which was OK but resulted in a massive front end slide in the fast right hander onto the start and finish straight. This is flat out in 3rd – shifting up to 4th so its quick enough to have a fright! Something bottomed out underneath the bike – the exhausts I guess, and I hung on fully expecting to go down hard! How it happened I don’t know but the bike straightened up, drifted wide and kept the shiney side up! Phew! I tried not to let it deter me but I must admit to rolling the throttle off a little on the next lap. I was happy to get the bike home safely, which I duly did, but was annoyed that I couldn’t have made a better fist of it. Still, I had one more (wet) race to make amends!
Eager to get started
The final race of the weekend for the little blue bike soon arrived and I was determined to ride better in the wet than the first race. After all I had nothing to lose really as this was the last race of the season but having said that, East Fortune is not the most forgiving of places to crash. The warm up lap saw me focusing much better and the front tyre felt good. Line up, weight over the front wheel, lights to red, the roar of highly revving engines, lights out, drop the clutch, wind the throttle open to the stop! Second gear rammed in, third, hard on the brake for the first corner. Lean on people. Be leaned on. Was this my final, manic start on a race bike? Down the back straight and latch on to the other CB’s. Alan going well and Max squirming his back wheel braking hard for Railway Bend.
This time I didn’t get dropped. I hung on. Got the tyres working better it seems. Although not able to pass the 3 CB’s just in front of me, I was able to hang onto them. Racing in the wet is more about focussed concentration than anything else. Stay smooth, proper gears selected and clench your buttocks as you crank over into the Esses, in the wet, at 100mph! Phew!
The finish of the race saw another win for Max, followed closely by 3 other CB’s. Home safe in 4th, and on the pace. Magic!
Trying hard to stay in front of that GSXR 1000. Sitting up, hard on the brakes.
After the usual banter amongst the riders after the race, it was time for Jan and I to begin the task of packing up. Shaking hands and saying cheers to fellow riders, followed by the long drive home. Quite an early finish saw us home by about 7pm that evening at the end of another fantastic weekend of highly charged motorcycle road racing. Surely, THE best sport in the world!
Gerry and Jan