Racing Reminiscences

After the fiasco with the Trident, my fault not its, I decided to do what I should have done in the first place, race the Venom. I had in fact got the Venom into running order during the winter but with my move to Sheffield progress was slow as all my kit was in Leicester and I was in Sheffield all week.

The first fast running of the Venom was one Sunday at Cadwell; one of the early test sessions. My two mechanic/assistants were Dave Smith and Phil Freestone who went over with most of the kit on Phil's Laverda. The Velo took me.

When we got there I paid and signed on whilst Dave and Phil took off everything that wasn't needed like lights. There is little else to say about the test session. The tachometer was reading very fast and the Venom was overgeared and shook everything loose that it could. I rode home with the lights permanently on as the switch had vibrated to pieces. Apart from everything getting very hot (brakes as well as engine) there were no unexpected problems. All I had to do was ventilate the front brake and tighten everything up and see what happened.

At this point I suppose I had better mention that the Venom was very standard, the engine was as the makers had made it but more worn, the gearbox had two close ratios in it (3rd and top), the rest was standard except for an AJS 7R tank, seat and a Peel fairing. It also sported a 12volt car dynamo.

My first meetings were on a Saturday and Sunday, both at Snetterton. I went there on the Velo and Dave came as mechanic on his 850 Norton carrying all the kit. On race day I was scared silly and was hoping the scrutineer would fail it. He nearly did but after breaking the screen he let me go. I was delayed in going out for practice as all the nuts holding the rear wheel in fell off and we had to go and find them. Practice wasn't too bad and so after dinner and another tightening up session I had my first race on an open 500cc bump start affair. The Velo was really a production racer (Oh really? I wondered what a racer looked like. Ed) and so I wasn't very good at bump starting.

The flag dropped and I pushed. It's an uphill start at Snetterton and the clutch was dragging so it was hard work. Still the engine started straight away. I jumped on and missed and had to run and try again. Second attempt I caught my foot under the seat. Third try was more successful. I now set off after the field who by now had all gone. I eventually finished last but one; not bad for a novice on a production bike after giving everyone a head start.

The rest of the races were mediocre and I was usually lapped by the leaders and although I was enjoying it my mechanic still didn't know whether to laugh or cry (He's still not decided. Ed) The machine always started well but it took me so long to get on or into gear that I was always amongst the last off the line. The main problem was the number of missing nuts and bolts.

The next year was to be more successful with all bike problems solved and me getting into the first ten to get my national license. That was the plan and it didn't work.

The bottom half of the motor which was being rebuilt was not ready for the beginning of the season. I got it in May and so had to use the dubious motor. This was the main (Nice pun Dave) problem but others were to show up.

As in 1974 my first races were on Saturday and Sunday but this time one was at Cadwell and the other was at Snetterton. I put the bike in the van myself - this was a 1975 improvement to avoid having to drive the racer to the circuit - and this proved to be no mean feat. I then set off to pick Dave up from Leicester. He was scheduled to mechanic for me on Saturday and Phil and myself on Sunday. I picked him up alright and had an eventful trip to Cadwell. The van didn't handle too well with the bike in it and so caused fun When I misjudged a corner. We weren't too happy when we put the tent up either as we discovered we had borrowed a tent which was literally rotten. The temperature was just below freezing and it was starting to snow.

When we unloaded the bike in the morning we had to reassemble it as the front wheel had to come out to get it in the van. For once scrutineering gave no problems and so I rode it back to the van ready for practice.

Practice was cold. I don't recall much else about it except that the Venom vibrated badly. My first race was a production event started in three groups to get the most people onto the track. The flag dropped for the 1000cc and off they went. Then the 500s' flag and off they went with me still kicking. I eventually started with the 250cc. I passed a couple of 250s and another Velo but I kept forgetting the way to change gear as I had just reversed the linkage. I wasn't going very fast as the bike was still overgeared. This enabled a 250 Yam to out accelerate me but I could pass him on braking and cornering. That is until lap three.

During lap three the vibration became really terrible and the transmission began to play up. So I slowed down and completely lost my place in the race. I gave in after five laps as I had been lapped.

(An interesting sideline to this race was that the horn shorted out causing it to sound occasionally much to the delight of the crowd and the consternation of the other competitors. Ed)

When I limped back to the paddock we had a most unpleasant surprise as a large part of the machine was missing. All the engine bolts and the head steady were loose, the rear brake torque arm was hanging off and sundry other components were loose. I was very lucky I hadn't been brought off. A check through the parts box showed that I hadn't enough to complete repairs so I put the Velo in the van and headed back to Leicester. Here we scraped enough parts together, mainly from Phil, to proceed to Snetterton.

Come the Sunday morning we found even more parts AWOL and so I had to withdraw from the meeting. I had covered about 560 miles to lose a handful of nuts and bolts at Cadwell; you couldn't call my effort racing. Just to prove I wasn't the only one Phil's Ducati wouldn't start but that was just because of the cold.

(I wasn't involved with the machine preparation only trackside jobs so don't blame me for this episode. Ed)


Dave Scrivens