Monday, 7 September 2015

Bike Fest, North Weald 2015

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It's been a while since I have visited North Weald, it is great to see the airfield being used for a sprint event. Bike Fest runs a Test & Tune category that enables anyone with the correct attire and a motorcycle of any description to take part in the sprint. This means that you get a great range of machines that turn up, from standard road machines to purpose built drag bikes. I spent time with some legendary and classic sprint machines on a Sunny Sunday afternoon:

Mighty Mouse

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Super Mouse

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 I was very happy to see Brian Chapman and his two legendary machines at North Weald. I had heard the name Mighty Mouse mentioned a lot when researching drag bikes and having a chance to chat with Brian about his bikes was great. Brian was a self employed carpenter from Waltham Abbey. Hegot involved with time trials using various machines which were also used for every day use, as many people did back then as they couldn’t afford a second motorcycle. On one occasion Brian entered his Vincent Comet into a club time trial, having to compromise on his tuning aspirations, as it had to get him to work the next day, Brian decided it was time to build a purpose built machine. Mighty Mouse was the result, the engine came from a 500cc Vincent Comet. The bike was developed over many years with its main achievements, A.C.U. British Drag-Race Champion, B.D.R. & H.R.A. Bike Champion, N.D.R.C. Overall Bike & Top Bike Champion, all in 1977. The fastest time to date is 8.81 seconds at 157.9 m.p.h. Its last incarnation features a supercharger which comes from an aeroplane cabin pressuriser. This was a popular choice for drag bikes of the period and is normally coupled with an S.U. carburettor from a Jaguar, which was easily found in a scrapyard of the time. Mighty Mouse improved every season that Brian raced it until he got under 10 seconds which is a major achievement for the time and machine used. Brian then went on to get his time under 9 seconds making him the first person in the world to achieve this on a 500cc machine.

Many times Brian would beat twin engined machines on the single cylinder Mighty Mouse, one race of note was when Brian and Mighty Mouse match raced against Danny Johnson on his double engined 3500cc Harley ‘Goliath’. Brian was invited to America in 1978 where his machine beat more double engined Harleys during his visit.

Towards the end of Mighty Mouses development in the late 1970s early 1980s, Brian decided to apply what he had learnt with Mighty Mouse to build a drag bike using a Vincent twin called Super Mouse, which debuted in 1981. Brian stuck with the same configuration he had with the single by using two superchargers, one per barrel. The bike worked just as well as its predecessor and the times dropped down to 8.25 seconds at 170 m.p.h. In 1982 Brian was thrown off the bike, the bike was rebuilt and run but Brian soon retired from competitive racing.

1937 Velocette 250cc Ossie Neal Special

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Well I can't get enough of Ossie Neals specials this is the third I've sketched this year! Knowing that this Velocette was going to be at North Weald was one of the main reasons for attending the event.

The Velocette has all the trademarks of an Ossie Special, Holes on every sensible surface in order to save weight
The Velocette barrel was made from two different barrels in order to give high compression. Many parts on these bikes show what an engineer Ossie Neal was, from copper exhausts on the Scott to variable screw in jets so that they didn’t have to be changed at a meeting. Ossie’s Irish heritage is apparent on the machines as he used to attach coins to various parts of the bikes for good luck. Sheelagh has been asked to identify  one of his bikes in the past and when she saw a coin on the machine she had no doubt it was one of his.
Seeing these specials out of the workshop and being used by Sheelagh makes me so happy and I’m sure it would make Ossie happy too. These bikes are built for a purpose and that is racing. Many machines like this that are not used and I tend to agree with Sheelagh when she says that if the bike goes ‘bang’ then at least it was doing what it was built to do when it does.  

Ossie’s Irish heritage is apparent on the machines as he used to attach coins to various parts of the bikes for good luck. Sheelagh has been asked to identify  one of his bikes in the past and when she saw a coin on the machine she had no doubt it was one of his.

Ozzie Neal's Sprint outfit.

BSA B25 Sprint Bike

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This B25 was the type of sprint bike I was hoping to find at North Weald. Like the Bantam Sprint bike I sketched at the beginning of the year at Newark this bike shows how a vintage sprint bike can be built and run at a low cost. The frame was scratch built by the owner Philip Hazelwood out of Reynolds tubing. The engine itself hasn't been tuned but it has been supercharged. Philip has used a unit that comes from a small South American Ford that is currently in production. Coupled with an SU carb it looks just the part. The bike also runs on Methanol to give it even more pep. The bike has been in constant evolution. One of the modifications of note was moving the fuel tank up front as it was originally hung front the top tube and as the bike took off the fuel moved to one end of the tank which stopped it getting out. Moving it to the front now allows the fuel run freely. It is also made from an Atco mower fuel tank which gives me an idea of how to use the one I have stashed away somewhere!

1933 New Imperial Grand Prix

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There weren't as many classic bikes as I'd hoped to see at the event but this New Imperial more than made up for that. To the best of the owners knowledge it was bought in 1997 at a Hendon sale, from an estate which included some Spitfires amongst the auction line up. Nothing is known about this particular bike, but the owner has been actively racing it whenever possible.

 More Photos...

GM 500cc Sprinter for sale at £2700 ono!
JAP Engined Sprint Bike
Stripped to the bone Honda
Good to see the Yellow Peril on display
The bigger brother to the B25
Pit antics
Nice AJS in the bike park...
chained to this great Vincent.
A rather smart Magni Moto Guzzi.

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