the offseason; pumpkin-spice everything, snow, iceskating, Christmas… Don’t you
I do; I’d
rather be basking in sunshine, hooning the backroads on my EFE or trying to get
that one lap even better than the one before on my next trackday. Another thing
wrong with autumn/winter is basically, the lack of light and all that comes
with that very fact. My motivation grinds to a halt, nothing gets done and that
in turn demotivates even more.
However, you need the time off to get the bikes you broke during the summer preceding it, or building the racebike you dreamt up in your head, to attack the circuits next year. I’m usually of the the former variety, breaking more than planned, having other projects taking a backseat to whatever I have to bodge first, to get myself underway again.
is less than inspiring and pretty much takes the fun out of it and turns it
into frustration. One solution to turn all this around and get my mojo back to
go and do something myself, is to read about others building their bikes. Most
are built to a standard well above my ability, but it doesn’t hurt to have
something to strive for.
Trackaddict as I’ve become, I get properly excited when I find true racemachines being built out off the bikes of our penchant. Probably because in my head, it gets translated to; “I can do that” (I can’t) but again, these OSS-bikes appeal more to me than other bikes, for obvious reasons, and get the blood flowing just a bit more than the next late-model superbike.
Slabby you see here, is one of those bikes. Purpose built for the Thunderbike
championship, no shortcuts were taken and everything on the bike is there,
because it needs to be.
Reading through the buildthread started all the way back in 2016, it’s a tale of triumph and defeat, coming out the other side, chin up and ready for more. Member of our Winged Hammer OSS-raceteam, I’m quite proud to see this bike used for what it’s built for, ridden on and over the very limit, making it better everytime the tires hit the tarmac and also, beating more modern motorcycles just because he can.
I met Duncan
last summer when we both attended a weekend of trackday-fun at Cadwell;
supernice guy and you wouldn’t think for a second he’s the Take-No-Prisoners
racer that he is when the visor goes down. The bike too; it’s a black Slabby
with gold wheels, until you start to look properly. Detail upon detail is found
and it makes me want to start building my bikes to the standard this is.
but I can try..
Dupersunc, your bike is this month’s Bike of the Month
Rooster Racing’s bike 81 and bike 82. The GSXR 1100 powered Harris Magnum and the GSXR 1100 slabside are my firm choices for Bikes of the month for August 2019.
This will come as no surprise to those of you who followed my write up on Rooster Racing at Spa last month. We normally choose a single bike for bike of the month but the truth is, they both now hold a special place in my heart and a special place in the oldskoolsuzuki Winged Hammer’s hall of fame.
Both bikes boast in excess of 165 BHP at the rear wheel, they are peppered with hand made functional engineering and they have one of the loveliest and well executed paint schemes you’ll find.
They were built with a single purpose in mind and they fulfilled that purpose admirably.
Don Hill and Rooster Racing you built our very first Bikes ( plural) of the Month.
When you have a gift for getting the very best from a GSXR1100 engine the easy thing to do would be to just build them for other people and never leave your workshop. If that was what Don Hill at Rooster Racing did, I wouldn’t have a story to tell and the lives of an eclectic group of people that came together to form the Rooster Racing family at Spa would be significantly more ordinary.
oldskoolsuzuki.info first featured a story about Don Hill and Rooster Racing earlier this year. I knew then that there was something special about Don’s ethos towards the engines and the bikes he built. I also recognised that Don chose the riders he built them for very carefully too. I said I would return and find out more about Don’s work later in the year. At the that time, I never imagined I would get to know Rooster Racing quite as well as I have nor could I have known just how involved I would become in Rooster Racing’s fortunes. What I have learned since then, has only gone to reinforce my view that Don Hill and Rooster Racing are true unsung heroes in the growing world of post classic racing.
Race day minus – 3 months
My tale begins with an engine failure. The engine was the 1216 bandit engine in my own GSXR1100 slabside race bike. It was the first race of the 2019 season in April and I had spun a shell on the 3rd lap of my final race. Head in hands,with a full season ahead of me, I contemplated my next move. After a couple of days I got a call from Don. “what are you doing about your engine, apart from crying?” he asked. “I’m going to strip it and survey the damage”, I told him. “Bring it down to me”, he said reassuringly. “I’ll rebuild it and blueprint it so that it won’t happen again”. I politely declined, knowing that my budget wouldn’t stretch to a Don Hill Rooster engine. Don, then made me the sort of offer that I could not refuse. The engine was out and I was on my way down to Don’s days later. It felt like Jimi Hendrix had just offered to play at my garden BBQ for the price of a beer and a burger.
When I arrived at Don’s he was preparing his own 2 bikes for the 4 hour endurance race at Spa at the beginning of July. This made his charity seem even more generous. Both race bikes were undergoing a full rebuild and repaint. In typical Don style he was doing everything himself. It was a mind blowing amount of work for one person to be doing. He was also fabricating his own speed fuel loader for the endurance race. Once again Don’s approach was to avoid expensive costs, he couldn’t cover by fabricating parts himself. My mind boggled at what Don had already done and what he still had to do.
Despite everything Don had going on, in the 2 hours it took me to drive the van home, Don had stripped my engine and sent me a list of parts I needed to source. Over the next month or so I sourced the parts and in the meantime, Don also ported my cylinder head and fitted new Hyabusa rods, new cams and some trick timing that necessitated pocketing my wiseco 1216 pistons. When the engine was complete Don almost apologetically said it’s not a full Rooster build but it will be good for a slack 150BHP. I remembered that Don’s engines routinely and reliably knocked out 165-170 BHP. Just knowing he had built it, gave me a newfound piece of mind that I had never enjoyed building my own engines.
Race day minus – 1 month
Don and I kept in regular contact over the next couple of months and he would regularly send me updates on the Spa race bikes. I would admire his work and give him encouraging words. He was working round the clock, alone, often into the early hours but in typical Don fashion the finish and the high quality of what he was producing never faltered.
I worried about how hard he was working and about how my own engine build might have distracted him and used up valuable and limited Rooster bandwidth. I told him I was worried about how much he had on and offered my support in any way I could. I think Don appreciated my concern but he had seen my engine building skills and probably considered my direct involvement a distinct handicap to the cause.
I was going to be riding from Edinburgh to Switzerland the week before Spa for a work thing, so I had agreed with Don that I would tag a few days at Spa on to my trip and cover the race and the Rooster Racing team’s fortunes for oldskoolsuzuki.info
Race day minus – 14 days
A couple of weeks before Spa Don sent me pictures of the bikes completed and ready to go. I felt a great sense of relief that he had completed the bikes. I had become emotionally invested in Don’s fortunes. It was at that point that I realised that the bikes and their prep were only the first hurdle for Don. After that would come the logistics of getting the bikes, and all of the equipment to Spa too. I marvelled at the ambition of the man. Despite the fact that he had bitten off, what looked like more than he could possibly chew, he never faltered.
Race day – minus 5 days
On my last night in Switzerland I was packing up my panniers in my hotel getting ready to set off for Spa the next day and I got a message from Don asking me if I was still coming to Spa. I cheerfully replied that I had my press pass and I was due in Spa a couple days before race weekend. Don then then dropped the bombshell. “I need you to do me a favour” he asked. “sure” I causally replied, still packing my stuff. ” need you to manage one of the 2 teams.” Don said. ” I wouldn’t trust just anyone, but I would trust you if you were up for it” Don followed. What could I say? I had promised Don my help and here he was asking me for some. I didn’t hesitate and I said yes. Don explained that he had planned to manage one of the teams himself and his friend Keith would manage the other but he had realised that he really needed to focus on the bikes and if I managed the other team it would take a lot of pressure off.
I had the next couple of days to think that over. I reassured myself that although I was a novice racer, I had 25 years of management experience and that had to count for something. At the back of my mind was the nagging fact that I knew next to nothing about endurance racing and the rules that governed it. It was going to be a steep learning curve. I contemplated how hard Don had worked to get to Spa and I felt the weight of responsibility for supporting Don and the team.
Race day minus 2 days
I arrived in Spa and got set up at my chalet. I was staying with two friends Scott and Kat in a chalet we had rented together. Little did I know that I would spend virtually no time with my friends or at the chalet. My work with the team began on the Thursday with the setup of the garage. Either side of us were much larger and clearly better funded and equipped teams. They all had team uniforms and custom built team transport. In contrast we had a rented Luton van and the clothes we came in.
Rooster racing had entered 2 bikes into the 4 hour endurance event at Spa, Bike 81 was a GSXR 1100 powered Harris and Bike 82 was a GSXR1100 slabside. Both engines were box fresh builds and they were about to be mercilessly thrashed for four hours.
Don was keen to be left to concentrate on the bikes and I had to quickly figure out what the key deliverables were for team manager. Fortunately, Don was there to keep me right and I would soon be joined by Keith who would be managing team 82 and had managed the Rooster team at Donington previously.
I found out when I arrived that I would be responsible for team 81 on the Harris. The 3 riders were:
Angus ( Goose) Green of IG classic Superbike series fame. Howard Selby 80s and 90s TT competitor, Scottish Champion and 90s European 600 Supersport European Champion and Gordon Grigor, 80s TT racer and UK endurance champion
Team 82 managed by Keith my counterpart, were riding the GSXR Slabby 1100 and the riders were:
Adrian (Mole) McCarthy, Scottish PCS champion, Gordon Murray Scottish PCS Champion and Timo Monot TT and Classic TT competitor with recent top 10 finishes under his belt.
So, it’s safe to say the teams riding experience and skills were something I shouldn’t have to worry about. It quickly became apparent that the organisers at Spa were not going to make team sign on and rider registration easy and this is where I would start to earn my share of the team catering. Team sign on was open and I and after an hour wait in the 30 degree sun and a 200 man rugby scrum through a single door, I successfully signed both teams on.
This is when I experienced my first managerial perk; The company bike. The sign on location was inexplicably 2 miles away from the garage and a lack of any clear information on the event would necessitate multiple visits to the sign on point for clarification sessions.
Race day – minus 1 day
It was now Friday and the rest of the team members were all present and accounted for. Keith my team 82 counterpart and I read the rules through together and made sure we knew where everyone needed to be and when.
Control and distribution of the correct passes and wristbands for each team member was my first task. We quickly learned it was better to have no pass on your vehicle than to have the wrong pass. I won’t bore you with the details, but the rider’s passes were labelled “Guest”. It took us a while to figure that one out and the catering vehicle pass was for a different car park some distance away.
I had to make sure the members of the team who would be in the box and on the pit wall had the correct combination of passes too.
In charge of the pit wall was Keith’s younger brother Kev and Don’s daughter Georgie. They were the real brains of the operation and while Keith and I held the titles of team managers Kev and Georgie were more often than not giving the whole team valuable direction.
The mechanics were led by team principle Don and consisted of Mel, Billy and Twig, our stand man.
The wonderful Julie Harrison was responsible for feeding us all and we were very well looked after with regular buffets and hot meals. We were all so busy that most of the time we just ate on the hoof.
I also had a very willing assistant in the form of Lewis, Howard’s 13 year old son. He definitely had his eye on the company vehicle from the off which he enjoyed using on the regular missing rider missions that I sent him on.
Missing rider retrieval missions were a large part of the job on registration day and throughout the event. I would round up the 5 riders and one would be missing. We would find him and turn around and a different rider would be missing. This happened every 5 minutes for the course of the day but we finally we successfully registered the riders, got our rider 1, 2 and 3 arm bands, completed scrutineering, for bikes, riders and rider’s equipment. We then attended the compulsory team briefing. Failure to attend would result in penalties. We were now cleared to race.
The whole time Keith and I and the 6 riders were doing this Don and the other mechanics were working non stop on the bikes in preparation for practice and qualifying.
Keith and I put up some white boards and marked out the key times for Practice and Qualifying with the rider order. Kevin and Georgie had defined the pit board signals and we would test these out during practice.
The plan for the bikes was to use practice and Q1 to set the bikes up based on feedback from the riders after practice and then make adjustments in time for Q2.
There was a lot at stake in qualifying because there were more teams entered than would be allowed to start the race on the Saturday. At the same time Don’s orders were clear the race was the important part. He didn’t want anyone binning it during qualifying. To endure is to finish. At the same time, we had to make the cut.
The bikes were prepared, and the riders were ready. It was time for practice and Q1. As the riders left the garages, we crossed our fingers. As they returned, they gave their feedback and Don and the Mel made quite a number of adjustments. For most of the riders it was the first time they had ridden these bikes. Every other garage around us was similarly engaged in repair and adjustment in between practice sessions.
During Q1 Bike 81 had developed an intermittent misfire and we had only a short period of time before Q2 to resolve it. Don and Mel set about stripping the bike and quickly discovered a crack in one of the dyna coils. We then discovered the spare coils were back in the UK. As team 81 manager it was my job to find replacements, which we did. Both Gordie and Mole had their own bikes with them for the CSBK race on the Sunday. So we stripped the coils from Gordie’s bike knowing that the we could return them in time for his race. It was close though, too close for comfort. Don was literally tightening the seat unit as the last call for Q2 came over the tannoy.
We made it! Angus came back in from Q2 with a thumbs up. Both teams had qualified adequately in 36th and 40th out of 64 teams. We used qualifying laps to calculate fuel use and ensure that we could allow enough fuel for 14 laps with a 2 lap margin in case a rider missed the board.
During qualifying we practised our pit wall routine by asking riders to acknowledge the board with a leg movement. Our garage and pit wall position were at the far end of the pits and right in the braking zone of the start finish straight. This proved to be the worst place in the world to demand the rider’s attention, let alone ask them to take their foot of the peg.
We experimented with count down boards, black flags and fuel calls but we were just too close to the braking zone to get consistent results. Team 81 and 82 boards also looked too similar and this was causing confusion. In the end, after a rider meeting Georgie and Kevin came up with a simple way of differentiating the boards for 81 and 82 and with the riders feedback we agreed to only use the pit board when it was time to come in. (keep it simple) No other signals would be issued. Riders would look for the board at the beginning of the straight, if it wasn’t out, they would get their head down. If it was out, they knew they had to come in on that lap. If it was moving up and down, they knew they had missed the first signal and they had to come in immediately. We only had a 2 lap buffer so if they missed that, it was over.
That evening there was a mandatory twilight session so that each rider could practice a couple of laps with lights on. We decided we would use the sessions and change of riders to practice our pit stops and rider changes. We made up a large pit lane board so that riders would see our box and we marked the box with the front wheel stop position. We practised signals from the pit wall to team managers so that we knew when riders were coming in. We would have just over 3 minutes from the signal before the bike would arrive.
The routine involved the rider stopping and cutting the engine, the stand going on. The rider would get a tap on the shoulder from the stand man and then dismount. Don was first in flipping the gear change to the rider’s preference (road or race) after Don was clear, the fuel team would move in and refuel, with everyone else clear. Once the refuel team were clear, the next rider would mount the bike, the stand man would drop the stand, tap the rider’s shoulder and the rider would start the bike and off they would go. It’s amazing how easily things can go wrong in the heat of the moment. If a team got it wrong, it could mean a penalty on race day or worse still, injury for a team member or rider. The pit lane was busy with other bikes and other teams. My principle roll in all of this was install the discipline of the routine and make sure everyone knew the routine and was in position at each stage. Each time I got the message from the pit wall I would give the pit team and the rider the call to stand by and then watch for our bikes coming in. It didn’t take us long to get into a rhythm and by the 6th practice we were looking slick.
It was late and I decided not to ride my KTM back to the my chalet as it had developed a blown exhaust coming up through France and would likely wake the dead so I borrowed an air bed and sleeping bag from Rene, who was there for the track day and I slept on the garage floor. The team next door was working on into the night, but I was dog tired and soon passed out. Tomorrow was race day!
I went back to my chalet early and showered and reported back to the garage early. The race was going to start at 6pm that day and Don and the mechanics were hard at work preparing the bikes when I arrived, as was every other team in the pit garages. Even Timo was hard at work cleaning the bike.
I made sure I had all of the riders’ arm bands safe so that I could issue them in the correct order when the race began and made a few cheat sheets up for the front of the garage with key info.
Don, Keith, Georgie, Kevin and I discussed strategy for the first rider change, taking into account that the start would involve a couple of laps for the setup of the grid. We opted to bring both bikes in consecutively after just 11 laps and then at 14 lap intervals thereafter (all going to plan) What this meant was that the as soon as one bike had pitted we would have around 4 minutes before the next bike would pit. In that time the fuelling team would need to have refilled the fuelling tank and be back on point at the front of the garage. It was going to be tight.
The weather had been glorious up until this point but as the race start at 6pm loomed so did some very menacing clouds. As we approached the start some rain had begun to spit. There were a lot of nervous faces around, with the exception of our team which had a total of 4 Scottish riders. Scottish riders are used to rain. Mole looked positively happy and rubbed his hands with glee.
The mechanics and the number 1 riders made their way to the start line with the bikes. At Don’s request, I taped the starting grid positions to the top of the tanks to make sure that the bikes could be placed correctly on the grid. The last thing we wanted was a stop and go penalty over the wrong grid position. The start would be a traditional endurance start with the bikes on one side of the track held by the mechanics and the riders lined up on the opposite side. When the race starts the riders must run the width of the track mount the bike, start it and take off.
I didn’t see the start as I was back at the garage nervously making sure that everything was in place for the first stop. I could hear the klaxon sound and I could hear the roar of the bikes as they took off. The race had begun!
Each manager was assigned a pit marshal who stood opposite the garage and watched every stop to ensure that the regulations were met. Each time a pit was completed, and a rider change was made Keith and I would sign off the change with our respective marshal. Each rider was required to do at least 2 sessions.
News was coming in of parts of the track being quite wet. It’s a long circuit at nearly 4.5 miles and while it was dry at the garage, we heard that there were some very wet spots at the far side of the track. By the end of the first rider session by Adrian for 82 and Angus for 81 we had moved up the standings to 18 and 24. It was a great start, but Angus had to be helped off of the bike. He had pulled both hamstrings when he lost his footing running to the bike at the start.
We swapped riders and refuelled both bikes back to back. the changeovers and pit stops went exactly as rehearsed and Gordie for 82 and Howard for 81 were away.
My attention now turned to Angus, there was a lot of bruising and swelling on the back of his legs and he was in a lot of pain. We organised some ice and I began to worry I would be one rider short. Angus and I decided we would wait until 15 minutes before he was due to ride again before making an assessment. I called upon my Marshal and asked him if he would object if I changed my rider order. I was relieved when he told me I could put the riders out in any order. This gave us the option of leaving Angus until last. Howard and Gordon Grigor agreed that they would be happy to reshuffle.
We were an hour and a half into the race when our second change came in and our positions remained in and around the top 20. Our strategy to do both bikes back to back gave the fuel team virtually no time to refill and be back on point for the next rider but Mel, Billy and Twig never gave us a worry and they did brilliantly. In between changeovers I was in constant contact with the Kevin and Georgie on the wall as they were keeping count of laps and times. Keith my fellow manager was monitoring live lap times on-line and keeping us all informed of progress.
Our 3rd riders Timo for 82 and Gordon Grigor for 81 both got away well with a faultless changeover and pit stop. Gordie Murray reported that the clutch had gone on 82 the slabby. He was forced to clutchlessly change gear. There was no chance to stop we simply had to carry on and hope that it would hold out. Mid way through Timo’s stint we got the shout from the pit wall that 82 was coming in for an unknown reason mid-session. When Timo pulled in, we quickly learned that the quick change gear lever had lost its R clip. No doubt clutchless gear changes may have been a factor. Quick as a flash the pin was replaced, and Timo was off, but we had worked our way up to 11th overall prior to the gear change issue and the stop cost team 82 six places.
I had been timing the rider pit stops with Lewis’s help mainly to get the exact time they went out and came in. I was using this to get an idea how long each rider would take to complete the 14 laps and then make the in lap. This gave me the ability to predict when the next change would be. As Angus’s next ride approached, I asked him if he was going to be able to ride. To my surprise and delight he said yes, he was going to give it a go. So, Angus and Adrian were back out and we had six changes and 4 more changes to do. Both bikes were going well but the slabby clutch was a concern and so was Angus’s injury. Team 81 was sitting in 16th and team 82 in 17th
All around us bikes were coming in smoking or leaking or both and some had already been retired. The pit lane was a constant hive of activity all closely monitored by a line of eagle eyed marshals. Race bikes take a punishing at the best of times. Tuned to the point that makes them highly strung and delicate they are normally thrashed for 10 laps at a time, allowing for checks in between. Endurance racing was a bigger test. These same highly tuned bikes were going to be run flat out for 4hrs and over 350 miles. All around us the thrashings were beginning to take their toll.
Each time the riders came in they looked sweaty, wide eyed and exhausted. Spa is a long track with 20 corners. Doing 14 flat out laps of this track was physically demanding in the extreme.
Remarkably, despite his injury, Angus was doing well, he was putting in decent times and it looked like he would complete his stint. Adrian was putting in great times too and both bikes were well placed. We had to make a decision on how we would split the last two sessions as we had calculated there would not be enough time for a full 14 laps each for the last 2 riders in each team. Both teams took a slightly different approach but team in team 81 we decided to split the last 2 sessions equally so Howard and Gordon Grigor would do 11 laps each.
I was relieved when we got our last riders out, but it was clear from the times we were putting in that we were in with a real chance of a top five finish in our class. I signed my last pit stop record and my Marshal extended his hand and congratulated me on a well-run pit.
As the pit crew relaxed slightly knowing that our last riders were out, all we could do was watch the times and hope the final session would go without incident. It was at this point that Don turned to me and said ” I think we should try a 12 hour race next time” I think he was serious. I just laughed nervously.
When the race finished, it was confirmed that team 81 had a podium finish with 3rd in the open class. Team 82 had managed a fourth place finish in the open class, despite the unscheduled stop for the gear change fix. We worked out that had it not been for that extra stop Rooster Racing would have been celebrating a second and third in the open class.
It had been a long hard 3 days and all of a sudden it all felt very worth it. I took the time to shake each of my fellow team members by the hand and I could see in every set of eyes I met there was the same look of elated happiness that I was feeling. The whole team made its way to the podium together for the presentation.
When we got down to the podium, we noticed that we had lost Howard and my last find the missing rider mission of the weekend began. I delivered Howard to Don and the rest of team 81 just minutes before they stepped out on to the balcony for their podium moment.
Kevin, one half of our pit wall brain trust began chanting “Rooster, Rooster Rooster, Rooster” within a couple of seconds most of the crowd joined in. There it was, the defining icing on the cake, Don, Angus, Gordon and Howard standing up on the balcony holding their trophies while the Spa crowd chanted the team’s name Rooster, Rooster, Rooster.
We moved the bikes back up to the garage and the beers and the whisky began to flow.
We arranged the bikes for a series of photo shoots and Rene, who had now become an honorary member of Rooster racing family, took everyone’s camera and or phone and took a series of group shots with the entire team while he wobbled precariously standing on a chair.
As the beer began to take the edge off of a tense day, I looked around me at my fellow team members, most of whom had been strangers only 2 days earlier. Now we were a team, galvanised in the heat of battle and righteous in victory. We felt like a team that night and we celebrated as a team. Even Don was smiling. If you know Don, you will know this is rare. There had been no egos just a group of people working together to make the race team work.
I looked at the 2 bikes that just four hours ago had looked so pristine. They were filthy covered in oil and rubber. They had survived. They had endured and this was the ultimate testament to Don’s work and the efforts of our six riders. With very little money and a hell of a lot of hard work and talent Don had single handily created the opportunity for this moment to take place. His engineering had been tested and found to be of the very highest order. His choice of riders had also been rewarded.
Some time ago Don had decided he would build 2 bikes to take part in this event. He put the riders and the team together and he hand built the bikes. The choices he had made, the sacrifices he had made, and all of his hard work had been rewarded. I knew Don well enough now to know that he always had a point to prove. The point being that you don’t need a mega budget and celebrity riders to get a result, but you do need a talent for building fast reliable bikes and a nose for the right kind of riders and people. While we all celebrated our shared success that evening and our own part in that success, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there was one man who was pivotal to that success and that was Don Hill. This had been his vision from the start and our success represented a very personal struggle fulfilled.
I was honoured to have been able to take part and I was grateful to have been allowed to share in the success and I knew everyone else in the team felt the same way.
The evening ended with a country music rendition of ice ice baby by Gordie on the guitar. I’m still trying to forget that bit but I know I will not easily forget how special my time was with this wonderful group of people at this amazing race track.
Choosing BOTM is hard;
there’s loads of bikes to choose from as it is, but we also need a proper
buildtopic with a nice backstory, a bike that represents OSS as it is and we
want diversity. We could happily just choose Katanas and/or EFEs and we’d be
able to carry on for about a year or 2 without coming up short, but that’d be
Another thing is the
“deadline”; I don’t think a single BOTM has been published on the 1st of the
month and I don’t think that will change in a hurry, mostly because a laidback
approach that we (or, I) quite like. Anyway, with all these bikes at our
disposal, it’s quite easy to forget what the people closer to home are doing. I
felt that way when I chose Dave’s EFE, because he is a good friend, and I feel
the same about this bike as well.
It’s as close to home as it can get, in OSS terms, but for now, it just felt right. I don’t really think I need to explain my personal reasoning for choosing this bike, because there are many. No, this bike is BOTM because of what it is and how it came to be.
For as long as OldskoolSuzuki.info
has been around, it’s been a source of inspiration for many people, be it members,
guests (lurkers) or even those steering the ship. A few years ago we found
ourselves in the Cadwell paddock, a whole bunch of OSSers signed up for the trackday
taking place. Our friend KATANAMANGLER was there with his 1135-powered Katana
streetbike, on touring-tyres, no real idea of how the handling would be and
even less of a clue how to attack the circular stretch of tarmac draped over
the Yorkshire landscape.
Trackweekend over, KATANAMANGLER
made a descision; a trackbike was needed. Parts were sourced from far and wide
and in about a year, the Slabby you see before you was built with its first outing
during the Donington Classic weekend in 2017. Sharing the shed with an angry Katana
has done the Slabby only favours as its gone from a trackbike, swiftly into a
proper racebike (and then it promptly blew up, but that’s another story..); it
really is hard as nails
From what you’ve read on
these pages, KATANAMANGLER is a man with a very open mind and quite a broad
view of the world, so it really was only a matter of time to go racing when you
have a track only up the road with guys running WELL at the front, using the
very machinery we prefer, and then get in touch with one of the better tuners
around; it’s hard not to do it, to be fair..
In the Netherlands we
have a saying; “Goed voorbeeld doet goed volgen”. It’s kinda the same as “Practice
what you preach” KATANAMANGLER is one of the people that invented the Winged
Hammer moniker and the OSS Racingteam it embodies, so it’s really only right
for him to be part of it as well.
Yes, this man is a very good friend and I am quite proud of that fact. It’s got Fuck All to do with why I choose this bike as BOTM, because it’s great as it is and us knowing eachother, and him being one of the website-owners shouldn’t mean it can’t be chosen as such 😊
Congratulations KATANAMANGLER, your Slabby is this months Bike of the Month
At the end of January I got a chance to go and visit a man who has probably forgotten more about building and tuning 90s GSXRs than most of us will ever know. His name is Don Hill and he owns Rooster Racing.
What made this opportunity to visit Don’s workshops special was that it’s not something he offers very often. He is almost adverse to attention and publicity, preferring to hand pick the people he builds bikes for. The reason for Don’s approach became clearer as the day wore on.
I first became aware of Don’s work when my friend Adrian McCarthy (AKA Mole) told me he was going to be one of 3 riders racing Don’s Rooster Racing GSXR powered Harris at the 2018 endurance legends event at Donington. When I was there, I got a quick look round the bike in the pit garage. The build quality and the finish were something very special.
That same year I started my own race career ( if you can call it that). Racing at Eastfortune on my home built GSXR1100 Slabside. I quickly learned that 3 of the fastest GSXRs in my post classic senior class were all built by Don at Rooster Racing. I would like to say that’s why they were so much faster than me but the truth was that was entirely down to me. With Don’s Slabside based 1216 engines routinely and reliably knocking out over 160 bhp, I can’t see my home built Slabby getting close even if my riding skills improve.
I got chatting to Don in the pits at Eastfortune last year between my races. I had been suffering from some fuelling problems and Mole and I and the rest of the team had been struggling to solve the problem. Don turned up and took around 2 minutes to sort it. We chatted again after my last race and he agreed that I could come down and learn more about what he was doing and write something for OSS.
There were two main reasons I was intrigued to know more about Don’s work. Firstly, I was impressed by the performance and the reliability of the engines he was building. Secondly, Don’s talents don’t stop at engine building and tuning. He fabricates the frame and swingarm modifications, builds his own exhausts systems and as if that wasn’t enough, he produces the most amazing paint work too. There aren’t may people who can single-handedly build a race bike to such a high standard. I just needed to know more.
Mole was going down to Don’s to pick up freshly painted body work and wheels for his 2019 wet bike. So I hitched a lift down to meet Don on his his home turf and learn more about the work that he does.
When we arrived Don took us into his main hanger size workshop, he put the heating on and then presented us with us with tea and bacon butties. I liked him already.
While Mole and Don talked I had a wander round looking at some of the motorcycle exotica that peppered the workshop.
GSXR Engine tuning
Don was in the midst of building a new Machine shop for his gas flow bench. The flow bench was situated in another location until Don has completed the extension. Don promised me a return visit when all of the work was complete so that we could do a more detailed feature on it.
,We talked about his fastidious approach to head work. He will routinely spend 200 man hours on a head between porting it and gas flowing it. When we talked about costs, I quickly worked out that he probably ends up earning about £3 an hour on a head. It was at this point that I started to realise Don was an out and out perfectionist. He was not motivated by cost or profit. His motivation was quality. This was not Don’s day job either.
Don explained his method of gas flowing a cylinder head. Don would always gas flow with the carbs on. Not any old carbs but the actual carbs that were going to be used on the bike. He acknowledged that everyone had their own approach but this was his. Engines were built to each racers specific requirements. Those requirements often came down to where the bike would be raced and how and where the rider wanted the power to develop. No one engine would be the same.
GSXR frame fabricaion
Don had a GSXR slabside that he was mid way through building for a racer from the ground up. This included all of the frame and swingarm mods and a very trick aluminium breather tank.
GSXR exhaust fabrication
Don then talked us through the exhaust systems that he builds to go with his engines. He talked about about the importance of narrowing the headers at the manifold and ensuring that the pulses from the matched cylinders worked in unison at the collector box. I was out of my depth but I nodded like I understood.
Rooster Racing paint
Mole’s freshly painted body work and wheels were laid out for collection and they were perfect. Don was clearly a man of artistic talents too as he explained his love for ornamental wood carving and shared some pictures of his work. Looking closely at the paint work than Don had completed for Mole, it bore all of the hallmarks of a perfectionist, just like everything else that Don put his hands to.
Quality and integrity are inseparable
As the morning wore on and Don and I talked some more I realised what a rare individual he was. When I say this, I mean Don seemed to be able to bring the the same methodical, well rehearsed quality, to everything he did. There was also something unique about the way Don viewed the bikes and the riders that he worked with.
When he built a bike for someone he maintained an genuine ownership like concern for the bike and the rider’s fortunes. This was the reason Don chose those who he built for so carefully. He had to be sure that they the rider would be prepared to do things Don’s way. He doesn’t build parts of bikes, he builds a complete performance package. The performance came from each part of the bike working in unison.
Mole was a trained motor mechanic and was no stranger to building his own machines. He had won a number of championships on his own builds but since meeting Don he now deferred to Don on all major decisions on race bike performance. As Mole put it “when Don tells you to do something you don’t argue you just do it”
I left Don’s workshop with a deep respect for his skills and his ethos. Don understood the high stakes for a racer, having raced for many years himself when he was younger. Racers had partners and families to provide for. The performance, reliability and ultimately the safety of the machines Don built meant more than just winning. Lives were at stake and that responsibility was something that weighed heavily on Don’s conscience.
I concluded that Don was a man of great skill, who would always put quality first. He would never be afraid to walk away if he felt that his approach was unwelcome, unappreciated or compromised. His commitment to that approach and his integrity left me feeling that I could implicitly and completely trust Don. I can’t think of a more important time to trust someone than when they’re building you a race bike.
Oldskoolsuzuki will return to Rooster Racing later in the year. In the meantime, don’t call Don, he’ll call you.
I’m a firm believer of the proverb; “Better late than never”; It’s never too late to change your life for the better, it’s never too late to resurrect that website that used to be so great once (because it is once again), and it’s never too late to start Dragracing..
Anna first pointed her front wheel quarter-milewards after having owned the bike she was on for the grand total of 35 years. The seed was planted and a racingcareer was born. In the quest for more speed a Slingshot was put into service and over time up to now, all the right mods have been made to get the bike as quick as possible, yet also as rideable as possible for Anna; it’s all well and good having a 500Bhp bike but if you can’t use it, there’s not really a point (apart from being the baddest dude in the pub)
We have been enjoying Anna and Kyle’s adventures in great detail as them being one of the first (maybe even The First?) Winged Hammers, the racethread has been religiously updated after nearly every racemeet and tests that were undertaken.
We’ve all read about crashing, burnouts, racing in sub-zero temperatures, tyrepunctures and all else that comes with the age-old sport that is dragracing. I for one hope the regular updates continue to be posted up, because it’s one of the threads that makes you come back, have a bit of a read, get motivated and start working away on your own projects again.
Better late than never Anna (and Kyle), your Slingshot is this months Bike of the Month.
It is with a very heavy heart that the OSS community mourns the loss of our friend Pete Boyles AKA Pete750ET.
Those of us who have been involved with the site from the early days will will remember both Pete’s Earlystock racing career and that of Runt racing with great affection and the OSS team chant; Go Pete Go! and Go runt go!
At the time, we all followed the antics of Pete and Runt racing with great pride and great enthusiasm. With the help of the OSS collective brain, Pete was able to take his humble 750ET to another level.
Anyone who knew Pete will know what a genuinely lovely guy he was. Pete visited us on the stand at Donington in 2017 and he was as enthusiastic about OSS bikes then as he ever has been.
Pete was my inspiration for starting the winged hammers team and I will always regard him as the original winged hammer.
It’s fair to say that all competitive motorcycle racing relies on both a riders skill and their bravery. The ability to suspend one’s natural aversion to real and present danger and to focus only on the task in hand, are essential.
Pushing your machine and your body to the very limit of their capability and beyond is the difference between competing and just turning up.
Despite a life long love of all things two wheeled it took me a long time to get round to witnessing my first proper road race close up. It was the 2016 Isle of Man TT , arguably the Daddy of all road races. It’s an experience that changed my perspective on motorcycle racing for ever.
There I was sat on a grass verge, aside a quiet country road lined with trees and a stone wall on the other side. The tarmac was close enough to touch. The sun was shining and the birds were singing in the trees and hedgerows around me. An otherwise perfectly normal and perfectly sublime summer’s day in the country. Then, all of a sudden; Boom! With a sudden explosion of noise, adrenalin and jaw dropping speed, Michael Dunlop had just passed mere feet from my face on his way to a 133mph average speed lap record.
I sat for a moment suspended in absolute disbelief at what I had just witnessed, with only a slight whiff of burnt fully synth in the air to bear witness to the fact that something had happened . Had that really just happened? My hand was trembling slightly as my mind replayed the scene over again and over again: A guy on a bike? At that speed? On this road? I kept picturing the suspension bottoming and the whole bike squirming in protest. He was on the very limit!
I had seen many track races over the years with bikes and riders on the very limit but that’s not what was blowing my mind here. The thing that I couldn’t reconcile was the context in which I had witnessed this riding style. Balls out riding on a normal country road. A country road I had ridden myself the previous day.
I spent the next week on the Island trying to get my head around how a road racer is possibly able to suspend their state of fear. On a race track you have gravel traps and large run off areas, but here there was nowhere to go. My own fear for their safety mixed with my fascination for what they where doing and how on earth they were able to do it. I couldn’t understand it yet but I knew I was already hooked.
I’ve since come to better understand, after speaking to a lot of people including some road racers, that what sets road racers apart is that they don’t see things like we do. The phrase ” being in the zone” is used to describe focus around a lot of menial activities these days but for the road racer, I think, it describes perfectly the mind set that is required. The ability to achieve a state of sublime concentration that enables remarkable performance, while suspending all other distractions or concerns. I get it now but my utter respect and admiration for road racers remains undiminished. They know the risks and yet every year, talented road racers put their skills to the ultimate test and sadly some pay the very highest price in the pursuit of their craft.
In late 2016 oldskoolsuzuki launched the Winged Hammers race team. Not really a team more of a really cool badge and a dedicated board on our forum. The idea was that if any of our members were competitively racing, in any discipline, on an oldskoolsuzuki machine, we wanted to create a OSS race team livery for their bikes. The Winged Hammers were born.
Not long after the 2017 Classic TT I asked our two TT Winged Hammer teams to give me an account of their 2017 TT campaign and here they are, in their own words. Our very first Classic TT Winged Hammer was Geoff Martin.
First of all there have been some low points to 2017 We lost Gavin Lupton after a crash at the Dundrod 150 just before the classic TT. Gavin had tried Dean’s water-cooled GSXR 750 at Oulton a few weeks before the Dundrod 150 and was very enthusiastic about riding it at the TT. Unfortunately it was not to be. Gavin later succumbed to his injuries while we were at the classic TT.
We decided to take the bike anyway and it was agreed that Gavin’s team mate Dan Hegarty should ride it as a tribute to Gavin and he did him proud finishing 12th with a fastest lap of just over 120mph.
Bellow are two pictures at Oulton of the bike and Gavin riding the bike.
This picture is at the IOM with Dan Hegarty on the bike at Greeba Castle.
My bike, the blue/white one, was ridden again by my Good friend from Ireland Dennis Booth. Dennis had a good fortnight finishing 20th winning another silver rep on my bike and not quite beating his best lap of last year of over 115mph but still not bad for a 53 year old . Both bikes ran well without any real problems. Dennis is looking forward to next year already.
Sadly as we now all know Dan Hegarty himself tragically lost his life in November racing in Macau Grand Prix. Dan was well known to many at OSS as he had hosted our 2016 dyno day. R.I.P Dan and Gavin.
Our second Classic TT winged Hammer in 2017 went to Billy Bennet. Here’s billy’s TT story.
My friend Forest Dunn who does the Irish road racing circuit as well as the TT messaged me about 6 weeks before the classic saying he had an entry and was looking for a bike. I had done some spannering for him before and I had my 750 slabbie track bike that had lain idle since Donington in May.
The bike had been originally hastily put together for Donington so we sent it to Stuart Young in Scotland. Stuart Young got to work refreshing the engine and getting the paint sorted and I had to sort out getting the front end to resemble something eligible!
We managed to get everything done just in time for practice week. The bike went on the dyno in the morning and was on the IOM ready for practise that evening!
When I turned up half way through practise week with my luggage full of spares, Forest had already had teething problems with a slipping clutch, the bike dropping to three cylinders, and the carbs needing further tweaks. My first day there we spent all day on the bike before practise we realised the HT leads were old and perished so put a set of Dyna coils on and that sorted the spark, we scrounged new frictions and steels from a friend in the paddock and serviced the master and slave cylinder for the clutch(prior to my arrival forest had ditched the cable conversion and borrowed a master from the generous Mark Stokes at Funky Monk Racing. Forest had also put fully synth oil in it! I think that’s what caused Initial clutch slip)
We took the bike for a sneaky road test and everything seemed to be OK. However on Thursday night’s practice the clutch started slipping and on the second lap the bike cut out at the bungalow. Forest did however do a 108 average on the first lap from a standing start! We were buzzing about that and forest came in saying the bike was handling like a dream. It seems the bike cut out because he caught the choke lever with his knee slider Velcro.
Well come race day we’d put two washers behind each clutch spring-no more slip. We’d had a crack in the exhaust welded up, changed settings on the carbs, welded up the airbox space in the tank to help fuel starvation issues and had generally been working flat out to make the bike race ready. On Tuesday we came 30th overall and 12th in our class, with a best lap of 110.8. I think this was a massive massive achievement all things considered. The rider was happy and I was happy.
As the bike owner and mechanic it was overwhelmingly stressful sometimes. You worry about the rider who is your best mate, you worry about your bike coming back in one piece, you worry that your bike prep is absolutely spot on and you want to do a good job. Then there are late nights, the expense, the worry of sleeping in a van with the fuel cans and spare tyres. These are all forgotten every time you see that average speed go up and your rider come back in with a smile on his face.
The enjoyment of seeing those things and watching the live timing make it all worth it. Nothing beats seeing an old oil boiler built on a budget being mercilessly thrashed round the mountain circuit like it was meant to do, almost brings a tear to my eye!!! Haha
At OSS we are immensely proud of all of our Winged Hammers. They fly the oldskoolsuzuki flag on behalf of us all. They do the things that many of us can only dream of doing. That said, there are few that would deny that the road racer is a very special bread of racer and seeing our Winged Hammer emblem at the Classic TT is my personal highlight of 2017.
May 2018 bring all of our Winged Hammers the success that they deserve. Go Winged Hammers!