Oldskoolsuzuki meets Don Hill at Rooster Racing

Rooster Racing Don Hill

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.

Don Hill rooster racing Donington endurance legends oldskoolsuzuki
Don Hill and the Rooster Racing team at Donington endurance legends 2018

Don Hill

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.

Adrian McCarthy's GSXR1100 Don Hill Rooster racing
Adrian’s Championship winning GSXR1100 slabside built by Rooster Racing

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.

Rooster Racing

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.

Don Hill
Don and Mole talk shop

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.

Rooster racing
Don explains the varying engine characteristics that he has tailored for different racers

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.

Rooster Racing GSXR
Ground up Rooster Racing GSXR Slabside race bike

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 hand made GSXR exhaust
Rooster Racing’s hand made exhaust systems
Don Hill Rooster Racing exhaust
Don explains the virtues of collector box configuration

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.

Don Hill Rooster Racing
Mole inspects his new paint job by Don Hill

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”

Rooster Racing Don Hill
Rooster Racing’s Harris Endurance bike

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.

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R.I.P the original winged hammer

 

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.

Rest in peace friend.

OSS salutes you.

Members pay your respects here

It’s never too late to be what you might have been- A winged hammer’s tale.

From time to time we lift a story from our forum and put it here for the wider world to enjoy. This is one of those occasions. Mole is one of our winged hammers and if you ever found yourself wondering whether it was too late to take up track racing or thinking you needed mega-bucks just to get started, Mole’s story should provide some inspiration.

What started as a bit of laugh has seen Mole win his local class championship and this year, Mole will take on both Donington’s classic endurance round in May and Spa in June.

This is Mole’s story, so far…

 

 


This is how it all began. It was Christmas 2012.

I had a perfectly mental, tuned GSXR thou and I got talked into going racing. After all, I was 46 and if I didn’t do it now, I never would. My mates were racing in the Post Classic series and, if I wanted to take them on, I needed a pre ’88 bike to do it on.

I got £1200 and the horrible 750 Slabby streetfighter you see below for my pride and joy(oddly I don’t miss it).

It was standard apart from the Blandit 600 wheels, carbs and a really loud,rattly can. The weird seat unit looked ok but weighed a ton. The brakes were knackered and the motor was seized.


I had 3 months to turn it into a competitive race bike.

Not having a clue about racing didn’t help. I looked on the web at racing Slabbies and dreamed of world championships. I looked at frame mods as I had heard that the standard frames were far too flexible. I got some 6mm alloy plate and a length of 40×20 box section and made up some bracing. I don’t have the capability to alloy weld so I taped them onto the frame and took it to the local blacksmiths to get welded up. I bought an aftermarket fairing on Eblag then realised that it didn’t meet the catch tank regs so pop riveted a bit of caravan onto the bottom. I made a couple of brackets to fit R1 calipers to the Slabby forks,fitted clipons, an R1 shock, an 1100M back wheel, painted it matt black and poured diesel down the plug holes. After a couple of days it was turning over and running on a set of VM29s that I already had.

I was ready for action.

Season 1

As I said, I didn’t have a clue about racing. My mate Iain P was coaxed into helping me. He was in strong disagreement that the best way to find the limits of adhesion was to lean more and more till I fell off (both left and right). But that’s what I did. My first race was at East Fortune. I did a 1:17 and fell off. The bike felt horrible, Skittish and downright dangerous in the damp with road legal tyres as we weren’t allowed wets. Not helped by the fact I was running them at road pressures of 36 front and 42 rear. When I asked someone about it they pissed themselves laughing and told me to try 31 front and 28 rear. What a difference that made!

There were 15 riders in our class and by the end of the season I was down to a 1:08 and finished second in class.

Season 2

Second season and I had made a few changes.

I bought another fairing and took all the bodywork to my mate Wee Stuart the painter and told him to paint it the same colour as the car I was getting sprayed. The car looked better! I got dogs abuse all year about that colour. Luckily enough I crashed it at the last meeting of the year so it would need painted again. It got a Gsxr600 K1 front end with a ZX9 wheel, fireblade calipers and a shortened random, and much more sociable, end can. All much cheapness as money was tight. Best buy was the Taiwanese rear sets. £36 and made from an alloy I had, and have never since, encountered. They crash really well. When bent double they can be hammered straight again and again. I decided to go with no proper seat as comfort is the last thing on your mind when racing.

It was tight that year, but I won by a handful of points.

Season 3

Season 3 and I have a target on my back!

The team: Jools-Team principal- cook

Iain P-Crew chief- Prophet of Doom

Me- Ballast-Talent(depending on results)

The big change for this year was my mate Andy Fyffe bought me a set of PFM discs. He has the superbike ones on his Harris Magnum4 and swears by them. He’s not wrong., Combined with Bendix carbon matrix race pads, they are like hitting a skip!

I bought a second hand stainless race pipe and can, some cheap chinese levers, a kid on seat and new paint.

A proper race loom was made up and doubts were cast as to the longevity of the still original de-seized motor(as can be seen by the amount of oil on the tailpiece)

There was no way I was going to win this year after a couple of crashes(silver Gaffa tape is my new best friend)

As luck would have it, Andy Lawson who was sure to beat me, went off to do the Manx (and won his class) so that left me winning by a handful of points again this year(2014)

Season 4

First major revamp. I bought a load of Gsxr bits from someone who was moving class to supertwins. The package came with a blown 750m motor with a lightened and balanced crank and a Wiseco 771cc kit. It had dropped a valve and destroyed the head and piston but the cylinder was untouched and came with a new piston kit. Also in package was a low mileage 750m motor and a Dyna 2000 ignition set up. Because I’m a slack arse, I decided to put the complete 750m motor into the bike along with the Dyna ignition and find another head, to get ported, for the trick motor for a later , more points demanding stage in the championship. The Prophet of Doom was in total agreement, much to my surprise,but only because he doesn’t like change. A new swoopy slingshot body kit was purchased. Again only because it was £100 cheaper than a Slabby one. At least the people that make “race” fairnings reckon that you will need a full belly pan for a Slingy. Painted it myself this time. Looks fabulous from a good few feet away. Changed to 36mm CVs( forgot to mention that the year before I had the VM29s bored to 33 at the back to match the fronts). The 36s used less petrol which worried me.

I put Hyperpro springs in the forks which greatly improved the handling. Unfortunately this meant I started having ground clearance issues. I moved the pegs up and back a little, made a new link pipe for the exhaust to tuck it in and cut holes in the fairing where the bulges for the engine cases were.

Halfway through the season is when the electrical gremlins joined the team. The bike would seem fine for about 8 laps of the 10 lap races then start misfiring. We kept finding dodgy connections (caused mainly by using those shitty blue connectors). We would think it was sorted but it would do the same thing again. We changed the plugs, the coils, made another loom and even tried a better fuel tap in case it was petrol starvation. Nothing seamed to make a difference. It was at one of the spark plug changes (last race of the weekend) that a rogue (and tiny) nut had found its way down the plug tube so that when the plugs were taken out, it fell in. The motor sounded terminal on startup so the bike was put in the van. The trick motor was put into service by using the head from the standard motor. That’s when I noticed the tiny square nut embedded into the edge of the combustion chamber.

The rules were still the same regarding tyres. Road legal only. No wets. We were running Pirelli diablo supercorsas in the dry and Michelin pilot road 3 touring tyres in the wet.

I’ve ridden bikes all my life and most of it in Scotland so riding in the rain doesn’t bother me. This worked well in my favour as it was wet a lot that year. I won the championship by a fair bit and went the whole season without crashing.

Season 5

 

The class was beginning to dwindle with only 8 bikes left. The racing was still good though. My main rivals Gordon Murray on his VFR and Gordon Castle on a very well put together Gsxr 750 were always right with me. I was still having ground clearance issues because the bike was handling so well. The NRC casings were getting scuffed as was the fairing although I had pulled it in as much as possible. I made up brackets to move the top mount of the shock back and down which meant I had to take more meat off the linkage to allow more height. They look dodgy and I meant to get them welded onto the frame but never did and they haven’t moved. I should still get them welded on.

Deek had joined the team as pit crew and moral prevention officer. Mostly he noised up the competition.

At the Bob Mac Memorial classic races that year I did my best ever lap of 1:03.7. This was only possible because of the perfect weather conditions and having a couple of world class riders to chase. I never beat them but they dragged me along a full second faster than I had gone before.

Wet tyres were allowed! They are epic. If you have never tried them you wouldn’t believe how grippy they are. I prayed for rain and did my rain dance every meeting.

The gremlins were still on board. I was over riding the bike when it was stuttering on the last laps and ended the season with a couple of crashes. The bike was fast though and I could build up enough of a lead to still finish 1st or 2nd. I managed to win my fourth consecutive title. Just.

Season 6 2017

I had been warned not to run the number 1.

What do they know!

Over the winter I had bought another motor that had just been built by a renowned tuner. It had Wiseco high comp pistons and a ported head. Unfortunately for the guy his fuel tap had not shut off and filled the cases with petrol resulting in a big end failure. We made an engine up from all the best parts we had. It’s a total screamer. New paint and another end can and we were ready.

First race of the year and the bike died after 3 laps. When the race was over it started and ran perfectly back to the pit.

We checked everything we could think of. I was told the Dyna 2000 ignitions were bomb proof and no way it would be that. I didn’t have another one anyway.

The class was only 5 strong and we were out with the CB500s. It meant we only got 2 clear laps before we were in traffic. That worked in my favour as the bike was still playing up and I managed to finish 2 of the races.

I was convinced that it was a fuel starvation problem so for the 2nd meeting i bought new Mikuni RS34s and fitted a Pingle tap. On a sneaky test ride along the back roads the bike felt great and never missed a beat. At the meeting on the practice session the bike ran perfectly. However when the call went out for qualifying it would not start. No spark.

One of my rivals lent me his spare Dyna ignition. That was the problem all along. I had to start at the back of a 36 strong grid (30 pizza bikes and then the post classics). By lap 5 I tried to take the lead and crashed. Bugger! It had ripped all the controls off the left side of the bike. We had enough spares to sort the bike and hammered straight the unbreakable Taiwanese rear sets. 2nd race and the gear linkage snapped on lap 2 and in 5th gear. I finished the race but burnt out the clutch slipping it out of the tight corners. I didn’t have a spare clutch so I roughed up the steel plates. It was better but still slipping. 2 distant 5th place finishes.

I could still win the championship (theoretically) if I won every race.

At the 3rd meeting everything went perfectly. I won all the races and my nearest rival had a DNF. It was on.

Last meeting of the year. First race. Pole position. The lights went out and my throttle cable snapped.

Fixed the cable by soldering a new nipple on. 2nd race. 2nd lap and the cable snapped again.

It was over.

Won the last 2 races but finished a distant 2nd in the championship.

Good riddance number 1 plate.

Roll on 2018.

Mole.

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