Saturday, 4 February 2012

#091 - 1970 - World Track Championships Preparations

We were back from the Annaba and Algerian tours in late March, the shop luckily was doing well left in Roy’s capable hands. Benny Foster rang me to ask if I would look after the Pacing Motor bikes required for the forthcoming Track Championship, (at Leicester), and would I set up the building allocated for the mechanics for general bike maintenance. Obviously I agreed to do what I could and went to several meetings held at the Track, but could never tie the elusive Benny down for a chat about the engines required for the Pacing event. Benny had been to the 1969 Worlds held in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and whilst there had arranged with the C.Z. factory to supply twelve pacing motorcycles less engines – these would be supplied by Norton Motors. I was supposed to accompany Benny to Norton and then to Brno to meet with the three Czech technicians who would be coming over to Leicester with the frames, I could then ‘troubleshoot’ for them.

After waiting seemingly weeks whilst Benny negotiated a contract with Norton, they eventually supplied Benny with the new 850cc. engines with no magneto fitted, I had told him several months before that we required Norton “Dominator” twin cylinder engines with magnetos for the spark, these would have given us no trouble, but it now appeared that these were no longer available; It was quite a while before I found out what Benny had done, the contract signed there was little that could be accomplished now, (this was at the time when Norton were having financial difficulties). In fact the first we knew at our works in Long Eaton was when Benny rang to say that he had ordered the prototype to be built at Brno and the machine was awaiting collection from Harwich. I sent Alan to Harwich (- he was there two days being “buggared” about by the customs). This prototype pacing bike had to be built to UCI 1922 specification i.e. with wide belt drive direct off the main shaft. What Benny did not understand was that the alternator unit which supplied the sparks, had to be removed from the main shaft to make room for the front drive pulley. Twelve 12v batteries had been ordered from Lucas, this gave us sparks but no way could we fit back the alternator as the shaft was to short consequently, once the battery was flat, it had to be removed to be re-charged.

We at the shop were hopping mad for Benny’s elementary error which would not have occurred had he taken me – or someone else familiar with motorcycles – to Brno. He had taken a young Polish woman with him to interpret and she also accompanied him to Norton Motors Ltd - talk about the blind leading the blind. This is where I should have walked away from the project. But I was very proud to be part of a World Championship being held in England.

The prototype model had no brakes or clutch, and I rather dangerously drove down Myrtle Avenue to test it, Robert setting me off with a shove. So, we had at last one model all ready to go to Leicester. Now the beginning of July, the time was getting on, where were the other eleven machines and their duff motors? I still cannot believe how naïve I was to listen to Benny Fosters excuses. My well-being was to take another blow – Roy, my trusted shop manager, came to visit me at home, this in itself was unusual and I pondered what he had come for. Slightly embarrassed and awkward he handed me an envelope and explained that he was giving me one months notice to quit, he had rented a property in Derby and was to start up on his own. I could do no other than wish him well, which of course I did whole-heartedly, but at the same time realised that life would be different from now on.

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