Scootopia....Smashing it for the Lambretta world once again
Categories : News
Racing News – Heatwave racing madness, the story..get a coffee..
Sometimes you do things that are border line stupid and I know in my life most of those type of ‘things’ involve a Lambretta, probably yours too, it’s the nature of the addiction we share isn’t it?
They are just not cut out for the things we ask them to do but we do it anyway.
Whether its riding in the fast lane on the motorway at 80mph in a flight jacket and an open face lid with iffy carb jetting or trusting your life on a Vietnamese rear layshaft in your scooter, the risk taking never ends and most certainly, last weekend we knowingly, as a group of scooterists, took our race TV’s all the way to the South of France to race them in the hottest heatwave on record, that sentence alone is a good demonstration of such stupidity given anyone in their right mind would have said ‘ lets not go ‘.
It wasn’t that we just did it on a hot day, we were in the actual eye of the heatwave, the red spot bit on the weather forecast map over Europe but with True-Brit determination and stupidity we still went, knowing that the weak spot for any Lambretta [beyond general mechanical drama which always exists] is the air cooled nature of the engines…yeah lets race them in over 40degs C….it doesn’t get more challenging, so how would we fair?…surprisingly good as it turns out, much to all our surprise and delight.
This would be our second of three endurance races this year and this time just outside of Lyon in France and a race put on by Challenge Scootentole, the same guys that do the Magny Cours race – 10 hours against a field of Vespa’s…bring it on!
The travel arrangements for us to even get there and back were akin to Alan Wicker. We had one van from Kent, one from Essex, a flight from Brno in CZ to Geneva, a flight from Liverpool to Geneva, a flight from Newcastle to Geneva via Paris, a hire car, a camper from Kent and a major cambelt breakdown on the M11 for Tim C so he didn’t even make the trip before disaster struck for him. All that passed incredibly well considering and before soon we all met up down there on Thursday afternoon somehow and hit a steak restaurant for some food and a few pints of numbers.
Friday was a setup day and Saturday the race so this time we had much more time to get set up, test the scooters, gearing and jetting and fiddle about in advance of the race [ we couldn’t do any of that in Austria ].
As expected, the heat was incredible, so hot even in the shade and with little wind it was oven-like, everything you touched if in the sun was red-hot-poker-like.
Luckily I had given some thought to helping things along and trying to make the best of it for everyone so we had packed our big water tower/cooler from the office, portable fans and as instructed, Tom had acquired a paddling pool and hosepipe. The latter was going to be very important. Having taken note of using such pools in car racing in the Middle East, everyone had a chuckle at my idea as if it were a bit daft…until we pumped it up and filled it with cool water…suddenly it was a stroke of genius….why thank you….
JB and Tim took the scooters out for a run to see what the track was like and check the gearing. The track was a big go-kart venue with various configurations meaning that there were cones and barriers all the way around the circuit cutting off corners and layouts we wouldn’t be using which always makes for visual confusion when you have a lot of colours and track furniture to distract you.
The guys came back in and we all agreed that we needed to do a sprocket change and make the gearing even shorter than we had guessed we would need so Scotty and Jason got on with making the changes, which they did very quickly and after another test it was confirmed our gearing was on the money this time. We then all had a go on the scooters to learn the track and certainly for myself and Drew, we needed to get on the scooters for the first time ever and see what they felt like and learn the track.
Its fair to say that in Europe things are a little more laid back in the safety dept which sounds great all the time you haven’t got a problem. A good example of this is one of the marshals on track sat on a corner with a bright red umbrella- red umbrella…who was constantly playing with it to avoid the sun, adjusting it and seemingly waving it while you are whizzing around looking for any form of marshal signal at any time. Of course at any circuits the use of such colours is a no-no for obvious reasons and a little while later when I was out having a ride, the same person came walking casually over the start finish line with a carrier bag as I approached flat out…no problems…
After a couple of hours of running around and changing riders we were happy with everything and set about some scrutineering, signing on and a beer.
The following morning we had a game plan of rider sequence for both scooters and it would be Graham and I that would be the race starters. Starting a race is always exciting and this start is a LeMans style, someone holding the scooter and the rider on the other side of the track waiting to run over and get on it. We started 5th and 8th on the grid and before long I found myself attempting to run over the track in full leathers to get on the scooter – I didn’t realise until I started doing it, I’ve never tried running in the get-up before and its surprisingly odd – bit like when Gary from Men Behaving Badly has the lazy-boy beer can holder – it’s an odd movement to achieve the result. On I get and we’re off. Immediately Graham is off into the distance and I would see him three more times during my hour long stint…as he lapped me each time.
Endurance racing is all about riding your own race, no getting hung up on lap times or the performance of others and out riding yourself and forcing a mistake, just ride as fast you dare, get into a groove and pound away lap after lap and hope you’re doing enough. Keep out on track and keep it going, only coming into the pits if absolutely necessary. I hadn’t ridden a race scooter since last September and even then before that I hadn’t for over a year so I wasn’t expecting much but decided I was going to do my best and enjoy the scooters that I have built, soaking up why I did it in the first place. In a flash my hour was over and set about coming in for a rider change and some fuel. During my stint the heat was so hot that I had sweat beading down my face and I couldn’t open my visor as if you did, it was if someone had a hair drier on your face at point blank range. Despite that it was ‘ok’ until you got off the scooter which is when the heat hit you and the paddling pool was calling.
Generally I try not to take baths with other men but each time I came in myself and Graham shared the pool in an attempt to cool off which worked wonders. The pool also doubled up as a place to keep the beer and chocolates cool too.
Everything was going to plan but we had no idea how the race was going as there were no timing screens and no live timing on the interweb so we had to keep checking over at race control. On one visit we realised that on bike #991 somehow we had stopped for 50mins which we had not..we soon learned that our timing transponder wasn’t working and we had lost a huge amount of time giving an unclear picture of our actual position in the race. In addition on bike #99, it also showed us having stopped for 35mins when we had not. This was very disappointing for us as we didn’t know why and now we had no idea of what to do about our strategy to try to win as at one point we were definitely leading the class race on #99. Finally we had clarity, we had been given the wrong transponder and our #99 was actually listed as a Vespa. #99 was in 2nd and 991 – well we just didn’t know but we thought 3rd as the Vespas were fast on and off but had some issues in the pits while we didn’t.
One major upgrade for our machines this time around is a new pit board signalling system using LED lights. We now don’t need to guess if someone wants to come in and they don’t have to guess if we want them to come in, we hit the lights and we’re all good. Its ace and proved to work in its prototype form. Then some sort of issue on #99. JB was passing the pits and making signals about something, we didn’t know what but he did. We pitted him and it was then clear – the front tyre had begun to delaminate in the heat and needed to be changed.
In total we were in the pits for 12 minutes or so changing the front tyre which was rapid quick but it all takes a bit more time when everything is red hot and you need to pay attention to getting everything installed and tight ready to race. The rest of the race was very uneventful for both scooters, we kept changing riders and pounding around lap after lap. We didn’t have one mechanical issue, failure or anything else, just a delaminated tyre on one bike. As the race was drawing near the end and at my final stint I gave #991 to Rob and told him that the clutch was starting to slip in 2nd and to just take it easy and bring the scooter home for the last 30 mins. As the race came to a close Rob was getting slower and the bike seemed a bike odd, bouncing around – we had broke another rear damper shaft as we did in Austria so all that was supporting the bike was the spring.
In the final laps we thought that we were on the lead lap with #99 chasing down a Vespa and Justin had been given instructions to keep him behind and give it everything which he duly did, in fact in the final 10 minutes of the race he recorded the second quickest lap of the race showing the scooters still had pace after a mighty 10hrs of racing. The Vespa caught him and passed as it was being ridden by someone very capable and no doubt with a few more horsepower than us. Afterwards it was apparent that we were not on the same lap after all but around 10laps behind but it was an exciting time watching him seemingly battle the Vespa for victory.
Looking back, if we didn’t have the front tyre problem, we could have won our first race on #99, such a shame but we’ll push on for Magny Cours!
We finished #99 in 2nd and #991 in 4th at the finish.
Afterwards we attempted some celebratory burnouts but with the heat, sticky tyres and 20hp it proved difficult as the #991 clutch finally went but Graham managed to get one going much to the delight of the Vespa teams watching and cheering. It was all over.
In the evening we attended the trophy presentations and the raffle and were surprised to receive 4 trophies as follows : ‘2nd place #99’ , Best Lambretta, ‘Furthest travelled team ‘ and ‘Most Beautiful scooter ‘ – we were all dead chuffed with that and I felt compelled to quickly knock up an acceptance speech in French using google translate which to my surprise, while using my best South London accent, seemed to be understood as everyone cheered and laughed, hopefully with me, not at me. Bonjour!
Doing these races, while I have the pleasure of writing all this out for you to read, is all about our teamwork and ability to build scooters for the purpose, use parts that will work, have an engine that will work, cover the angles, plan things, follow the plan, do our best and have a laugh, attempting to achieve super memories and our own bit of history to look back on along the way.
Our little collection of humans that make up our team is having great fun amongst the torture and of course none of it would be possible without the efforts of everyone and all the time that take off to do these crazy trips. We continue to do things with Lambretta’s that we haven’t before and that makes this very exciting for us.
Our team in France were : Myself, Darren Scott, John Balcomb, Justin Price, Jason Davies, Tim Simpson, Keith Terry, Drew Duncan, Rob Barnes, Graham Tatton, Martin Hammond, Tom Ware and Tim Cogman [ in spirit given the M11 breakdown saga ].
I am very proud, very, very proud, to say that during this trip, both Scotty and Graham included the word ‘ Geezer ‘ in some stories they told, unprompted and very naturally, as a result of hanging out with us Southerners for a while. That just goes to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks with success although I am yet to mention ‘ Champion ‘ in a sentence or eat black pudding despite their best efforts.
Tim Simpson yet again does us all very proud with some cracking photos. By now you should know that Tim is an amazing wedding photographer [ and general snapper for anything else ] and if you need photos taking, he is your man, hit him up and consider him when you need a proper photographer for something, he is tagged here so check him out.
JB Tuning yet again show that they can build a good engine. 10hrs straight on both bikes without one mechanical issue in 40deg C heat, flat out lap after lap. I know JB is extremely busy just now so if you want him to look at your scooter, have a dyno or build, you better get in early.
In other news I would once again like to mention that this race was run using the two new Scootopia 185 kits which will be available to buy very soon. It is clear from the past to races that this kit is something very much worth paying attention to when it is released. You should note that after Austria, all JB had to do was change the piston rings to give us peace of mind for this race. They were perfect in every way, in fact so perfect JB dyno’d the scooters after Austria before stripping them down and they both made identical power from before the race. If you could see and experience what we are doing to these scooters, you’ll appreciate just how amazing that really is. We are all genuinely impressed with them.
I am also keen to report to you that we have experienced zero problems with the VE stator plates which continue to be awesome, nor any of the AF Rayspeed parts in the main. The AF 5speed gearboxes are lapping up everything we throw at them, we had one clutch which started to slip ever-so towards the end of the race but given the heat and the abuse, we think this is an extraordinary occurrence.
The Oiltek fuel tanks continue to be the backbone of our strategy and have worked perfectly.
Many people have asked me what oil we are using to achieve such things [ including some of the Vespa teams we are racing against ] . It is Silkolene Pro 2 2t oil and Silkolene ST90 in the gearboxes. Everyone has a favourite choice of oils but these are showing they are very good and indeed when JB checked the engines over, they are burning lovely in the top ends, all nice and clean.
The rear damper failure was a standard Scootopia damper for a S3 which Lee at the shop has advised were already in the process of being altered and our use and breakage of a couple confirmed what they needed to do. Clearly we are using a road going product, not racing, to race with to see what happens and we found out, they could be even better with a few changes.
We are also reviewing our tyre choice for the next race at Magny Cours in October [ 4-6th if you want to come and watch ] as we have found the limits of the Mitas ones we are using as well as changing a few little things to make our attempts even better.
I had previously mentioned it but on 28th July I will be attending the new Scooter Expo event in Alfreton and displaying all four of the Scootopia race scooters [ 2x Sx200 and 2x TV175 ]. It will be the first time they have be displayed and certainly the first time to see all four scooters together at the same time.
They are all still in their ‘ just finished the race’ state, purposely so you can see how gruelling the races are on them and get an idea of what they have been through. I am attending with them as a day out for fun, so if you are interested in all the things we are doing and want to look at the scooters in person and come and have a chat with me about them, that’s what I am coming for. There won’t be a Scootopia parts stand, just me and the race scooters / race tent so please stop by and say hello if you are interested.
I am also bringing a small box of our team shirts and bodywarmers with me so if you fancy one and I have your size, you can cross my palm with silver and snag one.
I genuinely hope that you continued to read this far and are interested in what we are doing for all the time Tim takes to catalogue the photos and me to write up how I feel about living my dream with my friends. If you do find it interesting your mates will too so if you could like the post and share it that would be ace as we all watch and see how far the stories get around the world, it means a lot.
If you haven’t already, get to the Scootopia website and see what we have there for you.
If you have any questions or would like to say something, please comment below and I’ll do my best to reply to you.
Andy & the Scootopia Race Team of Awesomeness.