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Andrew English May 12 2011 Thundersprint 2011

Andrew English and Chesca Miles - Moto Guzzi Triking - 4

Apparently several people turned up on Sunday morning in Norwich, Norfolk for this year’s Thundersprint, which actually takes place some four hours drive away in Northwich, Cheshire. Understandable map reading confusion aside, it might have made it a lot easier for Alan Layzell and I had this historic motorcycle sprint been held in Norwich. As it was the strict timing of the one-day Thundersprint meant I had to pick up the much-fettled machine on Friday and split the journey into two halves, staying overnight with my brother in Rutland. Much fettled? As the last Triking out of Tony Divey’s original home/workshop in Marlingford, there were some compromises involved in its construction, which sit ill with a life of being blasted off the line at sprint events. “Haven’t you thought about just driving it around gently like other owners,” said long suffering Alan. It’s amazing what this versatile and painstaking engineer has accomplished with Divey’s original design since taking the firm over three years ago. Driveline components and suspension parts have been redesigned and remade partly to make construction more consistent, partly to get some of the almost suicidal costs out of the build process without compromising handling or performance. My Triking has none of those things and the slow process of strengthening wearing parts down the drive line from the ex-Moto Guzzi Le Mans engine has involved some late nights at the lathe and the mill. It now has stronger prop-shaft components, a better drive shaft into the bevel drive and drive hub parts, although the front wheels are still using the ‘Play-Doh’ hubs, so the wheels need to be tightened after each event. In spite of that, however, there’s still stuff to do, with wear on the ‘small’ clutch plate and concerns that the car has too much grip at the rear unresolved as I pulled away from Alan’s base in Hingham. Hiring a small four-wheel trailer from my local hire shop was a good move in the towing department and the big Ford S-Max barely noticed the little beast on the cross-country journey, although consumption did drop almost 10mpg to 34mpg. As Tony Divey warned me many years ago, “organisers don’t really like Morgans and Triking three wheelers. They’re too fast and aren’t readily categorised.” You tend to find yourself pushed in with the motorcycle sidecars, where a spirit of laisse faire predominates. That, and a healthy respect for the dangers of the course rather than a win-at-all-costs fixation. Thundersprint organiser, Frank Melling, had arranged me a passenger, the glamorous stunt rider Chesca Miles. In spite of being battered and bruised from high siding her machine recently, she gingerly climbed into her race leathers to give some stunt demonstrations before climbing into the Triking for the practice runs. A damp course and a concern over the rear tyre meant I took it gently at first and was pleasantly surprised to be joint first in the time sheets. In a crowded and chaotic paddock, there was a steady stream of admirers for my blu scozia trike. Most had heard of the new Morgan and some even confused the Triking with the forthcoming £30,000 beasty from Malvern – these might have been the folk who’d turned up in Norwich that morning. There’s certainly a real buzz round the idea of three wheels this year and I can’t help but feeling the Morgan will do nothing but good to the business on all fronts. At lunchtime, all the Thundersprint competitors take to the streets for three laps round the town centre. My previous experience of events like these is a lot of over heated racing engines and clutch pumping progress. Not this one. Behind a police car seemingly driven by Sebastian Vettel, we lapped ‘briskly’ to the evident enjoyment of the crowd two deep round both sides of the two and quarter mile circuit. First timed run of the afternoon was a more spirited affair. I dropped the clutch at about 4,000rpm and the rear tyre lit up. Morgan trike racers tend to enter corners with the rear wheel spinning as they turn in. My trike’s got too much grip to do that, but the tail swung eagerly through the endless right hander of Salt Mine curve. Chesca looked slightly horrified as she tilted up her visor, but quickly assuaged any doubts. “This is lovely,” she said, “I want one.” A fine and gutsy ride Graham Hilditch and Tony Dalton in the 1972 Weslake chair saw them top the leader board, with my Triking a second and a half behind in third place. “You’re pushing me on,” says Hilditch, who has his brand-new combination at Cholmondeley on July 15, 16 and 17th. Personally, I think he’s quite fast enough with his old machine. I could see where there might be a bit of time to be saved, but the Triking wasn’t having any of it. A niggling problem of binding front brakes started to make itself felt and the second timed run was a luridly wayward 1.5 seconds off the pace. In the narrow access road to the paddock, the brakes stuck fast and the Triking bought the event to a standstill. How humiliating. I pulled the front pads out and pushed the trike back to the trailer. Adding insult to injury, the slightly over enthusiastic pushers helping get the machine back on the trailer resulted in the middle ramp kicking out and much damage to the recently repainted side coachwork. Bugger! It’s a long way back to Surrey from Cheshire and time to think about what could have gone wrong. The master cylinder is the major suspect, but I’m still thinking a complete renewal of the Brembo racing calipers wouldn’t do any harm before Cholmondeley where the Triking is entered. As it is, I’ve just pushed the car back into the garage. Got to earn some money to pay for all of this development. Well that and get Alan’s advice again…