I’ve always liked motorcycles and was always keen to be involved in motorsport.
The career I followed (combustion engineering) meant living away from family and friends for work. Having considered the various forms of motorsport, drag racing seemed the ideal – something I could do more or less on my own and with less chance of incident (with roundy-roundy racing you have to fall off a few times to know how fast you can go!). I was a bit naive in those days!
So in the early 1980s I constructed my first sprint/drag racing bike – a petrol burning, nitrous injected Laverda, based on a 1200 Mirage engine and fitted with a very early, mechanically operated, Trev Langfield (now “Wizard of NOS") nitrous oxide injection system. It wasn’t pretty or fast, but it was fun.
Having been around drag racing for a year I got the nitro bug. A supercharged Triumph came up for sale, so I took the plunge.
The bike was 850cc fitted with a Shorrock C142B supercharger fed by a 2” SU carburettor. Transmission was via a slipper clutch, Bewley 2 speed gearbox and 6” slick. It was one of those bikes that had got to the stage where it was being passed from owner to owner on a frequent basis, with nobody really knowing what they were doing (including myself!). The year I ran the bike was a disaster – I only got down the racetrack around 3 times – although this was mainly due to my own ignorance. But I was hooked on nitro!
Around this time (1984ish) I moved to Cheltenham, where I met (the now sadly departed) Roy Kennard. Roy was building a funny bike (at the time I didn’t realise that Roy never actually finished anything) and, with Roy’s encouragement, I decided to build a 4 cylinder engined fuel bike (not understanding what this actually entailed). While running the Triumph we raced at the Transatlantic event at Long Marston where I met Elmer Trett; at the end of the race meeting Elmer unbolted the Magnusson supercharger from Mountain Magic and I was the proud owner of the first major component of the new fueller. This was the start of a long friendship with Elmer – who helped me enormously.
(In those pre-internet days it was absolutely essential to have a friend in the USA to source and collect together components).
Before I had made much progress on the fuel bike, Eamonn Hurley’s Kawasaki powered fueller came up for sale. After much deliberation and sorting of finances a deal was agreed and I was the proud owner of a 1200cc Kawasaki with a 80” Magnusson blower, fuel injection and a 3 speed (old type) B&J gearbox with a 13” rear slick. It was the best (drag racing) decision I ever made.
We ran this fuel bike for a couple of years with some success, running best times in the 8.1/8.2 second bracket. Just as importantly I learned a lot about running nitro.
As we tried to catch up with the fast guys we started hurting the “standard” Kawasaki bottom ends on a regular basis. Pete Davis (the original PUMA) was in the process of making Kawasaki style bottom ends for the Brachtvogels and Henk Vink – so I got myself added to the list. I got the casting numbered 003 which (from memory – and it’s all a bit hazy) were fitted into the existing fuel bike – I’m pretty sure I was the first person to run a set of "production" Kawasaki style PUMA cases in competition.
Eamonn had some individual ideas regarding chassis design and the racebike never went particularly straight, so in 1987 I commissioned John Clift to build me a new chassis, fitted with the engine/blower/ gearbox pod from the existing fueller (except only running a single B&J to make it a 2 speed). The new bike was completed in 1988/89.
I ran the bike for a couple of years. Then Steve Woollatt took over the riding duties in 1990 (while I concentrated on building another fuel bike). The bike is still running today in Steve's capable hands – “The Dealer”.
The PUMA bottom end had sorted out the crankshaft problems, but now we had started to split standard cylinder heads. The day I thought a spark plug had passed through my body (it hadn’t, but the power of the explosion had lifted my body off the bike – apart form my hands) I decided to get some billet cylinder heads made – one for the Steve Woollatt bike and one for the new bike.
The new bike was completed for the 1991 season. The frame was welded by Roy Kennard and the bodywork produced by Nige Batsford (Nige made the mistake of coming into the workshop when we were mocking up the bodywork and mentioned that it was the sort of thing that he did – he has remained a sound friend ever since – acting as my crew chief for many years).
The new bike ran OK (mid 7 second bracket), but we still couldn’t achieve that elusive 6 second pass.
We arrived at the 1993 August Bank Holiday meeting with a load new parts fitted (new supercharger and two new magnetos, together with a larger capacity fuel pump and a fuel system suggested by Elmer Trett) and ran 6.70/201 “off the trailer”. Best time of the meeting was 6.69 seconds and highest terminal speed 204.7mph. We improved to 6.67 seconds at the World Finals and took the 1993 UK Top Fuel Bike championship.
At the start of the 1994 season we had lost the improved performance. Nothing had changed – I measure/record everything on the bike set up – but we appeared to have really lost our way. The blower had been serviced by Sprintex over the close season and this had affected its performance – eventually we had to increase the blower overdrive from 50% to 70% to get back into the sixes. This took a while to find and the 1994 season is best forgotten. Back on track for the 1995 & 1996 seasons; we won the UK Top Fuel Bike championship both years, but didn’t improve on the 6.67 PB (although raised the top speed to 208mph).
Doing everything (owner, financer, tuner, mechanic and rider) myself was taking its toll. Shared a table with Chris Hampson at the 1996 awards dinner and we discussed him taking over riding duties on the fuel bike after the 1997 season. During testing at Long Marston Chris took to it “like a duck to water” and so the new team was formed. Chris was a great chap – honest and enthusiastic and became a great friend. Following Chris's untimely accident at Santa Pod in May 2000 I had no stomach for drag racing any more. I disbanded the race team, cut up the chassis and sold on the other parts. I didn’t go to a drag race meeting for two years.
A couple of years later Steve Woollatt contacted me and asked if I would help out with engineering/tuning advice – been with him ever since. I am extremely grateful to Steve for the opportunity to be involved with Top Fuel Bike racing.
I retired from my full time job at the end of 2014 - the company was kind enough to pay me to leave! So, with a bit of cash and plenty of time, I decided to build a new Top Fuel Bike......this web-site records the journey (and hopefully the arrival at the destination!)