Snetterton

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Article by Ray Towle

20-21 APRIL 1968

It was 1968 and I was 17 at the time. I had arrived at my mate Burts house early (before 9am) on Saturday morning. We had over the weeks before gathered equipment together and replaced all the cables on his SX150. He had just purchased this from Norman Ronald ( F reg) who had been racing it in Italy; it was a metallic burnt orange S type and had a very crisp sounding exhaust which had been cut and welded back to allow more of an angle when leaning over. At that time it also had a new12 volt lighting system with the extra battery in the toolbox, this would prove very handy later that day.

The Double Decker Bus pulled up outside his house, much to the amazement of neighbours. The seats had been taken out downstairs to allow space for the scooter to be loaded on, with some of the clubs other Members scooters already tied down for the journey. Lighting boards, petrol, 2x5 gallon cans with the tops cut off, huge funnel, tools, sleeping bags etc. were all loaded on and away we went to the Snetterton 12 hour regularity and reliability trial. It seemed like the whole club had turned out on the bus to ride or assist in what ever way they could.

We arrived around lunch-time for Scrutineering at a very bleak Norfolk race track, fully understanding why it had not been booked at this time of year by other motor sports organisations. Scrutineering went fine and even our version of what is called today a Snetterton seat made of plywood passed, I do not think they noticed the Meccano seat hinge? We then found out there was 100 scooters entered, so pit space became a little crampt, but we all managed to fit in. Practice laps were around 5pm (we each had to do two). The race started at 7.15pm with Burt doing the first stint and we would alternate during the 12 hours. The pit crew operated the timing lights red, amber and green and the scooter had a board attached, with a light underneath and rolled paper showing the time you had to cross the finishing line on each lap, which would get quicker as the event progressed. My self and Burt also had stop watches attached to our jackets to give us some idea of time keeping.

The 5 gallon cans were filled and ready for a quick scooter refill at every change of riders. Everything was good, to begin with. Darkness fell, along with the cold, but the scooter was warm. About 2am and fog arrived at the end of the long straight, now whilst I am happy to go fast I do like to see where I am going. With fog your hearing becomes more acute and I could hear scooters coming up behind me at top speed, they must have been counting to know when to throttle back, unfortunately not all could count that well and the gravel run off could be heard rattling with several gratings of metal. I survived, but many did not continue. The fog went as quickly as it had come and the list of retirements grew as light dawned.

Some scooters burnt out due to fuel coming into contact with very hot engines and there was one bad accident on the finishing line due to a scooter arriving early and deciding to do a “slow race” for the last 100 yards, unfortunately the rider behind did not realise and went straight into the back of him. At 7.30 am the event finished and we all packed up to make the journey home, having been awake all night I slept.

On the Monday it was back to normal with Burt using the scooter to get to college. The final results were not known for some time after and this year S types were 1st 2nd and 3rd. First N Barnes/R Jackson, Second J Ronald/N Ronald, Third R Burton/R Towle so we were 3rd, but if it hadn’t been for the fog who knows?