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West Glos & Dean Forest
Motor Cycle Club

Celebrating 64 Years of Motor Cycling 1953 - 2017

A Mechanic's Life

Words and Photos By Ian Hannam

Many people say "Cor!! That must be great" or "I would love to do that," when I mention that I go and help my mate at the Sidecar World Championships, which, for the past few years have been held with the World Superbike events.

At this year's dinner, some of you may have met Roger Lovelock, if you didn't then you certainly met his bike,  so perhaps while things are still fresh I'll give you an insight into a typical weekend (week) at the races.

Better decide now where we are going this week, a Tuesday depart is Spain, Germany and Italy. Wednesday is Holland and France. 

Tuesday: Normal day at work then rush home for the "3 SSS" and depart Broadwell for Marlborough at 5pm. Finish packing the Race Transporter (7.5 tonner or converted coach usually but we are meant to be professional now,) and leave for Dover to get the ferry for 11pm. Always leave too late, get pulled at dockside for the Jobs worth to have a look around, miss the 11pm and get the midnight one instead. Arrive Calais 2pm and off we go to Valencia in Spain. 

Roger gets the first stint at driving with me on the map while trying to catnap and also keeping the driver awake. 4 hours later time to fill up with diesel and change drivers. Now I'm driving and keeping and eye on the map He's gone to sleep, great!! We are somewhere in France.

4 hours, diesel and change over again. 

Now SBK state that 'no vehicle to enter the circuit after 8pm' so pedal to the metal, (OOPS! just put another hole in the floor) and go as quick and as best we can, knowing full well that we ain't going to beat the curfew.

Tolls, Tarmac, Tolls, Tarmac, Tolls, Tarmac

Enter Spain just over half way, Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaarmac.

Anyway, get to Valencia 1am Thursday morning, damn! missed curfew and have to park up outside of the paddock so as not to disturb those on the inside, who, as you may have guessed, are all having parties in one awning or another, so after a cup of tea, beans on toast and a pat on the back for doing the journey in 23 hours it's time for bed f****d.

Thursday morning, 10am came too bright, and soon, (no it didn't it was raining) have to walk a lap of the paddock to find the guy who had our passes and to tell us where to park, (another hour gone). Parked up, better get set up (no lets have another cup of tea). Awning up, bike and tool boxes set up, Aahh we are up for another weekend racing at the World Championships...............some official comes along and says " Can you move 10 yards over there", (something) OFF" came the reply.

It's 3pm time for a cup of tea and finish off a couple of jobs needed to be done on the bike, DJ arrives, this is Dawna Holloway, our passenger, who has flown in from her home in Seattle, USA. So she has a cup of tea and we catch up on all the gossip that she has picked up since the last time.

Now you may have noticed that a lot of tea is being drunk and not much being done, well you drive 23 hours non stop with next to no sleep and you will find that you don't move too quick either. 
DJ gets the dinner on and after a chat and a beer with most in the paddock it's time for an early night (midnight).

Friday morning sun is out, and so are the sidecars at 11.30 so wheels on, fuel up and time to go to pit lane where I watch the practice from and can keep an eye on qualification times using the pit lane monitors, all the while waiting for R&D to pit to make any adjustments, This session is half an hour long.

Back at the awning the bike is on its stands, wheels off and getting a clean and check over, DJ gets us a late breakfast where we discuss whether to have a new tyre/s or not. The mechanic gets the short straw to take said wheel/s to other end of paddock for fitment of new rubber. Yokohama boys are busy fitting for Webster, Abbott, Old Tom Cobbley, so scrounge a cup of tea from someone nearby and talk B******s until our wheel/s are ready.

Next session on track 17.00, same again. 

Session finish 17.30 but can't go back to awning as it's Taxi Ride time. This is the chance for the teams to take the sponsor/guest/dolly bird/mate etc for a couple of laps to "Experience the thrill of a Racing Sidecar " and yes it can be YOU and it's free. By the way Julian declined the offer at Magny-Cours.

Back at the awning (18.30) time for a cuppa and discuss why the bike won't go fast enough and where R&D could do better, or in more basic terms talk more B******S as they have qualified 10th. Clean the bike, have dinner and a beer, loan parts to other people and scrounge bits that we haven't got and go to bed...........1am.

Saturday morning, sunny and dry but windy, (so was the weather,) last qualifier at 12.00. Same as before but lost out as 4 went quicker so ended up 14th on the grid from 22 and now time to prep the bike ready for the 18 lap race at 17.00.

The race started ok, but as at all tracks, you can't see a lot from the pit lane unless you are stood at a monitor. Then, at least you are able to follow what is happening at the front whilst knowing where your team are to give pit signals to with the pit board, and to wave them to go faster. You have to keep thinking that this is doing some good, but half the time they don't see you, (I know, I have a pit crew).

The sidecar I have been watching out for does not appear, look for yellow flags....stupid really, can't see half the track, have they crashed, have they broken down, is it something I have done???? Getting a bit edgy now, well there is nothing I can do, better watch the rest of the race, "C'mon Abbott".

Race finishes, Webbo wins, Abb passes Klaffi in last corner for second....Great, better go back put the kettle on, light a fag and wait. Still no word of any major problem and R&D were seen sitting on Armco barrier, Phew they must be alright....have another fag.

R&D turn up pushing the bike, 

"Did you crash?"

"No" "made a funny noise and stopped"

"Sh**," "but you're both ok?"

"Yeah" (in American drawl.)

Take the plugs out, turn the engine over, only 2 pistons going up and down, strange that....should be 4. Oh dear! broken crank, we better have a beer!!!!!!!!

That's about it really apart from packing every thing up on Sunday morning and getting away at lunchtime to hopefully catch the boat at about 5am........we miss the 8am one by 10 minutes then have to pay another 150 to get the 10am. I get back to Broadwell at 4pm, pretty knackered by now, and how many of you have noticed that I have not seen a solo all weekend?

So, now do you want to go World Championship Racing????