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Percy goes Sprinting...

...a True Tale from Granadaland.

by Mike Gott

These days, several years down the line from the birth of the Granadaland Section, I no longer register surprise when Prank Brzeski 'phones up with his latest plans for us.  Hill Climbs, Off-Road excursions (some deliberate), winter journeys through snowdrifts - all are now accepted as normal behaviour in this part of the Country.  But ... Sprint Racing?

We'd had a group invite to participate in "Thundersprint 99" at the Three Sisters race track near Wigan.  Had the organiser been misinformed as to exactly who we were?  Other entrants included such racing legends as Phil Read and Jim Redman.  To the Hall of Fame we unanimously decided to add another name: Frank Brzeski.  To the list of legendary racing machines: Manx Norton, Velocette Mk8, MV Agusta 4, we would add another: Percy, the Trojan Mini-Motor.

Several weeks later, Frank is on the 'phone, well fired up with enthusiasm for the race preparation he has put into his machine so far.  This appears to take the form of a larger than normal drive roller, removal of the dynamo and lights plus a good de-coke.  He wonders if he can borrow my leathers as the press are coming round to take a photo.

One month later.

As well as the Bolton Evening News, the photo has apparently been published in a Biker magazine.  This has finally been identified as 'Streetfighters' - one of those magazines which usually inhabits the higher shelves in W H Smith's.  Frank's photo, for those who want to track down a copy, is roughly ½ of the way in, on the right hand side.  It is easily identified, as it is just about the only bike not decorated with a naked woman.  Not aware of this, Susan, Frank's wife, has been dispatched to the shops to buy a copy.  As she thumbs the pages, looking for the picture, a man in a grubby raincoat looks over her shoulder, mumbling "...mmmmm...she's nice..."

Two weeks to go

Club night, and the branch's birthday.  Frank has bought a large cream cake, two pieces of which he demolishes with careless disregard to his racing weight.  He has also brought another item: a streamlined mini nose cone for Percy.  Very professional, it is black (to match the Raleigh cycle), lettered gold (to match the Mini-Motor).  In addition to Frank's racing numbers, it carries the legend "Big Percy" - a slight modification to the original title, creditable to the Bolton Evening News proofreading dept.  The general effect, as it lies on the table, is of an Elizabethan codpiece - something not aided by the name it carries.  The barmaid at the pub looks very impressed, and keeps winking at Frank.  Otherwise the meeting is rather quiet as the various section members seem well absorbed reading 'Streetfighters'.

The Day of the Event.

We weren't going to go, basically due to a deep-rooted dislike of the promoter.  However, the gift of a couple of free tickets from a friend who couldn't get there saw my morals abandoned and so here we are, parking up the motorbike and clumping off into the pits to find Ecurie Brzeski.  After a couple of minutes looking without success for the team's luxury Winnebago and merchandising stall we stumble over the white Capri, battered red trailer and folding chair that comprises the real Brzeski pit.  A real motorhome - well, all right, camper-van, has been provided by Frank Brittain who keeps us supplied with tea.  Frank Bz has put on a mini show, with a Winged Wheel, Cyclemaster and the John o'Groats to Lands End machine.  There is plenty of interest.  He has already done one run over the measured course.  It has taken "about a minute".  Clad in regulation (borrowed) one-piece leathers he is about to go for a second run.  It has to be said that they do not appear to look completely at home on a 1950 28" wheeled bicycle.  The gaudily coloured full-face helmet looks a bit out of place too.  With a whiff of Castrol 'R', Big Percy is pedalled into life and heads for the start.  We trot off up the banking to get a good view of the proceedings.

It rapidly becomes apparent that Frank's time over the course is really quite creditable indeed.  Modern big bikes seem to be putting in times of around 30 seconds; older or smaller ones are usually somewhere between 35 to 45 seconds.

Frank is at the start.  Pedalling furiously, he breaks through the optical light beam and the clock starts.  For the full distance, he assists the engine with the pedals - being careful not to ground them on the two bends on the course - and clocks 52 seconds.

We are back in the pits in time for his return.  The smell of the Castrol 'R' now mingles with that of hot leather.  I try to explain that motor cycle leathers are not usually made with cycling in mind, while Frank maintains that taking his leathers off would probably lose him 5 seconds.  It would also get him arrested, though I suppose that there is always the nose cone.

Prior to run No 5, Big Percy refuses to start.  Whilst Frank and, somehow, when-did-I-become-the-mechanic, me, race against time to find and cure the fault, an enthusiast decides to come up for a chat.  Obviously a relation of my hero, Mr "my Dad used to have one of those, only totally different" who we first met on an evening run several years ago, we are solemnly told "... there was a Trojan Mini-Motor like that in a scrapyard near me a while ago.  It was a Sinclair-Goddard Power Pak".  If Big Percy doesn't start soon, it may very well join it.  Then we find the loose wire in the mag.

Frank's next two runs are even better, around 52 seconds.

At the end of the day the prizes are awarded, the winning machine has turned in a time of, as far as I can recall, about 28 seconds.  Though not winning his class, Frank wins a prize: "The Most Entertaining Contestant".  I think that it was thoroughly deserved.

We await the next 'phone call from Daffodil Road, Farnworth with anticipation.

First published - August 1999

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