Sidecarland

The Newark Winter Classic Motorcycle Show

This show takes place at the Newark Showground, just off the A1 road. The show is probably the first classic show of the year, this year being held on the 7th and 8th January. It is organised by Carole Nash and the Classic Bike Guide Magazine and this was the sixth time it has been held. One great thing this year for me was the guest speakers, who were Tom and Ben Birchall, four times TT race winners and current TT lap record holders.

I arrived at early on Sunday morning, walking onto the showground and turning right into the George Stephenson Hall. Here I was able to ask where Jim D’arcy and Gordon May had their stands. Luckily Gordon’s was in this hall. I first met him when he set off on one of his motorcycle journeys from a Watsonian Squire open day. I had a nice chat with him about his latest book, which is about his ride to Vietnam on a 74-year old Matchless motorcycle.

Starting off in this hall worked nicely for me, as Steve Plater was interviewing the Birchall brothers, and quite a crowd was developing around the stand. I made sure that I was in the first line of spectators. The interview was first class and all three guys were on top form. I had heard from Gary Horspole, our local sidecar racer, that this season the engine sizes were being reduced on racing outfits, and the Birchall brothers confirmed this. They have gone a step farther and are already running with the smaller 600 cc engine; this is to make sidecar racing safer. Ben told us that he had to alter his riding style to suit the new engine. The 1,000 cc engines turn out 200 BHP, which, he said, can get exciting!

A couple of questions came up during the interview; one was what happened when the brothers’ outfit broke down whilst leading the TT race by 30 seconds. Apparently they had used different con-rods and bolts in the engine; these are good for 3-plus-a-bit laps at the race speeds of the TT circuit; however on this occasion the race had been stopped after a lap and restarted, and a bolt let go on the 4th lap. They parked up and had a couple of pints in a local pub. They had a spare engine ready for the next race and decided to take it a bit steadier in that race!

Another question was what difference has Chris Walker now racing sidecars made to the amount of spectators watching their races. They replied that more people are staying on watch what can often be the last race of the day. One comment came up about Chris Walker when both he and the brothers were doing equal times around a race track – Chris was quite pleased with his efforts, until Ben mentioned that he was using the smaller engine.

Michael Dunlop has ridden their outfit and did quite well. The Birchalls inferred that Michael may race on three wheels this year – as they said “watch this space”. The boys and Steve were really on the ball, and it was a brilliant talk. I got lucky and had a few words with Ben, firstly at the stand and again in the queue for food.

After my breakfast I continued to walk around the main hall, where there were a lot of club and trade stands. This show has machines of all makes and models through the ages and brings back plenty of memories. I spotted a Piaggo 50 cc three-wheeler machine – similar to a tuc-tuc. This was fitted with a coffee machine in the back, and I was offered a cup of coffee. This mobile coffee bar was run by Debbie and Michael Ives; they also had a nice selection of motorcycles for sale. They support their local charities and take the three-wheeler along; they charge £1 per cup and all the money taken goes to the charity.

Attending the show on Sunday meant that the various show-winning machines had their rosettes on them, and this gave an added interest. I spotted three racing sidecars on the British Historic Racing Club stand. Here I got talking to a lady on the stand who passengers on a BSA twin outfit; she was racing at the recent Cadwell Park Sidecar Meeting that I went to.

Luckily the weather was good; this is always nice for those traders outside. I wandered through the marquee area; this has all sorts of motor cycle-related kit for sale. If you are doing a restoration then the piece you want may well be here. Eventually I came to the Lady Eastwood Hall – again with lots of club and trade stands. Here I met up with Jim D’arcy and his friend Carl; they seemed to have the same spot as last year. Talking to Jim he was pleased that the hall has been upgraded, and this year it was nice and warm in there. Jim and Carl had a nice selection of bikes for sale.

Next I was off to Scooter World; this had a hall to itself, with quite a nice display of machines. Some of the owners have designed their own colour schemes and they are very good. Talking to Mau Spencer, who edits a couple of scooter magazines for Morton’s Media, he said that he was very pleased with the turnout with 120 scooters on display. For the scooter riders Stuart Day, three-time British Scooter Champion, was there. He and the Birchall brothers and Steve Plater had a question and answer session going. Walking around I saw a scooter outfit on display that I had seen racing at Cadwell Park; this machine races in the 125 cc sidecar class. It is powered by an Aprilla RS engine. Plans to improve the outfit for next season were written on a board – these included (one) possibly some new tyres as the ones on the outfit are eleven years old; (second) to alter the rear wheel fairing because of a complaint from the passenger; and (third) a new fuel tank as the old one has a crack in the weld. Having watched this outfit buzzing around the track it goes well considering the engine size.

What a great show, which was helped by nice weather; there were even some traders on the grass. There was a good selection of machinery, from clubs to a large number of private entries. Also there were loads of trade stands, either packed into the halls or under the marquee – plenty of time to grab a bargain!! There were about a dozen outfits that I spotted on display.

There were many food outlets giving you a nice selection of something to eat.

Well done to the organisers – we will be back next year.  Roy and Chris