James Toseland, twice World Superbike Champion, and current MotoGP star, walked round the Thundersprint track, smiled and shook his head when he was told that the fastest classic racers were going to get round the 447 yards of turns, twists and trees which comprise the Thundersprint track in under 25 seconds. “You would have to be mad to ride a classic round here at that speed.” said the affable superstar. As things turned out, there were a lot of mad classic racers at Thundersprint 2009.
Leading the mad men in the Masterclass was Tony Hudson on his wailing Honda in a strong sub-25 second time, battling it out neck and neck with TT star Keith Heckles and his mighty Manx Norton. Chasing them hard were World Champions Jim Redman and Sammy Miller on another pair of immaculate Hondas with displays which had the crowds on their feet and the air horns filling the natural arena right in the centre of Northwich.
The Motorcycling Personalities class saw an incredible mixture of pure show business and breathtaking riding.
Showing just how fast it’s possible to ride one of the toughest tracks in classic racing, Phil Read Junior knee scraped the Alto Performance, hub-centre Vyrus round in a breath taking 21.05 seconds.
Just as spectacular, but in a completely different way, were James Toseland and HM Plant Honda factory rider Steve Plater. James and Steve stunted their way round the course and drove the crowd wild with delight.
Thundersprint sponsors eBike were down on the track in force to see their man Mark Kemsley bring the immaculate eBike back safe and sound after three quick runs.
Just as impressed were the new Cheshire West and Chester Councillors and Officers who struggled to believe their eyes. A twice World Champion stunting it up in the new Authority’s best car park? The grins told the
story: it was great!
But this was just the start of what was to be three and a half hours of action packed racing. Geoff Steele was neat and elegant on his 350 Velocette and Graeme Hardy, better known as “Forge Formby” on the Shuttleworth Snap, managed a magnificently slow 43.32 seconds – and was nearly deafened by the cheers. Sheer speed and Hollywood entertainment side by side – that’s what the Thundersprint is all about.
Oliver Presswood was superb with his mighty Velo in the Golden Age class and probably the neatest rider of the day was 250 class winner Peter Jordan with his home tuned 250 Royal Enfield. Peter’s time of 24.20 meant that he could have won most of the other classes – he was that fast!
Another ultra quick rider was Jaeson Caunce who threaded his Honda round the three corners, ten trees and 100 yards of stone wall of the Thundersprint speed bowl in a breathtaking 22.7 seconds. Almost as quick, but so smooth he made the job look easy, was Howard Ostle and his crackling BSA B.50.
The fences echoed to the sound of really heavy metal – and not the punk version of the Thundersprint’s Morris Men – when the Classic Unlimited class came to the line. Brian Glover was imperious with his 928 Weslake engined Norton but Mick Rooney – who brings half of Yorkshire as cheerleaders – was a sound second on the 750 Triumph Bonneville.
The engine notes shifted from bass to soprano with lightweights and ultra lightweights. Phil Bootherstone, and his ex-works Triumph Cub, just squeezed out German star Joerg Trautvetter who had driven 826 miles from the Sachsenring circuit just to race at the Thundersprint. The gap was just 0.11 seconds to the determined Brit.
The precision pilots of the Thundersprint in the 50 class fought tooth and nail with only 3 seconds separating winner Raymond Dennerley – Honda CR110 – from Brian Jackson’s lovely little Minarelli in sixth place. A special mention must go to David Clarke who rode the wheels off his original Itom to finish second.
The crowd were still packed tight into the grandstands for the finale of
racing: the sidecar class. Londoner Dave Goddard slid his Suzuki engined hill climb special to the narrowest of victories over Graham Hilditch and Tony Dalton with just three tenths of a second splitting the two crews.
With over 220 race and road bikes strutting their stuff over three 2 and a 1/2 mile laps of Northwich the Thundersprint Cavalcade has got to be one of the great spectacles in the motorcycling world. That it can take place at all is a huge credit to Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire Police who spend countless hours on the planning and execution of it and to Sunwise Sunglasses who supported the show.
An estimated 100,000 cheering spectators packed the pavements as the battle cries of howling Honda fours and mighty Manx Nortons bounced off the walls of Northwich Police Station and the Magistrates’ Court. And you don’t see that very often.
The atmosphere was electric, the crowds wildly enthusiastic and the good done for motorcycling was immense.