On the evening of my arrival the ‘Colonials’, as I used to call them, and I being the only true Brit present, went off to a restaurant where we had the local specialty ‘paella’ with a beer or a glass or two of wine. Fortunately, perhaps, my two travelling companions who were clearly protecting their limited funds, had decided not to join us at the restaurant and had already camped down in the paddock for the night.
I had not detected a half closed mussel in my paella and by 3 o’clock in the morning, I knew I was in real trouble having to spend the rest of the night and most of the next three days, on the loo!
I had been warned of the Spanish ‘lurgi’ more commonly known as ‘the trots’, but I could never have imagined it was going to be as bad as this.
A temporary street circuit ‘Circuito de Begona ’was simply a closed public dual carriageway of approximately 1 mile in length (2 miles overall) with hairpin bends created at each end at the point where the riders came off one side of the dual carriageway and turned to go back down the other side. At approximately 300 yards from one of the hairpin bends the riders swept through a long tunnel/bridge, similar but shorter than the tunnel at Monaco. The dual carriageway was built on a slight slope giving us a gradual climb up one side before turning and descending on the other, making this a near perfect circuit on which to compare the acceleration and top speed of one bike against another.
When the 125s were called out for the first practice session the circuit was still damp from an earlier shower of rain and there was an early incident in practice which Ramon Robinson recently recalled :-
“It probably hadn’t rained all summer in Bilbao until a shower arrived just before the practice session. All the diesel oil on the tarmac came to the surface and made the circuit extremely slippery. One of the marshals walked through the line up before the off and warned of this. Understanding Spanish, I took heed and was very careful down the hill to the first hairpin, where a host of riders that had gotten there ahead of me came off! The road was strewn with bikes and riders! The Spanish works Ducati got busted up so bad it had to retire from the event! I can’t recall ever riding on such a greasy surface apart from riding a motocross bike on the ice here in Sweden. Don’t recall your whereabouts at that moment”
My whereabouts? Most probably I was still sitting on the loo!
Later in the morning, between longer and longer spells in the loo and having missed the first 125 practice session, I had to get on the bikes and go out! This is when I realised just how fortunate I had been in stopping to pick up my travelling companions as they now did most of the work, preparing the bikes for practice, under my supervision, as I just sat in the shade until it was time to go.
Once on the bikes I actually felt a little better but fatigue rapidly set in after only completing 7 or 8 laps of practice. The fatigue and other issues required me to make frequent visits to the paddock and my personal loo which now had a notice on the door advising that it was permanently occupied! This was very close to the truth!
During my only test run with the short stroke 125 back in the UK on the Hogg’s Back, I had not exceeded 7000 rpm as all engine and gearbox components with the exception of the cylinder head and racing multi spring clutch, were new. Prior to the test run, the bike had only been run up and down Puttenham Lane by Ron Kenwood’ for less than one hour. I now had the opportunity to progressively increase the engine revs on each occasion I went out to practice and on the final session of the day, I took the engine up to 9200 rpm and it was still pulling well!
There appeared to be very little difference between the performance of the long stroke and short stroke engine up to around 4000 rpm but from here on the short stroke was clearly the better engine. For the very first time on the 125, I could hear and feel megaphonitis coming in at around 7000 rpm, the engine would then continue to pull well right up to 9200 which were the maximum revs I was prepared to take it at this stage. With the long stroke engine, it would run out of breath much earlier at around 8400 rpm. The new gearbox and selector mechanism all worked well and the 5 gear ratios chosen proved excellent for this and subsequent circuits in Spain.
After the practice sessions for the day were all over I was feeling and looking very poorly when some of the Colonials decided to seek medical assistance from the organisers for me.