Reluctantly leaving the Hotel on the Tuesday morning but not before again contacting our web master Mike McGarry (MM) to request him to bring out another Parilla head gasket to Spa. My plan was to drive and stay one night at the Nurburgring before continuing on to Spa some 350 miles from Schleiz. I soon changed this plan when I encountered the most appalling rain which continued all day. Giving the Nurburgring a miss, I drove directly to Spa and was somewhat disappointed to discover that 3 out of the 4 local hotels being promoted by the Spa organisers were SHUT and not due to open until the following day! Eventually I found a comfortable B & B in the centre of Francorchamps and settled down for the night.
Arriving at the Spa circuit the following morning, a day earlier than originally planned, I received a very warm welcome from the organisers and was given a guided tour of the new pit and paddock facilities which have been built over the past 12 months, primarily to accommodate the requirements of the F1 Grand Prix circus who are including Spa in the World Championships this year. The new facilities are very impressive but I have my doubts if they are enough to attract F1 back in future years, the competition now between the International circuits being so great.
The following afternoon I was given my welcome pack by the organisers when I discovered to my surprise that I had been allocated one of the new F1 Pit boxes being allocated to past GP Riders and VIPs. The pack included invitations to various parties and reservations for diners at the most popular local Restaurants (Riders to pay)!
Awaiting MM’s arrival later (Mike and his wife Urs were delayed many hours on arrival outside of the circuit) I met up with the same group of British riders and their sponsors that I had had the pleasure of meeting the previous year. That evening we all set off for ‘A Di Mama Di’ for diner when a very good time and meal was had by all, I must admit to putting on nearly 2 Kgs over the 2 weeks I was travelling!
Feeling all alone the following morning I gave up my smart Pit Box (but not my F1 paddock pass which got me in and out of any gate and through the Tunnel under the circuit straight into Francorchamps) and joined the rest of our group in the lower paddock and then started work on fitting the head gasket Mike had brought out with him to my Parilla. Two hours later the job was done and we bump started the Parilla when once again the head gasket blew before I had gone 100 yards!
Packing the bike away in the trailer I spent the rest of the time at Spa helping in the paddock and just watching the other riders perform — that is between eating and drinking! Our crowd all seemed to be riding well and their bikes kept going most of the time without any major problems.
On the Saturday I planned to have a quiet evening at my B&B in Francorchamps but made the mistake of going into a local restaurant for just an omelette – I should have known there is no such thing as a quiet evening in Francorchamps during Classic Bike week! In no time I had been adopted by Graham Salter’s group. Graham who was also started his career as a tool maker now runs an Engineering Company which includes gearbox manufacture. He had 2 or 3 bikes at Spa and kindly offered me a ride on his 350cc TZ Yamaha for the following morning Sunday, the last day at Spa. As you can imagine, I did not sleep much that night!
The following morning came and true to his word Graham had his mechanic readying his TZ for me to ride when I chickened out! Well, I had better explain – I have never enjoyed riding 2 strokes ever since I was thrown off a Scott 500cc twin which sized up when I was riding flat out on a public road. This happened when I was based at RAF Duxford whilst I was completing my National Service. I did not break any bones but it was 3 months or so before I could travel home or walk properly!
On arriving at Graham’s pit the following morning his mechanic and friend Steve was changing the TZs radiator and informed me he was doing this as the bike had overheated whilst running the previous day! well, that was enough for me to bale out, Spa is not a place to ride I bike if you have any doubts about its reliability. But it was very generous of Graham to offer me the ride.
That was the end of RMs first foray back on the Continental Circus & whilst the Parilla wasn’t as reliable as its rider development over the winter will resolve the head problems & move on to producing a more rideable machine.
Postscript from RM
Since returning home from Spa, 2 cylinder heads were sent off for re-machining. We found that in their static state both heads had reasonable flat gasket contact faces but it was clear that through over tightening of the head nuts over the years, the bolt chimney flanges had become badly distorted which we think was the main cause for the gaskets blowing. For now, we are just having the chimney top flanges re machined flat but if this does not cure the problem we may be required to have the 10mm dia head bolt holes rebored and then fitted with capped bushes, there should be enough material in the heads to do this.
A new Ducati type 6 spring racing clutch is now being manufactured and I am hoping with this plus the fitment of the original RM64 type 30 mm bore Dell’orto SS1 racing carb, things should improve all round, I sure hope so!