A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


Golden Era Championship for 50cc and 125cc Historic machines

Tonfanau race circuit is one mile in length, with a width of 22' 6'' and is run in a clock-wise direction. From the start line there is a short straight followed by a very fast sweeping right hander. This leads into a long, fast up-hill section with a steady left into a very tight hairpin bend. 

From the hairpin exit there is a slight left leading on to 'farm straight' - the highest point of the circuit. This leads into a continuous right that consists of three apexes, followed by a long downhill straight. This brings us to the last corner on the circuit 'paddock bend'. This is a slow 30 mph bend that proves very popular with the spectators because of the elevated viewing area. After approximately 100 yards you are returned to the start line.

Introduction, a précis taken from Dave Clarke's compilation of the club magazine, Chapter 81. 

Tonfanau —opening round at Tonfanau on Easter Sunday: We had 12 Golden era riders listed for Event 2  which had a total grid entry of 19! Sadly we were reduced to 11 on the day as the JayBob Bultaco could not compete. Bob was very apologetic about this.(Jay was however riding in some of the other events). Scrutineering went ok for all of us and then after the rider-briefing it was all ‘go’ as we were event 2 which meant we were the second out on track for the practice session (compulsory to  attend or not allowed to race).

The 50cc machines.....Problems for some; most of the bikes were running ok although needing a bit of fine tuning (Running of engines is not permitted until after the rider briefing). But Captain Jack’s Famos (Alan Leeson and the Kawasaki AR50) was very unhappy and, although screaming its head off with rev's, sadly many other bits of the bike were coming off!

The 'Captain' had worked really hard to get a machine ready for the day but had not been able to ‘shake it down’ with any test runs anywhere, and tooooo many things required the final set-up and Alan felt he would not make our practice session. But Tonfanau threw him a life-line!

Out went the event 1 riders for their practice and within a few minutes all came back in again....’Attention paddock, attention paddock...first practice is delayed due to sheep on the circuit'.

Alan had more time —with great relief he grabbed this ‘life-line’ but to no avail. The track staff quickly the sheep who withdrew and practice resumed quickly....the life-line slipped away.... Alan continued to rectify the issues but unfortunately could not get on track to take part in the final practice session and so could not race... but he helped everyone else for the rest of the day —what a team player! Gremlins hit nearly all of the riders at some point in the day and only a couple of us managed to finish all three races. Picture: The sun was shining, the sheep were grazing (in the wrong place), it would be a lovely day we all thought. Hmmm... #37—the ill fated Famos of Cpt Jack in the front of the Line-up

Mike Theaker was hit with partial engine seizures during practice; on examination of the engine Mike found a section of the Nicasil bore had been damaged and so that was the end of racing for Mike and the Gilera. Pictrure: Before the race and it’s Mike (Connell) leading the pack with Meee next #24, then our old pal Graham Dickinson #51 on his 250cc Ducati; then with white fair- ing #72 it’s Mike (Theaker) on the Gilera...this is practice session.

Mick Smedley had problems with the Van Veen Kreidler which would not rev cleanly and so would not get to the the ‘racing revs’.

Mike Connell, on the AR50 had intermittent problems with the machine going into ‘limp mode’ and then the problem cleared and so shot off again! This was highly annoying for Mike and mechanic Mick Angliss, and was disconcerting for me! Mike had absolutely rocketed past me and then a while later I saw I was catching him—and then overtaking him! What!! Seconds later Mike was again travelling like an Exocet missile past me...this happened twice!  

John Harrison had a great day with three wins —well done that man!
Ernie Parry and the lovely Minarelli went well!
Me? Dave Clarke, What about me? I finished the three races...umm, in ‘last place’...but given the machine problems of others scored some points! I did have an oil gasket problem but managed to contain the oil spill . Picture: Mick Smedley #3 Kreidler and Ernie Parry Minarelli, side by side ...great stuff. With regard to Dave, here he is touching toes with a Ducati 125cc

Now to the 125cc... There were now 4 riders with Jay having had to bow out —Dave Edwards swept the field on the very fast Yamaha TA125 and scored maximum points with the three wins.

This is a great shot of the start line with Steve N  #17, Mike C #77; then Dave Edwards #11 on their 125cc bikes

Steve (Nugent) had a nightmare with his Machin Yamaha giving engine problems in race 1 and then in race 2 he took out the Seel and was going well when, on the last lap I think, he was black flagged!  Steve pulled in on the exit lane just after the finish line and the Marshals came to say they thought there was oil leaking from the machine...no, not oil....petrol?...no, not petrol...it turned out some water had overflowed from the cooling system, so not a hazard after all.

But, by now the chequered flag had dropped to finish the race and so Steve had to be recorded as a D.N.F.

Steve (Bedford) took the Todd BSA Bantam out but, under load the engine was not running right—not wanting to risk severe damage Steve Pulled off track. Steve has said that later he discovered the ignition had slipped and there was no engine damage. Picture: Here we see Steve Bedford (on left) with Mike Clear (Chairman of the ACU Club ‘Marshals North West’) who organisers the Sprints I tell you about...Mike was marshalling on the day 

Martin (Robbins) was riding another of Steve N’s Machin machines. But that developed a cylinder problem and had a partial seizure.

So you can imagine that a lot of time was spent on the grass fiddling and fixing. At one time a rider whom we know (riding in another class)  came to see us.: ‘ Ah, of course it’s you 50cc boys...nothing’s going right!..’
Roll on Round 2 — late May Bank Holiday.

Race Report - First Race Meeting of the Series - Author: Mike Connell

'.....On Sunday 9th April at the beautiful Tonfanau Race Circuit in mid Wales, the new Golden Era Championship for 50cc and 125cc historic machines was launched with round one of the championship.

The super lightweight machines entered into the championship ranged from Dave Clarke's wonderful 50cc four stroke Honda engine held in a Gilera frame through to Dave Edwards' pocket rocket 125 cc Yamaha, who swept the board in the 125cc championship during the meeting.

The day started with a practice of mixed fortunes. Of particular note was Mike Theaker's 50cc Gilera coming in early with a suspected engine issue which turned out to be his chrome plated bore failing and sticking to the piston, seizing the engine twice whilst heading up the Beckett's Rise hill and unfortunately sending the previously extremely reliable racer home early.

Picture: Some of the group: Mick Angliss on left, then Steve Bedford, John Harrison, Alan Leeson, Mike Theaker on right, and in front in red Steve Nugent.

Mike has since reflected on using standard parts designed for a 7000rpm trials engine in an engine producing peak power at 14000rpm.

Previous top finisher in the 50cc historic category, Alan Leeson managed to get through  scrutineering successfully but his machine would simply not hold together in the paddock and so resulted in another withdrawal. Other competitors successfully completed practice and excitement built for race one in a 12 race, four meeting calendar which would form the Golden Era Championship.

Race one was a thrilling affair as the Golden Era competitors headed out for  the inaugural championship race. Dave Edwards on his rocket ship 125cc Yamaha came across the finish line first with a phenomenal average of 68.69mph, only slightly marred by a tantalisingly close best lap of 50.01 seconds at 71.99mph; an under 50 seconds best lap must be on the horizon.

Low capacity stalwart John Harrison was the first 50cc across the line on his bare bones Minarelli, with an extremely respectable best lap of 1:09.74 at 51.62 mph. Ernie Parry finished a mere 0.09 seconds behind John, showing how close of a tussle was happening at the front of the 50ccs.

During the race was back markers Dave Clarke and Mike Connell on his Angliss built AR50 exchanging places multiple times as the more lightweight Dave used his four stroke machine time and time again to pull away from Mike's superbly turned out Kawasaki, only to pull him back in again on the straights. Martyn Robbins managed to blow a head gasket during the race so was a DNF alongside the unfortunate Steve Nugent who was black flagged and Mick Smedley, whose incredibly fast Kreidler seemed to have carburation issues so retired.

Race two saw multiple DNFs as Ernie Parry, Andrew Henworth, Steve Bedford and Mike Connell suffered technical issues. However, Dave Edwards once again came across the line to take the race victory for the 125ccs and John Harrison again took the 50cc flag with a best lap of 1:09.57 to show what his machine was really capable of.

Finally in race three, the same story was told with Dave Edwards taking the 125cc victory and John Harrison once again hitting a best lap under 1:10 to take the 50cc victory. Mike Connell's AR50 seemed to be suffering some running issues, but took second place despite either flying past other 50cc competitors like a missile or struggling to get out of third gear it seemed. 

With round one over, John Harrison and Dave Edwards have stamped their authority in their respective classes, but all riders who made it out took a good points tally and so will be looking to get back in the running for the Golden Era Championship cup at round two at Tonfanau on Sunday 28 May....'

Report author: Mike Connell

Photographs: our thanks to Sylvia for the track shots who has access to the infield as our accredited Club Photographer

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