A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


HAPPY MEMORIES by Roy Arthur Nicholson 

Written  by Roy for the Racing 50 Motorcycle Club 1962

Pictures from the Editor's Scrapbook

Entries had been accepted, bikes prepared and numbers painted. The usual shortage of money indicated that we, i.e. Charlie Surridge and myself, should travel in one vehicle, so about 6.5Opm on the Friday evening we were busy loading the two ITOMs, tools, riding kits, bedding, food, and our two persons tent into my very second-hand 5cwt Ford van. Eventually we had almost disproved the old saying about “quarts into pint pots”! With all the gear on board, 

Charlie had but a small space near the rear doors in which to seat himself. Surrounded by toolboxes, oilcans, and ropes securing the bikes, he had no room to straighten his legs and precious little clearance between his head and the roof. Hoping we had forgotten nothing, we set off in a northerly direction, destination Cadwell Park. (Picture: Cadwell Park in 1961).

We threaded our way patiently through London’s traffic, Charlie shouting directions from somewhere in the back. Before very long he was shouting other words as well, for every large bump in the road caused him to leave his seat and clout the roof, smartly with his head! London was well behind us when we stopped for a welcome cup of coffee and a chance to stretch cramped limbs.

After covering two-thirds the distance we encountered thick fog patches, and this combined with feeble headlights made our progress even slower and more painful than normal. Poor signposting did not make things any easier and once we carved all of five miles only to return to a familiar looking road junction. For mile upon mile the wretched mist persisted then I noticed no intelligent response to my conversation. A quick glance behind showed Charlie to be almost asleep, his head nodding lower and lower until, bump! He was sharply awakened as his head fell against the petrol tank of the bike in front of him. He was tired though for he simply started the performance all over again. 

We eventually drove into the paddock about 2.30 and parked beside Phil Horsham’s Mini-Morris and trailer. His bike reminded me of something bought from a supermarket all wrapped up in polythene sheeting. Through the steamed up windows of the Mini, I saw an untidy bulk of blankets and coats, which I assumed to be Phil himself. (Picture of Phil relaxing between races) It was very cold when we stepped out into the stillness and the moon now shone brightly through the trees, showing up numerous vehicles already in the paddock and all covered in heavy dew. Poor Charlie had great difficulty in straightening up after being bent double for so long, but we set to work unloading the van without too much noise, and. very soon had our heads down. 

The Saturday dawned bright and chilly and we were hardly awake before everyone in the paddock was busy making sure their machinery was tight and tidy for the scrutineers. The fifties were due out for practice first and we sat astride our bikes trying not to shiver with the cold, hoping the gate would soon be opened to start the session. The circuit at Cadwell is relatively narrow in places and with its surprisingly steep ascents and descents one can only describe it as hairy. I was glad I had ridden there the previous year, Practice passed uneventfully. The ITOMs performance seemed satisfactory and this year the gearing seemed about right. It was clear where the main opposition lay though; Charlie Mates (picture right) on his then newly acquired “works” Itom was flying, and the way in which record holder Howard German was going was downright disheartening! 

We returned to the paddock, checked things over and then had a meal of sorts. When the sun began to shine warmly, we felt really glad we’d come. Spectators came in their hundreds and the grassy slopes of the park were soon covered by colourful crowds. But they were soon forgotten when we found ourselves on the grid, tensed, waiting for the starter’s flag to fall. (I still get palpitations merely by thinking about a Union Jack hoisted  … There was a field of about two-dozen fifties, mostly ITOMs, and the afternoon’s racing began in earnest when we left the line in a haze of blue smoke. For some seconds there was an empty road ahead but first the Sheene Special, then Charlie Mates crept by as we went up the first hill. We sped down the other side in “line astern’ formation, closing right up as we braked for the Mountain, then still in close company we went flat-out through the swervery until the approach to the Hairpin. Along the slightly uphill straight the two leaders opened up a gap of fifteen or twenty yards, but when we arrived at the Hairpin again I was once more right behind them. 

So for the second time up the straight I decided to try and stay much closer by getting a tow in Charlie’s slipstreams. This I managed to do. A quick glance behind halfway up the straight showed the remainder of the field to be some 200 yards behind. Approaching the Mountain for the third time and last, Howard started braking as usual, but Charlie in attempting to out brake him, wobbled violently on the outside and looked for all the world as though he would end up in a heap. I was amazed to see the mad manoeuvre had succeeded, for Charlie was way up the Mountain in the lead. 

We remained in this order till the Hairpin and then I thought my chance had come. Howard went very wide so I immediately dived through on the inside. However a fistful of throttle in low gear with the model leant over unusually has but one result. This occasion proved no exception, for the next thing was me lying on the ground with the ITOM on top of me facing the way I had come. The look of horror on Jack Wadkins face as he rode round me I shall never forget! (Jack, incidentally, had retired and was towing in). 

I still had hold of the ‘bars, so in a moment I was up on my feet taking a quick look over the model. Nothing much amiss apart from a bent lever, so I pushed off jumped on the seat and swung my leg over, only to have another anxious moment when my right foot found no footrest! I crossed the finishing line still in third place and still an appreciable distance in front of the fourth man. Later I learned that the wily Howard had caught Charlie and had pipped him just before the line. Charlie Surridge had finished seventh and was well pleased with his efforts. 

After a bit of first-aid to my knee, we watched some of the big stuff and were very taken up with the sight of 500 Manx Nortons breasting the top of the Mountain with their front wheels aviating. Then came the weary job of reloading the bikes and gear on the van. This completed, we collected the prize money, topped up the van with yet another quart of oil and steered for home. 

(Picture: Fast work for the "50's". Howard German on the streamlined Sheene Special chases Roy A Nicholson during their race long duel at Brands Hatch on August 21 1962. German just won at 56.36 m.p.h. )

There are scores of enthusiasts who can tell similar stories, They are not necessarily spectacular but always memorable to those concerned, and if you have not yet experienced your first seasons racing, I am sure you will find it fun and come back for more. 

Good Luck. RN.1962

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