SEASIDE SOUND AND FURY
2015 BRIGHTON SPEED TRIALS
If it's early September, it must be time for the annual National Brighton Speed Trials. This quarter mile sprint event for cars and bikes is organised by the Brighton and Hove Motor Club and the Vintage Motor Cycle Club Sprint Section. It takes place on the Madeira Drive, a seafront public road and one of the few in England that gets closed for speed motor sport.
It's 6.00am on Saturday morning and the road is already closed. Competitors have begun to gather, all wanting to bag a prime spot in the paddock area. The tarmac has a wet sheen after early morning rain, making for practice runs that more powerful vehicles find hard to control; it doesn't dampen the enthusiasm.
The event, which has been running at the same venue for over one hundred years, is renowned for its splendid array of vehicles. Spectators can get up close, chatting to the drivers, riders and crew. There are all kinds of engineering expertise, inventiveness, generous care and boundless enthusiasm - money has been lavished on many of these vehicles. There are those who are having fun on a lesser budget too; especially in the motorcycle classes where you can run a street bike or a classic.
On the face of it, quarter mile sprinting seems easy: up to the start line, max revs, drop the clutch and head for the finish line. But from my fortunate position (in the media enclosure, close to the start line) it was easy to see how the all important get away could lose a rider seconds, if the correct balance between out and out revs and the correct power to the rear wheel wasn't dialled in. The bike could either be underpowered, and bog down, or could use too much throttle, causing the rear to spin up or fishtail.
That's before the need for absolute precision gear changes with the 'pressure' of the commentator, close-up crowds, and those lining the upper promenade with a seagull's eye view, creating nervous moments. Then, under power, the bike needs to maintain as straight a line as possible. Any deviation from this will shave microseconds from the terminal time and speed.
The faster bikes and cars, that contend for the trophies and the top six run-offs, approach the start area. Before moving to the line, they give those leaning over the barriers a display of wheel spin rubber burning, max revs and sound reverberation, accompanied by hot engines and the smell of burnt fuel - a petrol head's favourite perfume!
Disappointingly, the bike entry this year seemed to be down on previous Speed Trials. This may not be surprising, though - at ninety-five quid, this is not a cheap event to enter. Those who do pay, get a practice run and two timed runs. The top six bikes and cars then run off for the top speed honours of the day.
The quickest times were recorded by Craig Mallabone, riding a turbo-charged Suzuki Hayabusa - a big favourite for quarter mile sprinters. He made the fastest run of the whole field, including cars, with an astounding 9.06 seconds, giving him a terminal speed of 172mph. That's right, 172mph from a standing start over a quarter mile. The knowledgeable crowd appreciated and applauded Craig's performance, which was consistently fast over all his allotted runs.
Another turbo-charged Hayabusa, ridden by Roger Simmons, turned in a terminal speed of 159.7. A turbo-charged GSXR1000, ridden by Stuart Donald, was third fastest at 149.1. The fastest car run was made by an Allard J2 with a massive 7342cc engine, in 10.43 at 131.5mph. No contest; but there is, of course, a huge difference in power to weight ratio between the cars and bikes.
Times are displayed the instant they happen, and the seconds covering the first sixty-four feet are monitored too, so that spectators can compare getaway expertise before turning their attention to a big screen for the rest of the run.
If you're into noting long distance dates, the 2016 event takes place on September 3rd.
We hope you enjoyed reading about this event. If any of you went to it, email us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For now though, here's the rest of the images from this year's Brighton Speed Trials:
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