Old boys and proper bikes at the Spa Classic 2012.

Posted: 9 July 2012
by Niall Mackenzie

Read's 76'RG 500
Two ex racers chatting...or maybe simply wheezing
1985 spec but still looks the biz
Ok, up close not so hi tech!
1982 MK7 RG 500 Sean Emmet on the screen but she was mine for the day.
Freddie was faster but I'm better at holding in the 2012 tum

If you miss seeing factory two stroke racing machinery being ridden properly then you should consider a trip to the Spa classic event in 2013. I was the lucky recipient of an invitation to ride there last week and had a blast riding some tasty kit from the past. I went well at Spa in 250cc GPs  but the circuit scared me on the 500s. I once saw Chili go down on the fastest left hander on what was the run back to the bus stop chicane and thought he was a gonner. Thankfully he wasn't dead, but I was pretty useless in Belgium from that moment on. When I rode with Lucky Strike Suzuki at the final 500cc Grand Prix there in 1990 I was just glad to get through the weekend but that said, this time round I had a lot more fun.

So my first run out was on Phil Read’s incredibly noisy 1976 ‘Life’RG500 Suzuki. I’ve always admired the bright paint job but thought this twin shock classic would be a scary beast. I found it quite the opposite as after two laps I was comfortable stopping, turning and accelerating through Spa’s chicanery and off camber downhill swoops with ease. Multiple World champ Phil’s best result on this 100bhp bike was a 3rd in Austria so it was nice to get a taste of how it felt ‘way back when’. The man himself was actually there (is he really 73?) riding with the likes of Spencer, Grant, Polen and the not so old Sean Emmet.

Superbikes from the past also featured this year so when Wes Cooley’s 1985 Yoshimura GSX 750 Suzuki was put under me I was happy to oblige. Cooley was one of the original AMA sit up and beg hard chargers but due to injury had quite a short career. This bike also kick started Schwantz’s career as he won first time out as a young rookie. The 115 bhp motor has a wonderful bark and credit goes to the Japanese, as the gear box felt like it was built last week. My favourite feature has to be the bars bolted on to the forks above the top yoke. You gotta do what you gotta do.  

The best for me however, was a bike campaigned in the early eighties by friend (and recently released from a holiday with her majesty’s) Gary Lingham. This 1982 MK7 RG500 Suzuki felt very similar to and brought back great memories of, the 1986 Skoal Bandit Suzuki which I made my debut on in 500cc GPs. It only makes around 120bhp but being light it delivers a good power to weight ratio so I had a blast punching out of the slow stuff, although I was slightly more cautious through the mental Eau Rouge and the flat out ‘Chili’ lefts.

Spa is within a few hours of Calais, has loads of cheap accommodation and the classic event costs just 35 euros for a three day pass that will get you up close and personal with men and machines. 

The natives speak mainly French but then you can’t have everything.



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Nice one Niall... Jarama next year on an Armstrong ???

Posted: 10/07/2012 at 20:20

Talkback: Old boys and proper bikes at the Spa Classic 2012.