Barry Passingham's Scooter Racing Memoirs

Photo from my recent hol in canada, riding a triumph rocket three - gulp

Dave asked me to write down what it was like for me in the '70-'75 scootering days. So here goes.

1969 - 1972: Graduated from very old moped to an old Vespa, I took off half the silencer and caught the attention of the boys down my road who always seemed to be fiddling with heaps of scooter bits in their front garden. These were the Jupps, David and Alan (the two J’s in JJM). They insisted on doing some ‘improvements’ to my Vespa, which lasted till I wrecked it while drunk - (don’t worry, drinking and driving was safe in those days, as was smoking of course, and casual sex).

When I discovered they were going racing with these scooters I asked if I could go with them. Hideously early in the morning we would set off in Ray Gledhill’s Humber Hawk towing a trailer full of scooters. Also with us was Les Barton. Les and Ray worked for Lamba Scooters but they didn’t ride for the shop, officially. Racing was not a totally serious concern for Les and Ray – they were in it for the fun. The Jupps didn’t really approve, they were completely serious about the sport, and as soon as they could they detached themselves, running their own team, JJM. I went with JJM, but enjoyed (and survived) a memorable ‘social life’ with Les and Ray which went on for years after and was a happy time (see below)

I used to do lots of grotty jobs down at the Jupp’s, to help the scooter rebuilding (paint-stripping etc) and to make myself useful (and avoid going to the pub every night) and eventually I popped the question, would they (if I paid for the parts and let them use my parent’s garage), build a racer for me? They did, a real beauty, a 150 Special based on the Lambretta LI 150 with some LD parts, and an engine tuned by Paul Marshall (the ‘M’ in JJM). Alan rode the very fast, light, but brittle 200 Special, which always sported the latest ‘go faster’ development bits, while I benefited from a powerful but ‘previous generation’ reliable machine. That suited me! One of my strengths was that I was kind to engines, (some people are and some aren’t) so I didn’t cause Dave much grief.

I used to go along to Bromley Scooter Club ‘Bromley Innocents’ with Dave, Paul and Alan, they chose that club and not a nearer one I think because it was a successful club for racing, with George Pearce, Andy Smith/Pauline Fowler and Nev/Bev Frost to name a few. Before long some of these names were riding partially JJM prepared bikes because they were so good, although they all maintained their own identity as well.

My first (newcomer’s) ‘race’ was at Lydden Hill, at the tail-end of the 71 season. I went wide at the bottom of the hill, touched the grass and gracefully fell off, bruising my pride, but we straightened it out and I did the other race later that day. The next meeting was Snetterton (the days of the huge ‘Norwich Straight’ with the hairpin at the end) and I managed one lap before breaking down – season over. Very frustating.

I have to be honest here and say I can’t remember the sequence of events after that, I didn’t keep notes – but I’ve just dug the trophies and a few programmes out of a box in the garage, which some mice clearly visited some time ago – and these will help jog my memory – anyway I recall it was a good feeling when winter (and all the talking) ended, March arrived and the season started, with meetings at Lydden (often), Snetterton (often), Cadwell Park (occasionally), Croft Autodrome, Llandow and Castle Coombe (rare as rocking horse shit). In between these race meetings – and mainly to develop the bikes, we would attend straight line sprints (standing start quarter mile) at…. (help me here guys), and the few twisty sprints. I didn’t enjoy the twisties (see photos) but the straight liners were ok. On one occasion I had the privilege of piloting Chas DeLacy’s very fast and beautifully presented Standard Lambretta, (which he was unavailable to ride but wanted development tested). All I had to do was get it off the line well and keep my head (and the front wheel) down. The bloody thing bloody FLEW. <Ear to ear grin>. I won!

Looking at my ‘gongs’ now (smelling rather funny, together with the old programmes, in a box in the garage) – it looks like I was still a newcomer into 1972, then got some decent results between 1973 and 1975,and somehow picked up the nickname ‘Passo” (nicked from Renso Pasolini’s ‘Paso’). I have to say I was no scooter anorak, I had no mechanical ability and scooter racing was only a part of my lifestyle. I couldn’t have competed in the sport at all were it not for Dave Jupp.

On a personal note - I really enjoyed the risks and thrills and even the long journeys of scooter racing (boy we had a loud music system in that van), but now I do recall those ‘scooter years’ were also enjoyable for other reasons as well, like sharing a rat-infested house with some boozy mates, charming young ladies, blaring The Yes Album after the pub, Zepplin/Floyd, long hair, ‘Ogri’ tee shirts and all the usual stuff a healthy single lad of my age would get up to. (Nothing really changes does it?) I had a Suzuki 380 GT and I swear the only reason I didn’t kill myself on it was because I could get my speed kicks racing scooters, so didn’t have to go silly on the roads – well not much. Anyway….

Alan gave up at the end of ‘74 I think, and Dave and Paul concentrated on getting Nev Frost progressing on his career on the JJM 350 Yam. The bike was wickedly fast and Nev was gritty, motivated and stylish and became “Lord of Lydden” amongst other good National class results. I think he gave up racing because he wanted to live. Good call Nev.

In order to keep me scooter racing, Dave looked after my 150 Special’s maintenance at my house, but I would travel to meetings with the bike in George Pearce’s excellent van/bus. And we’d go the night before and sleep in the bloody thing. Beer consumption was essential for sleep. I swear he would try to de-tune me by making sure I had more beer than him, but hey, I didn’t worry too much. Adrenalin kills hangovers dead. George would deal with my bike at the meeting if there were any problems, and he and I had some good battles, as we were both in the same class, on 150 Specials.

One notable race was at Llandow, where George and I swapped for first place, right through both races. (3rd May 1975 – I just dug out a musty smelling results sheet). He sportingly helped me, between races, to gear down my bike because it was under-revving on the fastest part of the circuit, (later we found it had lost a piston ring – damn!). However, he beat me fair and square at the end of both races. Colin Hart (who was able to watch, having won in Group 1) declared they were really thrilling races (or words to that effect) – and George and I had the sort of day that one always hopes for, wired up all day and laughing all the way home. Fab. p.s. I took the lap record (for Group 5) in one of those races, over 69 mph, for a scooter that is a bloody fast lap. Mind you, Mr Hart did nearly 63mph in Class 1! (There’s a very sharp chicane at Llandow these days, and I can understand why.

Dave decided, with my agreement that we would push up into motorcycle racing in the ’76 season, and he guided me into buying a second-hand Mach 1 Ducati, to which he then gave the JJM breath of life. One good year, with variable results, including a fifth in an endurance race (well, the Snetterton 50 miler) was all I had done when my job relocated to Manchester. No more Dave, no more racing. I still held a racing licence in ’77, it was like I couldn’t bear to admit it was over.

So - unless you count the Moped Mayhem that Paul Marshall dragged me into at Peterborough Showground, and the annual karting challenge team I enter representing my employer (with Les Barton and his son as ‘ringers’!), or Motorcycle Racing Schools, or hurling my 1150 Beemer round Llandow, or driving a single seater round Rockingham on the banked oval last year….just a minute!….I never really stopped after all!….I just got a bit grey on top. Hey, do they have scooter racing for the over-fifties? Because it seems I’m still addicted.

If you haven’t given up from boredom yet, have a look at the photos I dragged out of my old album, and Dave Tooley kindly put up on the site, and like I said, if you’ve got any stuff like this, get in touch with Dave.

Cheers, Barry

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