Bike Magazine Readers letters, Jan 2015
15th October 2014
Brian Capper RIP
Brian Capper, Devon, March 2009
It is with shock and great sadness that we report the passing of Brian Capper on Saturday 11th October. Brian was diagnosed with prostate cancer about 18 months ago, and he had been undergoing treatment which for a while appeared to be working. However, late last week he said that the prognosis was not good – two to three months at most. His condition then seriously deteriorated overnight and he died, aged 59, the following evening.
As HLR’s engine builder Brian worked closely with the team from 1983 to 1991, and then more recently from 2009 to the present. His last trip was to Magny Cours last month, and he rightly took great pride in seeing Ian Martin and Stephane Mertens win the race with an engine he had built 22 years ago.
He was a brilliant engineer, the best engine builder in the business, an absolute perfectionist and an all-round excellent bloke. He shall be missed.
Rest in peace, Brian.
16th September 2014
VICTORIES FOR TEAM BIKE IN 4hr BOL D’OR POST CLASSIC RACE
After the rain and resulting tyre controversy which marred last year’s race, a decent result was hoped for in this year’s Bol d’Or Post Classic. Fortunately hope turned into reality as the reunited pro/am rider pairing of Stéphane Mertens and Ian Martin swept to both a class win and overall victory at the end of the two-leg 4hr endurance race at Magny Cours on 13-14th September.
Two classes were introduced for this year’s Post Classic; Class 2 for pre-1991 bikes up to 750cc, and Class 3 for unlimited capacity machines with a 1994 cut-off, (eg. 893cc FireBlades, GSX-R1100s and Duc 916s).
Following long hours of frantic preparation, the team arrived at the circuit with its pair of RC30s now both in Team Bike’s ’85-season livery – Mat Oxley’s for show, Hilkka Salonen’s for go. With warm and sunny conditions prevailing throughout the weekend tyres weren’t an issue, but that situation was further improved by Mertens who had garnered support from Pirelli in the form of Diablo Supercorsa SC rubber.
In qualifying Martin started off with lap times around the 2m:05s mark, and when he’d bettered his target of 2m:00s he probably wisely called it quits. With 11 World Superbike race victories, a Le Mans 24hr win and two World Endurance titles to his credit, Mertens was that bit quicker, recording a 1m:55.649s – good enough for 2nd in Class 2 behind the swift French-entered RC30 of Robert Doron and Benjamin Colliaux, and 5th overall on a grid of 18 bikes.
In the first 2hr race on the Saturday, Mertens suffered a delayed Le Mans-start getaway and lost some 17 secs to the leaders, but before long he was dicing with a Ducati 916 for the lead. Following the first refuel and rider change, Martin then circulated for much of his stint in 3rd position before handing back to Mertens, who now without the faster 916 holding him up in the corners, was able to take advantage of a clear track. By putting in consistent 1m:54s times he fought his way back to the front to take the Race 1 chequered flag with 31.4s and 1m:30s advantages over the two Class 3 FireBlades in 2nd and 3rd places, while also clocking the fastest lap in the process.
Mertens managed a much better start in Sunday’s Race 2, and after more place swapping with the leading 916 he decided to follow the Ducati until it pitted, whereupon he upped his pace to extend the lead before pitting and handing over to Martin. ( You can see a short video of the start on YouTube here. ) Martin then maintained the overall lead, but Team Bike’s pre-planned two-stop strategy caused a slip down the leaderboard. Despite this Mertens was able to fight back to 2nd behind the Doron/Colliaux RC30 which had upped its pace considerably from Race 1. To the delight of the spectators and commentator, at the chequered flag Mertens had recouped a 26-second deficit and, having broken the lap record on the final lap (1m:53.434s), he crossed the line less than half a second behind the winning Doron/Colliaux RC30, with the 3rd-placed Demoly/Odrian FireBlade a further 6 seconds adrift.
So, a 1st and a 2nd for Team Bike, but when the times from the two races were combined, Team Bike’s RC30 was 1m:35s ahead and so finished 1st in Class 2 and 1st overall. The Demoly/Odrian FireBlade came 1st in Class 3 and 2nd overall, with the Doron/Colliaux RC30 2nd in Class 2 and 3rd overall.
Of the original 18 entries, 14 bikes finished both races, the top four teams all completed 121 laps or 332 racing miles in total, while Team Bike now holds the Magny Cours GP circuit’s Post Classic lap record.
The victory celebrations saw Mertens and Martin mount the podium’s top step twice for the Class 2 and outright wins. Not a bad effort for the only British team at Magny Cours, or for an original 749cc RC30 that, apart from the tyres, is still in the same spec with the same parts and in the same state of tune that it was 25 years ago. And still it socked it to more recent, more powerful updated machinery.
But the good news doesn’t stop there… As is already known, after 14 years at Magny Cours, for next year and beyond the Bol d’Or 24hr is moving back to Circuit Paul Ricard and to its old September dates – 19-20th in 2015. Furthermore, we have it on good authority that there will be a 4hr Classic and Post Classic support race, probably to be held on the Friday evening (18th Sept) from 8pm ‘til midnight. Could it get any better?
Many thanks to (in alphabetical order):
Brian Capper Master Engine Preparer
Carine lap scorer
Dave Evans propellant replenishment technician
Karen & Laura helpers
Mikael Lees Team Manager/Chef d’Equipe
Patrik Lees Pit board
Ian Lucas pit crew/mechanic, provider of fuel, transport and tyre warmers
Ian Martin bike preparation, very impressive riding and making it all happen
Stéphane Mertens brilliant racer
Mat Oxley ‘show’ bike owner, race wheels
Pirelli race tyres
Hilkka Salonen race bike owner, helper
Dermot Wrycraft pit crew/mechanic
29th April 2014
HLR RETURNS TO RICARD
Although the team had no eligible or suitable bike for this year’s European Classic 4hr endurance race held at Circuit Paul Ricard on 5th April, HLR stalwarts Ian Martin, Ian Lucas and Brian Howell made the journey down to Le Castellet anyway for a spot of parading with a trio of RC30s.
The results of the race can be found here (congrats to Sweatshop Phase One on their fine 2nd place). The trip to Provence also served as reconnaissance prior to a possible HLR entry into the 4hr race next year, maybe, while there’s also growing enthusiasm for an HLR entry in this year’s Bol Post Classic 4hr race at Magny Cours on the weekend of 13-14th September.
On a non-classic note it was recently announced that, after 14 years at Magny Cours, this year’s Bol d’Or 24hr is set to return to where it should be – Le Castellet, on 19-20th Sept. Hoorah!
Ian Martin aboard the Cherokee-liveried HLR RC30 as raced in the ‘90 Suzuka 8hr.
From left – four RC30s: Hilkka Salonen’s, Ian Lucas’, Brian Howell’s and Patrick Benfield’s of Alf’s Endurance
1st October 2013
TEAM BIKE FORCED TO WITHDRAW FROM BOL D’OR POST CLASSIC
As planned, Team Bike and Phase One Endurance joined forces for the inaugural Bol d’Or Post Classic race held at Magny Cours on 14-15th Sept.
(The Post Classic race is for over-500cc production or prototype machines with at least two cylinders built between 1984 and 1991.)
Having been transported back from Finland, Team Bike supplied the bike – one of Howard Lees Racing’s pair of Honda RC30s (in the team’s ’85-season livery), while Phase One provided the riders – veteran Peter Linden and Hugh Brasher, plus further preparation and the required race support.
Linden qualified the team in third but was having great difficulty getting any heat into the tyres as only road homologated tyres were permitted – a rule which in the continuing very wet conditions caused French star and second-place qualifier Guy Bertin to withdraw his National Motos RC30 before the race even started.
With the rain still coming down, no other ‘legal’ tyres available and with safety very much in mind, extra grooves were hand-cut on Team Bike’s lightly-treaded, road-homologated Dunlop trackday tyres.
In the first of the two, two-hour legs, Peter Linden circulated in second position but was closing on the leading Paris Nord RC30. The Paris Nord machine then crashed, and so at the first hour it was Linden’s Team Bike RC30 in first (22 laps), followed by Patrick Banfield’s Classic Racer Nice RC30 (22 laps) with the MG Competition Yamaha FZ750 in third (21 laps).
However, back in pitlane the team had been informed by officialdom that only road-homologated tyres were permitted and, as Team Bike’s tyres had been modified, they didn’t comply. Much discussion ensued, but, under threat of being black-flagged, the decision was reluctantly taken to withdraw from the race while in the lead.
Leg 1 was subsequently won by the Classic Racer Nice RC30 of Banfield/Carasco and leg 2 by the Paris Nord RC30 of Fleuriel/Doron, with the Banfield/Carasco RC30 taking the overall win by two laps.
Following the discussions with the event organisers, they have agreed to the use of wet-weather racing tyres in next year’s Post Classic race.
Anyway, a big ‘thank you’ to all those who made it possible – most notably HLR’s Hilkka Salonen, Ian Martin, Brian Capper and Ian Lucas, plus of course Russell Benney and his Phase One team.
Maybe next year….
[More photos from this event can be seen in the Latest News gallery]
14th July 2013
HLR TO RACE AGAIN!
Following the recent Bikers Classics meeting at Spa – during which Ian Martin paraded Mat Oxley’s That’s Racing-liveried Honda RC30 (see pic below) – a plan was hatched; Hilkka Salonen’s Cherokee-liveried HLR RC30 is to be brought from Finland and prepared by Brian Capper for the 10th Bol d’Or Classic race to be held at Magny Cours on 14-15 September.
The RC30 will be a Howard Lees Racing entry in the new 1984-1991 Post Classic class and it will be ridden by Peter Linden and Steve Manley. With both riders having raced for both HLR and Russell Benney’s Phase One team, and in tribute to Howard Lees, full paddock and pit support will be supplied by Phase One.
18th Febuary 2013
As reported on 24th June 2009. 'Belgian Herwig Lemmens crashed at 120mph on Thursday's Spa trackday. The battered and bruised Lemmens wasn't up to riding from then on...'. What wasn't mentioned at the time was that the bike he was riding – one of a pair of Harris FZR750s as raced by the Team in 1987-88 – was also pretty battered and bruised.
On 16th October that year under the heading 'Winter Projects '09' we reported that the sourcing of parts for the Harribox FZR would continue, and that repair work would start 'soonish'.
Fast forwarding some three years four months, at the Team's annual reunion on 17th Feb (Dave Chisman's birthday), this year held at the Woodlands Park Hotel in Surrey, the now fully repaired Harribox was displayed in all its former glory. There are a few minor details still to be attended to, but there's no doubt that the bike's fresh paint is to a higher standard that it ever was 26 years ago, and it starts on the button.
Well done and big thanks to Ian Martin for overseeing the project, and to Brian Capper for also skilfully effecting many of the repairs.
It wasn't without a touch of irony that Herwig Lemmens, who'd travelled from Antwerp to be at this year's reunion, received the Dave Chisman Memorial Trophy from Dave's mum Sheila. (The furthest travelled award went to Anne and Zed Zawada who'd come from Warsaw.)
The plan now is to return the Harribox and the '83 season CB1000R to owner Hilkka in Finland before any further damage is done. From there, and along with the Cherokee-liveried RC30, they'll go on display at the recently opened Finnish Motorcycle Museum in Lahti, see http://www.moottoripyoramuseo.fi/en/frontpage/.
The 'before' and 'after' shots below were taken at Spa in June '09 and at the Woodlands Park Hotel in Feb '13.
5th January 2011
Ducati stalwart and Friend of the Team Rob Murray has been rummaging in his loft and has supplied a number of excellent snaps of the Team in 1985, see the Endurance Racing 1980-1985 gallery.
6th November 2010
Following the recent discovery of archives in Howard's Mum's loft, a few additional pics have been added to the Endurance 1980-85, 1986-88 and General Interest photo galleries.
8th August 2010
As previewed below, the Team was represented at July's Festival of 1000 Bikes at Mallory Park and at the Silverstone Classic meeting later in the month.
The lineup at Mallory Park......and at Silverstone!
Mat Oxley's That's Racing Honda RC30 was on display at Mallory, while Ian Martin brought along Dermot Wrycraft's Team MCN Yamaha FZR750. Brian Howell fulfilled a long-term ambition to parade the Team Bike Honda CB1000R and Brian Capper showed up with his giant trophy which served to remind that the RC30 finished 1st in the Superbike Class in the 1990 Le Mans 24hr – a small but worthy result that had long been forgotten.
At a sunny Silverstone Ian Martin paraded the Team Bike CB1000R with ex teamsters Linda Griffiths and Tom Stewart lending moral support. (Unfortunately this support didn't extend to checking that there was sufficient fuel in the tank to complete Saturday's parade...)
14th July 2010
After some 25 years the steel-framed 1983 Honda RS850R, as campaigned by Team Bike in 1985 (see The Bikes section for details) has finally seen daylight again. A feasibility study is currently underway and the outcome is likely to contain the words 'difficult', 'time consuming' and 'expensive', so no change there, then. Progress reports will appear here as and when, but obviously don't wait up. (More, unrestored pics can be found in the Latest News gallery.)
29th May 2010
Festival of 1000 Bikes, Mallory Park, 10th-11th July
Brian Howell and Ian Martin will be parading the Team Bike CB1000R and That's Racing RC30 respectively on Sunday 11th. As many other HLR machines as possible will be on display on both days.
Silverstone Classic, 23rd-25th July
Ian Martin will be parading the Team Bike CB1000R on 24th and 25th. Other HLR machines will hopefully be on display.
3rd May 2010
Well, who’d have thought it. Almost 31 years after Bike magazine’s ‘Renegade Racer’ article appeared featuring Howard Lees’ café racer RD350 road bike, it’s popped up in the media again, this time on the Sydney-based, internationally-renowned Bike EXIF site. See it here:
Shameless plug for Bike EXIF Bike EXIF is “a daily dose of the coolest motorcycles: new and classic café racers, custom bikes, vintage track weaponry and iconic design masterpieces”. Occasionally this means daft choppers and other arty-farty creations with metal grips, car tyres and minimal brakes and suspension, but for the most part the bikes featured are pretty cool, So, subscribe to the free daily email and keep abreast of the important things in life. www.bikeexif.com
8th April 2010
Further to the announcement below we're pleased to report that at Pembrey over the Easter weekend Ian Martin had a 5th on the Team Bike CB1000R, a 4th on his Team Bike replica 350LC, and perhaps most impressively, a 1st in the CRMC's Post Classic 500cc air-cooled class on the repaired but unrestored RD350B Renegade – Howard Lees' first project bike. Well done Ian. Howard would be proud. And thanks to Ian Lucas for facilitating the RD's return to the HLR fold.
Ian Martin & Renegade — 1st at Pembrey, Easter 2010
27th March 2010
In case any visitors to this site should find themselves at a loose end in South Wales over the Easter weekend, they might derive some comfort from knowing that, accompanied by some of The Team, Ian Martin is to race the CB1000R, his 350LC Howard Lees rep and the RD350 Renegade at Pembrey on the Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th April. This will be the Renegade's first on track appearance in over 30 years. For further details see http://www.crmc.co.uk/next_meeting.html
8th February 2010
2nd February 2010
2nd January 2010
Click this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNszX4G6Jlw for footage (by Tim The Team Bike Tourer) of a Team Bike pitstop during the 2009 Spa Classic 4hr endurance race. Stephane Mertens hands over to, er, himself!
25th November 2009
This is a complete no-brainer so please visit the site and sign the petition: Defend Francorchamps!
16th October 2009
Following all the frantic activity in late June and early July there's little to report, except:
Mag cuttings with relevant coverage of Spa and Goodwood have now been posted in the Recent Press Cuttings section of the Photo Gallery pages, just a couple or three clicks from here...
WINTER PROJECTS '09 (NB. these are intended, not carved in stone):
Continue sourcing of parts and expertise for damaged Harribox FZR750. Repair work to start soonish.
Ian Martin to build a replica of the 1982 season Team Bike CB900. Engine details aren't yet known, but it will be built/prepared by Brian Capper, and properly fast – faster than any goddam Moto Bel Guzzi.
A CB1100R frame/chassis is needed for another project, or two. If you know of anything suitable for sale, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A gear-drive HRC RS750/860 V4 motor to be built for the Team Bike VF750F. (NB. This could take until Spring 2020, at least.)
And last but not least, Howard Lees' '75 RD350 café racer, aka The Renegade, had slipped from the Team's grasp, but thanks to Ians Martin and Lucas it's now safely back in HLR hands. No immediate plans for it, other than to re-fit the original TZ fairing and "give it a bit of a tidy-up".
Spa Bikers' Classic, 18-20th June – Ian Martin intends to attend, probably to parade the 'new' Team Bike CB900 rep, unless the cash/support is found to race it in the 4-hour...
VMCC Festival Of 1000 Bikes, Mallory Park, mid July (date tba). Possible attendance with one or more or all HLR machines.
Of course, any or all of the above is subject to possible change.
8th July 2009
Team Bike at the ’09 Goodwood Festival of Speed, and more...
No results to post here as motorcycles aren’t timed on the challenging Goodwood hillclimb (thank God), but suffice to say that the team enjoyed a superb long weekend in sunny Sussex.
Speaking as a humble Propellant Replenishment Technician, I was pretty chuffed, not just to ride the Team Bike CB1000R and VF750F up the hill, but to be out there sharing the course in front of tens of thousands with the likes of Doohan, Biaggi and Corser.
Special thanks to Ian Martin, who slaved tirelessly after his excellent Spa result to prepare the VF for the Goodwood FoS. The VF hasn’t run since Le Mans ’85 and, with its gear-drive race engines not currently together, that meant fitting a standard VF motor for Goodwood (thanks again to Ian Lucas for that). That in turn meant cobbling together a custom wiring loom, fitting newer tyres, repairing/refitting the exhausts and silencers, making the filler cap fuel-tight and more besides. With more time after Spa Ian would doubtless have made up some rear number plates and sourced some front pads that had a little bite when cool. But no matter; a seriously good time was had by all.
Big thanks too to Stephane Mertens who phoned from Belgium on the Friday evening to ask if he could ride the CB at Goodwood the next day. With Mat Oxley elsewhere on the Saturday, that was a complete no brainer. Thanks Stephane for joining us at short notice at both Spa and Goodwood. You’re a star and a true gent.
Thanks also to Big Al for transporting the bikes to/from Spa and Goodwood (we hope the posh Drivers’ Club fry-ups and cream teas provided some recompense) and to Hilkka and Mikael for making the trip from Finland and, of course, for trusting us with their bikes.
As Howard Lees Racing currently has no further plans to participate in high profile events in the near future, thanks should now also go to (in no particular order):
Brian Capper of BGC Performance Engineering for the CB’s engine rebuild prior to Spa and for extracting the VF from the bowels of his emporium.
Brian Howell and Zed Zawada for their varied efforts and generous monetary contributions.
Anne Zawada for her much needed and appreciated catering at Spa.
Jeff and Tracy Turner for the boozy BBQ and accommodation during Goodwood.
FoS consultants David Dew and Hugo Wilson for inviting our two Hondas to the FoS.
Oliver Aerts of Bikers' Classics for his valuable assistance before and during Spa.
Dermot Wrycraft for making the trip from Dubai to Spa (and for building and maintaining this site).
Luc Ghys for the fantastic ‘Peter Fonda and the Team Bike Honda’ photos.
Ex Bike editor Dave Calderwood for some good FoS photos and for bravely sanctioning Team Bike 30 odd years ago.
The current Bike magazine for continuing in similar vein, and to the team’s other sponsors and partners listed a little further down this page, most notably Norfolkline Ferries, Rock Oil and Dymag.
Photos from the Goodwood Fest and Spa can be found in the Latest News Pictures gallery, with recent press cuttings, believe it or not, in the Recent Press Cuttings gallery, with more of both to be added soon.
Finally, biggest thanks of all to the dearly departed Howard Lees and Dave Chisman for starting the whole crazy thing off in the first place. Cheers m’dears – Brands, Spa, Goodwood and the 1980s were all amazing, but hopefully we're not quite done yet.
24th June 2009
Team Bike Top Brits at 2009 Spa 4-hour Classic
Despite finishing a very creditable 5th overall in the third Spa 4hr Classic race at the Bikers’ Classic event on 20-21 June, Howard Lees Racing’s first endurance weekend in 18 years didn’t start well. Intended no.1 rider, Belgian Herwig Lemmens, crashed at 120mph on Thursday’s Spa trackday. The battered and bruised Lemmens wasn’t up to riding from then on so he phoned his old pal Stephane Mertens who jumped at the chance of partnering virtual novice Ian Martin on the ’83 season Team Bike Honda.
Mertens qualified the original, unrestored 980cc CB1100R in 18th (out of 68) but was up to 5th at the end of the first lap of the first 2.5hr leg on the Saturday. Riding two consecutive sessions he briefly took the lead on lap 22 and handed over to Martin soon after. The team’s progress was hampered by the appearance of safety cars and a subsequent red light at the end of the pits immediately after that second pitstop, but Martin completed the damp first leg in fading light in 3rd place.
The track was wet again for Sunday’s 1.5hr second leg, but this time Mertens shot from 18th to 3rd in the first lap. Now that’s class. The bike continued to run sweetly, as did the third and final pitstop, but, after a few scary moments on the damp and oily 7km track, Martin eased his pace and brought the bike home a safe 5th.
Final results are here: http://www.ris-timing.be/~vitesse//4hours/2009/4hr2.htm
The ’83 and ’84 season Team Bike Honda endurance racers (CB1000R & VF750F) will be in action at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on 3/4/5th July.
More pictures from Spa are in the latest news gallery...
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When we were originally putting this site together, some seventeen years after the Team's last race, we didn't suppose there'd be much in the way of news to report…
Howard Lees Racing
10 years going for it