This bike was first created as a Sprint machine in 1963 by 17-year-old Apprentice, Richard Goater although he got assistance with the frame welding. Not bad for a teenager!
Based on a 1959 Ducati 200 Elite motorcycle it was raced from 1963 up to 1967, when it was left unused and lay hidden for 47 yrs.
In 2014, the bike was sold to Tim Hart who used it to successfully promote the Ramsgate Sprint revival of 2015. It’s since been used to promote other bike events around the East Kent area and most its days have been spent in the care of Dover Transport museum. The bike was never a runner.
With Tim planning on emigrating, it was time move the show piece on – first, for a short while, to ex-BSB mechanical guru Steve Taylor and then to the current owner, Stephen North, in February 2020. The main aim was to, once again, use it as an iconic promotional piece - this time associated with the Heritage Sprint at Betteshanger Park. However, Stephen is a bike tinkerer who likes a challenge and of course the question was soon asked “Would it would run again?? Well, with 2020 the year of Covid19 and time on his hands, the task was underway…. I
Richard Goater originally built the machine, 1963/4 (aged 17) !! First raced 1964 with the intention of competing against the likes of Des Heckle, Adrian Reynard, Fred Wells etc. in the 250 class. It was campaigned for about 4 years but without huge success
Richard said “I had great fun with it and also learned a lot about engineering along the way. It was quite innovative in its day being supercharged and both engine and cycle parts were continuously developed during its racing life. The frame started as a “duplex” layout but was later lowered and lightened, the original bottom tubes being removed in favour of the current layout.
There were 3 different types of fork used, culminating in the use of leading-link units based on a Continental 50cc machine of unknown parentage. (these can be seen in some of the earlier pictures)
The engine was originally from a 1959 204cc Ducati Elite and bored to accept a BSA Goldstar (CB31 part no (BSA#65-2294)) dope piston giving it 230cc as well as being twin plugged, and fitted with a welded and reground camshaft to my own specification. Fins were shaved to suit running on Methanol. From memory I went for more lift but less overlap than original and translated my own figures onto a standard cam which I had built up with araldite and reshaped to make a pattern for the cam-grinder.
The frame was constructed from 14g T45 tubing, and although I basically did it all myself you will probably be relieved to hear that an experienced welder bronze-welded it all together. Apart from a later frame/fork mod these details remained through the life of the machine.
The engine was revised each year:-
Mk1:- A very neat (but not very durable) 250cc'ish rotary vane compressor was mounted on the primary cover and directly driven off the end of the crankshaft through an internally toothed coupling. Carburation (methanol) was by 1 1/8" WalPhillips fuel injector. In this form it ran numerous times at RAF Topcliffe and once each at Esholt and Santa Pod. It occasionally reached the finish line without breaking either a tooth coupling or the compressor itself. The compressor breakages were terminal resulting in having to buy new ones, which at £5 was more than a week’s wages for a poverty-stricken apprentice. After about 3 broken compressors a re-think was essential.
Mk2:- As well as a different compressor arrangement for 1965, I decided to convert the heavy duplex down tubes to a single tube, at the same time fitting shorter, rubber element forks (these were from an obscure 50cc French moped). The compressor was now a rotary lobe type of about 210cc displacement, mounted behind the barrel and driven at a little over engine speed off an extension to the crank via V-belt. WalPhillips fuel injector again. This compressor was capable of any engine speed without self-destructing and should have been better - but wasn't!
It somehow never developed the power of the Mk1. In this form it ran mainly at RAF Topcliffe. More re-thinking was necessary!
Mk3:- This time a second-hand Roots compressor was fitted (as opposed to the Shorrock C75 which was desired but way beyond my financial means!). This compressor was mounted in front of the motor driven by toothed belt with a speed reduction. A hybrid homemade SU/WalPhillips injector was fitted. Whilst being exceptionally reliable this arrangement did not produce particularly good power, probably due to the compressor being a bit worn out and not efficient at the lower speed. This, in addition to my homemade injector being very difficult to set up and the induction tract being a bit too long, resulted in the bike only having a couple of outings in 1966 (again at RAF Topcliffe).
"By now I was losing interest and moving on to other things, so it went under the workshop bench from 1967 until Bonhams auction (in 2014). Whilst I had the privilege of competing against some of the top racers of that period, I did not pose much of a threat to them! The benefit to me was the engineering challenge, more than riding the bike. "
"I seem to recall its best time was in Mk1 form and was the wrong side of 15secs!” (Richard Goater)
Tim Hart purchased it from at Kempton Park bike jumble in 2014 and it was cosmetically rebuilt as a promotional tool for the 2015 the Ramsgate Sprint Revival which was a great success. It has always been a part of the East Kent Classic motorcycle club as a promotional show piece.
However, despite best attempts, the Ramsgate Sprint event wasn’t run again but the machine was taken to many shows promoting classic bike events including the 2016 Ramsgate Rev Up and 2017 Bikes at the Bay at Sandwich in Kent.
Since then it’s spent most of its time in Dover Transport Museum.
In 2019 it was first used to promote the Heritage Sprint, but sadly the event had to be cancelled with the site owners going into administration.
Meanwhile with Tim Hart moving aboard it had to find new home and Steve Taylor bought it with the intention of restoring it and running it at Pendine Sands. Alas Steve’s ongoing health issues meant this was not going to be a realistic project.
So, Stephen North took on the task and broke into his piggy bank. (despite his wife protesting that it was an ugly beast and yet another bike taking precedence over a new conservatory!)
Come 2020 and once again saw it out and about promoting the 2020 Heritage Sprint at Betteshanger Park. This time with new site owners and a drive to make it happen. Then an import from China arrived and everything in 2020 was put on hold. ☹
Roll on 2021 .
Since the 1960’s It has been a non-runner with a few engine parts missing (main components of the supercharger installation, clutch, kick-start etc) and Tim had never planned to get it going or riding it. However, the frame has been powder coated and new engine plates cut, tiny tank added, new seat fitted and generally smartened up. It looks the part, but wouldn’t it be great to get it fired up …even if it didn’t set any records.
So, would it ever run? The simplest solution would be just to replace the engine with something else. That’s the easy route but then it’s not the same.
Stephen outlines the challenges ahead
First, that front end needed a rethink! While the wheel/drum was acceptable the step-thru style leading links suspension was seriously worn, and top and bottom head bearings looked borrowed from a push bike. (turns out they were - and a few balls short!)
The engine initial inspection revealed that part of clutch is present, the important bit as the rest of the clutch looked the same as later 250/350/450s (Later discovered it wasn’t !). Turning the engine over made a horrible noise - the crank was turning on the bearings with the main bearing seized solid and possibly a worn crank!
Searching for gears was interesting There might be some inside but they could not be found using the gear lever!
Other issues included an oil dip stick tube replaced by a brass fitment as used in domestic water system, the points cover had been glued on and the Castrol R oil in the sump had reverted into natural crude state, i.e. black goo, in the bottom of the sump. It became clear the engine would require a complete strip down and may well just not run if too many issues are found – there is a limited budget
The rear end was Ok apart from the chain rubbing on the frame. This means the engine would need moving across – and then also repositioning the wheel as well. A frustrating chore.
A fine mixture of decomposed oil and alloy corrosion was not pleasant
However, the good news was the head and barrel were in good condition and although the mains were shot the big end was fine - which was a big relief !
The Ducati motor is generally straightforward to work on despite the fiddly shimming required for the bevel drive. Although there are timing mark for the valves, there are no marks at all for the ignition - and the points are the other side to where the timing disc goes which doesn't help.
The hunt started for the missing clutch centre drum. It turned out that the 200 Elite motor which was made for only 2 years employed a totally different clutch than all the 125/175 and 250 singles of the time. Bugger! One was eventually tracked down in Holland and its wasn’t cheap.
Now we have a complete clutch – and big end -thanks to Adrian Smith for making up the spacer where the alternator and flywheel should have been. .
By the time the engine was complete, covid-19 had done it worst and the Heritage Sprint for 2020 had to be cancelled. So, with no kickstart and not trusting the well-worn mechanism anyway, further engine work was left until some starter rollers were located.
With great delight the moped forks were replaced by a set of much modified Honda CG125 (big thanks to Roadstar of Dover for these). The original front wheel was machined internally to take proper wheel bearings and the CG spindle and yokes fitted with correct bearings in the headstock. These mods mean the bike is slight taller at the front and about 4 inches longer. The fairing brackets were re-worked to make it more secure and prevent it fouling the bars.
So, it’s a bit different now - gone are the massive 6v coils a proper set of clip-ons fitted new forks with 3cm of travel!! It’s got a carb with all its bits inside and even a working petrol tap!
Finally, on 24th July 2020 the bike was started for the first time since 1967 … it has only taken 53 years and a pandemic to get it sorted!
Follow a gathering at Betteshanger Park on 6th September 2020 where the bike had space to run and move (slowly!) under its own steam, a few issues were highlighted so these are the updates as of November 2020
· The gear linkage is now modified so operation is easier.
· The nice chrome period levers looked OK but in operation were flimsy so have been replaced with modern ones.
· Similarly, the original throttle operation was horrible and the location of the cable meant as the rider laid on the bike the throttle would stick. A different throttle assembly was fitted, and a guard was fitted over the cable to stop crushing it.
· The top yoke has been re-worked in 6 mm ally (from 3mm)
· A kill switch lanyard has been fitted
· The petrol pipe has been re-routed and a new 8mm tap fitted.
· Purchase of kick start ….it would appear a Royal Enfield one fits! - Ducati ones are few and far between and are silly prices!
And finally, it’s had an oil change and nothing nasty lurking there …all ready for 2021
Martin was the key to getting the Sprint Revival back to Ramsgate in 2015.
He pushed hard for the first meetings with Thanet District Council and later set about getting thousands of pounds of sponsorship so the event could be put on for free.
He also arranged sponsorship for the Bikes at the Bay event (2017) and without his efforts the Sprint or other events may never have happened. The Ducati Sprint bike would not have been bought, the Heritage Sprint would still be on the drawing board- and you would not be reading this!! When you next see the Sprint Bike it will proudly be wearing a plaque in memory of the great man.
However, he was also a true Gent, a real character who liked a joke, a chat and was a friend to all and was known to all. He was no bike snob he just enjoyed all of them.
RIP Martin, it was a great pleasure knowing you. You will be missed x