Friday, 1 April 2011

Joe Potts Desmo part 3 and the 1958 season begins.

The next part of the story goes on to the start of the 1958 racing season. Bob has his 500cc and 350cc Razorblade frame specials (still with a Manx Norton engine, as the Desmo conversion was still being produced). The other Potts team members were Alastair King and Charlie Bruce. Alastair would be riding more conventional Manx Nortons with a standard Featherbed frame. Charlie Bruce would be riding a DOHC 250cc Velocette with a Razorblade frame (like McIntyre’s machines) – I might do something on this bike at another point.
The racing season for the Potts team got underway with the Easter meetings at Brands Hatch on Good Friday and Oulton Park on the Monday Bank Holiday.  The first test for Bob and his 350cc and 500cc Potts specials at Brands Hatch was a disaster. After practice Bob was complaining of a “practically solid” front end. Bob made a good start in the 350cc race, but fell back with the fork troubles. Things fared no better on the 275lb 500cc, with Bob finishing a lowly 11th in the 1000cc race.
Things did not get better for Bob and the specials at the International Trophy meeting at Oulton Park, as he had not had chance to change the fork settings. Charlie Bruce and Alastair King joined Bob at Oulton Park on their own Potts machines. Bob did not enter the 350cc class, so it was left up to Alastair to keep up the Potts team’s honours in his absence. Alastair won the race from Ray Fay and Geoff Duke and set a new lap record in the process. In the 500cc final Terry Shepherd took an early lead from Bob on the 275lb 500cc, with Alastair on his fully faired Potts Manx in third. By the fifth lap King was past McIntyre, and by the sixth Bob had retired, again with fork troubles. By the 14th lap Alastair had taken the lead and went on to win from Shepherd and Geoff Duke. In the 250cc class Charlie Bruce was up against a very tough field including four NSU Sportmax machines. In a great debut for Charlie’s Velo special he was the first British bike home and managed to split the NSUs and finish 4th behind Tommy Robb, Fron Purslow, and Bill Smith (all NSU mounted).
Things had gone very well for Alastair and Charlie at Oulton Park, but there were grave concerns about the handling of Bob’s two specials. On a positive note Bob said the 90mm bore engine was “really flying”. With the Razorblade specials back at Bellshill they were modified. The fork springing was softened and longer stanchions were fitted. The frame on the 500cc Razorblade was also stiffened by adding two tubes that ran from the swinging arm pivot to the top tank rails on both sides. With the modifications being made on Bob’s specials he missed the mid April Mallory Park meeting. At Mallory in the 350cc final Alastair King finished fourth, but he had a retirement in the 650cc final on his 500cc Potts Manx.
The next meeting for Bob’s lightweight specials would be the Silverstone Saturday International meeting. At the start of the season Bob had put an entry in for the 250cc class with the hope that his new 250cc would be ready. With all the modifications that had been made on the 350cc and 500cc Razorblades, work on the 250cc, the Desmo conversion and the Porcupine special had been substantially delayed. In the 350cc race Bob Anderson (Manx Norton) took an early lead with McIntyre fourth on the 350cc Razorblade. By the third lap McIntyre had taken the lead, but Geoff Duke was catching him. Duke won the race with McIntyre in second place. The 500cc race was to be a classic between McIntyre and Terry Shepherd, described by The Motor Cycle as “the most ding-dong struggle ever seen at Silverstone”. From the start Shepherd took the lead with McIntyre on his tail. By the third lap Bob was leading on the 275lb 500cc. By the fifth lap there was a flash of daylight between them, then Shepherd took the lead by half a wheel length, before Bob snatched it back on the 8th lap. At the start of the final lap Bob was leading, but as the pair headed into Woodcote corner they nearly touched, and Bob went into a horrendous slide. The 275lb 500c jerked sideways and went into a heart-stopping snake, but miraculously Bob stayed on. During the slide Bob’s knee and even elbow touched the ground! Due to the slide, Bob lost a few yards to Shepherd and finished second. In all the races that Bob had contested with the 350 & 500 lightweight specials, the machines had always run un-faired. For a naked machine to be battling for the lead at such a fast sweeping circuit such as Silverstone, shows just how powerful these new Potts engines were.
Bob McIntyre on the 270lb 500cc leading Terry Shepherd at Silverstone.
Whilst Bob was at Silverstone, Alastair was in Scotland for the race meeting at Errol. Alastair cleaned up on his Potts Manxes by winning the 350cc and unlimited events.
After the 500cc race at Silverstone Bob McIntyre declared the 275lb 500cc a death trap, as it had nearly had him off in a big way. Bob called the 500cc “a Camel” and told Joe that unless they could sort out the handling issues he would not ride it or the 350cc Razorblade again. Bob believed that the handling issues of the Razorblades came from the shortened front forks. Modifications were made to the front end of the Razorblade bikes and wider section tyres were fitted. The 350cc also had a Gilera rear brake fitted. A peel fairing was also ready to be fitted to 275lb 500cc for the Northwest 200 meeting.  Bob would run the bikes at the Scottish Speed Championships at Beveridge Park and then at Charterhall in order to see if the modifications had cured the handling problems.
Bob McIntyre on the 270lb 500cc Razorblade, leading Alastair King on a Featherbed framed Potts Manx at Beveridge Park
Very wet weather conditions were the order of the day at the Speed Championships. In the 250cc class Charlie Bruce on his Velo special crashed out at the first corner. McIntyre revelled in the slippery conditions on the Potts Razorblades and won both 350cc and 500cc Championships. Alastair King on the other Potts Manxes finished second in the 350cc class and third in the 500cc. The following day the Potts riders went to Charterhall for the Border Road Races where Alastair turned the tables on Bob. Alastair won the first 350cc race, the 500cc race and the handicap. Bob won the second 350cc race and finished second behind Alastair in the 500cc and handicap events. After these two Scottish meetings even though Bob had got good results on the Razorblade bikes, he was still not happy with the handling and he told Joe he was not willing to ride them again.
To be continued.

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