The Burt 2015
Initial enthusiasm for a five pronged cam attack on the South Island were reduced by a small chunk when guest Cam had unavoidable wrist surgery in the diary that weekend. So it was with these four overhead cams that Team Velo departed for battle at the Burt Munro Challenge 2015: KTT MKVIII No. 1041 ex Arthur Wheeler, KTT MKVIII No. 1079 ex Leo Andrews, 1934 MT5001 ex Bill White The Big Velo, KTT MKIV. Cocking talented and somewhat battle scarred legs over such splendid machinery was Squadron Leader Price, Brigadier Biber, returning to active service, Captain Craig-Smith and Squaddie Swallow. Tank Commander Thomson of the Royal Engineers had our backs and over the top we went, showing no fear in front of the Southern enemy and not selecting top gear until seeing the whites of their eyes. Etc. Right, enough of that. First battleground was the Bluff Hill Climb—a minute or so of steep road littered with bumps, cambers, springs (wet ones not bouncy ones usually) and enough consistent tar seal in the central sections to encourage a bit of enthusiasm on cold tyres. Brigadier Biber treated the strong Southland crowd to the delights of an open megaphone as he trumpeted The Big Velo up the hill in fine style, followed by Sqd. Leader Price entertaining the punters by showing them how to deal with a seized motor while travelling with rapidity. Tank Commander Thomson was looking all too relaxed and was thus relieved to have some fettle on his hands; a seized rocker arm on MKVIII No1079 was subsequently discovered and re-assembly was a matter of course thereafter, the Royal Engineers maintaining impeccable high standards despite unfamiliar working conditions at the front line. The new RV was Teretonga race track, zero eight hundred hours, Friday. With the enemy in good spirits, battle was delayed until the Saturday and the day was spent exploring the trench system then tweaking and polishing weaponry. The Squadron was buoyed to full strength later that evening when Captain Craig-Smith and Squaddie Swallow arrived late to the OP after the Hun had delayed their travel. Battle day dawns with typically bright Southland weather and troop welfare concerns sees a flurry of SPF50 distributed around the barracks of Camp Velo. Unpredictable drizzle and high winds wash this off just in time to put on tin hats and crank up the weapons of war for the first push. The front row of the grid is smattered with cammy Velos but it’s the local defence network of Wing Commander Wilson who enters the fray with typical zeal and vigour adhering to the mantra ‘Rudge it, do not trudge it’. No one had envisaged such a forthright attack from the off and rapid chase was given by the Velo boys feeling out the damp underfoot conditions as best they could. Wing Commander Wilson runs out of ammunition as he lifts his head above the parapet in readiness for turn two, then the Rudge weaponry is down and no longer a concern in this fray. Squaddie Swallow (ex-Arthur Wheeler MK VIII No. 1041) leads Captain Craig-Smith (MK VIII HotteRodde) and together they proceed to break cover and eke a small distance on Brigadier Biber (The Big Velo MT5001) the damp conditions playing havoc with his shrapnel wound. A rogue Indian nudges Squadron Leader Price (1932 MKIV KTT) out of formation flying and the battle ends in this order with no further injuries sustained. Civilians report of a ‘bloody good show what, what’ and sustaining rations are taken onboard by the main protagonists during the interim period between bombing raids. The Velo weapons of war are all still in fine fettle, minor alterations are attended to by Tank Commander Thomson of the Royal Engineers, his experience in the fray detailing such matters in an unhurried methodical manner bringing re-assurance to all prior to the next push. With the enemy Rudge not sighted on the horizon Team Velo leave the trench in a confident air for the second onslaught, their makeshift bottle lights glowing dimly at the rear as per blackout regulations dictate. With a dry battleground now present there is a major offensive from the off, led superbly by Captain Craig-Smith of the Muriwai Panzer Corps, his friendly fire across the bows inspiring the Velo troops to give rapid chase. Squaddie Swallow pulls up to the charging Captain but despite his best efforts at sharp shooting from the front, he is overtaken with little time remaining and trails Captain Craig-Smith to the line, Brigadier Biber follows and Sqd. Leader Price comes in next. Back at the barracks the young Squaddie is overheard conversing with the Royal Engineers advising the sending of the following message back to HQ by morse code: 6 bullet magazine box more effective than 4 bullet. Recommend for all future reconnaissance or undercover missions. Out. The advance front marches north to the new Invercargil Street Circuit; the conquering Velo team are in positive spirits but under no illusion they are still in unfamiliar territory with some cornered locals ready to fight, finding their way to the battle and intent on making their mark on the gold striped invaders. Wing Commander Wilson of Team Rudge is spirited in advance of the day despite an all-night onslaught on his gearbox. Brigadier Biber is in steely focus from the sunrise, Squadron Leader Price conveys a calm reassurance about the barracks but the eagle eyed observers can discern an ever so slight query of expectation in this normally reserved countenance. Tank Commander Thomson of the Ngaio Ngineering Corps stirs his morning brew with his preferred imperial allen key, his mind whirring constantly attending to the insides of the creations he has assembled and is about to watch disappear into battle. Captain Craig-Smith and Squaddie Swallow head out on advanced reconnaissance gathering and walk the new track slowly and methodically taking note of blind spots, surface conditions, raised masonry and the like. Some concerns are muttered under breath in dark corners but cowardice is not wanted to be shown in the face of the enemy at risk of a court-martial; so after using the Signal Corps to contact the clerk of course regarding the line of sniper sight through the back straight chicane, any matters of burden are discarded and battle lines get mentally formed. Squaddie Swallow, still fresh from overseas service at the Isle of Man, takes to the new battleground with relative comfort and puts the Wheeler bike on pole, narrowly ahead of Captain Craig-Smith, Brigadier Biber and Sqd. Leader Price. The rogue Indian is going well piloted by Field Marshal Munro and he is joined today by Flying Officer Friskin who is seen pushing not flying at the end of qualifying; the Indian Engineering Corps deciding to return this bike to the barracks for the day. Gearings are deemed appropriate for the new terrain and Tank Commander Thomson assures Squaddie Swallow his mount will take a bit of clutch slip if required during the heat of battle. Tyre pressures are measured and tweaked, fuel is added and then each soldier retreats into his mental battlefield of solitude ready for the command to arms. Captain Craig-Smith again heads into the fray with impressive zeal, inspiring a focused chase to commence behind. Squaddie Swallow can hear the megaphone of Brigadier Biber as he follows the smooth navigation of Craig-Smith between the bails, kerbs and catch fences. With a lap to go Swallow squeezes past on the brakes and makes a dash for the line, Craig-Smith comes in second with Brigadier Biber a fine third. The rogue Indian is being ridden better and better by Field Marshal Munro and he is within a sniff of the Velocette enemy, Squadron Leader Price following home for fifth. The final push is signalled for and all artillery is wheeled out once more. The eyes of the boys from the Velo barracks suggest no holds will be barred and friendly fire is a thing of previous wars. ‘Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.’ With preference given to the latter. Captain Craig-Smith makes his customary rapid escape from being imprisoned on a lonely start line, and Brigadier Biber gives experienced chase into turn one, followed by Squaddie Swallow and the rest of the escapees. Biber appears to come loose on some shrapnel and he slows across the tops slightly allowing Swallow to move alongside, his gaze fixed firmly on the disappearing Craig-Smith. Within a lap he is on his rear wheel and they are both holding nothing back going from kerbside to bails back to catch fence, this the final battle of the weekend war. Swallow makes a move past and Craig-Smith fights straight back, the contest is too close to call, the conscientious objectors are now drawn into the elegance of battle, their hearts stirred by the advancing Velo boys leaving nothing behind, it’s all out there and they’re surviving this moment on instinct and wit. At the close of the battle Squaddie Swallow leads across the stripe by a bikes length from Captain Craig-Smith, Brigadier Biber a close third, Field Marshal Munro from the Indian Army is fourth with Squadron Leader Price close behind. ‘One more dance along the razor’s edge finished. Almost dead yesterday, maybe dead tomorrow, but alive, gloriously alive, today.’ The conquering Team Velocette retreat from the battlefield content with having given their all and then some. The girder fork territory rightfully claimed with the crest of the golden black tanks.
Words: By RonDine
Photos: Iona Gibbs, Shaun Waugh
Desktop publishing: Shaun Waugh MagentaDot Brands