The Moonlight Sprint
Competitive sprinting is one of the oldest forms of British motor sport and can be traced back to the early 1900s. The aim is to complete the 440 yard or quarter mile course from a standing start in the shortest possible time.
The event is organised for classic motorcycles and cars and is staged on Victoria Avenue with the course running on the land side from West Park towards First Tower. Motorcycles are split into two sections, those manufactured prior to 1968 and those manufactured between 1st January 1968 and 31st December 1980 and within these sections there are numerous classes based mainly on engine capacity and if the
machine has been modified from normal road use etc.
Likewise the cars are split into various sections and classes, the two main sections being pre 1961 and pre 1979. All vehicles and equipment have to be checked to satisfy the official scrutinizers before being allowed to compete and entrants must have competition licences from the Auto Cycle Union and the Motor Sport Association. With sprinting getting a good start is all important, a poor start and you never really catch up, as the clock always seems to run that bit faster when you are at your slowest! Correct alignment and positioning at the starting line is important and marshals are there to help and place a chock against the rear wheel.
Once the green light comes on a competitor has one minute in which to start, during which time care must be taken not to nudge the timing beam, as this will start the clock “prematurely”.
A few hundredths of a second lost in the first 20 or 30 yards can often result in a couple of tenths, by the time the finishing line is crossed. A good start requires maximum revs whilst feeding in the clutch, which is not as easy as it sounds. “Dumping the clutch” too quickly in a car and the back wheels just spin up to no great effect, other than to create a lot of tyre smoke, which may be
spectacular, but not what is really needed for a good time!
With a motorcycle, rear wheel spin is not generally a problem, as virtually all of the weight of the bike and rider is transferred onto the back wheel, which gives good grip, however the front wheel can come up dramatically to produce an unwanted “wheelie”. If this happens the natural reaction of the rider is to dip the throttle, thus loosing power and time, hence riders will be seen leaning well forward over the
tank and handlebars in order to avoid or minimise wheel lift.