The last round of the ESC was held at the small Harz Ring circuit located well inside what was previously Eastern Germany. Although this was to be the final race of the year there were several people vying for top spots in their respective classes, so it was going to be competitive to say the least. Both the ESC and the organisers of this event, the Wotex Scooter Club, had stated from the offset that there would also be a big party to end the season with so as word got out, we had several people asking if they could also join us for the long trip up from Italy. Paul Calder of Scotia (one of the Teams main sponsors) also flew in from Edinburgh for the weekend. The Casa Lambretta Racing Team and Team Parmakit / Barone ended up having to hire two minibuses in the end to accommodate everyone. I had spent the week previous to the race touring around Europe on the Casa Performance / BSG305cc, taking in the Venlo rally followed by a few days spent with the SCK crew in Cologne, so I just had to ride across Northern Germany to Harz. By the time I arrived, there were already a few riders testing their scooters. The track itself was smaller than I’d expected and unlike most kart tracks used by the ESC, not all of it was visible, from a spectators point of view…or lack of, as the case may be. The 1km long track had 17 corners in total, all crammed into a small space. Whilst this could be considered a minor miracle of Communist design, it gave little chance for the ESC riders to get their bikes up to any real speeds. With this many corners, I think the phrase needed is : “it’s a technical circuit”.
Our merry band arrived later in the day and once they had found a decent spot on which to place the groups gazebo’s, they had a quick look at the track itself. It was a good job we had recently shortened the Lambretta’s gearing and made some effort to get the exhaust as high as possible to enable Luca to lean enough to keep up with the Smallframe Vespa’s he was to pitch up against. Once finished at the track we headed over to the nearby town of Achersleben to find our hotel. The sleepy town was more or less what we had expected it to be and whilst it was clean, it wasn’t hard to see they were still recovering from all those years under a different political regime. The most amazing thing was that after 8pm you literally had an impossible job of seeing anyone out and about. The whole place literally became a ghost town. Mad….
Friday morning saw us back at the track and after a few problems with split exhausts for both Teams, we were ready to send the riders out to test the scooters on the tight circuit. With the air temperature being half of what it was on the same day in Italy it took a while for the tyres to warm on the cold asphalt but once done, the riders began to set a pace. A lot of Teams arrived during the course of the day and the carpark began to steadily fill right up. A few regular faces were missing, such as Stoffi himself but there were also several people we had not seen all year. For once there were some more Lambretta’s present to take on the onslaught of Smallframe Vespa’s, the favourite ESC tool. This rekindled interest has caused a few of the dedicated ESC riders to declare that for 2016 they too will bring their Lambretta’s back out on to the track which will be great for both riders and spectators alike. With both our Teams reasonably happy with the way the scooters were performing we headed off into town to look for some typically German cuisine, and promptly ended up in a posh eatery called ‘Il Mondo’. Whilst the food was great it was definitely NOT very Teutonic, nor Italian for that matter, despite the name. Obviously with our arrival being 8.02pm meant that we were the only people present as the locals were still living under their curfew.
Saturday was bright and breezy, if not super warm. Early on, the organisers held the pre-race meeting for the riders and as usual they made special effort to ensure it was mostly translated in Italian for us and English for the lone French rider present. We’d been told that some Greek riders would be coming over to race but they took a no-show, which is a shame. The banter with the riders was good willed and as usual for the ESC it was obvious that everyone was there to enjoy themselves. They are reluctant to change rules and effectively their ‘why fix what ain’t broke?’ method works well. However, one issue the ESC organisers have recently addressed is the fact that over time, several riders have left the two most ‘technically advanced’ classes to compete in other classes, partly due to the expense in maintaining their scooters to remain competitive. As such the Group 4 ‘largeframe’ riders will have the possibility to compete in what will become ‘mixed’ classes. From Casa Lambretta’s point of view, this will put our rider Luca Fuschini in amongst the top Vespa smallframes in Group 2, so he will definitely have his work cut out next year. At Harz, the organisers decided to put the riders from classes 3, 4, 6 and 7 together to test the water before next year’s season. The pre-race proposal to mix the classes went down well with those present. Shortly after, the first qualifying sessions started and the track was awash with a sea of howling two stokes, giving it some. It wasn’t long before a few spills happened and one of these involved rider Christian Rapf who was helped off the track and was visibly not looking too well (it turned out to be a broken collar bone). This was a real shame as he was vying for the top spot in his Class and is one of the best riders in the ESC series. We wish him well and hope he gets well soon.
Our own two scooters were going well and we seemed to have gotten rid of the mechanical gremlins we had been plagued with during the previous races in the Czech Republic. Luca confirmed that the track was hard going as it was ‘a constant corner’ and consequently the underside of the high-level exhaust was taking a real beating. The clutch was also having a hard time thanks to the shortended gearing but now we have fitted the new BGM 6 plate unit, for once we had no clutch related problems at all. Even after some serious misuse, when we stripped it down to check it over, it was still absolutely mint so top work Scooter Center Koln.
Once the qualifying rounds had been completed, racing stopped for everyone to have a quick lunch and then it was time for the adrenaline to kick in as the races proper got underway. The ESC runs 2 races per Group and each actual race runs for 10 minutes + 2 laps. Group 1 was a real dogfight with lots of really close racing at the front of the pack right up to the last corner and if you want to know just how close, winner Albert Heigold crossed the finishing line just 1 thousandth of a second ahead of Hannes Kachel! This would be rectified in race 2 of the same group as he would then come out on top and also earn himself the Group 1 title for 2015.
Group 2 always makes for good viewing and the only fly in the ointment was the exclusion of Christian but even so, the racing pretty much a photocopy of the other ESC group 2 races with Paolo Birtele (who has been given the nickname of ‘The Parmakid’ by the Germans!) losing his pole position placing at the start of both races (by his own admission, he’s “not very good at setting off”) to then have to fight tooth and nail to regain the top spot before the chequered flag drops. Sounds simple but when you have riders such as Markus from Team SIP Stoffis and Robert Leibfarth alongside you, you know you this will not be an easy task. Paolo’s performance in both races earnt him the coveted top spot in Group 2 and this isn’t bad for a rider that had to be shown how a handlebar gearchanger works at the start of the season!
The Group 5 races are always VERY well attended and with the limited costs involved in preparing a machine that will be competitive for racing (as there are limits imposed for both components and power output) it always amazes me that these scooters are able to put down lap times that are only just behind the times obtained by machines with about 70% more power. Go figure that one. The racing was incredible to behold and there were literally only hundredths of a second difference between the top riders. Michael Betz came out on top in both heats but didn’t he have to work for his wins.
For Casa Lambretta, the races that interested us the most were those where our rider was to compete and with 4 different classes all together it certainly was a very full, packed grid that set off when the flag dropped. Luca gained the lead from the offset and managed to hold onto it despite Lutz Hoppner on his very fast, yellow cutdown Lambretta giving him a run for his money. After a few laps Luca had gained a considerably lead and he was home and dry when the flag finally dropped. Just behind in the field it was incredible to see the Group 7 girls riding so hard and certainly giving their male counterparts a run for their money. The victories in these races gave the Casa Lambretta Racing Team the Group 4 title and what’s more, Luca came away with the most points for any rider in the ESC thus giving him the Overall title as well. To say we were pleased with the result was an understatement and something not easily achieved for a ‘new’ Team first time out, in a completely new Championship.
To finish off the day, there was a ‘Best Overall’ race, into which any rider could compete as a non-Championship fun event and this was well attended. The race was eventually won by Luca after some serious dicing with the top Smallframe riders. This was a cracking end to a superb seasons racing and after all the bitterness of last year’s Italian VPI races, the ESC has been such a breath of fresh air with everyone being friendly and welcoming. To see riders getting rounds of applause as they re-enter the boxes at the end of each race sums up the whole series.
The evening do was exactly what had been promised all along and the party atmos was a proper riot. The prize giving for the days racing was carried out, with bottles of bubbly going off, left, right and centre. Everyone got a drenching and something for their troubles with Casa Lambretta and Parmakit providing prizes for the podium winners, as they have done at all the ESC races this year. There will be some big changes for the 2016 ESC season and some new locations. All being well, one race will also be held in Northern Italy, so watch Scootering for details.
On a personal note, we wish to thank all those who have helped the 'Casa Lambretta Racing Team' to compete this year : 'Scotia' security of Edinburgh, 'Lead Sled' of Savignano, ‘Scooter Center Koln’ & 'BGM', 'Motorex' oils of Switzerland, ‘Rimini Lambretta Centre’, 'Romagna Neon' of Cesena, 'Europlast' of Gambettola, 'Barone Tuning' of Cervia and 'PLC Corse' of Holland. Without you all, we wouldn't have been able to race! Thankyou!
Photos courtesy of Paul Calder @ Scotia & Erasmo Bella
Harz Ring GP Race results :
Group 1 : ‘GP Limited’ Class for Vespa Smallframes up to 135cc
1. Albert Heigold (race 1) / Johannes Kachel (race 2)
2. Johannes Kachel (race 1) / Roland Adami (race 2)
3. Roland Adami (race 1) / Wolfgang Ulrich (race 2)
Group 2 : ‘GP Open’ Class for Vespa Smallframes up to 153cc
1. Paolo Birtele (race 1 + 2)
2. Markus Angleitner (race 1) / Robert Leibfarth (race 2)
3. Robert Leibfarth (race1) / Markus Angleitner (race 2)
Group 3: ‘Grand Turismo’ Class for Vespa largeframes up to 177cc
Group 4: ‘Large Frame Open’ Class for Vespa / Lambretta largeframes up to 300cc
Group 6: ‘Street Legal / Beginners Class’ 50cc – 311cc
Group 7: ‘Ladies Class’ 50cc – 299cc
1. Luca Fuschini (race 1 + 2)
2. Lutz Hoppner (race 1 + 2)
3. Stefan Oberreiter (race 1 + 2)
Group 5: ‘Standardised’ Class for Vespa smallframes with specific 130cc engine components
1. Michael Betz (race 1 + 2)
2. Achim Wolf (race 1 + 2)
3. Michael Saetzler (race 1) / Roland Adami (race 2)