An afternoon inspired by a chat with Jim at Silloth Motorcycle Museum. Jim’s museum is stuffed with old track and road race bikes, several race-winners and several of which he raced back in his day. Jim Smaith’s usual race number was 33 and his home track was at Silloth, run by Solway Motorcycle Racing Club. The key to my afternoon was him telling me that I could still ride the Silloth track on my rally bike even though the surface is so beaten up by use now as an industrial estate. So began an afternoon of track archaeology trying to find the old racing line.
I found the Lido Curve corner almost before I realised. The line felt so much like a track. It was a thrill to ride, even cautiously and with knobbly tyres. There are even the wooden fences still in place. Flat, no banking but the surface is still smooth tarmac under a lot of gravel. Not too difficult to imagine Jim and bikes like those in his collection tearing round that curve and ready for the next one, Holliday’s Corner.
The next couple - the Hangar Bends - were pretty easy to spot as well, my instincts were correct. But I couldn’t place the hairpin bend, the last turn on a lap here, which led to the start/finish line. For a while that threw me right off the scent. I bumped round much of the rest of the former aerodrome amongst concrete forming works, animal feed warehouses and big road haulier bases. But nothing seemed to fit the old track plan of the 1.1 mile clockwise circuit.
I phoned back to Jim Smaith. The hairpin was there in plain sight but concealed now in a crossroads. Take the hard right and you’re on the home straight, left would have taken you in to the pits; ahead is new and leads to a concrete works, which is where I was confused.
Someone’s ploughed a couple of deep gauges in the surface of the home straight, presumably to stop unofficial drag races. Not a problem for an off-road bike though. So I’d found the circuit, ridden a couple of laps even and the original Solway Motorcycle Club Circuit at Silloth joins my list of tracks ridden, plus the Ventoux hill climb in Provence.
Silloth Motorcyle Museum houses a number of bikes of personal interest to me plus memorabilia from Valentino Rossi, loads about Casey Stoner (he was based near Penrith in his days competing in World Superbikes) and many other short circuit and road racers. Also sells good coffee.
RIP Silloth Track 1964 - 1982
Thanks to Jim Smaith at Silloth Motorcycle Museum