Trials & Tribulations: Running Pegasus Again

As it's been a while since this Blog post has been updated, for those that are interested, this is an account of the trials & tribulations of getting Pegasus to the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed & "Dragstalgia", Santa Pod's Nostalgia event. The National Motor Cycle Musuem invited us to ready the bike for these two events temporarily releasing it back into our charge.

It was a great surprise to everyone involved (more on that later) that the engines on Pegasus first fired-up at Derek's place (after thirty-six years) without too much trouble. As we hadn’t stripped the engines our initial concerns were for the effectiveness of the magnetos, the lubrication & fuel systems, but these worries proved ill-founded - apart from having to replace the main fuel hose from the tank to the Hilborn fuel pump which had perished.

However, after our initial euphoria, everything started to deteriorate as we noticed one thing after another which needed attention, not surprising in some respects I suppose. We had about a month until the bike was due to be transported to Goodwood in mid-July and as it transpired we needed every bit of that time to get it ready. In addition to Derek & myself (Ian) there was Eddie (our original crewmember), Graham and Richard (Derek’s employees) all pitching in at one point or another. You would have thought with all those hands available we would have finished in plenty of time, but not a bit of it, we worked right up to the deadline.

The hydraulic seals in the clutch & brakes needed replacing, along with the blower belts, oil pressure gauges, primary chain & tensioner, catch-tank plumbing and most time-consuming of all, the front tyre and rear M&H slick. Plus numerous other little things which due to the passage of time needed fettling. Thinking about it, I forgot to mention the timing cover seals which were replaced twice, the second time Graham had to machine some new housings to accommodate a slightly different Viton seal…which proved much more effective in maintaining oil pressure and without the Nitro fuel eating them. Every one of these jobs didn’t run smoothly and there were a few “tantrums” from anyone of us as the days counted down.

As mentioned above, the biggest problem was accommodating the new M&H rear slick. Theoretically, it was the same size as the one fitted to the bike originally, but obviously, over the years the manufacturers mould had been modified to give the sidewall a more bulbous shape, not sure why this came about but it certainly gave us a headache with clearances. Derek and Graham made new spacers for the rear sprocket & rear wheel to enable the chain to clear the tyre, but even then the wheel had to be set-up exactly so, otherwise there was interference between the chain on one side or wheelie bar fixing on the other. Clearance issues also meant having to Jack-up the fibreglass seat. 

Chris Illman, who became custodian of the late Maurice Brearley’s record-breaking “Methemon” Vincent sprint outfit and rides it at a number of events, including Dragstalgia, became our self-appointed “Transport Manager”.  Hence, kindly offering to move the bike on its 10-week round-trip as he had space in his enclosed trailer; this was also being used to transport Georges Brown’s “Super Nero” from the Motorcycle Musuem to Goodwood for Tony Brown to ride.

Pegasus Crew Goodwood

The “Un-Usual Suspects” L-R: Chris "Transport Manager" Illman, Derek, Ian. Eddie & Graham at Goodwood
(Mobile Phone Image)

After all this effort (…and expense) the Goodwood Festival of Speed turned into a farce, at least for us anyway. To cut a long story short, the organisers were not prepared for us to use our normal starting procedure with a vehicle & rollers…on the start line area. This situation was further complicated by an issue of how to get the bike and all our kit down to the start line in the first place! There’s more to it than even this, but to be honest it would take the rest of this blog post to explain! We even had the “Big Cheese” (head honcho) visit us to discuss the predicament, he promised to “sleep on it” needless to say, that was the last we saw of him over the four days…

As running up the hill was a no-go for us, we had to content ourselves with firing the bike up in the paddock, this created a good bit of interest as it was obvious the vast majority of the 100,000 spectators had never seen (...or heard) a Fuel Bike, never mind the double-engine variety. I have to point out, however, that ten-time European Top Fuel Bike champion Ian King was also present, putting in some spectacular smoky launches aboard his 5sec, 1500hp Puma powered machine.

The Drag/Sprint bikes were all pitted together (with the exception of Ian King) “Pegasus” was lined up next to “Super Nero”, which was a unique sight, one I’m sure won’t be repeated in the future. Further along was the Chevy powered “Widow Maker” of the late EJ Potter, aka “The Michigan Madman”. Its current owner has restored the machine to its former glory, he also took to firing it up in the paddock when the punters started to ebb away…they soon came flocking back!

As Graham & Eddie essentially found themselves "unemployed" because we weren't running the bike up the hill, they were asked by the Motor Cycle Museum if they would help out Carl Fogerty, he was riding a couple of the Museum's Road Racing Triumphs..."Slippery Sam" was one I believe. However, it wasn't the stellar experience they perhaps envisaged as the first bike refused to start and Foggy pretty much ignored them, I guess he’s an acquired taste...

Looking back it was still a decent experience, particularly when we amused ourselves in the “Drivers Club” (where we were treated to three meals a day) spotting famous faces from the world of Motorsport. I even got to share the "conveniences" (...bogs) with Hollywood star Keanu Reeves! 

There was a three-week gap before Dragstalgia, but it became apparent when running the engines at Goodwood we still had work to do if the bike was to make a pass down the track. The new blower belt on the front engine shredded itself after only a few minutes running and oil was pissing out the outer crankshaft seals on the gear case, which links the engines on the “drive-side”. So effectively, the situation was still a "work in progress"

The blower belt problem was sorted with brute force by realigning the supercharger with the crankshaft pulley, somehow or other during the preceding 36 years the whole assembly got twisted out of line…while sitting in the museum!  It wasn’t practical to replace gear case seals, instead, we decided to increase the size of the breather and run a transfer hose to the oil catch tank in an effort to reduce the internal pressure in the gear case…hoping that would get us by, in the end…it didn’t.

Come the Saturday of Dragstalgia, Derek got “suited & booted” and we took our turn on the rollers, only for one of the fuel lines to give way during a quick burnout. This put pay to any further running that day as it was also obvious our fix for the gear-case hadn’t worked, there was gear oil all over the drive side of the bike. We now believe the gear case was being pressurised from failed crankcase to gear case seals, something that is not a quick fix.

Overnight Derek made up some leather “seals” which were inserted behind the blower pulley on the front crankshaft; we didn’t bother with the rear engine as the loss of oil wasn’t so bad. If this didn’t work, we wouldn’t be able to run, these days the marshals ferociously guard the start line from any oil spillage….no exceptions.

On Sunday we found ourselves back on the rollers, the engines fired up and we pushed Derek toward the line dispensing with the burnout, as the track was so sticky it was unnecessary. Due to some miscommunication & everyone’s consternation, Derek had to let go of the throttle momentarily only for the engines to die right on the start line. We were given a good cheer from the crowd and Derek practised his “Royal” wave; at that point we thought it was all over as we had used up our allotted time spaces. However, on this occasion, the gods were shining down on us and we were given one more try with Derek launching off the line. Nevertheless, from the get-go, it was apparent something wasn’t right as Derek was on and off the throttle all the way up the track which resulted in an unrepresentative time.

Derek 2016 Dragstalgia

Derek riding Pegasus at Santa Pod's "Dragstalgia" in 2016, the first pass since 1980

It turns out Derek was having a problem keeping the bike in a straight line with the culprit (probably) being the headstock. It was something we hadn’t spent enough time on during the build-up to the event.

Moreover, that was it; it was all over….ten weeks thrashing for little result.

Initially that was the way it felt, but actually we had a fantastic response to the bike from spectators & competitors alike and our pit area was swamped all weekend.

The quotes below are typical of the “Ink” we’ve received since the event, these were taken from the American websites “Drag Racing Online” and “Dragbike.com”.

“….One of the highlights of the weekend was the sight of the blown double Norton Pegasus that has spent a number of years gathering dust (well, not exactly, being immaculately polished would be more accurate) at the National Motorcycle Museum. It appeared at last year’s Dragstalgia as a static display and this hatched a plan with the Pegasus team to get it up and running and a year later (and 36 years after its last outing), Derek Chinn was able to wheel it down the Santa Pod track under its own power…”

“….Although the number put up on the board was nothing special, the appearance of the supercharged double Norton Pegasus not just as a static display but as a living and breathing beast was. Derek Chinn and the rest of the Pegasus team had persuaded the National Motorcycle Museum to release the bike to return it to running order and what a splendid sight it was after a break of 36 years. Of course the NMM has another venerable Norton in the collection, we wonder what it would take to get Hogslayer making some noise?...”

 Pegasus Crew

Derek & Ian present John Stein's book to Graham Martin for his contribution in bringing Pegasus back to the Drag Strip 

To cap off the Dragstalgia weekend, the reappearance of Pegasus was deemed as “Moment of the Meeting”, chosen jointly by Eurodragster’s Tog and Keith Lee.
“This award goes to the Pegasus Team after all their efforts in bringing the iconic double Norton back to life once more” said Keith

Consequently, Keith Lee presented us with a copy of the John Stein’s coffee table tome “Motorcycle Drag Racing: A History” which was kindly donated by John himself for this award. As Graham had helped considerably with this project, Derek and Ian decided he should be the rightful recipient.     

After coverage like this....maybe it was worth the effort after all…