The Red Wine Racing RWR1: 253.5 lbs, 71 rwhp…
Today, we’re thrilled to share one of our favorite racing stories to date, the saga of CNC programmer Martin Jarvis, who decided to take up circuit racing at the age of 40. The journey started during a workday lunch, men discussing what they’d like to do before they die, and Martin said he’d always wanted to have a go on the track:
“And my colleague said, ‘well why don’t you?’ To that I had no answer, so that night I applied for a race license, joined a club and never looked back.”
Good on you, Martin! That’s the kind of lightning decision that’s started many an adventure throughout history. For Martin, it led to an 11-year career in the British Supermono association, competing on air-cooled big singles like a Yamaha SRX 600 (his first year) and a Suzuki DR800-powered Harris in subsequent seasons, racing at a privateer with no full-time support. While most of Martin’s biking friends weren’t racers, he found a whole new family at the track:
“I would turn up to race meets on my own. But made lifelong friendships as thankfully the Supermono class was more of a community and all the competitors would often offer and give help and advice whenever they could and it was gladly received.”
Then, in 2009, Martin upped the ante, giving himself a whole new challenge.
“In 2009 there were two small teams who had made their own chassis and they convinced me to do the same.”
He sold all his bikes but his MZ Skorpion (perfect runabout for a Supermono racer!), and bought a KTM 690 SMC for the engine and electronics. What follows is one of our favorite stories to date, which includes many a long night in the shed, the creation of an original Red Wine Racing RWR1 chassis, a host of doubts and criticism to overcome, the all-hands-on-deck help of the race community, and a bin-it-or-win-it finish for the ages.
We don’t want to spoil it ahead of time, so we’ll let Martin himself tell you the story himself.
KTM 690-Powered RWR1 Supermono: In the Builder’s Words
As a youngster I never really got into racing and the bikes I built were custom bikes with off-the-shelf parts or parts fabricated by others. Then one day I bought a Buell S1 and my riding and bike preference changed almost overnight. My Tribsa low rider would never be ridden again, the thought of riding a bike with no rear suspension and crap brakes was utter madness.
My racing career started when I was 40 years old and was kicked off by one of those lunch time conversations about things we would like to do before we die. Mine was to have a go at circuit racing. And my colleague said, “well why don’t you?” To that I had no answer, so that night I applied for a race license, joined a club and never looked back. I decided that I wanted to race in the British Supermono Championship and set off in search of a suitable bike. My first year of racing was with the British Motorcycle Racing Club (BEMSEE) and I raced in a class called the singles twins and triples on a very unreliable Yamaha SRX 600 and was T-Boned on lap 3 of my first race by another novice.
That first year was spent learning to ride, on the road I thought I was a fast rider and knew how to ride, but it was very apparent once I started racing that I was Captain Slow and had a long way to go before I was ever going to win a race if ever. Being over 40 was not the best time to start racing but I was not alone in the age game just lacked the experience.
After the first year I managed to get rid of my novice license and at the age of 41 joined the British Supermono Association. This time on a DR800 powered Harris. Through my 11 year career I had many different bikes but never one that really suited me, as I was a a privateer and had no full time support. I needed a bike with a starter motor and a reliable engine.
None of my friends were into racing — I grew up amongst the other side of biking — so I would turn up to race meets on my own. But made lifelong friendships as thankfully the Supermono class was more of a community and all the competitors would often offer and give help and advice whenever they could and it was gladly received.
The biggest issue for me was getting the damn things started and then if you got held up on the grid they would often overheat and that could be your race over, unless a competitor with his starting trolley was available to get you started again. Big cc singles were temperamental at the best of times especially carburettor models. In 2009 there were two small teams who had made their own chassis and they convinced me to do the same. Throughout that season I researched chassis design and spoke to anyone and everyone I could, also what engine to use and by the end of the season I had a plan.
I bought a KTM 690 SMC for the engine and electrics, sold the rest on eBay, my 450 Honda-powered Mono was stripped down for the suspension and wheels and the rest sold on EBAY, my Buell was also sold along with every other bike except for the cheap runaround, the MZ Skorpion sport.
Everything else was going to be fabricated by myself. Being a CNC Programmer and not a fabricator I really did not know where to start. I had a lot to learn including buying a TIG welder and learning TIG welding, I had to design and make a chassis jig before I could even make a start on the bike.
As the jig was taking longer than expected and as I was using the same engine as one of my competitors they offered to lend me their jig. An offer I gladly excepted. As I had done some gas welding in the past the welding went quite well not as pretty as I would have liked it to be but the welds were strong.
How do I know you ask, well I did some test welds and could not break them before the BST45 cold drawn chrome molly tubing gave way. My 20 x 8 ft shed consisted of a good selection of spanners and sockets etc., a small cheap pillar drill, and a very small single phase lathe and now a brand new TIG welder. I spent the next few months almost living in the shed. I would return home from work say hello to the drunk in the corner (otherwise known as my wife) and disappear to the shed.
As well as using the lathe to machine the headstock and ends to the swinging arm I used it to notch the tubing by making a clamp to go on the tool post and put an end mill in the chuck. It didn’t seem long before it started to look like a motorcycle but I was really wondering if I would ever finish it in time. Once the chassis and swing arm was finished I still had the rear sub frame and petrol tank to make. Having never welded aluminium the tank was the hardest challenge of all. And during welding I found out I had been miss-sold the TIG welder and it had no AC balance or frequency adjustment, but I got there in the end.
The tank was not pretty but it was air tight and held more than enough fuel for a race. I managed to get the bike on the DYNO the week before the first race meeting of the season. Well I say ready — I used an aerosol can to paint the chassis and swing arm, the tank was bare aluminium and ugly welds, and the fairing was as it came: plain white. As my team name was Red Wine Racing, I named the bike the RWR1: Designed in the Pub Made in the Shed.
I arrived at Pembrey in Wales just in time for Qualifying with no time for any testing. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I had just spent the past 6 months doing something a year ago I never thought possible and I was now going to go out in qualifying to test it. Was I mad?
Everyone in the paddock was very complimentary of my design and build which boosted my confidence, but were they just being polite? During the build my confidence had taken a serious knock as a renowned UK chassis designer had told me my tubing was too small and as I had failed to use the KTM lower rear mount my chassis would fail. I had sat there for nearly two days just looking at my design and thankfully chose to ignore his comments. I was sure I was right and thought the only way to find out was to ride it.
But just as I pulled on to the track for the very first time I could hear is words ringing in my ears, after the first lap I was laughing to myself saying WTF did he know. The bike, even though the suspension was not set up properly, handled surprisingly well, the engine was smooth and as I had left the battery and starter motor I would have no starting issues and would never miss a race. By the end of the season I was sitting in 4th place with two races to go. I had had two DNF’s from crashing so I was very pleased with my position.
The last meeting was at Donnington park and the weather was wet, dry, wet, dry and tyre choice was going to be a gamble.
I had a wet in the front and a slick in the rear so when our race was called I would only have to change one wheel. When the race was called I didn’t have time to change a wheel and went out with wet front rear slick and this combination was actually paying off, all the front runners were on full slicks. I was reeling in the leaders on the brakes at every corner, I was about to lap the championship leader and was running second in the race when I got over enthusiastic with the throttle and high sided the bike.
The bike and I rolled and slid for what at the time seemed like forever, the petrol tank was ripped from the bike and the fairing totally trashed. Luckily I only suffered bruising and was winded. I had one more race the next day but the bike did not look like it was going to be in a fit state. I had cracked the radiator, broken the lambda sensor out of the exhaust header, the fairing was totalled, and I had no spares.
My fellow competitors helped me repair the fairing and seat unit with duct tape and 3 fibre glass repair kits. We had to reshape the fairing to get it through scrutineering as I could not source a replacement screen. I tried rad weld and raw eggs but the radiator still had a small leak and the lambda sensor was held in with lock wire and shot flames out the side. This was going to be an all out bin it or win it race and as this was the last ever BSA round if the engine went bang so be it.
I can’t put in to words the feeling of winning that race on a bike that looked fit for the scrap heap. Marshals running out on to the track to congratulate me was just amazing. I am the luckiest man alive to have had the pleasure of racing amongst such a fantastic bunch and on a bike I designed and made in my shed. I re-built the bike and altered it to race it in a street fighter class for a year in 2011 but it was no comparison to the BSA so retired at the end of that year. But in 2019 I decided to rebuild the bike and put it through its paces for my 60th this year, but sadly C19 stopped play. So I have started making a scrambler, the C19 🙂
Engine: 690 KTM single cylinder
Wheels: Carbon fibre Dymag
Front forks: Twin disc Honda GP
Rear shock: Side mounted Nitron
Bike weight fully fuelled and ready to race including battery and starter motor. 115KG / 253.5 lbs
53KW / 71BHP at the rear wheel.
Follow the Builder on Instagram Martin Jarvis