Shanks gets back on track to compete on homebuilt Weslake

Jimmy Shanks on his way to his Open Classic Championship victory on his home built 750cc Weslake.
Jimmy Shanks on his way to his Open Classic Championship victory on his home built 750cc Weslake.

A KELSO motorcycle enthusiast has donned his leathers and got back to winning ways after a 23-year break.

At 53, Jimmy Shanks has taken a step back in time and picked up his racing career where he left off, on a bike designed for the early 1970s.

And, having picked up several victories plus the Bob McKintyre Trophy for the best bike this season, Shanks is thoroughly enjoying being back in the saddle.

He told TheSouthern: “I raced in the 70s and 80s with reasonable success, but I got to the stage where I would either have to turn pro or give it up to go into another paying career, and I opted for the latter.”

Shanks has no regrets over his decision and, after taking up a career in agriculture, he and his family decided to take advantage of the government’s diversification project initiative and took over the running of Blinkbonny Quarry near Kelso, which commenced operations in 2000.

A member of the Melville Motor Club and the Noth East Motorcycle Racing Club, Shanks admits that he retained an interest in the sport over the years, but didn’t return to competitive riding until 2010.

And, while back in the 80s he competed on the latest models, Shanks now prefers to stick to vintage racing in which riders race classic motorcycles that are no longer competitive with the latest production motorcycles.

He added: “I started racing with mopeds when I was 16 years old and have ridden about everything since. I definitely prefer the classics though. In my earlier career, Steve Hislop helped me out as a mechanic. Like me, Steve was always more interested in the bikes and the excitement of getting the best out of your machine rather than the fame and fortune side of things, so we got along just great.”

Over the winter, he, along with Rob Wilson of Kershaw Sidecars fame and Roger Titchmarsh built a pre-72 specification 750cc Weslake from scratch and has enjoyed varying success on it and his 350cc Honda throughout the 2011 season which encompasses from eight to 10 meetings from April to October.

“I like to think of the Weslake as a new old bike,” explained Shanks. “We won first time out with it so I was fairly pleased about that, but it’s not all about the winning for me. Classic bike racing is all about the taking part and the camaraderie amongst those who take part. I have made many great friends over the years and even when I wasn’t racing I kept in touch and kept up to date with all that was going on.

“Nowadays it’s about nothing else but fun and when it stops being fun I will stop doing it.”

Racing at East Fortune, Knockhill and Croft, Shanks has lifted the Scottish Championship title on his Honda and also the North East and Melville Motor Club Open Championship honours on the Weslake. The Haddington-based Melville club is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, which makes the victory all the more special.

A far cry from travelling round the country’s racing circuits, Shanks is also a keen golfer and is a member of the Roxburghe club, where he enjoys a rather more relaxed, if not slightly more frustrating, pace of life. Married to Diane, the couple have two children, Alex, 11, and Morven, nine, and, although the kids think dad’s hobby is quite cool, long-suffering wife Diane may take a bit more persuading.

“I think she just tolerates it,” said Shanks. “Although they all give me great support.”

And as for next season? “I would like to give it another go,” he added. “But I’ll have to see what the team manageress says.”

Melville Motor Club organises motorcycle racing in central Scotland for all disciplines of motorcycle sport and caters for riders of all levels and ages. For more information go to