The Obliterator – a Guernsey Racing Legend
Colin Robin and Jon Skillet met in 1973 and started their sprint experiences on an old Triumph 650 which Jon had supercharged. However, Jon saw a twin-engine BSA sprint bike in a magazine and suggested to Colin that they could come up with something similar. So they acquired some bits and pieces of other bikes and began the build.
The Obliterator on a good day
Jon had previously owned, then sold, a BSA Spitfire but it got wrecked and he managed to get parts from this bike. The wheels and several sections of the frame were used to create the “Obliterator”. They had several spare Triumph engines so they picked the best two which Colin tuned and they were running on methanol.
Colin made some engine plates to join the two engines together which were linked by a chain and setup to run in tandem. Between them they produced a very good machine which was raced for several years in the Guernsey and Jersey sprints during the mid-70’s until it finally came to rest in June 1978.
Jon raced it for a couple of years including one sprint in Jersey which impressed quite a few people. Bob Eve of Bob’s Motorcycles, the Jersey Triumph dealer, remembers the event well when the Obliterator made its Jersey debut. It was quite an eye opener because Jon has always been a bit of a showman.
After the ’76 season, Colin and Jon decided to swap bikes and from then on Jon rode Colin’s supercharged Triton and Colin rode the beast. Having spent a lot of time working on the bike Colin wanted to try and get as much as he could out of it.
The bike was running on a standard Avon square 400/18 rear tyre, which wasn’t really ideal as a lot of time was lost at the start of the sprint trying to get the power down. The times were not reflected to a standard quarter-mile, as this strip was longer at that time, and with the standard tyre the bike was running times around 12.8 seconds. (It should be noted that the Guernsey sprint isn’t a straight line course – it’s held on the Vazon coast road with a slight curve and coastal winds to contend with). In 1978 Colin managed to borrow a slick tyre, and as funds were very limited purchasing one wasn’t an option.
The slick tyre eliminated this problem
Colin approached a local company about some sponsorship and the deal was to have the frame painted in the company colours. Colin stripped the bike down completely and sent the frame off for painting, but unfortunately the frame didn’t come back until the day before the sprint so it was one mad panic to get it reassembled for the event.
The first time the Obliterator was fired-up after the rebuild was in the practice run on the day that ended in disaster. Probably due to the rush to put the bike back together, Colin thinks he probably forgot to tighten the bottom yoke clamp bolts. Onlookers say the bike went into a tank-slapper when Colin shut off after the finish line, which he crossed at 129 mph. Colin and the bike ended up in a mess as evidenced by the police photographs but Colin has no memory of even turning up for the event in the morning. The doctor didn’t think he was going to make it to the hospital and he wouldn’t have survived without the attending ambulance and crew who knew exactly what to do. He is obviously very grateful for what they did and to everybody who helped in his recovery.
The actual time that Colin recorded would have stood for two years, but as it was a practice it didn’t stand as an official timed-run. The bike was capable of a lot more as Colin wouldn’t have been giving it everything on a practice run and the slick tyre definitely made a big improvement. Spectators said it left the line like a rocket on the fateful day!
Colin was expected to stay in hospital for several months but, being a tough, resilient, determined Guernsey Donkey, he got out a lot sooner.
Colin removed anything on the bike that wasn’t bent and scrapped the rest – an action he now regrets as it was a piece of Guernsey motor-racing history. If anyone has seen Colin start up his sand-racing bike recently on Facebook then it has one of the rescued Obliterator engines.
Video clips taken between 1974 and 1978
We are all very thankful that Colin lived to tell the tale. 2018 will be the 40th anniversary of the event and Colin is wondering if he should mark the day in some way. One thing is certain – if he does decide to mark the occasion it won’t be a small mark!
A sad end to what could have been a record-breaking day
Colin and Jon are still good friends today.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Obliterator's demise, a range of OBLITER8 clothing has been specially designed and is now available for sale.
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