Scootering classics: The Dream Team

The combination of tuner ‘Chalky’ White and the Conneely Brothers has recently dominated the Group 4 landscape, so our man Paul Green had a chat with them to find out what makes this team work so well…

The Group 4 class has often been referred to over the years as the ‘pure scooter’ racing class. The full bodywork race scooters are visually the closest to the original scooters ridden on the road and over the years have been the class everyone wants to win, as well as the class spectators relate to the most. With recent tuning developments and changes in the BSSO class structure the current Group 4 race scooters will be the last of their kind. Over the years, some legendary names have dominated tuning and riding in the Group 4 class: Webster, Frankland, Saxelby, Day, Baker, Edmonds and the like. But in the last four years, there has been a total domination by two just names… Conneely and White. Paul ‘Chalky’ White of Replay and the three Conneely brothers have managed no fewer than four, back to back, championship wins as a tuner and rider combo — a feat most unlikely to ever be replicated.

Chalky has developed what is probably the peak of overall machine development in the class, under existing rules, and his engines have been race winners for almost 90% of the last four years’ Group 4 races. That spectacular result, however, couldn’t have been achieved without the riding skills of three brothers from the Coventry area: Bert, Steve and Darren Conneely. In 2014 Bert started the ball rolling with the Group 4 British Championship, Steve then added his name to the trophy in 2015, followed by Darren in 2016 and 2017.

The partnership between the Conneely brothers and Chalky has been one of the most successful in the sport. But how did the brothers Conneely get into scooters and racing? Well, the first thing to say is that it must be in the genes as they all ride pretty much anything on two wheels, be it scooters, motorcycles or push bikes. If it’s got two wheels, they will tune it, customise it, wheelie it, and all too frequently, fall off it to the best of their ability. But that shared desire must have come from somewhere?

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Speaking to Bert his earliest memory is playing with a toy car on the family motorcycle side car with elder brother Steve on the back seat and youngest Darren on the front. That family transport obviously left a lasting impression on those three boys. Fast forward to their early teens and mum and dad had split up and the three brothers are at school in an angry melting pot of skins, rudies, trendies, Mods, the occasional greebo and every facet of multiculturalism imaginable. It was all about the group or gang you belonged to, and if you didn’t belong then you were a briefcase wanker or a target! It was around this time that future stepdad Matt moved in with his son Andy who rocked up on a Lambretta.

The boys thought it was the coolest vehicle that ever parked outside their house and definitely way cooler than the three wheel Reliant that had replaced the sidecar outfit. So the boys found themselves in an end terrace house and when their mum was at work the SX225 was brought into the front room for polishing. Andy was in the Heart of England Scooter Club so scooters were coming and going all the time and Quadrophenia was playing on the video; sure enough Steve and Bert were firmly bitten by the scooter bug and started wearing Mod gear, leaving youngest Darren to get into computers, BMX, growing his hair and fighting.

It was Steve who actually got a scooter first: an orange Primavera which he managed to crash at traffic lights at the local shop. Bert also crashed the same scooter in brotherly love. Steve was then the first to get a Lambretta which was a lovely hand-painted Union Jack TV200 which then got the full 80s treatment of chromed extended forks and rattle can custom paint. Bert had his first 50 Special at 16 but was hit by a Ford Escort, so eight operations and 18 months later… he was recovered! Darren then joined them on the road but his initial choice of two wheels was a series of Suzuki motorbikes.

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No one local could beat Darren on the road then or now but naturally he crashed every one of those machines, earning him the nickname Mad Dazzy… can’t think why! With all the scooters and motorbikes kicking around ‘The Shed’ was built which became part of Coventry scooter folklore. In that area if you wanted your scooter fixed or sprayed you went to The Shed! Steve specialised in mechanics and Bert did the paint. There were few jobs around at that time so it was fixing scooters, smoking and riding off to rallies at weekends for the boys. One constant throughout was mum Linda who kept the brothers and friends in toast, tea and biscuits but was not at all happy with the engine case in the dishwasher. The demands became greater and the kitchen morphed into Conneely’s Caff with Steve charging 30p for his beans on toast with added lard.

In 1990 dance music was taking over and Bert set off on a P200E to see the world for 10 years before later returning to the UK. During this time it was Steve, again, who got into scooter racing first and The Shed became a base for Coventry Lambretta Race Team; Dazzy had also come round to the idea of scooters and also raced odd meetings in the 90s. It was around this time that Steve built a ‘bitsa’ Lambretta for Daz, but when it wouldn’t start one day he grabbed it by the forks and flipped it like a caber in the Highland Games once more justifying the Mad Dazzy nickname. Fast forward another 10 years and Steve set up ‘Interscooters’, customising and repairing scooters, and it was there that Bert’s ’00 Series’ was born which became a series of unique custom scooters built on reasonable budgets with the two brothers pooling ideas. All this time Steve was racing in Group 4 using an old Replay Chalky engine and running in the middle of the pack, however Charlie Edmonds had arrived into scooter racing and was making rapid advances in Group 4 tuning. The stakes were raised and Steve built a new state-of-the-art race scooter with a Charlie Edmonds engine, leaving his old Group 4 redundant. Bert really didn’t need much persuasion to give it a go, and in 2008 the brothers Conneely both raced on matching black and white InterScooters Lambrettas.

So Steve was an experienced racer by now and Bert joined him for the first time at Donington and as he says nothing prepares you for that first line up on the start line with every rider intent on beating the other to the first corner. It was manic, scary, exhilarating, intense, highly addictive and very dangerous. Bert’s natural ability runs in the family obviously and in his first year he finished the season on third place behind brother Steve, with Charlie Edmonds taking one of his many legendary Championships. The 2009 season saw Bert suffer a crash in the opening round and a badly broken collarbone and he was away from the sport for three years leaving Steve to carry on getting podiums. But in 2012 he got a phone call from DKS race team who had got together with Chalky White at Replay to build a new Lambretta race team in Group 4.

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So in 2013 the Conneely/Replay story really got started properly, Steve and Bert found themselves riding Replay motors in the same team with full mechanical and moral support as well as (lots) of food and drink from DKS. The same year saw the two brothers racing their matching red scooters and the third brother was coaxed into things after Bert sold his old engine to Darren and for the first time all three siblings were on the same track together. Bert won the Championship in 2014 and started the sequence of the brothers winning Group 4. Darren won the championship and the overall for good measure in 2015, leaving all the pressure on Steve to win in 2016. In a very intense year of racing Steve pulled it off on his immaculate red Replay engined Lambretta and added his name to the trophy to give a full set of brothers. In 2017, Darren raced again in Group 4 on the black and white Lambretta that has now become known as The Badger’. At different times racing together the three brothers have provided shoulder barging exciting races making the most of their natural talents but it was the tuning prowess of Chalky White at Replay that has given the siblings the machinery to do it.

There’s often the argument as to who is actually the fastest on the track and that will surely provide subject matter for an interesting discussion at the family dinner table from time to time! Chalky has worked with all three brothers to help develop the engines and has had to work with all three in very different ways to suit their very different characters but one thing is for sure — the Chalky White and Conneely names will go down as one of the most successful relationships in scooter racing.

Coming up next month — editor Dan joins Chalky to strip the championship winning engine in an unprecedented interview, and we will be talking to Chalky to get his side of working with the three very different riders to win British Championships.

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DON’T MISS THIS – RACE ENGINE EXPOSE!

At the end of the 2017 race season, Chalky invited Paul Green and Scootering editor Dan Clare down to the business premises of Replay Scooters, with the intention of stripping and examining the race-winning engine so that its full spec could be outlined — no holds barred. We now have an in-depth specification of all engine components, port timings, ignition settings, dyno results and images to match. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming edition featuring the full tech report.

CHALKY ON WORKING WITH THE CONNEELY BROS

They are all champion riders but how do the three brothers differ from the tuner’s point of view? Paul has a word with Chalky to find out….

SC: What were the differences between the three brothers from your point of view?
Chalky: Bert was the diva! He milked the sponsorship for all it was worth, but he was a clever rider who always did the business at the right time.

Steve had tried for so long that he had lost some belief that he could do it. I used to always bolster his confidence with positives before he rode. He tended to show his hand too early in a race, but once I’d nagged him into getting fitter and getting his head down he became the real deal!

Darren was always quick, but once I gave him the best engine there’s no stopping him. He moans about the Group 6 but then goes out and breaks the lap record! Although quiet and humble off the bike, inside is an iron will that wants to succeed. He is the silent assassin!

SC: I always found Bert was the most laid back — asleep 10 minutes before he races then he comes out and wins…!
Chalky: Bert always thought Steve had more engine! But they were always as close as possible! Darren always had the least power in the early days. Bert usually had travelled miles to race, hence the kipping!

SC: How do they vary from a feedback point of view ?
Chalky: They were all great technically with feedback, even Bert! They all knew how they wanted the bikes set up, Bert and Steve are quite detailed, Darren is not as fussy! They can all adapt to anything though.

SC: The obvious question…. Who would win a race if they were all on identical machinery?
Chalky: They all think they would win! Darren, Bert, and Steve. Steve was the king of three Sisters though!

SC: Anything else to add?
Chalky: Yeah, they’d have won bugger all without my engines! Lol.

Paul Green

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