MOTOR SPORT: FRANK Melling took the principle behind one of the quickest of sports, streamlined it and then stretched it out to last a day.
The result was the Thundersprint, a series of motor bike dashes against the clock, which returns to Northwich on May 9.
'I refined the idea of sprinting,' he said. 'I think we are the third biggest bike race event in the country and by next year we could be the biggest.'
The Thundersprint takes place at Baron's Quay and the format is simple. It is a time trial, the course measures 500 yards, there are 92 entries in 12 classes and each rider gets six rides. His fastest time counts.
There is nothing much different there than the other 60 or 70 sprint events nationally every year.
What Melling did at the outset was something so simple you wonder why other promoters did not think of it.
'Nobody had ever bothered to run a sprint in number order. We formalised what was a loose structure and ran it to a programme - classes and numbers,' he said.
There are many reasons for the success of Thundersprint, but they all rely on a clear followable event at its core.
Melling said: 'When I first planned the idea, I wanted to make it accessible to riders and spectators and to bring in as many different bikes as possible. And we wanted a happy atmosphere.
'There is a camaraderie among Thundersprint riders that is unique. Jim Redman (former World Superbike champion) could earn huge amounts elsewhere but chooses to fly in from South Africa because the Thundersprint is his favourite event.
'There is no corporate hospitality. We were offered a lot of money this year for a reserved area with the best view but turned it down because it is against the Thundersprint ethos.'
While Melling and his wife Carol conducted extensive market research, they relied heavily in the beginning on a family friend, taking her to various motorsport meets to get the view of Mrs Average.
She rejected the lot for a variety of reasons - from poor toilet facilities to being unable to hold a race pattern in her head, until she came to the sprints.
'There's one rider, his time and position is announced and there's no dirt or dust. Everything is short. We are designed for spectators and the riders love it. We would not have got past the first year if the event had not been any good.
'Classics riders love irregular courses. It harks back to the beginnings of the sport, which was street racing. Some might contest 15 sprints a year, but the Thundersprint is special.'
It flourished after the first meet in Blackburn, arriving at Northwich via the Three Sisters track, Wigan, Southport and Manchester.
'When I first saw Baron's Quay, I imagined its potential immediately. I could see it with the track and the crowds. I just knew it was right. I'm 100% happy here, anywhere else would be second best.
'The Thundersprint is something people now aspire to do. We are cognisant that we need local riders, but there are entries from across Britain and with an international flavour as well.
'Pipine San Millan, eight-times Spanish Classic champion, will be there and so will Craig Jones, the Northwich lad who is a tremendous young rider.'
Those two, Redman and others will all be 'accessible' to the public throughout the day, such is the informal nature of the event which Melling works all year round to produce.
He confesses to entering and occasionally winning his own event. Last year he was second on his Seeley Suzuki 1967 race bike.
'The various team leaders we have plead with me to enter to get me out of the way. The clock is not biased, if I win I win,' he said.
The highlight of Melling's own racing career was winning the national vintage championship 10 years ago and the Sturgis Hill Climb, in South Dakota. He was good enough to qualify for his international licence.
'Only just, but I knew what an international event should be like. I always had a full-time job and never took it seriously anyway, but I was in the top 5% of riders in Britain,' he said.
After finishing work as project director for the Cheshire Schools magazine project In Our Own Words, Melling developed the Thundersprint idea and made it family friendly - rather than just biker friendly - by surrounding the arena with other events, sideshows, entertainment and stalls.