Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Flat-Track On!

Continued from "Testing... crash")
I arrive at King's Lynn Arena at 22h00 - just a
s everything is finishing. I get my lanyard switch, get some food down my throat and check into Hotel Chevy for some shut-eye.
(Hotel Chevy pic)
Up early and breakfast in the Hotel dining room...
(dining room pic)
To the arena, unpack, sign-on, get some new bars, fit bars, fit lanyard switch. All ready to rock 'n roll before Mike arrives at 10h00.
Practice: Weird riding a Monster with huge bars and no front brake. I crawl around during teh first session. I find out the clutch is slipping during practice starts. Doh! I manage to get 4 sessions in and I think I may have skidded the rear once or twice!

First Heat (Short Track): Clutch slips and judders off the line... I get mobbed by the row of riders behind into the first corner... this is the theme for the rest of the day. 6 laps. Fast and furious racing... except that I'm not so furious and trail in last... nearly half a lap behind second-last! Nay worries... I finish my first heat and am stoked. I am now a Flat-Track racer!

(No. 45r - thanks to Candi and sideblog for the pic)

First Heat (Thunderbikes): Another clutch-slipping start. Mid-pack in the first turn. Stick my foot out and... crumple, mash, wallop... someone rides over it! MX boots rule. I finish second last. Starting to get the rear sideways on the brakes. The track is starting to get a 'blue-groove'. Run off this (as I did) and you're on the gravel... wheeeeee... going wide, losing places... watch out for that wall!

Second Heat (Short Track): Mike goes out in the heat before mine. While donning my lid I hear the commentator excitedly say "A rider down...". The heat is red-flagged. I line up in the assembly area where I can see the track. I don't see Mike comming off the track. There are paramedics huddled around a rider on the far side of the track. The marshal is wheeling a CRF-looking bike off. The paramedics walk across the track with the injured rider, cradling his arm. It's Mike... shit! Looks like he hurt his arm/wrist/shoulder. Seconds later and we're ushered out for our heat. I'm a bit put off my Mike's off... so just make sure I don't fall off... someone's got to drive us home! I come in last again.

After the heat I try find Mike... there is an ambulance, but it is empty. He's not in the paddock or anywhere around... so assume they've taken him off to hospital (there should always be 2 ambulances).
I go back to the van to get some water, on the way I pass two paramedics having an animated discussion. I realise Mike is still at the Arena. I follow the paras to the ladies change room where I find Mike. He's on oxygen. Looks like he's broken his collar-bone. They're going to take him to Hospital and are waiting for another ambulance. I go back to the paddock to find his mobile... I rummage around but I can't find it. Then I get the call for my next heat. Rummage, rummage.. no mobile. Decision time... a race is only 2 minutes... I'll be out in 1... then one after to park the bike and take off my lid and gloves... 4 minutes. Yeah...

(thanks to  sideblog for the pic)

Second Heat (Thunderbikes): I try and shake Mike's incident from my mind and get the Ducati sideways a bit. I have a great battle for a lap or two with someone until they get past. I'm not last. There are 3 riders behind me at the finish... Man! This is fun! And dusty as hell.
I rush back to Mike... they've got him stripped down to his breeches now and are preparing to move him. His phone is in his van... as I go to rerieve it and the ambulance arrives. I get Mike his mobile and some clothes and he's off to hospital. I get back to the paddock just in time to don my lid and gloves for the next heat...

Third Heat (Short Track): I get my best start of the day and fight for half the race with another rider. He's quicker than me, but I hog the blue-groove and he can't make a pass stick. Inside... outside... I'd see his front wheel on every turn but shut him out. I start getting tired after about 3 laps... I make a mistake and run a little wide... he pounces and is through. Beaten, the fatigue hits. Bejeesus this Flat Track racing is tiring! I struggle to stick my foot out on the turns... the last few turns I just leave it on the footpeg. I don't have a steel-shoe and like my boots... so I guess this is extra effort to just keep my boot skimming and not slide it across the dirt was taking it's toll. My inside thigh muscles were protesting. After the race I'm knackered.

I'm 3rd from the back... see, not always last (thanks to ZXRRDave for the pic). Check out that blue-groove.

Third Heat (Thunderbike): Make another poor start but that becomes irrelevant as I just hang on to survive my tenth session of the day... I'm cream-crackered! My foot hardly goes out and I just work on getting the bike smoothly sideways on the brakes into the turns.
I didn't make any of the semi-finals... I was too knackered to do them anyway. I pack up Mike's stuff and watch some great racing.

A vid of one of the Thunderbike heats - I'm the one on the red helmet... at the back!

Holy-cow! Those guys in the final can really ride! I want to do that!
I pack and leave to go find Mike at the hospital. I give him a call and arrive just as they're finishing with him. His front wheel was taken out, he high-sided and landed on his head. Helmet smashed and collar-bone in two pieces. Shit!
We agree that it's a good omen because he broke the same collar-bone in his first ever road-race... amazingly these are the only two bone-breaks he's got from many years of racing bikes. He'll go on to win Flat-Track races too.
Mike's okay to drive the Chevy (automatic), so we decide to drive home and not arse-about with picking up his van the next day. I pickup his van and we grab some road-food on the way out. Mike's not feeling great and has only1 arm to drive with... so doesn't go over 50 mph. It's a looooong way home at 50mph!
After dropping Mike off I get home at midnight... absolutely f*$£ed. Thank god the next day was a bank holiday!

Despite the incident... it was a cracking event! Met some great folk in the paddock too... Steve - against the odds with his cool Harley, Gary - beating Pete and winning 2 heats, Anthony - whooping my arse on his first ride on the beautiful co-built framer (frame built by the welding god that is Geoff - he repaired my Mille frame... a story for later...), Tim - spending most of the day changing chewed-up tyres... and many other peeps with cool bikes.

Some more pics of the event: UK ShortTrack Round 1

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