Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Flattrackin - All Stars at Rhyl

The 'All Stars' meeting was a one-off event held at a trotting track near the holiday town of Rhyl, North Wales on Staurday evening. The big-ass track is next to a gypsy Funfair and surrounded by trailer-parks... there was £500 prize money up for grabs and betting between races. The lineups were an occasion and the starts had one row of twelve bikes... the mayor was even involved in drawing balls for the start line positions.

Racing under lights has something special about it...

This is the biggest, fastest track we race on in the UK - I geared the KTM to the max with the sprockets I had. We did a few practice laps before the heats began. It was drying from the afternoon showers and fast alright!

First heat and I'm drawn last... on the far outside. With a one row start, this isn't too much of a disadvantage. The start lights go out and the KTM is unleashed on the half-mile oval. I get off the line ok and straight into the middle of the first turn fracas. Only 4 laps... not much time to pass... I got speed and make a few passes... I finish in 5th. Yeah!

Thanks Ian and Karen for coming along and supporting

Depite my longer gearing, half way down the straights she crackles and valves bounce. I toy with the idea of changing gear... but decide against it... not being used to changing gear on an oval, there's too much chance of me cocking that up. So I keep it pinned despite her complaints. Next heat and I'm drawn somewhere in the middle of the 12 bike row.

In the middle...

I make a decent start and am running 4th. As the bike crackles and pops down the last half of the straight on lap 2, I get relegated to 5th. On the last lap, I can hear another machine on my 6. The finish line is quite near turn 1... I keep him  behind me through turn 3 and 4 and pin it for the line. I can just see his front wheel creeping up in my peripheral vision... but about 20 yards from the line he fades as the big KTM kicks and I take another 5th. Ah yeah!

Faster than a speeding bullet!

And then the rain came down. Heat 3 and I'm in 'pole' in the far inside. I make on ok start and slither around the first two turns. There is a surprising amount of grip, but the water-logged dirt kicked up by the bikes in front covers everything in a tan colored spray-paint. I go hard, but struggle mid-turn in the wet and slippery conditions. I use a tear-off for each lap and land up finishing 8th. I qualify for my first Shorttrack (the open class) semi-final... 12th out of 24!

 A splash of water on the front number-boards, clean tear-offs and a fuel top-up and we're ready for the semi-final. The top 5 go through to the final. The next 6 fight it out in the 'last-chance'... the last rider packs up or watches.

I make a poor start from the middle of the start line but get swallowed by the pack of angry, growling bikes. I manage to claw back a few places going into turn 1 just by hooking third and keeping on the gas... I exit turn 2 near the back of the pack. Lap 3 and I have a lap-long side-by-side battle with Andy Riley. I'm 8th again. Should have got a better start.

Grabbin places into turn 1

Barely enough time to fit a few few more tear-offs and I'm out for the 'Last-chance'. The top two riders go through to the final.

We go through the le-Mans fanfare of the start ceremony and I line up mid-grid again. Under starters orders... lights on... "Brrrrraaaaaap-paaap-paaap-paaap"... lights go out and we're away!

Took me an hour to jetwash the bike clean...

Another mediocre start and I'm at the back... but again I make a handful of places by barreling sideways through the pack into turn 1. Nice wide track and plenty of space for all! I get good drive out of thurn 4 and make another pass down the front straight. I'm running 5th in a wheel-to-wheel train of bikes.

The track is so wide and has such a good surface that you could pick just about any line around each turn. The four in front of me a swapping places on every turn. I have the seat of the house, but would rather be fighting it out with them in the front. I push hard, the battle in front rages and the pace is furious. From the ShotrtrackUK website: "The Last Chance race was a right royal battle between Tim Greig,Dave Holman,Steve Coles,Neil Martin and Paul Baleta..." I reality, all I could do was watch the spectacle and wait for a mistake.

No mistakes are made and the battle goes to the line - Steve Coles and Neil Martin on his Thunderbike make the Grand Final. Reigning champ Ade Collins takes the final in fine style.

A great one-off event at an awesome track. I was faster in the dry but still went well on the wet... my Thunderbike not having as much of a disadvantage against the shorttrack bikes on the big half-mile track. Got to get better starts though. Thanks to Pete Boast and all involved in organising it. I hope we can do it again next year!

A great night at the funfair!
Thanks Co-Built Anthony for the pic