Monday, 19 September 2011

Flattrackin - GNC Final at Rye House

The last round of the ShorttrackUK Grand National Championship was held at Rye House on Saturday night.

Things didn't start out too well when the bike refused to idle in the assembly area before practice. I got her going and out onto the track... bimbled up to and into the first turn. She revved suddenly mid turn, spinning the back around and forcing me to lay her down. WTF?

Wicked action pic from Steve Baldock - Thanks Steve!
The meeting was already running late and by the time I'd checked things back in the paddock, practice was over. Great!

Managed to get the bike kinda idling by running her on the choke. Not ideal, but she seemed to rev cleanly. Must be some dirt (or some garage floor garbage... ahem!) in the jets of the carb. The gear lever was bent about 2 inches out of place... of course I forgot my spares box again. Made the gear-change tricky... but maneagable. Soon it was time for my first heat of the evening in the Shorttrack class. I'm drawn on the front row... with zero laps practice... in a race... perhaps not a good scenario.

Soon to be Thunderbike Champ Anthony Brown tells how it's done
Onto the grid, revs rise, the start-tape shoots up and I get off the line. I get out of turn 2 okay and gun it down to turn 3 with Ade Collins just ahead. Lightly on the rear brake... get slide on... all going swimmingly. Hmmmm... mabe a bit too fast... shouldda mabe done a lap out here before trying to keep up with the Shorttrack National Champ... "Clunk!" I tag his back wheel. I almost go down, but save it by picking the bike up and running wide into the thick stuff towards boards.

First heat turn 1 action
Thanks Steve Baldock for the pic
I'm headed for the boards and try get the bike turned. Too late.. I lay the bike down and slide to a halt on my side. My left leg trapped between the front wheel and the engine. I scramble out from under the bike, pick it up and restart as the pack pelts me in its roost. I check over my shoulder for oncoming bikes when I see two other bikes down behind me. Alan Birtwhistle is one of them and he's stuck under the bikes, half-under the boards.
Guto Llywellan and Geoff Cain in the Co-Built garage
I kill the bike, lean it up against the fence and help the marshal and others get Alan out from under the boards. He's okay, his bike is okay. He must have been on my outside when I went straight on. Haven't even done a lap yet and I've already bitten the dust twice! What a muppet!

We go around for the restart. As I approach the grid, I'm shown to the penalty start box "You didn't think you'd get away with that one!" I'm told. Doh! Sorry guys...

Guto's Husaberg engine was having it's last race meeting

We restart. Without the first lap congestion I'm up to the man at the back within a lap and I pick off a few places as I get some practice in. Despite the offs I'm feeling fast... but I'm a bit raggedy. Shorttrack heat 1 done and not in last place :-) Into the paddock for a quick drink and I'm out one race later in the first Thunderbike heat.

I make a good start but struggle a bit to find consistency going into the corners as I explore just how fast one can go. I make some passes and get up to 3rd before going way too deep on turn 3 and losing a whole bunch of places. I make up one or two of these places before the chequered flag. I take a short rest and calm myself down before the next Shorttrack heat. I'm drawn at the back so I use it as practice to get my speed and consistency right. I still manage to not finish last.

Guy Southerland gives us his race face
Next Thunderbike heat and I'm drawn on the front row. I get to the front but soon the Italian ace (great cook and stand-up guy) Jacopi Monti blasts past me. I go to school. In the last few laps I hang onto the back of Jacopo and learn a lot. Points in the bag.

I do quite well in the next Shorttrack heat, mixing it with a few of the lads on the lighter Shorttrack bikes. In the last Thunderbike heat I make a good start and grab some places. Lap 2 and I'm behind RedMax Steve on his beautifully turned out single speed Norton. I draw level him down the back straight and slide on though at the entry of turn 3. I get my sights on the bike in 2nd place just ahead. Red flags. Darn! I was having a good run.

Rider's briefing: "We all know what we are doing..." I was too busy taking a pic!
I slow down and see three bikes and riders on the ground at turn 3... Steve is stuck under his bike and struggling. "Shit!" - thinking that I might have been the cause of the crash. I stop and prop the bike up, hoping that I can help in some way. Steve is in a lot pain. Another rider is flat on his back with a face full of dirt. Steve has hurt his left arm and ankle bady and has to leave the track in an ambulance. That sucks.

The race is restarted. I get another great start and work my way up to 4th. I think of going for 3rd, but after the 2 offs and Steve's crash I decide just to hang back and make sure of reaching the final.

Wayne Drake's podium finishing thunderbike is for sale...
I got enough points Shorttrack to start 10th in one of the Shorttrack Semi-finals - only the second time I've made the semis :-) There are 4 of us Thunderbikes on the back row. It's a good, fun race and we're all pretty close at the back - I'm working on consistency and conserving my energy for the Thunderbike final.

I qualify 6th for the Thunderbike final and slot into the middle row with Steve Coles on my right and Pete Wilky on my right. For the first time that night I don't get a good start. It's okay... but not good. Steve has drawn clear and Wilky is a foot ahead by the time we get to turn 1. As I'm about to get a little slide on and turn her in, Pete vere's accross from my left... completely the opposite way I expected him to go. We touch and our handle-bars clatter together. Next thing I'm half-off the bike... and just along for the ride...

In between heat dinner at Trattoria Monti! Jacopo is a great cook!
I see night sky, lights, feel myself hitting the dirt and being hit by a bike (or two!)... not necessarily in that order. I feel my body grinding into the dirt in a mess of bikes, wheels and handle-bars... feels like a bike hits me and then something big and soft like another rider. It seems to last about ten times longer than it actually did but I eventually stop tumbling with all that hardware and there is silence.

Next thing I know I've scrambled to my feet and am on my haunches, about to stand up. Fight or flight! I see the clay moving beneath my feet and my vision is dancing with a thousand sparkles. I know if I stand up I'll just fall over again. I can't hear anymore bikes - I must be safe... so I just haunch there on one knee watching the sparkles on the clay and breathe.
Welted and skinned!
I move my toes, feet, legs, fingers, hands, arms, torso. It's all working. But there is pain. I see pairs of boots around me. A paramedic fills my vision as I look up. "Are you hurt?", "I don't think I'm hurt... but I'm fuckin' hurting!". "Where does it hurt?" I go through the movements again... "My left leg, lower and upper, my right knee, left elbow..." I raise my right hand and show him my graunched glove, "...and my pinkie". I dare not tell him about the stars... I want to get back on the bike and do this race... 

My mouth tastes of puke... I almost threw up some great pasta from Monti's Trattoria during the impact. That's a first for me. I just stay there on my haunches for a minute or two. Breathing, feeling. The body parts all seem to be working and the stars I was seeing fade. I slowly stand up, helped out by another rider. I move about. Fuck! That hurts! I look around: there is a huge puddle of petrol a few metres away and I see Dave Arnold limping, being helped to his bike... other riders trying to start it. "How's my bike?" I ask.

Plum colored Popeye!

"Gear lever is off." Shit. I couldn't really move about so wouldn't have been much good in the race anyway. They manage to get Dave's bike started and he makes the restart as I wheel my bike off the clay. Turns out Wilky was rammed into me, his bike got a hole through the tank and he couldn't restart either. He was a bit bashed up too... but okay. We watch Jacopo win the race and Anthony Brown finish 4th to take the 2011 GNC Thunderbike Championship on his Co-Built. Well done Anthony!

Another great action shot from the lens of Steve Baldock
A disappointing finish to the season, but I scraped enough points together to finish okay in the final standings. Today I feel like I've been run over by a herd of big, mean and angry Cape buffalo. But thankfully just bruises and contusions. RedMax Steve fared far worse with 4 breaks just below the shoulder joint and a broken leg just above the ankle. He was rear ended after I went past. Get well soon Steve!

Steve in the wars again having just recovered from 2 broken collarbones in the last year

Here's a great vid of the evening's racing... my silly second off is in there...


  1. Bloody hell mate, I know you said you were gonna be aching but those bruises are pretty good. Hope you're better for your party,sorry I can't make it!

  2. wow thats some mean bruising, hope ur ok for scunny!.