a three week layoff the next event in the South East Enduro Combine
championship was the Croydon MCC Ray Kennard Memorial Enduro. It was
to be held in a forest near West Harting Down. Once again another venue
I’d never been to before but if it was like all the other events
so far this year it shouldn’t disappoint.
for this event I'd
be sporting my new kit kindly supplied by CMP Racewear
click on the add above to check out their website...
or pop on down to their shop in High Wycombe
For once there wasn’t a lot that I needed to do to the bike, other
than refit the light front and rear and the FIM tyre on the back. As
you may recall at the last H&H the electric starter gave up the
ghost by not engaging the starter Bendix so it just spun in the air.
After the event I took the cover off and check everything and could
see nothing wrong. I thought perhaps the gear wheel needed shimming
but the spec was fine and I could not find the little packet of shims
I had in the bomb site that is my garage. Anyway I put it all back together
with fresh oil and it fired the bike first time!
pre race discussion
on our race strategy
as do the two steve's
pushing the bike
up to the start was a bit of a slog though
Tony had declined to enter the event but thankfully Nicky was with me
once more so we set off in the direction of Portsmouth and after a hour
and a half’s drive we turned off into the woods. Very impressed
that there was arrows on sign boards several miles away – so for
once I didn’t get lost and drove straight to the turning. This
was partly helped by the fact that Croydon MCC published the gps co-ordinates
on facebook and also in the (very well written) final instructions.
It was an easy takes for me to quick translate the gps longitude and
latitude co-ordinates into google and voila – I had the destination
on the smartphone for google maps to follow come Sunday.
and i'm off!
Parking up we found that what we thought was an early arrive time was
quite a bit later than most of the entrants so ended up parking miles
away – well it felt like it! Signing on was quick and easy and
we bumped into Darren there too when I brought the bike up to be checked
over. Following on from a comment on the SEEC’s facebook page
where one of the organisers mentioned he was going to make this event
a bit harder there were some rumours flying around that the track was
tricky but just how much of this were mates trying to physic each other
out I’m note sure! In the riders briefing we were informed that
the first special test was hard and that the sportsman riders were not
to attempt it. It also contained a hard and easy route in the test so
once again everyone was discussing their strategy with one another.
Seeing as the tests (there was two per lap) were untimed on the first
lap I decided to give the hard route a go and see just how difficult
it was and to make my final decision after that. One good thing was
that being in the Over 50 class I had one less lap to do unlike Darren
in the Clubman A class.
check out the roots!
was time for me to go and the bike fired up on que and I took off in
the lead just as I like too. The forest has plenty of big hills in it
and within a few hundred yards we were on a downhill run but needed
to turn at the mid-point, on lose ground underneath so while I was ok
and got it stopped I can imagine that plenty of people may have struggled
as downhill braking turns have a habit of catching people out. After
this the track flowed nicely on a narrow trail then turn up into the
forest again and at this point the tree roots and already been exposed
with the added complication of plenty of loose small logs laying non
the track, simply add in some nice lose dirt and a innocent looking
slope suddenly became tricky – speed and confidence was the key.
couple more of Darren
quick wave to nicky
in the dark woods
From here on its hard to describe the track as it was so long and basically
just weaved through miles of woodland. The going was surprisingly slick
on places and a little further on a nearly had a big’ish off when
the front wheel turned sideways on a innocent looking slope and pushed
for a good few meters, running me clean off the track and into the trees!
Dodging tress and stumps I thankfully missed them all (more by luck
than skill) and made it back onto the track. There were several areas
that stood out. One was tricky little climb out in the open up a slope
covered in bracken. It was quite steep and had a right then left turn
half way up. Somewhere, about mid way I think there was a slope with
a large log across the track, I gave it a go but took it too slow and
got my back wheel hooked up on the log allowing one of the guys to catch
back up as I heaved the bike over the obstacle. I put on a bit of speed
to try and pull away again.
coming down the
arms are bit busy
holding on so i wave a foot!
A little further on there was a section of the woods in a valley that
was clearly older than the rest as it had loads of gnarled old trees
in it. The track went up and down the valley on both sides cutting to
the left mid slope several time and the tree roots were exposed in several
of these turns so it made it tricky to say the least. Once again good
momentum cured a lot of these problems. This area of woodland brought
us to the first special test and by now I was a little apprehensive.
There was a rider just setting off when I got there and after a short
wait I set off in pursuit. As this lap was untimed there was no pressure
to go fast so I rode steady and checked out the lay of the ground, trying
to make my mind up on the best course of action. Push hard and risk
a crash or safe and steady but clear it? Actually it wasn’t too
bad but on the first passing I was very aware of several off camber
turns, on a slope too and with lose going underneath – too much
throttle here was a one way ticket to crash city. In two places you
needed to climb just after a turn and as it was so loose underneath
it needed to be taken slowly – frustratingly slowly as the clock
test then reached the top of a hill and we weaved along a small track
and in and out loads of trees. At the finish we had to ride no more
than fifty yards before the next test was ready for us.
forcing the bike
to turn - chasing the guy in the distance
Special Test Two wasn’t quite as tricky as the first and it was
generally a bit quicker too, but there were plenty of roots and loose
branches still about so you still needed to keep your wits about you
and make sure you place your front wheel ‘just right’ or
you’d be flying.
Straight after the end of the second special the lap was over. I pulled
into the pits to refuel and half a sandwich, I had about ten minutes
to spare so it was nice to get the helmet off of a short time. It was
surprisingly warm in the woods at first. I’m not sure if it cooled
down or I just got used to it after that but it didn’t seem too
hot after that.
the full lap, including the special tests
Starting the next lap I tried to keep a nice steady pace going and it
was a fairly uneventful lap. At the first special test we waited for
a while and then I got the all clear so I set off in hot pursuit of
the guy in front – hunting for a quick time. Things went quite
well, I was still very frustrated with the lack of speed on some of
the turning climbs but grip was in short supply so it was a case of
‘less haste – more speed’. Then it happened, I caught
the guy in front. Mad this was not something I wanted to do as in some
parts of the track it’s hard to get past. Thankfully the rider
waved a foot to the right and I slipped past on an open section. It
was very nice of him to give me some room during the test.
As soon as I finished the first test I was straight into the second
and while I was slightly unhappy with my pace in the first test (once
again) I felt the second one went a little better.
Lap three – more of the same but again a little tighter in time
but I knew I could make it ok. Once again a fairly steady lap and at
the start of the first test I asked for a little more of a gap to the
rider ahead as I had caught a rider mid test. The Marshal said the rider
told him he’s fallen on the test but we waited for a little longer
anyway. Setting off I felt more confident now and things went pretty
good, some of the tricky climbs went well and I was happy with the way
I was riding, I still caught a rider but once again I got past ok. The
second test also went ok.
The forth lap was now a bit tighter still and filling up in the pits
I was wondering if the bike could do two laps on one tank of fuel. The
tank wasn’t very empty so I think it might be possible. This was
because I wasn’t too sure if I’d get back in time to top
up the tank for the final tight check. I started strongly and pushed
during the lap but by the time I got to the first test I felt a bit
tired and some of the small climbs slowed me down to a crawl, not good.
I force myself to wake up a bit and stacked the second test. Approaching
the pits I paused at the entrance to see how I was doing for time and
was relieved to see I had a couple of minute in hand. I put in more
fuel to be sure and rummaged around in my kit for an energy gel. I found
one that said ‘+ caffeine’ on it and thought “what
the hell” and scoffed it down. Now I drink decaffeinate coffee
and coke so I was hoping the kick in my pants would be enough to make
the tightest check.
starting the last
i wave a foot to
let expert ride no:19 past
time to attack the
Clocking out an expert rider came through so I pulled to one side to
let him past then thought “right game on” and I got my head
down to chase him. Gaining confidence all the time I was pleased that
by upping my pace I could remain on his tail and I used the extra speed
to attack the course. Fully focused now we had to deal with quite a
few slower riders and a couple of times I got the crappy end of the
stick when a rider would move over for him but cut me off but now I
was on a mission and pushed hard so I actually hauled him back in again
and as the lap progressed I found it easier. We came up to a few riders
near the open bracken cover hill climb and I got past one then realised
the next rider was going to be on the climb before I could get past.
With the expert pulling clear I sat of the slower rider’s tail
and at the first right turn I spotted a gap on his inside and made one
of the best overtakes I’ve ever done. I was over the moon and
a little surprised it worked and by pushing some more I was once again
on the experts tail. The lap carried on like this until disaster stuck,
not for me but the rider ahead. We were going up the hill with the log
across the track when he went very wide to the left, so wide in fact
that he made contact with a long tree branch sticking out and it speared
him like a jousting lance lifting him clean off the bike mid-air with
the bike carrying on up the hill! It happened pretty quick and as he
tumbled backwards I passed by to skirt the log to the right, then stopped
to call out to him to see if he was ok. It looked like he was as he
was already up and he confirmed all was ok so I cracked on. A couple
of the climbs in the first test again felt like I was crawling but a
bit of low flying later and I was hammering up to the pits/transponders.
I knew I could clock out early on this lap so it wasn’t necessary
to check my time – but had I made it in time? Slowing down to
legal speed I was desperately trying to read my clock and passed Nicky
unnoticed who was in the pits, busy packing up my kit. Pulling up to
the transponder I was glad to see I was on time – result!
I parked up and walked back down to the pits. Nicky was down the track
a bit, poised with the camera, no doubt waiting for me to come past
totally unaware I’d already finished! I was pretty please with
myself for having got in on time as I wasn’t sure I was going
to be able to. The expert ride who had the big off came in and parked
up and asked me if I was the one behind him. I said yes I was to which
he replied “what the hell happened”? It happened so fast
he had no idea what went wrong!
I caught up with a few guys after the race and got told off by Nicky
for talking too much to too many people as she wanted to beat the rush
on the M25. Well we didn’t but all in all it was a cracking day.
Hats off to the Croydon MCC for laying on such a well-run event, everything
was spot on in my opinion, from the excellent final instructions, to
the track layout (fantastic venue), timing and organisation on the day
– well done. It gets better though, the provisional results
are out and it would appear I have scored another class win, happy days!