round of the SEEC H&H championship on the 16th August was being
held at Rowlands Castle (hosted by the Croydon MCC) – another
venue I’d never been to before. I knew it was woods based but
that was it, so I decided to head off nice and early as it was a longish
trip down to the coast, well it seemed to be, but in actual fact it
was only just over 70 miles. Using the postcode on the final regulations
we found the lane ok but didn’t spot any orange arrows pointing
the way. Being one of the first few cars there I managed to nab a prim
spot right near the pits / signing on tent. Signing on was dead easy,
as always, and I had the added bonus of picking up a winner’s
trophy from the Croydon Timecard Enduro earlier in the year. Nicky and
I had plenty of time in hand so we walked the track’s first section
– from the start area and then it looped away then back towards
the clocking in area. The track looked interesting as there were a few
obstacles to negotiate, both natural and manmade. The row of tyres in
the first ‘hard route’ looked tricky and these were to catch
out many riders in the race, me included.
steve decides to
change his spark plug on the start line!
one of the earlier
starters on a log jump
With plenty of time to kill we caught up with the two Steve’s
and John Horton and several of the regular SEEC riders. Darren looked
like he was going to be absent from this one, despite being entered,
which would be good for my championship position as he’d just
managed to overtake me in the points standing. I think Tony was still
in shock from the Slab Common round so he’d declined the invite,
making up some sort of prior engagement! Not like me – as soon
as someone mentions any sort of ……. well anything at all,
I first check my race entries on my calendar. A man has to have his
priorities sorted in life!
not so easy to get
Being the first to get the bike checked over I had first selection on
the start line so I picked mid track alongside the Clubman A starting
sign. This event was going to be a normal ‘mass start’ again
and I generally get going quite well in these, or totally fail, so it
would be interesting to see which one I would have today. Little did
I know but I was to have both!
After the riders briefing we had the obligatory five minute engine warm
up time ten and sat waiting patiently for the start, all of us that
is apart from Steve Bird who frantically changed his bike’s sparkplug
as the seconds ticked by. This must have fired him up as he made it
into the first turn in front of everyone else but apparently went head
over heels on the tyres when the bike cut out!
was next (clubman A) and I got off fairly well when the start whistle
blew and then pulled clear as we got nearer the first (right) turn.
I was a little hot going in and was just tipping in when another ride
overshot the turn by miles and as I turned in my front wheel got hung
up on his rear wheel and down I went – first to almost last within
stuck in the pack
- me at the back
Picking the bike up I re-joined the race but of course by now I was
well back in the pack and knew that the likelihood of a top four or
five spot was remote as the top riders are so quick you can’t
give them a second, let alone a whole load of time stuck behind everyone
else. The first hard/easy route is right by the start area as we looped
back and I decided to skip it on the first lap as there were bound to
be guys crashing on it, but that just lost me some more places! By now
(even though it was still within minutes of the start) I was feeling
rather demotivated. Racing is 90% in the head and my head was just not
right at this point and it didn’t get any better as the track
was very tight and surprisingly slippery after the recent rain. Being
so tight meant there weren’t many places to get past the small
pack ahead of me but in time I squeezed past the majority of them and
only had one more to slip past when all of a sudden he stopped –
we had bikes coming towards us! Crap, we’d gone wrong somewhere
so had to do an about turn to re-join the track and of course this meant
I was at the back again!
the first lap was completed and I had cleared the other guys but came
up to overtake another rider on the series of log hops. I was a little
quicker over them but on the second last one he pinged off to the right
and fell into me so I went down too, while he remained relatively upright,
then used my front wheel to get going again, preventing me from lifting
my bike. Picking the bike up I was stuck in-between logs so had to ping
it over the log and did it a bit enthusiastically so it got out of hand,
quite literally, and I had to pick the bike up – again.
these early laps
were very slippery
This new cock up of course didn’t do my headspace any good and
the track was still slippery and quite frankly I wasn’t enjoying
it very much. There wasn’t anything wrong with the track, I just
wasn’t gelling with it. Several laps later and things were going
a little better. I began to wonder how long we’d been riding and
guessed at about 45 minutes. A quick look at the stopwatch gave me a
little boost by letting me know I’d been out 1hr 15 minutes. This
was a good sign to me and lifting my spirits a bit. The track was bedding
in well now and with my new found ‘happy head’ I began to
race the track as opposed to just riding round. By now I was riding
the first hard route and while the tyre obstacle was tricky I managed
it ok, although not always with much finesse.
my increased speed came more confidence and now I was jumping almost
all the drainage ditches. Previously the going was a little slippery
so jumping the ditches in the woods could have led to another embarrassing
tumble but now most of the track was fine bar the odd tree root. The
track was fairly empty and I got a lot more confident and it was all
going fine so started thinking about tactics. The track was quite tight
and speeds were low so I started to hatch a plan to forgo the fuel stop
but I had to monitor the fuel consumption during the final hour.
As time wore on the fact that I was going to skip the fuel stop spurred
me on some more and now I was really getting into the race but took
a little knock when I got it all wrong by the muddy ditch just after
the start and the rut had me off and in a heap. Picking myself up quickly
I carried on, but this last crash must have thrown me slightly off kilter
as I got it totally wrong at the tyre jump and didn’t lift the
wheel enough (at all?) so rode straight into it and got flipped right
over the bars! I narrowly avoided being winded but was still in good
spirits when I picked the bike up and got some advice on tackling the
tyres from a friendly bystander.
The fuel situation was going to plan and I was going to take the risk
of not stopping so attacked once more and the following lap (my second
last lap of the race) was my fastest so far and I’d caught up
to and overtaken some clubman A riders but as I came round to the start
finish area I thought I saw one of them catching me up so tried a little
harder – and ran into problems.
I’m not exactly sure what happened on the tyres, I think I got
a little enthusiastic and the front end climbed into the air quite high,
then the rear pinged and I went totally vertical – but head first.
This meant I was fairly high in the air and had no chance of saving
it as the rear overtook the front as we returned to earth. I was still
holding on at this time so didn’t put out my hands to slow me
down but I needn’t have worried as my shoulder and head did a
good job of stopping me. The impact was shocking and I feared for the
outcome but everything seemed to work ok as I stood up. The Croydon
guy was there and worryingly asked if I was ok but all I could do was
be as truthful as possible and replied “I don’t know”!
My head and side of my face was buzzing, burning and throbbing - like
I’d just been slapped.
i spot Nicky trackside
also surprised my shoulder was still working so I picked the bike up
and carried on but at a fraction of the speed I was doing previously
and felt very second hand. My head was burning and it was by far the
hardest impact I’d had in racing. But the racer in me kicked back
into action within minutes and I attacked again with the bike’s
fuel tap already switched to reserve. Considering the crash the lap
went more or less fine – until the short straight on a fire road.
The road had a ditch in it and I’d been jumping it on the right
hand side all day but on this lap I’d drifted to the left and
was going for it when I noticed the far side of the ditch was very squared
off. Even before I attempted to jump it I knew this was going to be
touch and go and I wasn’t disappointed. The back end hit the flat
face and got out of control then dumped me, going down on the left.
Seeing as I’d just had my hardest impact – welcome to my
fastest crash! The bike slide up the road and off into the undergrowth
and I had a little panic as the fallen trees came closer and closer
but thankfully neither I or the bike dug in so we stopped just in time,
in water filled troughs.
I can tell you I was amazed I got away without any injury at all and
the bike was straight so I picked it up for the final time and completed
the lap. I caught up with Grant and Nicky just at the end of the lap
and then looked at my hands, they had been hurting for ages. My gloves
had blood spots on my thumbs where I’d worn though the skin! This
hasn’t been an issue for me before, but I had fitted new grips
so this is something I need to look at.
wore through the
skin on my thumbs!
The results were available straight away and in my own mind I was convinced
I’d done quite well seeing as I’d skipped the fuel stop
and had been riding hard in the later laps but nothing could overcome
the dismal first hour so I had to make do with 8th place in Clubman
Back home I found a body armour patterned impact on my shoulder and
a bruise from below my temple up to the top of my head. All the muscles
from my shoulder connecting to my head/neck had been stretched and “pulled”
so I was in quite a lot of pain. Sleeping has been difficult since then
as I sleep on my right side so no matter how I fall asleep I end up
on my right side which wakes me up. Luckily there are no races for the
next few weeks so this will give me a chance to recuperate. Many thanks
to the Croydon MCC for a well-run event – even if it was somewhat
“interesting” race for me.