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So a lot of the regular guys that I speak at the SEEC events were not going to be at Slab Common for the Witley H&H race on the 5th of July. Some were not taking part due to it being a non scoring round for them, being Witley members, but the overriding consensus was that Slab was hard work in the dry – and boy has it been dry. The last (and only time) I was there previously it was wet and I found it to be ok so I was wondering just how bad it could be? After the last race at Penn wood (report still to come) I had felt rather unwell. I must have pushed too hard as I wasn’t feeling good at all and rather nauseous. All the effort only earned me sixth spot in clubman A so I was rather down about it all. Nicky said she was thinking of quitting as I was miserable and getting hurt all the time so I made an effort in the following week to not take it too seriously. Unlike the week before the Penn wood round I was feeling more positive about going to Slab Common and I’d managed to convince Tony to come ride as well.
did i say it was
dry & dusty?
I got in two cycle rides to work on the Tuesday and Wednesday then gave the bike a once over later in the week. I fitted the mx rear tyre to cope with the sand and straightened the hand guards then went to fit the OE rear brake pedal as the rfx black one had bent again but the original one was missing the rear bearings so that was put on hold. While I had the wheel off I noticed the rear bearings had a little play in them, which surprised me a lot as these were not very old at all, having replaced them this year. I’d been a bit reticent about using non KTM parts but KTM did not have a repair kit in stock so I’d bought a ‘all balls’ kit on ebay. The bearing are a different size and the spacers had steel rings on the wear point s where the seals touch them. The whole thing had been a crap idea really as the spacers fall out of the wheel when you work on it or when trying to put the wheel back in. The seals felt substandard and that was proved by the bearing on the sprocket side being badly rusted. Luckily I’d bought some new bearings and seals from the ktm centre so I wasn’t caught out and fitting the new bearings is a simple job.
I'm in the lead on the first lap and round the first tank
the rest of the pack are right there
but i still get out the turn first
Sunday came and so far everything was going to plan without a hitch – until halfway to the venue when all of a sudden I could picture my ridding pants hanging on the back of the door in the lounge. Ah crap what now? Luckily Tony had a couple of spares in his gigantic kitbag so a disaster was averted but it did do much for the inner zen of trying to be more upbeat and calm!
but its straight back into the thick stuff again
i nearly tuck the front in the soft sand
Signing on and bike scrutinearing all sorted I got the bike nicely placed on the line ready for the mass start then back to the car to have something to eat and gear up. I had a nice chat to Grant Nicholas while getting ready and went to admire someone else’s Toyota Hiace as I’m hoping to buy one soon, but can’t find the right one just yet. Tony had been off checking the course and came back a little wide eyed and mumbling over and over about ‘deep sand - deep sand’!
tony comes round
in the next wave
Soon it was race time and while the bike was warming up in the allocated time I thought I’d better ask Tony which way the first two corners go so I walked back a row to pick his brains, ‘tight in the first right then wide into the next left’ – cool.
second lap and i've caught one of the expert class riders and looking for a way past
still on his tail by the tank
i try a wide line into the next turn but lose the front
no going back now!
The first rows shot off on the flag, and soon in was our turn and I was determined to make up for the diabolical start at Canada Heights so had everything primed. Bang! The flag dropped, all the bikes fired, including mine and I jammed down on the gear lever to select first then nailed the throttle – and got the holeshot into turn one! The first right turn was fine but straight after that it was into sand and it only got deeper into the next turn, then very deep into the next. I was fighting the bars against the sand and trying to keep the throttle wound on and so far it was working. We crossed the deep open sand section three times then got into the woods. I’d still not seen anyone pass me so I tried to keep pushing hard. On each open section I just nailed the throttle wide open and let the bike bounce and skip but changing direction in the deep sand wasn’t easy.
Grant comes round as someone else hits the dirt
The going in the woods was also sandy but more of a soft powder that would suck the front tyre and have you off if you were not careful. I’d begun to catch some of the Veteran A riders from the row ahead of us and got momentarily blocked by one of them and I think a Clubman rider sneaked past but I wasn’t sure. Passing a few more riders kept my speed up and soon I’d completed the first lap without being swamped by faster clubman riders so started the next lap full of hope, then fell off while trying to pass another rider in the deep sand sections just after the start.
Now 103 is in front of Tony
now he isn't!
I got going quickly again and the next lap went ok too, well it did until I had a funny sort of crash. I’d just cleared an open section, entered the trees again and for some reason the bike pitched me off and I hit the ground hard. I landed face first then flipped over and tried to crawl out the way of some following riders. A little shaken I carried on and was going ok but the rapid pace was taking its toll on me. Just when I was thinking I need to ease up a bit I caught my foot on something and my knee was twisted painfully. My knee braces helped limit the damage but I’d not been able to attach the tethers to my boots (I don’t think Tony would take too kindly to me cutting a hole in his pants to get the tethers through) so it was still painful. Racked with pain I lost concentration and ended up crashing again a few turn later. A clubman rider overtook and in the next lap or so my mojo was lost and a lot of guys slipped past.
how to ride open sand - nail it and keep your weight back
After a bit of a breather I tried to keep pushing and while my pace was a bit off what I’d been doing earlier it wasn’t too bad. The bike was dealing with the deep open sections of sand quite well, as long as I kept the power on. It was fairly energy draining though, but even more tiring was several areas of whooped out track on the course. One was particularly iffy and if you tried to ride it too fast it would buck you like crazy.
Tony trying to fend off no:30
I overtook Tony a couple of times and I think he was having a hard time of it in the sand, something he’s not had much experience with. There was a great little up and over hump that was smack in the middle of some open going and if you kept the gas on you could jump it. Almost overcooking it on one lap I eased off there for a while – then spotted Nicky taking pics so gave it a little bit more and I’m glad I did as she managed to get a cracking shot of me flying in the air with blue sky in the background - I nearly crashed on landing though!
tony in the trees
me on the small hump near the end of the lap
After stopping for fuel just past the two hour mark the heat was really getting to me. The braces have sleeves that you wear under the braces and it’s like wearing some long john’s under your riding pants so I was cooking. Just like the race before I could see the time ticking away and when I was pushing on what I thought was the last lap I came round with a few minutes to spare so had to set off on one more lap. By now the sun was blazing down and I was melting in my armour. I passed Tony again who was parked up on the side of the track. I thought he was waiting for the end to be able to claim a finish but afterwards he said he’d crashed (again) and had just fished his bike out the trees and needed a rest before continuing.
i like these with the tank in the background
but this one is even better!
Video of the first few laps and some crashes
Clocking out for the final time I could not stop fast enough to rip off my shirt and undo the knox body armour to take out the chest protector so that I could expel some of the heat that was threatening to melt me on the spot. I stood by the bike for a while, draining the camelbak of fluid and trying to recover. Tony came in and I walked over to see how he’d got on. After a bit we made our way back to the car and sat under a tree in the shade to cool down and drink a nice cold coke. Unbelievably the results were posted on the Witley trailer before we left the venue and unfortunately I’d had my worst result so far this season, 9th in clubman A. I must admit I’m fairly disappointed with that as I thought I’d done better. One thing i could not fault was the event that the Witley Club had laid on. Good organisation, well laid out track and a great days riding - well done guys!
this guy hit the
ground so hard Nicky heard the thump!
Grant hits the deck too
Tony his bike disappeared
in the dust looks to the heavens for help
Our faces were in a right state from all the dust but I had a 5ltr bottle of water with me so we were able to wash the worst off before setting off home. A few miles up the road I had to pull over as I’d had a persistent piece of sand in my eye but I just could not shift it. Using and eye bath later had no effect either so I doctored it myself by taking a cotton bud covered in vaseline and ran it underneath the top lid a couple of time and that finally shifted it, a massive relief as I was starting to drive me crazy. Roll on the next round.
dust? what dust?
its not dirt - its a beard
Tony reenacts one of the many times he fell off!
|©2015 John Muizelaar|