It’s that time of year again, winter has been and gone yet somehow I didn’t have a bike ready for round 1 of the 2018 flat track season. But perhaps more importantly I still hadn’t managed to find out where I left my mojo. I hoped a van full of gear and a paddock full of mates would help with the latter as I headed to the Adrian Flux Arena in Kings Lynn to catch up on all the gossip having been absent from the DTRA family since June last year. Although great to see everyone the only action my Rotax Thunderbike saw was an undignified wheeling into the pits wearing a for sale sign. More on that in a minute.
What I was excited to see is how the new race format would pan out. Qualifying on Saturday afternoon followed by evening races for combined grids of the old restricted class (now called Inters) along with the pros. Also new, allowing a qualifying session in the first instance, is the introduction of individual transponder lap timing. Something we’ve all been keen to see implemented for sometime and it’s great that the DTRA have been able to save enough in the coffers to make this exciting addition to race weekends. Being a lifetime race geek I do love a timing sheet, it certainly cuts through the bravado. And with the top 20 being covered by less than 2 seconds around one of the UK’s longest tracks competition was going to be tough. All the more reason I was pleased not to be in mix with a brain that’s gone awol.
The official DTRA press release is below but there were a few standouts for me….
(click on these rubbish iPhone shots to enlarge – I need a camera!)
Veteren racer, ex-champ and co-founder of UK flat tracking, Pete Boast, was on fire during Saturdays heats, showing the young guns that out and out speed isn’t everything – consistency and race craft are just as important. Despite a busted leg from a road race crash Pete impressed the whole paddock, a real crowd pleaser.
Seemingly though age has little to do with it, less than half Boastie’s age Leah Tokelove threw the gargantuan Indian Scout around in the Hooligan races as if it were a 450. Calculating and progressive, Leah seems to eat-up swathes of track with apparent ease, judging her competition and picking them off with purpose. Cheering on the raucous and beastly Hooligan bikes did threaten to relight the fire in my belly, is that a mojo I see on the horizon?
As mentioned below Toby Hales fought hard to try and pass Team Greenfield‘s Gerard Bailo. All day Gerald looked the fastest on track, gracefully slamming his Kawasaki on its cases before scrubbing the front (turning the bars the wrong way!) and jumping on the gas early. But it was Toby who topped the time sheets and applied enough pressure to make a last gasp pass on the last corner of the final to take the win. Proper edge of the seat racing all night.
Coming back after a nasty injury last season and first time on a 450 since my practice buddy and rookie season nemesis Tim Aucott calmly plugged away in the Inter class and made the main final, finishing well enough to bag 2nd on the Inter podium. A complete shock to him when announced on the tannoy but well deserved.
Not so lucky were Mike Hill from Survivor Customs and Gareth Howes who both came off badly after a really horrible pile-up that saw bikes and riders catapulted into and under the airfence. At the end of the evening a spaced-out Gareth wore eyes like it was 1992 and he’d been at an acid house party while Mike looked like he must have spilled Anthony Joshua’s pint – a black eye, broken teeth and ribs, busted hand and a swollen face his only prizes for the weekend.
Even though I’d done nothing but stand around drinking beer I did win something. I finally received a prize for 3rd in the 2017 Hooligan Championship, and netted an actual trophy rather than the usual number boards. Pretty happy with that, especially as it’ll probably be the last award I get while racing – the bar has been raised, considerably.
Sunday though proved to be a bit of a washout with constant drizzle from dawn. Mike Fisher on his sweet smelling Bultaco Astro, Ross Herrod on a Rotax Thunderbike and just a few others made their steads dance on the ice-like shale while most struggled to do more than tip-toe around. Apart from one of plucky six year old, Kye Forte’s son. Aboard his PW50 for the first time this future champ kept it pinned from start to finish with his left foot barely skimming the soggy apex. I’m sure he didn’t know quite how cool he looked.
Sadly the day was cut short and classed as a rain-off. Stupid British weather. Good shout though as the medics were running dangerously low on Savlon and sympathy.
I may not have raced but spending the whole weekend answering questions as to why, I think I have the answer. For me podiums and timesheets aren’t what make me smile, there’s something more visceral than that. The sights, sounds and smells of motor racing, it’s that that’s kept me hooked for three and a half decades. The Rotax might be the motor of choice for many but I just can’t get excited by it’s power delivery or exhaust note and the 450 DTX bikes don’t make me moist either. My Cagiva Hooligan racer though, that delivered thrills by the wagon load and I’ll miss lighting the touch paper and trying to hold on. The angry bark of its twin cylinders, the satisfaction of knowing I hammered, welded and bled to make it look trackerish. I love that bike, but it was only supposed to do a couple of Dirt Quakes and some commuting and wasn’t built for the rigours of real racing. Now that the old girl has been sent to retire in the donkey sanctuary I need something to help me find my mojo again.
Here’s hoping this holds the key….
Learn to skid at the Champions Flat Track School
Previous flat track features in the DTRA archive
DTRA PRESS RELEASE
2018 Indian Motorcycle UK Flat Track National Championships
Round 1, April 7/8, Adrian Flux Arean, Kings Lynn
Round one of 2018 Indian Motorcycle UK Flat Track National Championships put on by the DTRA (Dirt Track Riders Association) took place on the well-groomed and fast riding circuit at the Adrian Flux Arena in Kings Lynn. The event also hosted round one of the 2018 Indian Motorcycle Hooligan Championships.
Held under floodlights on Saturday night the Pro class delivered top level racing with Peter Boast and Richard Mason both getting flying starts, but it was Gerard Bailo from Spain who came out of the first turn in front. Meanwhile Gary Birtwistle had worked his way through into second with Mason third and Toby Hales fourth. The Spaniard continued to ride well opening a small gap as the others fought for position and it looked like the victory was his for the taking.
Behind, things were heating up as Hales moved up the inside of Birtwistle to move into second and started to close the gap to Bailo. The Spaniard rode well holding his line as Hales tried to find a way through. On the final turn of the final lap Hales shot up the inside and the pair tucked in for the line. Hales stole the victory leaving Bailo to settle for second. The battle for third continued as Pickering and Birtwistle duked it out. Pickering blasted around the outside to take the final spot on the podium.
The Intermediate class, formerly the Restricted class, was fast and furious as ever. It was newcomer Matt Porter who came in and cleaned up as he took the victory on his maiden voyage. Tim Aucott, who was back racing after injury hampered his 2017 season, had a fast race to take second. Martin Mills, who moved into the class after racing Rookie in 2017, showed how far he has come taking third.
This event also played host to round one of 2018 Indian Motorcycle Hooligan Championship. The Hooligan class features 750cc and above streetbikes, with the front brake disconnected and no knobbly tyres are permitted. As a result, there was an eclectic mix of big fast bikes on the start line including a fleet of Indian Scout mounted team riders.
The race got under way with huge roar of sound as Grant Martin blasted ahead to lead the way out of turn two. Behind, it was a big battle as Jonathan Falkman, Chris Hatton and Lee Kirkpatrick fought it out. Martin rode a classy race at the front never looking threatened as took he took the top spot. Behind, the race continued and it was Leah Tokelove who was shining as she made her way through the competition. Unfortunately, Kirkpatrick crashed while sitting in second leaving the door open for Tokelove, who’d ridden a smart race, and earned herself a well-deserved second place finish. Fellow Indian teammate Falkman rounded out the podium in third.
The other DTRA classes in the 2018 Indian Motorcycle UK Flat Track National Championships got under way on Sunday morning but unfortunately rain stopped play and the meeting had to be ended for safety reasons. These classes will now be contested over six rounds rather than seven.
Round two of the Indian Motorcycle UK Flat Track National Championships takes place on May 19/20 at the MCN Festival of Motorcycling at the East of England Arena, Peterborough. Round two of the Indian Motorcycle Hooligan Championships takes place on May 5/6 at Hells Race in Lelystad, Holland.
Decent images by Ian Osbourne