DTRA Round 1 - Kings Lynn
By Ross Sharp - 11 Apr 18
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....
Get involved or spectate (for free) Dirt Track Riders Association UK Web | Facebook | Instagram
For nostalgic and in-depth flat track nirvana - Sideburn Magazine & Merch | Web | Facebook | Instagram
Learn to skid at the Champions Flat Track School
Previous flat track features in the DTRA archive