2015 in short

I think we were generally a bit down on numbers at most, if not all GPs in 2015 after a decently well attended 2014 season. There could be many reasons for that including the busy summer World Championship period and perhaps mere geography. However, taken as a whole it was a great year for us Veteran racers.

To counter that we were massively boosted by the presence at a handful of rounds each by new World Champion Craig Marchant and outgoing Champion Steve Harris. These two were joined by top performer and 4th in the World Jason Burke to add extra spice to some of the rounds.

The clashes between these three and ultimate Euro-Vets Over 40s Champion Mark Winwood always provided something special for those spectating. Mark proved almost unbeatable all year to make it two-on-the-trot E-V titles.

The Over 50s saw defending Champion Paul Timms up against it from the start due to injury, but he fought back to be somewhere near his best form by the time we reached the Finale. However it was his Birmingham teammate Steve Hodgkinson who ultimately saw his purposeful plan from the outset come to fruition as he masterfully captured the crown in the final match at Bury. Additional highlights for the Over 50s were single appearances by British Over 50s Champion Lee Lawrence and superstar Colin Simmons, both at their home tracks.

The Over 60s continue to struggle to attract more old riders but those who bothered did so with full commitment. Bob Prince was an ever present and deservedly scooped the Champion’s trophy while Geordies Jim Graham and Terry Kirkup missed a round due to car breakdown which was never going to affect the results. As usual Fred Rothwell and Mick Aris were reliable combatants as well as supreme organisers with the latter claiming Runner-Up spot to end a glittering 50 year “career” in our little Sport.

The 2016 season sees Coventry maestro Joe McLaughlin step up from the 50s to the 60s while Leicester star Norman Venson is levered out of the 40s into the 50s. It looks like the Over 60s may have to wait a few years for a top-up!

The British Veterans Club Championship at Hull proved something of a mass reunion for the UK’s Over 40 brigade with 9 clubs taking part. After a fantastic afternoon’s racing and some awesome individual performances, defending champions Kesgrave were joined by Birmingham, Leicester and surprise packet Northumbria in the Final. Leicester’s rapid racers took command to win the title while the other three were almost joined at the hip until the last few races. Birmingham scooped Runner-Up slot while a nail-biting run-off saw minnows Northumbria get the nod for third.

In the late-season inaugural TLI British Veterans Championship at Sheffield Steve Harris and Paul Timms bounced back into their almost customary Champion positions while Bob Prince completed a hat trick of Over 60s titles to cap a great year.

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Monarchs Monopoly at Bury

It’s a shame that this, the final round of the 2015 Orchid Euro-Vets Grand Prix series at Bury couldn’t have attracted more entries, but that did not detract from the standard of racing with some great exchanges throughout both cards; the Over 40s and mixed 50s/60s. Birmingham Monarchs Mark Winwood, Steve Hodgkinson and Bob Prince took top honours in all three age categories, a staggering performance by the Midland Club.

The track made most of the riders pretty wary of its bends, crackling beneath the tyres and looking pretty loose. Indeed there were a few skids and slips but for the most part, grip levels defied its appearance.

The low numbers again, 8 Over 40s and 11 50s & 60s, meant most races in the five-ride programmes consisted of three or at times just two riders but interest remained good and the racing keen. The 50s & 60s led off this time with three races to give all competitors their first rides and nerves were jangling in the pits due to the closeness of the Over 50s and Over 60s rostrum chases.

I’ve just got to say a huge “Thank You” and well done on behalf of Orchid and Fred to Paddy, Pete, Eddie and Martin in particular who’ve supported the series all year, again clocking up massive mileages and of course a fair amount of expense, and also to Paul Matthews who unfortunately missed the last few meetings. And of course all the other regulars who have not only cemented their belief in the competition but this year raised an incredible amount of money in support of our charity, Orchid Fighting Male Cancer.

On that very subject I can tell you that the final figure is very close to £1200 and may even exceed that, being double the amount we’ve raised in the previous two years, a magnificent achievement. However, in case you don’t know, or weren’t at the Bury Grand Finale where Fred announced it, almost half of that figure was collected by the one and only Norman Venson on our behalf. Norman hounded everyone he came across over the Worlds week and other non-connected events and his contribution to this year’s charity collection is simply stunning. Great stuff Norm.

Once again the Finals hosts, Bury, did us proud with a superb buffet after the event at a local hostelry and on behalf of the Euro-Vets members we thank them very much for that.

It is fitting that our friend and ultra-keen rival, the late, great John Whiting spent his last years with the Club. The meeting included a pensive minute of silence in memory of a fabulous racer and all-round gentleman. RIP John. photo courtesy of John Burston.

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