That was a fairly tiring weekend. Anyone who regularly travels the length and breadth of the country for a few minutes’ worth of on-track action should be knighted. You know who you are. Jason Keith and I set off for Sheffield around 5 pm on Friday to collect Fred Rothwell and Mick Knowles from the latter’s abode before heading sarf. We stayed over in a small but cosy hotel in Reading leaving us a couple of hours travel on the Saturday morning to get to Poole. Don’t ever mention “frozen north” to me again. It was just about dry to start with but after about 10 races it was drizzling lightly and the rain got progressively heavier as the meeting went on which wouldn’t have been so bad if we weren’t also enveloped in an Antarctican freeze when we expected a Mediterranean melting pot! Of course the Euro-Vets competitors all took it in their stride but the most sheltered parts of the pits were the most popular and much of the racing went unseen by many.
It’s about now I should mention that, as hard as I may try to take everything in and report on it later, it gets increasingly more difficult with age and subsequent memory loss, so if anyone else would like to put a few words together about the Series meetings please do that and let me have it for publication on here, a resource which I hope will last for many years.
The track started off only fairly damp after earlier showers and the loose top surface, becoming quite familiar now at many tracks, afforded reasonable grip but the crunching noise emanating from the tyres suggested it was prudent to take a little care on the bends, and there was a bit of sliding going on.
The bulk of the regular travellers were there again and joined this time by a few more southern-based riders giving us a turnout of 27 bodies, pretty good. That saw 14 race for the Over 40s podium and 13 for the Golden Oldies.
The regular Over 40s front runners were joined today by World Number Three Kev Burns of Leicester, part of a strong Midlands representation across the age groups and forming a phenomenal Monarchs trio with Mark Whitehead and Craig Marchant. We also welcomed Andy Johnson and Russ Tinsdale making their 2016 debuts in the competition.
To err is human really?
With a whole pile of the top lads gathering between 5 and 8 points after 2 rides each heat 10 boiled over, unusually, after Craig spotted a gap under Mark Winwood entering the first bend on the final lap. Mark responded by dropping back down to the line but the two became tangled and Craig fell heavily. A fairly typical situation so far but as Mark approached the finish line in the lead the whistle blew and to his, and to be honest everyone else’s astonishment he found himself excluded. There followed a very vocal outburst from the Birmingham rider and defending Champion who took some minutes to retrieve his composure regardless of the sympathy vote he got back in the pits, while consternation reigned over
a) why Mark was deemed guilty or
b) why ANYONE was deemed guilty or
c) why the race was stopped with the chequered flag 20 metres away
Ultimately though, normal service was resumed and the match continued with Craig going on to nineteen. Like a true Champion (of the World this time) he later apologised to Mark publicly via social media and sided with the Brummie over the decision. That takes some guts, I reckon.
In this sort of company dropping a full four points in one race doesn’t do you much good in your quest for the “A” Final and it cost Mark even a crack at the “B” this time. With passing at a real premium gating was all important and here Steve Harris was masterful, dropping just one to Craig while he himself lost out to Leicester teammate Mark Whitehead. Kev Burns only lost to the top two while Martyn Hollebon had another great meeting to finish on 17. There was plenty of action behind the fastest boys, Paddy Wenn again flying around the full four laps every time and Jason Keith unlucky to drop points from good positions while Eddie Ridley again looked quick. Pete Chant continues to be plagued by bad luck (something Mark Winwood has been hit with since last year’s World Final) after a dashing 2015 season, but there’s plenty of time left this year for a resurgence.
The “A” and “B” Final videos on here will tell the tale better than mere words but again they were a bit processional with the track now very nicely glazed.
There’s a fine line between total dedication and complete madness, hence the presence once again of the Oldest Cycle Speedway Rider In The Known Universe, the Right Honourable Charles “Chic” Mackie! How on earth does he keep this up? Once again Chic was armed with a brace of bikes ready for changing conditions but settled for his regular steed today, not ideal conditions for the wee man or indeed any of us Oldies. We also welcomed Rob Haywood and Pete Sadler to their first 2016 E-V outings.
The expected big hitters were off like a shot, namely Norman Venson, Paul Timms, Phil Hemming and Dave Frith. In both matches there was an extremely unusual and for some (myself included) infuriating stream of jump starts today which went mainly unnoticed from the centre green and one early sufferer was Ray Oliver in his second race to cut his expected high scoring through no fault of his own. I suppose the extra eagerness could have been down to the one-line/first out wins feel of the track but that would be a poor excuse. I can’t recall seeing this behaviour even at the titchy gater’s paradise of Underwood but hey, I’m still a relative newbie here.
Defending Champion Steve Hodgkinson was caught out in his first ride by the inaugural presence of local favourite Rob Haywood before steadying the ship but the top lads were showing just a smidgeon more overall consistency. Dave Frith was extremely unlucky to suffer a very heavy fall at the pits gate when something went “bang” under full power, the fall bringing off his front wheel as a by-product. He had, however, beaten Stevie and Ray when they’d met so took precedence in the tussle for the “A” Final. Had it not been for that mechanical Dave may well have been in the driving seat for the finale.
As normal though, even those without top step aspirations get stuck in as hard as they could so there was plenty of decent action for those staying outdoors to watch. Rob, Norman, Paul and Dave just nudged out Ray and Steve on countback for the Over 50s “A” Final, the letter two joined by Phil and Terry Kirkup in the “B” Final. There was some great scrapping in the “A” staging with Dave getting the better of Paul and Rob, but Norman was in no mood to surrender his series lead, romping to consummate victory.
The “B” Final again saw a huge flyer from “somewhere” on the grid (cheeky boy, you know who you are!) but Ray wasn’t going to be denied this time, his rapid getaway a match for the roller on his outside! Steve chased Phil home for third.
The Over 60’s Final (just the one due to numbers) saw Terry away quickly followed by Fred Rothwell, Pete Sadler and Chic but after a supreme effort Pete managed to squeeze by Fred to take second after a great 3-lap scrap.
The raffle was a great success again earning the Euro-Vets more great reward to put towards the end-of-year total for the Orchid Fighting Male Cancer charity and the meeting was run very smoothly as you’d expect from the home Club.
Standings after Round Three - seek confirmation elsewhere!