Once again we were bathed in sunshine for our visit to the picturesque Hellingly CSC on Saturday 6th August, just as we were the previous year. Fortunately the pit-side evergreen hedge and superb personalized Club gazebo provided plenty of shade for those who found it a trifle hot at a mere 27○C.
While Lower Dicker Recreation Ground looked very busy, there were a good few motors there not belonging to riders and it transpired that both classes, but particularly the 50s and 60s were well down on expected numbers. This was really disappointing, especially the turnout for the 50s which was expected to be very healthy. For those of us who had travelled reasonable distances for a competitive event it was doubly disappointing and we hope for a much better response over the remaining few fixtures.
Fortunately the Over 40s, although again down on numbers, was decently stocked with a healthy clutch of the World’s top talent, all eager to tame the tricky Hellingly circuit. While popularly labelled “a thinker’s track” in this part of the world, there were a few somewhat more disparaging descriptions bandied about in the pits after the first set of races following a whole raft of kerb-scraping out of that fearsome second bend! The situation wasn’t helped by the baking sunshine, and while the periodic watering did indeed wet the surface pretty well it produced even less grip than the bone dry version and introduced some extra uncertainty, so there was a good bit of nervousness about hitting the bends too hard. It wasn’t too long before everyone got the idea but for some the damage to their scoring and confidence was done early.
That said, as is the norm the racing was keen and interest maintained all the way to the finals with those 40-somethings putting on a great display. The chart-topping regulars were joined once again by multiple champion of everything, Steve Harris, now domiciled in the Midlands to suit his working patterns and it was hardly a surprise to see Steve up front all day. Current series leader Craig Marchant, defending Champion Mark Winwood and home track expert Martyn Hollebon were joined once again by the dynamic and now very welcome regular Euro-Vets duo from Leicester, Mark Whitehead and Kev Burns. These five had plenty of extra pressure available from Pete Chant, Paddy Wenn, Jason Keith and Andy Johnson who had claimed third place at Underwood.
The scores at the end of the 20 heats were ridiculously close, Steve and Martyn heading up the list on 18, Craig, Kev and Underwood victor Mark Winwood with 17 then another three – Paddy, Pete and Jason – on 14 a piece! Unluckiest of the front runners was Mark Whitehead who lost out on the finals after a tactical heat 17 saw him finish last, leaving him on 13 points although the other Mark would claim the same after being eased out of the “A” Final on countback! Mick Knowles, Jim Collier and local man Zac Parsons, back after a long spell out of the Sport, completed the 13-man lineup and were good value. Jim’s spectacular intestinal blowout in heat 15 had the whole place in stitches as his rear inner tube became an outer tube. I can’t repeat Norman Venson’s description of the aftermath, suffice to say it wasn’t politically correct!
With just three Over 50s making the trip, it was pretty obvious who the honours would go to. Norman continued his great Euro-Vets form to stay unbeaten with Dave Frith next up and Ray Oliver losing out to these two. There was plenty to enthuse over in the Over 60s as a resurgent Brian Davison used his home track knowledge brilliantly to get the better of Fred Rothwell and Chic Mackie during the 7-man heats.
Some of the photos below courtesy of Michelle Rideout.
The Over 60s Final looked like going with gate position. Brian got tangled up between Fred and Terry Kirkup going into the first turn, prompting a re-run and delivering a chopped up knee for the Hellingly man. In the rerun they got away cleanly only for Brian to drop it at the pits turn and suffer a hip injury to go with the first one!
The Over 50’s “A” Final saw the expected top trio line up with Terry getting the vacant spot. A right old charge into the first bend by Norman, Dave and Ray (below) left a gaping hole coming out of two for the Northumbrian to sneak through into the lead. That was short lived however as Norman caught up and regained control very quickly while his Over 50s buddies struggled with the freshly-watered and very slippery track conditions and collided so could make no progress, leaving an extremely unforeseeable result come the chequered flag and a good bit of head shaking.
The 50s “B” Final saw Brian, Fred and Chic at it again, but this time it did go with grid placings, Brian winning from Fred and the amazing Mr. Mackie.
The Over 40s “B” Final also went with gate positions, Mark Winwood winning from Pete and Jason, Paddy unlucky to whack that second bend kerb again allowing Jason back through after he’d been overtaken.
The Grand Final could have graced any Veteran’s championship run-off. This saw Steve off grid 1, Martyn 2, Kev 3 and Craig outside. A super start by Steve gave him the lead but it was an even more impressive move from the World Champion which saw him gate around Martyn and Kev to move into second place, while a further heroic effort around the outside by Martyn brought him past Craig at one point although he couldn’t sustain it and Kev took advantage on lap three to claim third. Up front Steve resisted all of Craig’s early attempts to make a pass, his own wide knowledge of the Sussex circuit proving decisive.
A nice touch after the meeting saw Veteran Cycle Speedway Riders’ Association Chairman Bill Gill make a long service award to both Hellingly founder George Hollebon and his long-suffering wife Gill, a lovely gesture to a lovely couple.