It was a dull, dreary morning on the lead-up to the start of the meeting, and fairly light but persistent rain from midday made the track damp although not saturated. Raincoats on for all but the brave! WE had perhaps expected a bit more support for this from the regular Euro-Vets participants but numbers were lower than hoped for. The result was a turnout of 18 riders so as has happened in the past, Fred Rothwell split the field into two mixed-category groups ensuring a fair divide between 40s, 50s and 60s in each one.
I should really kick off with a shout out for the magnificent Midlands, who not only dominated proceedings on track (once again) but also provided the bulk of the entry. That and a super influx of home riders from the brilliant Hull club ensured the event’s success after that stormer of a meeting at Sheffield last year.
I’m going to single out a few for praise here – Steph Whitehead, who I’d never met before, a lovely fella. Joe McLaughlin, hopefully now rid of those medical horrors; Paul Dyson, he’s been a real miss in the Euros this year; Paul Fisher of Sheffield; and finally Andy Moody, Dominic Bent and Dave Lister of Hull. Thank you all for taking part today.
New British Champion Steve Harris was here to defend the title he won in that inaugural Sheffield staging, while the Leicester lads were out in force again with World Champion Craig Marchant accompanied by Kev Burns, Mark Whitehead, Dave Frith and Norman Venson. Defending Euro-Vets Champion Mark Winwood was also on hand to ensure a sparkling entry list – the chase was on!
To minimise the hanging around in the damp we ran one heat of each group alternately and got through the initial Knockout stage pretty smartly. Most first bend activity was super keen while there wasn’t too much passing after that on a wet but reasonably stable surface with plenty of grip to be found away from the kerbs. Mark Winwood emerged as overall top scorer with an unbeaten 16 points in group two to get himself prime grid choice for the semis. Next up were Craig and Kev followed by Steve Harris, Norman Venson, Dave Frith and Jason Keith all on 14 points.
So at the end of the initial stage the big shock was that Mark Whitehead had missed the Over 40 semi-final cut by a solitary point, with Dave and Norman from the Over 50s displacing him, this event of course providing opportunities for anyone quick enough from the Over 50 or indeed Over 60 riders to take part in the Over 40 race-offs. Results are not quite so predictable using this match format!
Dave, Paul, Norman and Terry had first pick of gate positions for the two Over 50 semis while with the Over 60s having just four eligible riders there was just a single final, with Terry getting gate preference after a keen contest in the group races.
There’s been some extremely keen racing, and passing, in the lead up to the semis and they were to provide a bit more, although tactics crept in at this stage.
The Over 40 first semi saw Mark stomp away from the gate with Steve clinging to the line out of turn two. Disaster struck Mark on the wider line as he slipped a pedal, sending him to the back while Steve gladly accepted the lead only to be passed by a flying Dave!, who slowed just before the line allowing Steve to claim first place. Mark eventually overhauled a flying Paul to finish third but alas miss out on the Final.
In the second semi, Craig made no mistake off grid one to lead Kev home ahead of Jason and Norman.
Dave was an easy winner of the first 50+ semi from Joe, Steph and Terry while in the other semi, Norman overcame the two Pauls and an unfortunate Andy, having calf cramp trouble at the gate all day, perhaps due to his lack of regular racing.
So to the finals now, and we kicked off with the Over 60s. Gate positions again proved crucial and the finishing order matched them in this one with Terry heading Joe, Steph and Fred.
It was the same story in the Over 50 Final with Dave leading them away and staying ahead of Norman, a pressing Paul Dyson and a happily fit-looking Joe staying well in touch.
Once again a magnificent line-up awaited for the Over 40 Grand Final. The World Champ’s gating didn’t let him down, so away from the line Steve decided to attack the outside, being ever-watchful of Kev’s proximity and progress around the inside. His supreme effort came to an end at the end of lap two when Kev found that gap underneath and went for it, Steve being nerfed wide and knowing his race was done. Kev’s push hadn’t done him too many favours and Dave was close enough to attack and nip inside for second position. Towards the end of the lap, however, a magnificent burst took Kev back around his club mate to claim overall runner-up spot.