Although not strictly part of our Euro-Vets Grand Prix Series, the TLI Regional Veterans Championship at Leicester on Saturday 23rd July 2016 attracted many of our regulars, as expected.
The South and South East/South West/Wales were forced to amalgamate their resources to raise a squad, as did the North with Scotland and the Outer Hebrides after season-long chases by the likes of Paul Matthews, Paddy Wenn, Fred Rothwell and Mick Knowles - and all UK Vets had also been gee'd up and canvassed by World Champion Craig Marchant for months previous. Fortunately when the day arrived we'd all managed to gather enough bodies to make it viable and, come the end of proceedings, very successful.
The track and surrounds were up to the usual pinnacle of the Leicester Club's preparation, the only thing missing being a pre-match cloudburst which would have made the track even better. Once again as we've seen for much of this year (we shouldn't moan) the sun made the hosepipe a futile instrument, and of course it had to be one of the hottest days of the year to compund matters. Nevertheless the home riders kept the racing line as clear of loose shale as possible as the meeting progressed through a full 42 heats of racing.
It has to be said that the Leicester club have provided more backing to vets racing this year than anyone, and unfortunately for the South and North sides, they also provided the backbone of the Midlands side together with Birmingham, making it the stand-out favourites right from the off. They didn't disappoint their fans, strangely not too numerous around the fence on this beautiful day, but maybe holidays were affecting the support too.
Because of all the toil it took (a surprising amount, really) for the Team Managers to gather their squads I must say a few "Thank You's" to those who do not regularly compete with the rest of us-
For the South: Martin Glover, Malcolm Redpath, Ray Pyke, Jason Ashford and Gary Colby
For the Midlands: Andy James
For the North: Lee Lawrence, Norman Carson, Terry Norman, Neil Howarth, Chris Turner and Paul Graham
It was really great to see all of these boys, and thrilling for me to be part of the North's team with a set of "young" riders I admire, the first match of this kind I've taken part in. It was pretty obvious from Roger Ellis' team talk before heat one that there was an instant togetherness about the Midlands sides, but by the time we'd reached the interval I think the other two squads had also gelled into proper teams, the 40s and Oldies supporting each other pretty well.
As for the racing itself, almost a sideshow to the social rapport in the pits, there was only ever to be one winner, so strong were the Midlanders. However that didn't reduce the amount of graft those that were able put into their racing in an effort to slow their progress and probably the loudest cheers of the day came when one of Roger's boys was beaten! (no, there were a FEW more cheers than that!). While the eventual victors could afford the odd reserve replacement, some of us Southern and Northern folk were obliged (forced?) to take seven rides to make up for absent number fives but in reality that didn't hurt due to the spacing of rides in this combined format.
In the Over 50s only Phil Hemming (sorry to mention it mate!) dropped a point to a sterling effort from Lee Lawrence while his buddies all claimed maximum scores. Ray Pike and Malcolm Redpath were best for the South, Lee and Terry for the North. The Midlands were on a real roll here gathering points even more relentlessly than their younger counterparts but that didn't detract from the racing at all, and there was a titanic struggle for runner-up spot all the way to the wire between the South and North which maintained interest to the bitter end.
In the Junior section, Jason and Gary proved a formidable pairing for the South, managing to rob Kev Burns of a maximum in heat 4 and Andy James in heat 18. After brilliant work by Terry Norman in the 9th, his partner Neil Howarth managed to take 2 points off the Champ while Andy Johnson stopped Mark Winwood in heat 10. Mark Whitehead's hopes of a full score were shattered by first a flying Terry in race three then again by Jason Keith and Chris Turner in the 6th after a costly spill. Some great racing in this category but overall the Midlands way too powerful.
We thank Steve Mulllinder/Dash Trophies for supplying the wonderful shield for the winners, let's hope we can keep the event going and growing in stature.
Also got to thank Mick Knowles who is trustee of the 30 racing shirts that got used today, courtesy of Wosskow Brown.
A great day out, only a win could have made it better. We did have a great laugh travelling to the event though, with British Champion Lee Lawrence accompanying the three Geordies from Tyneside and back up again after the meeting. We collected a hitchhiker for the home trip, and she made sure no-one slept, not even the driver.
And we used the fantastic, completely clear and almost desolate A46 from and back to Newark and the A1, no fear of traffic delays on this route!