After a cloudy, cool start the sun emerged to drown the tree-lined Myrtle Park beauty spot housing one of my favourite tracks in dappled light to set the scene for another Gentlemanly round of Short Track Racing.
An excellent Over 50/60 entry of 16 riders largely offset slight disappointment of having just 10 Over 40s but the quality of the racing didn't suffer at all, and once again we were treated to some marvellous racing across all three age groups.
Our now standard order-of-running format was used, one heat of Over 40s followed by one heat of Oldies, ad infinitum (until the final heat!).
Over 40s World Champion Craig Marchant bounced back from his British Final disappointment with a fabulous display of speed and strength out of the starts to go through the card unbeaten and claim a vital grid one for the "A" Final. It was all happening behind him with Leicester teammate Kev Burns shrugging off his crippling back problem to fight it out with fellow front-runners Martyn Hollebon, Mark Winwood and Jason Keith for the other places in the Blue Ribbon final. Kev slipped a pedal leaving the grid while inside Mark in heat 5 with the Birmingham man taking full advantage for the win and lost out in a rerun heat 17, no-one quite sure why the first one was stopped. Martyn lost out to Kev, Jason and Craig before winning his last two while Kev dropped that vital point in the heat 17 clash with Craig and a seemingly revitalised Jason. However, he'd beaten Martyn when they met in a taught opener to nudge the Hellingly man out on countback.
With both ends of the track behaving differently grip-wise due to one retaining moisture thanks to the tree cover on the first turn and the other bone dry out in the sunshine, there were quite a few heart-stopping moments for many of the youth brigade, and of course the Elders found it even trickier at times!
Mark beat Jason in their heat 11 match race duel, plenty of track space to move around on but the Northumbrian couldn't find a way past, Mark looking resplendent on his gorgeous new Rourke-built frame blending superbly with the Birmingham club colours of his racing jersey, both finishing on 18.
The Good, the Bad and the Urrr...
Behind the somewhat expected front men once again Eddie Ridley, Mick Knowles and Jim Collier battled gamely with some persistent challenges, great to watch, and Glasgow's new boy Darren Maxwell looked very promising on his Euro-Vets debut. The big loser was poor Wayne Tipton who was having a cracking battle with Darren when they tangled at the crown of the third bend in heat 7, Wayne tipping it (sorry!) heavilly and staying motionless on the track until anxious colleagues rushed to help. It took him some time to gather himself with the main points of pain being his head and right wrist. His helmet actually banged into the front wheel nut, forcing it into his forehead but still saving him from posssible catastrophic injury, while it emerged through the days following that he'd broken the metacarpal in his pinky (thanks to Jim Collier for the update). We all wish you well mate, speedy recovery.
Final time, and Martyn rode the perfect line in the "B" Final to keep Mick, Jim and Eddie at bay with a good scrap going on behind him. Craig continued his devastating run in the "A" Final straight from the tapes but there was an awful lot of activity going on behind him as the chasing pack get ever closer to each other following a cagey first turn. This ultimately led to Mark losing traction exactly where everyone else was having slight issues and dropping it right in front of Kev who was too close to avoid the crunch while a wily Geordie who'd let about ten lengths get between him and the others managed to sneak around the line before Mark could get back on his pedals. (I blame Mark's balding rear Small Block 8 for his demise but I'm sure he'll disagree!).
Paddy's Persistence Pays.
Leicester’s Dave Frith mimicked the perfect performance of his Clubmate Craig by zooming to a five ride maximum in the Over 50&60 mixed programme, his inside spot when he met series leader Mark Griffith of Wednesfield proving quite handy. Behind Mark on 19 came Norman Venson, “Stormin” dropping just two points to this pair with Norwich hero Paddy Wenn just a couple adrift of him, the former threesome comfortably grabbing the 50s “A” Final slots although Paddy had to squeeze in on countback finishing on 16, level with Phil Hemming after dropping an unexpected point to an unusually quick Northumbrian oldie. Ex-British Champ Lee Lawrence kicked off with a good win over a mercilessly chasing Colin Gray and that, I think, gobbled up a fair bit of Lee’s energy reserve although he still took 9 from his next three rides before it came home to roost in his last! Once again the Glasgow lads supported the event well with Joe Beuckmann and Jim Alexander also taking part making it five entries over the three age groups, well done gents. Leicester and Northumbria were next up with four entrants, JP Colback now well hooked into the Euro-Vets scene and as usual fearless with his camera positions! (photo courtesy of the amazing George Swanson).
The 50s “A” Final produced one of the best races of the day with Dave off gate 1 leading Mark, Norman and the ever-pressing Paddy. Hitting turn three on the third lap Norman made his move on the other two, the resultant melee allowing Paddy to pounce up the inside and scoot away to hold on for his first “A” Final win!
The “B” Final was somewhat processional for the first three laps with Phil making great use of the inside slot to win chased down by Glyn while this one proved one ride too many for Lee who was overtaken by Terry just before the finish.
Phil was clearly the best of the Over 60 squad even fending off Norman for three laps in heat 12 and lost no time gathering a big score at the expense of his oppos to grab the inside for the “A” Final, which once again would prove useful considering how gate 1 had seen TK get out ahead of Paddy and Glyn in heat 10. The final saw him blast away again and keep it inch perfect to hold Terry on his shoulder while Fred Rothwell and Ashie Patterson fought it out for third.
Great to see Hellingly stalwart Brian Davison back on a bike and back in the series, in fact his bike was a new one not yet ridden in anger. With Brian facing young Chic Mackie in the “B” Final there was anything but anger displayed as the two circled side by side until Brian eased into the lead late on to take the win.
Unfortunately I didn’t get much footage of the meeting due to a lousy camera battery so I may update this after I’ve seen JP’s comprehensive video stream as I'm sure I've missed a few highlights with a rapidly fading memory.
Plenty of flailing left legs all captured perfectly by the magic lens of George Swanson!