Today we were privileged to share our Grand Prix with the 70th continuous year of operation at picturesque Hellingly CSC. After the meeting Euro-Vets Grand Master, Fred Rothwell, chose fittingly to mark the occasion with the presentation of a brass plaque to Mr Hellingly aka George Hollebon and we staged a guard of honour in appreciation of George and his pals from the early days of our Sport in recognition of this fantastic achievement by the club. I'm glad I didn't mention changing the name of the sport down here as I may well have been put in the stocks on the village green at the very suggestion!
While the tricky limestone surface and varying cambers and levels inevitably throw up some surprises, the cream always rises to the top as was proven again today in the hotly contested Over 40 event. Biggest loser today in the ridiculously even battle for top spots was Kev Burns who missed out on the "A" Final on countback having lost out to Mark Winwood in heat 1. While current World and Euro-Vets Champion Craig Marchant's determination was plain to see, he lost an exciting clash with home track specialist Martyn Hollebon when they met in heat 15, both riders dropping just a single point. Tightly bunched behind were Dave Hemsley on 18 after defeating Martyn with Mark and Kev one adrift. Jason Keith sitting in second place in the overall standings did himself no favours with a couple of costly errors making Andy Johnson next best on 15 points. Yet again there were some great races, one of the most memorable being heat 5 when Mick Knowles took advantage of a tumultuous first bend to head the duelling Mark and Martyn for three laps only to offer the odd gap and let them slip through, much as Jason did, but lack of battery power prevents me displaying them here, sorry.
That hugely technical first turn took plenty of prisoners even though the brakes being clamped on at its crown in every race were loudly audible, even from the pits, but as always and everywhere it's the same for everyone. And this time Martyn made no mistake after gaining grid one for the Final to run out winner, much to the delight of the fair sized crowd of spectators. He was chased very hard for the full distance by Dave while Mark held Craig wide after the Champ had slipped massively coming off grid two and lost 3 lengths on the others. The "B" Final was a formality for Kev with Andy behind, Jason and Eddie battling for third place and finishing in that order.
So fitting that a Hellingly rider, and one so closely attached to the Club and its fabulous history, should be victorious on this very special day for Hellingly Lions CSC.
Below: Craig and Mark check the table to see where they stand.
Even Craig is smiling here but can we hell get HELLingly Man to do that?
The heats of the Over 50s were dominated again by the mighty gating power of quadruple round winner Mark Griffith, getting the better of the opposition with some ease. Once again the main threats were expected to come from Norman Venson and Paddy Wenn in the absence of Dave Frith,but the recent form of Glyn Morgan again shone through after a dazzling display and he ended up as third top scorer. As with the younger brigade there was hardly a race that didn't feature either a great scrap or some slight controversy, the most notable upset being Norman's last place in the first heat. The temptation of that fence leaving the second bend proved to have just a tad too much magnetic attraction for some! Behind the quickest lads Steve Mullinder, Phil Hemming and Terry Kirkup saw plenty of interaction when they met, the tricky surface again adding to the fun but the interest stretched all the way down the order with the amazing Chic Mackie trying all he could to match Fred Rothwell, Ashie Patterson and Brian Davidson into that tight first bend with a modicum of success..
The Oldie's Finals were first up and in the "A" Final Terry had earned grid one by an earlier win against Phil but couldn't take advantage after slipping on the damp surface and ended up grasscutting for a while before fending off Ashie and Fred. That win gave Phil the Over 60's lead with just the final round at Leicester, so familiar to him, to come. Worth a bet! Brian and Chic did a few laps side-by-side in the "B" Final before the home man eased to the win.
In the 50s"A" Final Mark sufferedf exactly the same fate from the inside allowing Paddy, Norman and Glyn to skeet away and keep their lead, Paddy making it two "A" Final wins in a row now. The "B" Final saw Terry again slip and lose any hope of heading Phil to the turn with Steve adding to the excitement after a slight coming together leaving the second bend, Fred collecting fourth place.