First off, I have to have it noted that the “Northerners” were NOT the last arrivals today – over to you Fred Rothwell – explain yourself laddie! In fairness there were in fact loads of delays for many of us trying to reach the track in time. Well done to those who did. Some may still be trying.
The Orchid Masters knockout event at Birmingham’s somewhat damp Perry Hall raceway on Saturday 5th August 2017 may not have attracted as many riders as we’d expected but it sure did attract the Thunder God! The track was 25% under water before the visitors started to arrive but miraculously Stevie Hodgkinson and his kindred Monarch spirits managed to move it all off before start time and out came the sun and a stiff breeze to help. Unfortunately very heavy rain struck again late in the meeting causing a 10 or 15 minute delay as the bulk of the riders mucked in to repeat the exercise.
That led us to keep the flooded gate one free which turned out to be the perfect solution with only 9 riders in each group necessitating 3-man races - fluke! By the time the 4-man Finals arrived gate one was fineas you can see below for the Over 60s Final.
With a smattering of 40’s 50s and 60s in each primary the draws were fairly even and as is the norm, led to some good matchups and thus several cracking races.
Before I forget I must thank non-Euro-Vets runners Chris Callow, Bob Prince and the incomparable, legendary Leicester superstar Dave Hemsley for turning out today to support the event and subsequently our supported charity Orchid Fighting Male Cancer, to which the entry fees will go together with the rest of our collections at the end of the season. Well done and many thanks to long-distance Hellingly travellers Eddie Ridley and Martyn Hollebon for their continued support and also Hethersett’s Glyn Morgan who was without his regular travelling partner Paddy Wenn today, a long lonesome drive for him. Good to see Wednesfield’s Craig Burt continue his support for Vets racing too.
Dave went through the heats unbeaten with home hero Mark Winwood next up followed by the supremely impressive Monarchs youth Paul Timms! Bob took a good heat win over Eddie to hit the top four. Dave’s immense gating prowess saw him flash off the line in all four of his races to look totally untroubled, as if he’d never taken a break from CS. Here he leads Eddie and Terry on lap one.
The other primary saw World Champion Craig Marchant drop just a single point to Northumbrian Jason Keith in a very tactical heat 6 as he fought off the challenge of Martyn Hollebon in probably the toughest race of the qualifiers. A flying Andy Johnson produced surely his best Vets display this year matching Craig’s 15 point haul, losing only to the Champ. Martyn looked a little subdued today, no doubt due to a crappy, traffic-ridden and stressful drive up to the Midlands. He and Norman Venson finished on 13 in group two.
If we did a “Chasers Award” it would have been shared by Mick Knowles and Jim Collier, both of them providing plenty of excitement if not race wins.
Mick turned Ambassador for the Sport today (OK then, crash test dummy) by trying out some different MTB tyres off bomBay, way cheaper than Maxxis Larsens but a similar block pattern tread akin to the 2” version. After two races he decided to ditch them as they were simply too draggy, especially on a heavy track like today’s. Maybe the two quid asking price (for a dozen) should have warned him off. Ten out of nine for bravery though, and the apparent absence of further supplies of both Larsen and Kenda’s Small Block Eights means those happy with these treads will need to track down a replacement soon.
So on to the semi-finals, and what makes this event unique is the potential mix of ages and also the method of selecting grid positions which is by rider choice, top scorer getting first pick and yes, not always selecting gate one!
However, even with gate one looking decidedly dirty and damp the top scorers decided to play it safe and stick with it, only a few of the older riders switching from their normally preferred slots to less favourable outsides. With only four Over 60s present the Final was clear cut and the result was another classy win for Paul with Bob second, Terry just getting the better of Fred after a great two-lap duel.
Bob’s solid scoring had him comfortably into the first Over 40s semi, won by Dave from Mark and Martyn. Paul had also made it into the second semi but withdrew leaving Craig to win from a still very rapid Andy with Jason unable to make a challenge.
Over 50s semi 1 saw Paul and Terry skip away from Bob and Fred, while in the second Glyn couldn’t find an answer to winner Norman and Steve.
The Big One, the Over 40s Final had Dave completing his unbeaten afternoon with a fine win over Craig while Mark fended off the persistent challenges of Andy. In the Over 50s Final Norman made no mistake overtaking Paul for the win while Steve “showed” Terry the fence on the first bend, as hinted at on the grid in jest, to ruin what could have been a decent race (weep!).
Referee Albert Bentley (thanks for that Albert – nice umbrella!) of East Park Wolves presented the trophies as the circus set about deciding the best way to avoid the M6 on the way home.
photos: Ashie Patterson
Hope to see you all and a few more at this event next year, and of course at the remaining Euro-Vets Grand prix rounds.