Will try to catch up in a few days and get some more detail on here with maybe a few videos.
Once again the Leicester club did us proud, beginning with a massive clear-up operation after the track was flooded in the morning but ready for racing come tapes-up around 1:15 pm. In fact as the drizzle finally slowed and stopped the track did firm up and begin to dry out, but somehow it still provided fantastic grip levels right from the opening heat apart from a few inches around the inner kerbs.
I have to repeat a few Facebook “thank you”s here, starting of course with the Monarchs riders and helpers for their graft and hospitality. Also to Paddy Wenn’s folks, our super, much-travelled supporters for the last few seasons and sponsors of today’s pennants which every rider received. To Steve Copping of Norwich CSC who took his first steps into the world of the Euro-Vets today. To Chris Ward for his brilliant season-long support of the series after many years away from the bikes. And to my old mate and adversary, ex-speedway rider Frank Auffret who like Steve braved potential misery and took the plunge at today’s Finale, vowing to do the whole series next year.
Below - Frank lines up for his first taste of serious racing in 50 years on the inside against Vets World Champion Norman Venson, British Over 60s Champion Colin Simmons and "I Am Legend" Chic Mackie.
To Horspath stalwart and Team GB mastermind Geoff Gamage who has done a fantastic job this year as Pits Marshall and lent his considerable expertise and assistance to the cause. To my chauffeur, travelling companion and good friend Jason Keith who has also kept our dying club’s head just above water this year with his insistence on regular training sessions, and also my very old friend Alan “Ashie” Patterson who has fought off nasty disease for the last two years now and battled the effects of chemotherapy to join us for five of this year’s GP rounds. And to the amazing 80 year old Chic Mackie who managed to turn out once again for the final round of the series.
And finally, Thank You to the incredible Fred Rothwell who’s enthusiasm keeps the whole thing going year after year and keeps smiling through all the torment of finding fixture dates and venues, arranging insurance, collecting funds for Orchid and the E-Vs and generally providing the means to give us the racing we all enjoy so much.
On the subject of Orchid it looks like our chosen charity will again receive over a thousand pounds from us as a group which isn’t bad for a little bunch of sometime bike riders.
Apart from all the usual ups and downs, moments of joy and torment we experience throughout a season we were all a bit extra shocked when Paddy Wenn took a nasty tumble in heat 14 and emerged with what looked like a possible broken jaw and a proper dizzy spell, as well as some peripheral damage. Shades of Dave Hemsley’s horrible broken ankle crash in the same event last year. However a check-up in hospital later saw some stitches popped into Paddy’s face and luckily nothing more serious, though we were all a bit fearful watching him stagger around the place afterwards looking dazed and hardly able to speak, with blood pouring from his mouth.
There were again a few title and overall rostrum places to be decided in this final round, again reminiscent of 2017. This time Paddy Wenn was just 4 points up on home man Dave Frith at start time in the chase for Over 50s third place, while theoretically Paddy could have overtaken Norman Venson for first place had he won the “A” Final and Norman not scored at all! Similarly in the Over 60s, had Terry not turned up or had an early problem Fred was in a position to snatch runner-up spot. The Over 40s situation was much more intense and precariously balanced on a knife edge after a season-long battle between E-V newcomer from Exeter ,Rob Geach and Northumbria’s Jason Keith. Either one could have emerged in third place and it wouldn’t be decided until the end of the “B” Final. A wee bit further up the points ladder, Brummie Mark Winwood had defending champion and home favourite Craig Marchant a mere five points adrift for the title, and with Craig scoring maximum points in the heats and grabbing grid one for the “A” Final it was all to play for come Final time.
Next best in the main programme were Leicester’s British Champion Mark Whitehead and Mark Winwood on 18 apiece while Rob Geach again provided most of the talking points as he gathered up 17 valuable points including a staggering last gasp pass on the line over rostrum rival Jason Keith in heat 1 after an intense chase and some place swapping. This would eventually see the Geordie relegated to the “B” Final and needing to win it to secure third place overall.
Carl Winwood and Craig Whitehead both made their very welcome second outings in this year’s series piling up 14 each with some spirited riding, the Birmingham Monarch missing out on a win against his brother in heat 3 after having his eyes filled with shale, corrected with glasses from then on but creating a few murmurs in the pits. Surely not! And it was good to see Great Blakenham's Jason Ashford back amongst his old rivals and ex-teammates again. Wednesfield’s Craig Burt made his fourth 2018 appearance and rode well again, hustling his way to 12 points including a good win over Jim Collier while Steve Copping joined the fray for his Euro-Vets debut, hopefully encouraging others to try their hand next year.
The first running of the “A” Final saw a typically opportunist undercut attempt by Rob Geach go a little awry with Craig being unseated and Mark Whitehead wiped out completely! Rob was allowed back in the rerun by a very generous referee but this time came unstuck at the pits end where the very inside was still a little slippery, and down he came to finish last with the very impressive and fast-starting Stumpz gathering his 24th point of the day to win from Winnie and Mark Whitehead. That result clinched the championship for Mr Winwood while Rob's single point threw the pressure for third place overall back onto Jason. The 2018 Edinburgh rider made no mistakes to win the "B" Final from grid 1 over Carl and Craig Whitehead, a fast but tiring Jason Ashford eventually outpaced in 4th place, thus ensuring JK's overall third place by a single point over Rob. Below - the "A" Final lineup.
The Over 50s and 60s event saw championship topping trio Paddy Wenn, Dave Frith and Norman Venson kick off with their first wins and Over 60s champion elect and current BC Over 50s champ Colin Simmons next best after three heats each. Dave's stern defence against Norman in heat 8 and Norman's against Paddy in the tenth showed the Leicester pair really meant business today and both drew gasps from the onlookers with most of the defensive action at the pits end. That was until heat 14 when Paddy's persistent and determined effort to dig a hole under Dave going into the third bend cost him that nasty face plant and brought the meeting to a halt for a good ten minutes. He wasn't able to continue and that was his chance of climbing an extra podium step gone for this year. We wish Paddy a speedy and complete recovery.
Below - looks like Norm the Storm is phoning a friend as he lines up for the epic heat 8 battle with Dave!
Dave emulated his young Leicester teammate Craig by going on to record a brilliant maximum with World Champion Norm just 1 point adrift while reigning Over 60 E-V champion Phil Hemming gathered three wins in his last three heats to put him on 17 with Colin, both Grand Veterans well in the mix.There was plenty of action further down the field with the highlight probably being another on-the-line pass, this time new boy Frank sneaking up on the normally very wily Fred to grab a cheeky second place by a minute margin.
The 50s "B" Final saw Fred and Frank hard at it again for the whole race and as they mucked each other about with a lazy and wide entry to the final turn, an enterprising Chris Ward sprang a surprise on them both to lead to the finish! In the "A" Final Dave made no mistake to complete his own 24 point score and secure second overall, again hotly pursued by Norman, here clinching the Championship with Phil getting the better of Colin a bit behind the runaway leaders.
The Over 60s "B" Final gave Fred a chance to compensate for two earlier mistakes with a good win over a hard challenging Chris, Ashie Patterson getting the better of Chic Mackie off the start and easing to third place. The "A" Final saw a bit of a strange start with Colin off grid 2 not happy about something while fast starting Phil off 1 scooted into the lead pursued by Frank and Terry, who managed to make use of the phenomenal grip around the outside to jump past Phil on the back straight and take the win. Colin did manage to overhaul a now very tired but superbly game Frank for third.
We couldn't resist turning the clock back to 1968 or thereabouts with this shot of our motley, or more appropriately on this occasion, mottled crew from that era, left to right Fred Rothwell (then Woodside Diamonds, Halifax), Leslie Gustafson (then Trow Lea Mariners, South Shields and/or Newcastle Vikings), Frank Auffret (then Saltersgill Saints, Middlebrough and/or Newcastle Vikings and/or Trow Lea Mariners), Terry Kirkup (then Trow Lea Mariners, South Shields and/or Newcastle Vikings) and Ashie Patterson (then Newcastle Vikings). Les, we need to see you on a bike again next year!