Grassin' in 2012
16 April 2012 15:56
It is a dismal, overcast, damp morning in a hilltop field, a few miles from the A1 near Peterborough
The smell of bacon mixed, the unmistakable odour of the contents of motorhome portable loos being emptied into a communal plastic tank, next to the row of Portaloos standing to attention, and ready for action.
There are a collection of assorted persons in the field on my arrival, and on chatting to them I discover a retired sidecar racer, a Major from the Tank Regiment, a portly man who goes to something called ice racing - and believe me it is cold enough for that this morning - a very brave photographer who is wearing a pair of baggy shorts, a pseudo cowboy, and assorted marshalls in day glow jackets, two of whom are called Burt and Jay and come from Ugly in Essex.
I spot a 'fan' having his first pint of the day with his bacon butty. Welcome to the world of motorcycle grass track racing.
This is my first visit to such an event for many years, and I have to re-learn the 'jargon' quick, or feel out of place.
The circuit or 'track' is oval shaped, and a bit bigger than a running track, but not as smooth.
Pegs mark the inside and outside of the track, and I am reliably informed theywill be 'knocked out' unless the 'C of the C' puts a stop to it, and 'knocks the rider back a place' which he fails to do for the whole meeting!
Before racing proper starts, a rider called Cooperman is fined £10 for an ilegal practice start, and it is announced that two of the 'star' riders. Wee Georgie Wood and Harland Cook will be non-starters (big groan) but that the ex-Masters sidecar driver champion Mark Cossar is a late entry with a stand in passenger Nicky Owen (big cheer).
Rumor is that the current Masters Champion Rod Winterburn, a gritty Yorkshireman, is to ride his new 2012 Ducker Outfit with regular passenger Liam Brown in the chair.
The race programme is divided into classes for 250s, won by Adam Ship, 350s, won by Richard Smith, who also collected the 'prestigious' Jon Underwood Trophy from the more experienced Bob Dolman, who I am informed showed great 'track craft' when he beat Mr. Smith in race 14.
The big 500 class was duly won by said Cooperman, who had the practice start, who collected an extra £25 (less £10 fine) for the 'fastest time of the day'.
The enigmatic, leg trailing veteran and local hero, Steve Daw won the Upright Solos Class, showing great skill and pace, much to the delight of his many fans.
Some controversy was caused in the Sidecar Final when Mr. Cossar was 'put back a place' for over aggressive riding by the C of C Mr. Sweby, (it is supposed to be a non contact sport) with the race being led from start to finish by Winterburn & Brown.
The meeting was looking like it would beat the rain, and be 'done and dusted' by 1530hrs, but an unfortunate accident at the first bend, in the penultimate race, the 250 Final, resulted in female rider Teri Massingham having a nasty tumble.
The resulting delay involved the on-track medical team, the County Emergency Ambulance, a Medical Car with 'Flying' Doctor and the Air Ambulance from Ipswich, being put on stand by.
Following a delay of over an hour, as it was in the best interests of the patient for her not to be moved from where she had landed, it was announced that the injuries sustained were of such a nature that transportation by road to Hospital, was appropriate.
The now frozen crowd that had remained wished her well as she left the field, and after the last two races and presentations, the meeting ended at 1650hrs.
So that was my return to experience Grass Track Racing in the 21st Century, still exciting at times, boring and predictable (first rider into the first bend often wins still) at others.
Would I go again? Yes. When it is warmer and the entry and quality of riders is better, and I have the dates of The Poacher and Masters already in my social diary.