"Liam, do you fancy racing flat track?" Enquired MCN content editor Tim Thompson one afternoon in the office. I immediately answered in the affirmative, only to be told the bike I was set to compete on was a Harley-Davidson Street 750 in completely standard trim. On the standard road tyres.
I would be racing in the Hooligan class, part of the Dirt Track Riders Association (DTRA) championship, created for dual-cylinder road bikes over 750cc in stock frames. No knobblies are allowed, but flat track tyres are advised. I had two weeks to run through every possibility in my head. The outcomes weren't good.
Turning up at Kings Lynn Arena, regulars chuckle as I push the completely standard Harley to scrutineering, The scrutineers laugh at the tyres and my nerves shoot up. I find a quiet corner of the paddock and hide as the other classes tear around the oval for practice. Soon enough the Hooligan class is called out for a very short practice session. I fail to figure out what I'm doing, but find a surprising amount of grip.
For the first race I'm plonked on the outside of the front row, in front of eight other racers and some of the angriest sounding bikes I've ever heard. The lights go out and I get the worst start imaginable, but manage to stay in front of the nutcase who's turned up on an old FZ600 with a bald back tyre. I even overtake somebody. Ok, he fell of just before crossing the line and may have been on his arse when I wobble past, but I'm claiming it.
I'm buzzing. I was incredibly slow, and didn't have a clue what I was doing, but I finished. I manage to rent a steel shoe for £10 for the rest of the night from Pete Boast, who tells me to make the straights as long as possible to utilise the power of the Harley on the fat part of the tyre.
The steel shoe makes a huge amount of difference, my left boot now gliding over the shale instead of getting knocked about in and out of ruts, and I'm starting to feel much more at home in the final two heats - comfortably finishing ahead of the FZ600 in both races.
The longer final race is now upon us. I've qualified on the back row, not surprisingly, joined by the FZ600 and two others who are much faster. I get a good start this time - much more at ease with the loose surface - and use the final to experiment a little more with turning and accelerating harder and different lines in the corners. The Harley is unhappy away from the smooth racing line and tries to throw me off a few times.
I cross the line not last, happy, buzzing, and raring to go again. I remove the steel shoe and spend the rest of the night walking a bit funny as my left leg suddenly feels incredibly light.
The Hooligan class is great value for money. £45 is the cost of racing for the meeting, which includes three heat races and one final. You'll need an MCF licence, which costs £15 on the day if you don't already have one.
I can't think of anything else that's so much fun and offers as big a buzz for such little money.
Fore more information go to the DTRA website.
If you like the sound of flat track, there will be a full round of the DTRA championship at the MCN Festival in 2017, which takes place May 13-14.
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