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The final timecard race of the year (round 7) of the South East Enduro Combine Championship, was to be held near Yateley Heath on the 4th October and would be hosted by the Normandy MCC. Once again another venue I’d not been to before, but as it was in the general area of many of the other events, I was banking on it not being a million miles different.
Bike wise I’d converted it back into enduro mode by re-fitting the lights and I stripped down the front end to try and find the cause of the slightly wonky handlebars, which turned out to be the bolts holding the bars, damper bracket and extra spacers in place.
Up nice and early and we arrived at the venue on time (good sign marking ie orange arrows on the way to the venue) but once again a lot later than a whole bunch of other people! Walking down to the pits it was time once more time chat to plenty of the regulars and sign on. I came back a second time with my pit equipment and fell arse of tit trying to get the trolley over some uneven ground when my foot became entangled in bracken. I wasn’t even on the bike yet and I’d started crashing!
Grant on his first lap
There had been quite a long gap between this round and the last and I’d not had any other rides at all, so I was feeling a bit rusty and a little nervous, the vet B Over 50 title was at stake after all. So far I’d won all the races and that had given a fairly good lead but a non scoring round would spell disaster if I wanted to win the title, so I had to finish, but I wanted to win. I ended up chatting too long to everyone (the two Steve’s, John and Darren) so was a little late getting changed and missed to riders briefing. I had to ask the two Steve’s if there was anything worth knowing. I can’t remember if there was anything other than the normal briefing now. Luckily the lap times and allowences had been posted on facebook the night before, so that had already been sorted out and fixed to the bike. While we waited for the start I had a chat to rider 74 Chris Welch, my main competition this year.
The start was a little cramped and awkward so I didn’t get away first for a change but slotted in behind rider no:73 Ian Pearce. Ian was a rider who I didn’t know but from his speed I could see he was going to be a bit of competition today. I like to keep a good pace up but didn’t want to go too fast as the first few lap were quite slack ie we had plenty of time to get round and learn the course.
trouble on the log - this was in the special test area.
The track was made up of mainly forestry tracks and rough cut paths through the woods. Naturally there were a fair few stumps about but not as bad as some tracks we’d ridden this year. There was one area of logging cuttings to ride over, but these sticks were fairly well fixed in place and not difficult to negotiate. There weren’t any bad bogs either, so that was a relief, and the climbs I’d heard of were nothing to worry about really, but we had been warned they could cut up later and some of the sportsman riders might be stuck.
me in the test
The gap between me and Ian opened up and closed back again several times in the long (nine mile) lap and I caught up to him just at the start of the Special Test. He set off and I followed a short while later, both of us now ridding a fair bit faster to try and get a feel of the test proper. I was right on his back wheel when he hit a root or sunken stick on a innocent looking climb but it flicked him over the bars as he caught it slightly wrong. It was only a small tumble so I didn’t stop. The test finished and so did the lap as you rode right into the pit straight after. I refilled the tank as I like to keep it topped up during timecards as you never know when you might have a problem or mechanical and not have time to fill it next time.
Video of the 'Special Test' filmed on Lap One
a pic by teamsnapper of me
At the start of the second lap I think I had no:74 Chris either in front of me or close behind so once again we set a quick’ish time but once we got to the start of the special test it was time to switch it up a gear. Chris went first and I hung back a bit with Ian right behind me so I could give Chris a bit of space in the test. A quick wipe of the goggles and it was time to take the first test. As you know you have to ride it fast, but not make any mistakes. A fall or mistake in the test effectively ruins it so it’s a fine line between going fast and setting a quick time and riding a bit too ragged and out of control, resulting in a failure. Luckily my first run went ok, not amazingly quick but I pulled back time on Chris which gave me confidence for the overall result.
a log in the special test
end of the test and i've pulled back time on the rider ahead
back into the pits to refuel
Back into the pits and I fuelled the bike once more and grabbed a quick bite to eat to keep up my energy as the course was quite tiring, not hard but there was no rest at all anywhere so it took a lot of effort to keep up a good pace. The third lap went fine but ego got the better of me and I pushed too hard when I didn’t need to, keeping both 73 & 74 behind me. I was also doing a bit of a dry run to see if the tight lap could be made on time. The track was holding up well with only one minor course correction being put in by the marshals. It was on a small climb and I think a few iffy ruts had opened up with roots etc making it problematic. The second timed test went well and I managed to cut several seconds from my first attempt. I’m not sure if it was on the first or second run at the test but Darren managed to drop the bike right in front of Nicky who was filming at the time.
This was the ‘tight’ lap i.e. the shortest amount of time allowed for the lap. All the tight laps were made especially ‘tight’ by the club so making it on time would be next to impossible..... but I was going to try! I lined up for the start and manoeuvred into a good spot and got away from the timekeepers first and into the lead. Doing nine miles at special test speed was going to be hard but I was going to give it a good go. Pity my fitness training has been rather sporadic this year and i wasn't in the sort of shape i was at the begining of the year.
me catching up to someone one on the tight lap
The first part of the lap went fine. The track flowed nicely and wasn’t too tight. It got a bit tighter when we got to some sapling woods and there were some long hills to ride down between the trees but on the video these are flattened out so much they look almost flat. After a small bumpy run on a track I made a very minor error, nothing serious, just going right round a tree instead of going left. However the consequences did not befit the crime. The track I was on had been cut deep by tyres and a root was blocking the rut off. I saw it too late and could not get the momentum (speed) required to clear it properly so I ended up getting the back wheel stuck.
the root i saw too late and got the back wheel stuck on
Oh crap, not now! I gave it a bit of gas and then leapt off to lift the wheel out the rut but in my haste I overbalanced and the bike fell away from me. In an awkward position I had to run round to the other side of it, to lift it back up and get going again. I cursed my stupidity and that little effort had taken a lot of oomph out of me so I was breathing hard. I tried to get going again quickly and was relieved that none of the other guys on my lap (Chris and Ian) and managed to get past. I think I had pulled a good gap on them.
flat out and down behind the bars!
After a long steep climb (that went great) I was once again catching another rider. Luckily he moved over for me so I didn’t lose any time getting past. Spurred on now and having caught me breath once more I was able to push a little harder. Very soon I came up to another rider and he also gave me plenty of room by stopping and left me get past. As soon as I overtaken we got to the long straight and I had the 250 flat out with me over the back end ducking down behind the bars to streamline and get a bit more speed.
Video of the whole lap - filmed on the fastest lap ie the 'tight lap'
After another short straight we had some flowing track followed by more tight stuff and a bit more open going. In one of the tight sections I clipped a tree lightly, luckily not enough to affect the bike but it reminded me to keep my concentration sharp. I carried on for a bit further then either clipped another tree or caught a root just before a turn. The slight mishap made me miss the tight left turn but I could see a rider ahead too so in a muddle I followed the track up ahead and tried to swing back on track. Another rider had made the same mistake as me and I think me looking ahead to where he was, was partly to blame for me missing the turning. I followed the rider for a short while, as there weren’t many places to overtake and the ones that were there, I saw too late to take advantage of. Finally on a short straight he indicated with his right leg and moved over so once again I could get back up to speed. I was getting pretty tired by now.
"pass on the right" ..... thanks!
There was a bit more of everything still to come, tight tracks through the saplings, tricky climbs and fast fire roads. After a while we got to the clear cut area and here you really had to keep an eye open and pick lines but it wasn’t as bad as some I’ve seen. Just before the special test a championship rider caught me up so I pulled to one side for him to get past and for the next few turns I kept a look out over my shoulder just in case there was another rider. Sure enough there was one more so I allowed him past too and then it was into the test again but of course this time it was just part of the lap and timed as such.
Getting to the end of the lap I paused momentarily to check my time. I’d been trying to do it on move but it was just far too bumpy to be able to focus on the watch. What I saw wasn’t good, I was several minutes late! Luckily being in the Over 50 class meant that there was only one more lap to do, and the last lap you can come in early so I didn’t need to do any fancy maths. Having pushed so much the lap before I was pretty tired , so I eased up a fair bit on the last lap, a gentle ride mostly. Well it was until I heard another bike and realised it was Chris (no:74) so I had a quick mad few minutes to finish the lap off. Back at the pits I was pretty happy, tired but happy. Having seen I was quicker than my two nearest competitors in the test and not had anyone pass me in the tight lap I was confident I had won my class. I didn’t get a chance to see Darren after the race so I wasn’t aware that he’d only gone and run out of petrol on the last lap, oh dear!
Big thanks to the Normandy MCC team for a well run event. Good markings getting to the venue and the track layout was fab too. All in all a nice track to ride and event to attend :)
A few days later the results were out and after a couple of weeks the results were confirmed and with it the Championship results were also fixed – which confirmed me as wining the Over 50 B championship! Yay!
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