Muddy fun

Thursday, 12th December

Well, I meant to have this report typed up a couple of days ago, but I’ve been tucked up in bed with tonsilitis, and generally feeling a little sorry for myself. Despite this, I’ve still got a huuuge smile on my face from the weekends supermoto race… For those of you not familiar with supermoto, it’s basically a two wheeled version of rallycross – part tarmac, part dirt/shale, raced on modified motocross bikes. And possibly the most fun you can have on two wheels.

Now, bearing in mind that I’ve never sat on a supermoto before, I really didn’t have a clue what to expect. I’d been given one piece of advice (get my weight well forward in the corners and kick anyone that tried to come past up the inside) but before I even got that far there was the small matter of getting it started… I have to come clean and admit almost total defeat on this front. At 10st 6lbs I just wasn’t heavy enough to kick it over compression. Not a problem. I just spent the day hijacking scary looking big blokes to start it for me. So, once I’d got the thing running I queued up for practise… I was determined to make the most of this, seeing as I’ve so little experience. However, on leaving the collecting area, one of the two chaps in front of me wheelied straight off the track into the armco and the other got it so far sideways he had to kick it upright again. I took one look at these kind of antics and gave the throttle a vicious wrench just to get myself out of the way of these loons.

By the time I’d realised I was now in the middle of my most impressive wheelie ever my self-preservation gene had kicked in, and subconsciously closed the throttle. Actually, I’m not sure if this was a genetic response or not – seeing as I twatted my nuts on the back of the tank I can’t believe it did anything at all to ensure I pass my genes on to any descendants. Anyhow, I took a sharp intake of breath, and followed the track sharp right and onto the steep downhill muddy bit. This was straightforward enough – just get your weight back and gas it. The corner at the bottom of the hill was attacked with extreme timidity, at which point the throttle cable snapped, saving me from further embarassment.

Great. In 30 minutes I was to line up in a round of the national championship, and I’d completed the grand total of one corner on a supermoto so far.

Back in the garage I pottered around like a lost dog, wondering what to do next. Within 15 seconds I had a small squadron of very helpful chaps diving in, ripping the bike apart, and fixing it all for me. Dom, if you ever read this, you’re a gentleman of the highest order. So, about 30 mins later there I was, in the collecting area for my first ever supermoto race. It felt like my first ever race all those years ago back at Lydden (only it was about 40 degrees colder…) We were waved out of the collecting area, and this time I was determined to make more than one corner, so was a little more circumspect with the throttle this time. I then embarked on possibly the slowest ever lap of Brands as I pottered around wondering what on earth I was doing. I lined up on my alloted grid position, which was sensibly right at the back.

It has to be said, that getting a supermoto off the line is bloody hilarious. Weight over the front, throw the clutch away, and boot it up through the gears with the front wheel waving gently in mid-air somewhere. The first corner saw about 12 crashers as nobody fancied the idea of braking for some reason. I pottered up the inside and made up about 15 places by slowing down for the first corner. However, I was acutely aware that in about two corners time I’d have a small squadron of crazed supermoto riders (who’d not yet done anything to impress me with their sense of self restraint) closing in on me very rapidly indeed. So, I did the only sensible thing, and took a very wide line at Druids to let them all bundle up the inside. They duly did so, and two of them ended up on the grass with their handlebars locked together. Two corners, and already some of them had crashed twice…

The rest of the race was really taken just trying to find out how to ride the thing. On the dirt I was horribly aware of the need to get on the gas to keep the weight off the front and stop it digging in. However, my choice of rear tyre (for some inexplicable reason I’d decided on a dry weather tyre. This goes down as possibly the worst choice of my life since the incident with the vacuum cleaner) meant that as soon as I got on the gas the back went sideways, and as soon as I got off the gas the front dug in and nearly lobbed me over the bars.

After about 6 laps of this I saw the little man with the chequered flag, and had finished last, with my lap time 10 seconds off the next bloke. At this point I felt completely, hopelessly, overwhelmingly crap.

So, I did the only thing I could. I went and got a cuppa while someone else fitted a wet tyre to the bike. I decided that next time round I wouldn’t be last, even it it meant crashing to ensure I didn’t finish at all. And, somewhat surprisingly, it worked. I found 7 seconds a lap, and finished second last… OK, it may not sound like great strides, but 7 seconds a lap is pretty handy in anyones book.

I was ceded through to the ‘last chance semi final’ (which probably should have been called the ‘no hope semi final’ in my case). I looked at my grid position of 16th, and noted that in 15th was a certain D. Jefferies. Yup, the very same DJ who has lapped the Isle of Man faster than anyone else. One of the Gods of the past few years of road racing. Was I worried? Well, I was until he wandered into our garage asking if anyone could help him out with a bike as he’d blown his up.
“Here you go Dave, take mine” I offered.
“Ey’ooop. Tha’ll be needing tha’ thyself” he replied.
Once a translator stepped in we ascertained that while he thought is was a very generous offer, he didn’t want to deprive me of a ride.
“Don’t be an idiot. People have paid money to come and see you race, not to watch me titting around at the back. Go and get your numbers and put them on this bike”
It felt odd giving orders to a multi-TT winner, but that’s exactly what he did. And he went out and finished 2nd in the race. I like to think that this was entirely down to my expert set-up of the bike.

Oh, and Dave, if you ever read this and fancy sponsoring a skint TZR racer a pair of tyres, drop me a line would you?

My final race of the day was the open class D final (answers on a postcard as to what the D stands for). However, after three laps it was so dark that I literally couldn’t see the bloke in front. The race was stopped, which was a good thing as I couldn’t actually see the chequered flag when it was waved at me – I had to rely on the marshals coming up to the edge of the track with their flags. 7th out of 11 at the flag.

Image (c) Neil Boyle at Braking Zone.

Did I enjoy it? Oh yes. Hugely. Would I do it again? I dunno – I’m not suited to the thumping big four strokes, and found them difficult to ride. I wouldn’t mind doing a practise day somewhere to try and make up my mind though.

And, while I’m here wittering on about racing, things are looking very good for next season now. Project Fast Hamster is coming on apace now, and the TZR Tour has been resurrected for next season. In fact, I can speak with absolute authority on this, as I’m running it. This is a Good Thing, as it means I’m guaranteed of at least one trophy, even if I have to buy it and award it to myself.