on Sunday I did the 5th round of the Banovallum Championships at a new track called Minting which is just outside Horncastle. On the way to the circuit my bike had fallen over on the trailer at a level crossing and I was helped get it upright by a rider and his mechanic who were going by.
I turned up to a damp paddock and was able to park in the farmer's yard so I wouldn't get stuck.
since my last ride I had re-valved the forks again with the aim of softening the face shims and getting more in the mid-stack and I'm pleased to say the bike was better still however the chop was a killer and tested everyone!
The course was virtually just a blat around two farmer's fields and one small trip into a wood as well as a few grass fields. at one hair raising point we came bowling off a grass field to go down a hill opposite those coming up and we were only separated by a bit of tape!
I was on the front row of the over 45s with about 16 in the class but no Arkley123 this time. I got a decent start behind two brothers on a WR450 and a CRF230 with Dave Howe (Husaberg 550) in third. Conditions on the grass were lethal with tail-wagging, lock ups and falls abounding. I stalled it in the woods third time round and after 6 taps of a dead button it burst into life as if to say: "what's the problem?".
right from the off I decide that I'm going to trust all the drying ruts whereas everyone else goes for the most 'virgin' stubble etc. The trouble for them is that even this fresh line is used by everyone else and so it is often a wide line for nothing.
as I came out of the woods, riders were being held back so that an ambulance could get to a rider who had fallen on one of those ugly grass straights and as I suspected - under braking not acceleration.
at the restart the rider that had helped me was coming up so I let him have the last place on the front row (coz that's the great guy I am!
) so I started on row two and got a good start. straight into about 5th, passed a 450EXC around a swooping right, blasted the little 230 out of a dead corner and then started to put the heat on Dave Howe. after a lap and a bit he was bowling along the left of a hedge and had to cut through a cutting at speed but he locked it all up on the wet grass and went careering on.
so that was me in second. next up was the wr450. for those that don't know a UK enduro, at the end of a lap, a chicane is put up and covered in blue tape, this is a 'walking speed' area and where your number is recorded for another lap. as I came out of the tape there laid the leader on the deck. bloody hell! I'm in the lead! He'd over done it gassing it.
I have't lead for a while and so I made a few mistakes and the next thing I know the WR is back on my tail. suddenly the engine stops and I realise that I must have run out of fuel? I walk briskly back to the paddock start line by going straight across the farmer's stubble and see all the leaders go through so I'm now a lap down.
I'VE PICKED TODAY AS THE FIRST TIME EVER NOT
TO LEAVE FUEL AND TOOLS IN THE PARC FERME! I thought these were better on fuel than this? damn! so I walk on to the car and find a gallon, throw it in and snick around behind the Farmer's barn and re-join the race just like Dick Dastardly in car 00! so now I'm only half a lap down!
I still manage two more laps to the lunch break and prove that I ran out of fuel a long way off doing the 1.5 hours.
over lunch I fill the bike again to the brim and purchase another gallon off another rider which I leave in the parc ferme.
for the second half I feel really good but keep trying to hit that middle area between confident and cocky! I start on the end of the front row next to the ditch and Dave asks his brother, sat next to me, to nudge me in!
I get a reasonable start but against the ditch I can't do anything when I get baulked by Dave's brother and go around the first corner in 12th or so. I ride in out and through riders before arriving up at about 4th. I then take two in two corners and head for the leader, he's apparently a 15 times British Grass Track Champion but late 50s so let's still give him his due, he's bloody quick!!!!
eventually I dive inside him and hold a slow but tight line and then give it the 'berries'. this time I just go mental and attack everything and everywhere. little do I know it but he is suffering from a bad back while his brother on the little CRF230 has jammed a stake into the gearlever.
after leading for over an hour I pull in for this quick fuel stop and I hear 4 bikes go by but don't look up. I get going again and just nail it everywhere. with 15 minutes to go I see Dave Howe just as he twigs me and there is about 70 metres between us. I do my best but hit all the traffic at all the wrong times and have to settle for following Dave over the line.
So fuel was the ruin of my day: I ran out in the morning and I had to stop for it in the afternoon! really chuffed with that though and given that I got lapped at Manby last Septemeber in my first ride on the bike. you can say I've come a long way.... I would have won both legs but for this.
I now need to work some more on the forks (more of the same), bring the bars back and raise them as well as bring the grips in as far as I can. I also want to do the same trick again to the ride height that I did with the old girl (FE400e 2002). The bike has corroded spokes so how cheaply made were those brand new? what with a tyre, a mousse, spokes, rear sprocket and chain I'm going to hurt in the wallet after this one!