Race report.. or is it Rally report?
Arrived on Saturday evening to find only a handful of others there already, but it meant I could park the van in an excellent spot with plenty of room, and opposite where the burger van was going to park up in the morning.
It was a bloody cold night sleeping in the back of an unlined sprinter, but it was worth it as I only had to walk 10m to sign on at 7am.
My bike, the 640 Adventure, with it’s mahoosive tanks, meant I was in the Rally class. The smallest class of the lot, it also had the axe murderers^h^h^h^h^h^h most experienced riders and some of the most extreme kit, with, for example, Ollie Lloyd fresh back from the Hellas last week and who won his class in the Tuareg in March. There was also a rather nice looking, and sounding KTM 660 factory rally bike.
The course consisted a loop which took about 40 minutes to complete, with a timed section part way round.
The format was 1 sighting lap and 5 timed laps, with the best time on a lap being taken rather than accumulative across all laps.
With number 6 on my bike, I was one of the first away at 9:02:30 on the sighting lap. Considering I hadn’t ridden off-road since the training weekend in February, I was a bit nervous and sketchy for almost all of the sighting lap, but I didn’t come off and made it back with 15 minutes to spare before the next lap was due to start at 10:02:30
Lap one was uneventful, but I started to feel a bit more at home on the bike. I realised too late that the times were visible at the end of the timed section ( we were using transponders so live timing was possible)
Lap 3, Came off again, but just once, and then overshot a rocky/gravelly turn back onto the fire road from one of the technical sections and had to have a hand from Moly (one of the organisers who happened to be chatting to the marshals there) to haul the bike backwards, up a steep slope so I could get back on track. 17 minutes something that time.
Lap 4 : It all just seemed to work. Leaning the bike more, ignoring the ‘ohshit-ohshit-ohshit’ response to the rear trying to overtake me and consciously weighting the pegs I found it far more controllable. I’m still shit slow on the technical bits, but I was getting quicker on the fire-roads. No offs, no overshoots, and I finished the timed section at 14:47.
Lap 5 : the rain was starting as I finished lap 4, and by the time I’d started lap 5 it was coming down in proper Wales fashion. Burt (the other organiser) was on the start line and suggested I take it easy as it was getting very slippy. I could feel it was almost straight away, and did exactly that, took it VERY easy.. finished the timed section without any mis-haps in 17 minutes again, so yes, maybe a little TOO easy, but at least I got round. There was one little nadgery section right at the end of the liaison before reaching the road which had undulating washouts which were, byt the end of the last lap, just the same radius as your front wheel and were getting harder and harder to negotiate. As I rounded the corner to the start of that section, there was a marshall standing at the entrance waving my past onto the fire-road to bypass it. If I didn’t want to just get back, I could have kissed him! 🙂
As I arrived back after the last lap, they had just stopped anyone else going out for their final laps as two bikes had come down on a cattle grid and one of the chaps had hurt his chest badly. Enough of the other competitors had commented they had almost come a cropper on the same cattle-grid that they called off lap5 for the remaining competitors. I think lap 5 was always going to be an ‘if we can’ so it wasn’t a problem.
I got packed up, enjoyed the free burger and cuppa, and chatted to a few of the chaps I had done the training weekend with, but by 4:30 it was coming down in stair rods, so I just packed up and headed home.
All in all a very enjoyable event. The course was ideal for rally bikes and larger adventure bikes. I couldn’t help thinking, as a 250 2 stroke hurtled past me on the technical bits, “you cheating b’tard”
The next event is at Sweet Lamb, a sprint format, at the end of May but I’ll have to miss that as I’m doing a weekend tour of the highlands with my Uncle, so my next race will be the Kielder rally in June.
What have I learnt from this event?
I need to get out more. Counting on my fingers (and I still can) this was my 8th ‘day’ off-road. Yes, ever, in total, in my entire life.
The 640 Adventure is a cracking machine, but is a heavy old bus compared to the other stuff in my class. 160kg stock, before the hyoooge tanks are put on as well as the other bits and bobs, compared to 138kg for a KTM 690 Enduro. Even with a ‘full fairing’ and larger tank, it’s nowhere near as heavy as my beast. (I’m looking at options to get something more capable)
Half worn Mefi Super-Explorer tyres are NOT the grippiest. They are hybrid on/offroad tyres and while they are probably at the offroad end of the on/off blend, and they were okay when new, they were VERY slippy this time round. I’ll run them till the weekend road trip in May then get something chunkier.
Fitness : not too bad. My thigh muscles are a bit achey, and my shoulder/upper back has definitely had a work out, but I felt good.