A DAY AT THE RACES copy

Many years ago I read an article in an American motocross magazine that stated a rider should spend the evening before race day relaxing in front of the TV watching something like “The Love Boat”, I told you it was a long time ago, the most energetic thing a rider / racer should be doing is cleaning & preparing his goggles. Oddly the thing I seemed to watch most often on a Saturday night before a race meeting way back then was “Casualty”, probably the most inappropriate TV show to watch before taking part in a very dangerous form of motorsport.

Annoyingly rather than being tucked up in bed & getting plenty of rest before the Acorns Classic Scramble, at 1.00am Sunday morning I was still wide awake & found myself standing in the workshop wondering how on earth I was going to stop a major fuel leak on the bike. The problem was I had been too clever for my own good, after reading lots of reports on how modern petrol can affect plastic fuel tanks on old dirtbikes I had decided to drain the tank & carb before mothballing the bike twelve months ago, I can only assume that the absence of fuel had allowed the base gasket / seal on the fuel tap to dry out or shrink & start to leak. Of course several hours earlier at tea time on Saturdays when I had poured half a gallon of pre mix into the tank the bike had decided to keep very quiet about its little problem & waited until I had locked up & gone home before starting to drip fuel all over the engine & workshop floor, only a late night check to see all was well had alerted me to the situation. So at 1.00am in the morning I found myself cutting a diamond shaped piece of rubber out of an old motorcycle inner tube & punching some screw holes in it, both sides of my new homemade gasket were smeared with 2-part epoxy “Araldite” glue before it & the petrol tap were sandwiched together & screwed back onto the underside of the tank. There was nothing more I could do but go to bed but make sure I was back at 6.00am to see if my fix had worked, fortunately after a quick leak test the next morning all was well & off to the races I did race.

THE CLUB   Acorns Mcc, based just outside Stafford, has been affiliated to the AMCA for over 50 years, some of its current members were there on the day it was formed & it`s quite odd to think that they Scrambled or took to the Trials sections on all the bikes that are now regarded as classics when they were brand spanking new. Few clubs can offer such a wealth of first hand experience & knowledge to its newer & younger members than the Acorns, if a member needs a part for a classic dirtbike, even if it needs making from scratch somebody in the club will be able to tell them who to get in touch with, people like club chairman Roger Simkin & long time club member Mike Owens seem to know everybody in the UK classic off road scene. I have long since come to the conclusion that the only difference between a basic down to earth AMCA race meeting like the one put on by the acorns & a national championship meeting staged by one of the other racing organisations is the number of flags & banners the other guys put up around the paddock & track ! You see the same faces riding the same bikes on the same type of dirt.

THE TRACK  A couple of seasons ago the Acorns came in for a bit of unfair stick regarding their classic scrambles track, as a lot of people know it sits right next to the M6 motorway, only about a mile from the centre of Newcastle-Under-Lyme. What a lot of people / riders do not know is that up until last season the club was restricted to using the same track layout for each event, understandably the land owner did not want the whole area ripping up. How many of us can remember a lovely piece of grassy countryside that now resembles the face of the moon because every time a club put on an event they had constantly laid out the track on virgin pieces of ground & not bothered to sort out the previous bits used. So because Acorns has always looked after things & made sure the ground has been tided up & reseeded at the end of each season the landowner finally decided to let the club make a few changes & mix things up a bit & what a difference this has made. The start gate has now been relocated down on the lower field right next to the paddock area, this means it`s very easy for the riders to get to but the best thing is the length of the new start straight, it`s fairly flat, arrow straight & “HUGE”, when you get to the end of it rather than turning left or right you go straight on up the big hill & when you crest the hill it`s still straight on for another 15 yards or so before you finally hit the brakes ready for a right hander. It`s the best start straight I have ever had the pleasure to play on, for the rider of a big bore bike it`s an absolute dream. The rest of the track is very enjoyable too, half of it zigzags around on the flat upper field before it leads you back to the top of the hill where you can choose to either roll over the edge & race down the gentle grassy slope or launch yourself off the top & get a bit of air under your wheels, lovely stuff ! Another big change to the track is the second of the three loops up & down the hill side has now been cut out. Always a problem as it was too steep to grade between events & a fairly tight turn at the bottom didn’t give riders much of a run at it, you were faced with either a very bumpy line up the left hand side that quite often bounced both your feet of the foot pegs or an awkward camber to deal with on the right hand side of the track, throw in a bit of bad weather & you can guess the rest.

THE RACING….The event attracted a good turn out of riders who for their efforts were rewarded with day long sunny weather, after the practice sessions had blasted off all the dew & roughed up the corners the track was in perfect race condition. The club put on classes for, Pre 68, 74 & Twinshock, the club usually runs a “Sportsmans” class as well, this is for all types & ages of machine & is  supposed to be for riders who just want a ride without the pressure of racing or getting in the way of the fast lads, or for guys & girls who have not ridden for years & want to gently ease their way back into the sport, strangely you do get quite accomplished riders entering this “Sportsmans” group, why I don`t know, their are no trophies to be won. This year saw a race for the “Sidecar” guys tagged on to the proceedings as well as one for Acorns Mcc members only, not sure if some members see these extra three club member races as a bonus or a curse when their energy levels start to drop. Looking down the start line I recognised quite a few of the twinshock boys & didn’t think much to my chances, most are pretty handy riders but it`s always more fun to be racing than photographing, I did manage to pinch that sweet spot on the start gate for one race & be one of the first to that first corner but after that most of the pack blew past. It doesn’t really bother me where I finish these days as long as I avoid a ride in the ambulance, I find it just as exciting having a close battle for a position at the back as it is near the front, quite often it`s more interesting being right on someone’s back wheel, testing & probing, trying new lines in & out of corners, seeing where you can over take them next time round than actually passing them, it can be a bit of an anti-climax when you do squeeze past a rider & drop them off only to find you have a clear track in front with no chance of catching up with the next rider, unless you are a super quick rider the relatively sort races rule out any chance of gradually reeling a distant opponent in.

THE CONCLUSION   It was a relaxed & well run event, no matter if you are a beginner or an experienced rider the easy going track offers a bit of excitement for everyone. Maybe it`s an age thing but over the years I have come to the conclusion that being the best or worst motocross rider does not really matter at all , seeing as I live in a country where 99.9% of the population have absolutely no idea who Jeff Smith, Neil Hudson, Graham Noyce or Dave Thorpe , are or did, tells me that people will not be at all interested in someone who has just finished first, last or ended up dead at the local amateur motocross event, whether you race modern or classic motocross the majority of the world just sees us as a group of silly people who ride around in a big circle on a muddy field. But leaving the uneducated masses & their boring lives to one side for a moment, I would recommend that you slide on over to the next Acorns Mcc classic scramble & have a blast down their new & pretty unique, start straight / hill / more straight bit……Mr J

NEXT ACORNS CLASSIC SCRAMBLE IS ON JULY 10th 2016, I SUGGEST YOU GIVE IT A GO !

My thanks to Mr Andy Crabb for the following collection photos, he`s an accomplished water colour artist who has painted many a classic scrambling picture containing great riders such as Bickers & Smith, you can see examples of his work on “facebook” .