2015 VMXDN Photos & Report….What can be said about the Vets-MXDN that has not already been said, an event that is the brain child of vintage motocross racer & enthusiast Mr Dave King. Just an ordinary guy & for many years come the weekend it`s been a case of chucking the bike & gear into the van & heading for the races, quite often competing at events held in main land Europe. If you think Mr King is some sort of heavily sponsored front runner battling for a championship, then you couldn’t be more wrong, by his own admission he’s no “Top Gun”, just an ordinary clubman rider who is quite happy to rumble around mid pack & enjoy a weekend away racing.
It`s quite remarkable when you think that Dave flew over to the states to ask various top American riders in person if they would come to England & ride at his fledgling vintage motocross event. It must have been Dave`s genuine enthusiasm & knowledge of the sport that impressed them enough to come. The event has grown quickly over the years & today there is quite a large team of ACU people making sure every thing runs smoothly but during Sundays parade lap & interview session you could still see Dave, stood alone at the back of the crowd, hand on hip, like a proud farther keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.
If you have not yet visited the Vets-MXDN either as a spectator or been lucky enough to obtain an entry to race there, then you have missed out. If it`s not already the worlds greatest vintage motocross race meeting then surely it must be getting close to obtaining the tittle. Held over two days at Farleigh Castle, one of the sports most famous & iconic circuits, it draws a large crowd of onlookers & the 500 available spots are quickly snapped up when the rider entry forms go on line at the beginning of February each year. A race meeting originally designed to bring likeminded people together to compete on period machines, with riders wearing as much period kit as they could find or still fit into ! It would be difficult to find another event where the average clubman rider can line up next to some very famous faces from the past & then spend the next 5 or 6 laps chasing after them. It`s an exciting track, from the moment the riders flash past the famous “Hay Barn” & start to descend the hill back towards the start & finish area they are flanked on the right by an almost unbroken ribbon of spectators all pressed up tightly against the barriers waving & cheering, even the odd air-horn can be heard, add to this the sound of the commentator nearly shouting himself sick with excitement. Behind the long line of enthusiastic supporters you have a glorious back drop of flags, banners, marquees, stalls & a never ending sea of vans, motorhomes, trucks, & trailers. This unique “in the world of retro MX racing” & colourful background stays along side the riders for so long you could almost described it as “The Golden Mile of Vintage Motocross “, it`s like the 1980s & those famous 500GP`s all over again. Down the hill, past the end of the start straight & round that famous first turn tree, down the bumpy finish straight & past the commentary box, then a sharp left hander & a quick blast past the flag poles situated behind the start gate, next a sharp right hander & out on to another very fast & bumpy straight, this is briefly interrupted by a small chicane & a low jump, then as before it`s back on the power & time to hammer up through the gears as you make your way out towards the far end of the track & a left hander that takes you into a dark tunnel of trees & the wooded area, only at this point does that ribbon of onlookers & colour end.
By Friday lunch time the paddock is already packed solid with vehicles. Helpers & mechanics are busy getting machines ready for scrutineering while riders walk the track & ponder on Saturday mornings timed practice session. When the real racing starts, the fastest qualifying riders will get to line up on the main start gate, while the slower riders have to line up behind an adjacent one. This secondary gate is dropped about 10 seconds after the first, so right from the start slower qualifiers will be at a disadvantage. I am not sure but I presume a good placing at the finish of race 1 will see a rider promoted from a secondary, to a first start gate position for race 2, so there’s everything to race for.
Saturday morning started off very promising this year, as the first riders made there way to the holding pen the weather was fine but before the timed practice sessions could get underway the rain started to fall & as you will see from the photos bellow, things started to look very grim indeed, when the ground at Farleigh gets wet, it turns slippery, real slippery. One has to remember that a lot of the track is laid out on fresh grass or smoothly graded bare earth so at the start of proceedings pretty much all the corners are flat & just to make things even more interesting a few have a negative camber as well. With the track not having a chance to wear in before the rain came, the absence of a few helpful ruts & outside berms to aim your wheels at had the effect of making quite a good rider look like a wobbling novice ! The weather slowly improved & by the time Saturday’s racing came to an end we were all enjoying the glorious late afternoon sunshine. Oddly, come Sunday morning the track was back to soaking wet / slippery conditions, the organisers said they had not over watered the track on Saturday evening, just a little to keep any dust at bay, I don`t think we had much rain, if any, overnight, so it was all a bit of a mystery. Unfortunately there is no time in the schedule on Sunday for practice sessions, so it was straight on with the racing. I did feel sorry for the poor riders in the first couple of races who had the job of blasting all the gloop off the surface but as they say, that`s motocross. Luckily Sundays weather stayed fine & the track was soon pounded back into shape by the passage of wheels & the crowd witnessed some great racing. The thing that impressed me most about the racing was the phenomenal speed inwhich the top lads came down the wet grassy hill side but still managed to slow down enough to negotiate those difficult cambered turns, the braking areas leading into the corners were incredibly slippery. The art of delicate braking & slowly feeding in the power for maximum drive out of the corner, was to be tested to the limit on this day.
Sundays parade lap & rider interviews were all very entertaining, it was fantastic to see the great John Banks back on a CCM plus “Golden Boy” Broc Glover having a potter around on the 490 Yam. It was also nice to see Laurence Spence out of retirement & back in action on the big 500, even after all these years he can still hustle the KX along at a fair old lick. He treated onlookers to a re-enactment of his famous Farleigh Castle 500GP gearbox seizure only yards from the finish line. The world had to stand & watch that day as he dragged the big KX with it`s rear wheel locked solid over the line, while only a few feet away Kawasaki’s team manager, the late great Alec Wright, could only stand & watch, the rules forbidding him or anyone else from helping the rider out.
And the winners are…..I don`t get too carried away with who wins & who looses, this event seems to be as much a festival of vintage motocross as much as a race meeting, I have always had the opinion that a race consisting of only the top 3 or 4 fastest riders would not be much of a spectacle at all without the other 30 odd “also ran” riders chasing on behind, so I do like to include as many photos as possible of the ordinary clubman riders who take part. Collectively there are more of these guys putting more money into motocross than all the big time riders & sponsored teams put together, when you think about all the bikes, spares, tyres, oil, entry fees & riding kit they purchase between them it must all add up to a huge amount, they keep the industry ticking over both here in the UK & aboard so must never be forgotten by promoters & race organisers, without these ordinary weekend warriors & enthusiasts, classic, vintage & modern motocross would die. At the end of the day the result sheet showed that England had won the Vets-MXDN Evo Class, squeezing USA into second spot & Belgium into third place. I think a rider who does deserve a special mention is overall Evo 250 winner, Kawasaki rider #739 Danny Blakeley, he seemed to “ghost” around the track all weekend, looking totally unhurried, didn’t get out of shape, always in control, I never saw him battling or banging bars with any other rider, he just seemed to be on his own & come the end of Sunday had taken the overall win, quite remarkable when, I think I am right in saying, he`s been carrying an injury for the last half of the season, a silent motocross assassin if ever there was one. Another group of people who deserve a mention are the crowd, especially the folk who are not directly connected to any of the riders but still come along & pay to watch the racing, it`s these guys as well as all the mechanics, family members & friends who come with the riders that form such a large group of spectators & help create the special atmosphere, with out them this event would be I suppose, just another group of predominately old guys riding around in basically a big circle in a muddy farmers field. Well that’s it from me, I hope my brief write up & the following photo collection encourages you to go along next time & see for yourself what all the fuss is about or may be try & get your name on that elusive entry list. I hope you enjoy the photos….Mr J