In an effort to keep warm at a bleak, windy and extremely grim Darley Moor circuit, the 750cc Earlystock Team's Mucka and SandM decided to snuggle up together in the pits, share hot Bovril and perform group hugs whilst shouting favourite black country terms like.."Yeaw Awlryte Mucka". For the day at least, the team was rebranded "Mucky-SandM" to acknowledge this merging of resources. Needless to say there were numerous enquiries throughout the day from the locals about our Mucky-S&M "Party and Jacuzzi nights" - many leaving despondent after realising we were a bike racing team rather than a team of bikes...!
Darley Moor does have that spooky kind of Myra Hindley feel to it with facilities and track layout dating back to the Boer War of 1902 - Not Team SandM's favourite circuit. The track (whilst resurfaced a few years ago), is shaped like a big cheese with a couple of ultra fast chicanes - completely favouring bikes with lots of horsepower - the mega long Pope Straight allowing very high speeds to be achieved. Similarly, the esses seem too narrow, fast and tricky to overtake through and the other corners are at the end of longish straights, which the antiquated forks of the GPz750 struggle to cope with when pushed to make up big yardages.This leaves probably only one corner to pass a bigger bike - The Hairpin, which unfortunately has about as much run off area at the approaching left hander as a gnats proverbial. [Anyway, enough of the excuses and on with race day...!!!]
Surprisingly practice was pretty good fun even though by this time a continuous drizzle was settling on the track. After a small hiccup when a fuel pipe decided to drop off Longy's bike in the holding area, he tentatively edged around the track - then one lap in, Moldy, a rain-racing meister akin to Michael Rutter, slipped up the inside of Longy on the brakes into Park Corner -leg out Rossi style ...then started to pull a gap - Moldy was looking smooth and fast and 10 years of riding those Pan Euro's in the Police Force chasing drug dealers was coming its own. Tagging onto Moldy's considerable tail, Longy managed to build some more confidence in the wet conditions and put a decent time in to get pole whilst Moldy qualified 6th after slowing a bit for a burger and chips.
To make matters worse on this gloomy day at the moors, the Earlystock races were confined to the proverbial arse end of the proceedings - races 10 and 20, and with the wind now blowing at force 10 across the flat plains of Derbyshire, there was considerable time to kill before the first 6 lap race.
Fortunately, the newly merged MuckyS&M team resources proved beneficial as everyone dived into Team Muckas hospitality suite for tea, buns a lie down and some reminiscing of classic Earlystock races of old. In fact, the party was swinging so nicely, everyone lost track of time and Longy nearly had a heart attack when he spotted fellow Earlystocker Bob Chambers' Suzuki 1,100 bike #141 had disappeared from the pits thinking the race had been missed!...Thankfully Sioux, (aka Mrs Mucka), highlighted the guy had gone off to race in the Pre-90's (Race 7) so panic over! This seemed a good juncture to visit the salubrious open air toilets in the Darley pits to calm the race nerves - (note, apparently if you camp and visit the "traps" at night, the lights go out when you are engaged in your business - and you have to finish the job and find your way out in the pitch black!!)
Race 1 - Blaster Bates!
For Longy, fending off the 135bhp Blaster Bates 1,170's of Tom Benford and Alec Gilfillan seemed an impossible task from the get go and the only slim chance was to get in the lead into the first fast chicane before Park Corner and then keep swerving across the track to prevent over taking on the straights! Moldy meantime, with his sights set on 3rd in the 750 champ, needed to beat #219 Rob Paget on the Yamaha 600. However, he is still adapting to the 750's bigger frame, heavier weight and more power compared to his very nimble previous steed, the Honda CB500 - so he's not at full Ricky Hatton fighting confidence level yet.
As the red lights went out, Longy managed to nudge the lead into the first fast chicane, but with the track still damp he couldn't get the advantage required to keep Tom Benford's 1170 at bay after the 90 degree Park Corner - consequently Benford hit the front - even though this was his first time at the track! In fact, Tom's complete lack of knowledge of the track made for an interesting and almost frightening race! With his measly 4 laps of wet practice under his belt to learn the circuit, Tom was literally stopping to check his MCN Circuit Guide at every corner to see which way the bend went! This created a few hairy moments, especially through the fast chicanes where Longy had to take to the grass on one lap to avoid T-boning him.
Losing at least 30mph on the straights, the only place Longy could try and pass him was braking into the hairpin - however, predicting his entry line through the quick Townley's left hander (with zero run off!), was like guessing correct lottery numbers..! Consequently, Longy was riding ragged trying to make up a big deficits through the bends, but losing out hugely on the straights. Inevitably, Longy nearly crashed into Tom's rear wheel at the Hairpin letting Alec Gilfillan #21 6on his Suzuki 1170 through who was tucked in behind ready to pick up the pieces. This enabled Tom to pull a 3 second gap as his circuit knowledge steadily increased with each lap and whilst Longy just got past Alec again at the hairpin, the place was immediately lost on Pope Straight - so the ghost was given up and 3rd spot settled for, albeit a class win.
Moldy too was also involved in a tight little tussle against his championship rival Colin Young #226 and Rob Paget #219 and on Yamaha 600's. Moldy was looking smooth and fast around the quick bends, but was struggling with braking too early for the tight bends - the tension in his buttocks extending through to his wrists causing arm pump. This he put down to not drinking enough Stella the night before. Colin eventually pulled a gap after a good dice, and Moldy after hanging in there like a bat out of hell, just nudged Rob Paget to the line by less than 0.5s and finish 4th in the 750 class.
Race 2 - A Balls Bearing Up!
Some strange noises started to emerge from Longy's machine on the sighting lap, but putting this down to a strong wind blowing, this was ignored as nothing to worry about. Longy again planned to try and lead into the first fast chicane and then do some track swerving for 8 laps to the finish - a long shot admittedly but worth a go. Unfortunately this was once again foiled as Tom Benford, who by this time was getting to know the pretty easy to learn cheese layout of the Darley circuit quite well, powered into the front. This time it was harder to keep on the tail of his Suzuki 1170, although a dare-devil move into the hairpin on the first lap nearly worked, only to lose out on the back straight.
Longy's machine had felt decidedly weird from the sighting lap, as if it wanted to let go on every bend. Thinking this was down to a pretty worn out rear Pirelli Supercorsa tyre, Longy pressed on in hot pursuit of Benford for 3 laps until Alec Gilfillan, riding superbly on his Suzi 1170, came stonking past on the Pope Straight - in desperate overtaking move at Paddock Corner they emerged side-by-side across the line then Longy tried a braking move into Park only to lose the rear big time - but somehow saving it Rossi style by digging a knee into the grass keeping the bike upright! Rapidly losing faith in the strange handling old steed, Longy eased off to settle for 3rd spot, but a 750 class win. It was only on returning to the pits Longy realised the strange noise heard on the sighting lap was actually a shattered rear wheel bearing - in fact the entire race had been conducted with basically a wobbly rear wheel! Phew - lucky escape!
Moldy meantime, had a slightly lonelier race in that Rob Paget #219 this time managed to escape and gap him to the line and Colin Young #226 had for some reason not appeared on the start grid. This meant Moldy finished 3rd 750cc - gaining some good points for the championship. Mention also goes to Team Mucka's Mad #275, running second 750 in the champ, who had the most interesting of starts when he decided to stall it on the line and then, like a throw back to the 1970's, had to bump start it off the grid sort of Barry Sheene style eventually finishing 2nd 750 from the back of the grid - nice riding!
Cass Beardmore (#234, riding Yamaha RD400) and Steve Bailey do an amazing job at running the Earlystocks club, but it's becoming apparent there are just too many rounds considering the credit crunch and belt tightening situation. However, with 2009 as Team SandM (Longy's at least) final stand in bike racing, appointments with Sir Fred at RBS have been made to try and blag a small percentage of his pension fund to complete the Earlystocks and EMRA championships.
See you at Mallory for the next round........!