The planned trip to Belgium to race at Koningshooikt did happen however, with a Friday->Sunday trip from South Wales to the vicinity of Antwerp and the VMCF meeting running on the Saturday.
The team ended up with Mark and Kevin, with the Cappra and a Honda XR and Mike Parry coming along with the tool-kit. The team was completed with Dan Evans, the secret weapon along with his Husqvarna 500 twinshock. Youth and ability meant Dan would be able to maintain some form of credibility for the Welsh contingent.
A loaded trailer and van was loaded in Tredegar for a prompt start as we headed east in torrential rain. Newspapers, pictures of elegant ladies and the first of the food were open by the Severn Bridge, as the indicators stopped working on the trailer. Still raining as we headed via Farnborough to pick up a package for me, to find the connector for the trailer lights were missing and a bare cable dragging under the trailer. Off to Halfords for a replacement, before back on the road to Folkestone and Eurotunnel. First job for Mike and his well endowed tool kit was to fit the plug whilst in submerged under the channel.
Uneventful crossing of France, and into Belgium and the Antwerp rush hour as we headed out to Lier and the campsite for the weekend. Sophie knew the guy who was in the processing of getting his campsite together and who’d had to hurriedly got the showers working after realising he’d got campers for the weekend. Sophie met us on the ring to show the way and after a quick shower off to find the track at Fort Koningshooikt.
After some rather obscure direction signs, we found the track after asking some fishermen who also confirmed the meeting was ‘afgelast’ (ie canceled) because of the condition of the track. Bugger. Before returning to the car confirmed with one of the organisers who was clearing up signs and markers. Needless to say, there was a certain amount of disbelief which continued as the team ate the dinner in Lier prepared by Sophie.
Plan B was hatched and some internet research confirmed that MC Lille have a practice session on Saturday’s and the track was available for adults from 12 till 6pm. Not racing, but at least something to run the bikes on. All was not lost.
Now, I’d been to the Lille track last year and knew it was a modern track, which was also pretty sandy, oh and had some nice jumps in it. I thought Dan would enjoy it so the evening’s conversation in the bars of Lier was fairly positive given the 400 miles we’d driven for a canceled meeting. However, also on the plus side, drive 100 miles to a canceled meeting in Wales and you’ve got to go back and probably do some DIY etc. In this case a lesson in ordering and consuming Belgian beer was on offer.
A surprisingly prompt start saw the team back in Lier for breakfast and then heading off to Lille at around 10.30. It’s only a 20 minute drive (another advantage of Belgium, it’s small), Arrived at the track and yes, no problem with practice for the princely sum of 10 euro (about £9 currently); excellent. The juniors were out practicing when we arrived and the track had been graded, so after a few visits to the crapper (yes, practice as well as racing are always double drop days), it was out with the bikes and on with the kit.
Kevin’s XR didn’t do a complete lap before packing up, but some time in the paddock had it sorted and ran well, except for a broken throttle cable later. The MX250 went well, with new piston and barrel, though a mystery stopping illness developed later. This could be due to the replacement fuel tank I was using, but the bike managed about 15 laps (which was more than the rider could handle). Mark’s Cappra got ridden by a few people, including Mark and general opinion was, that whilst it went in a straight line, getting it round corners wasn’t so straightforward. Mike took the bike for a spin and ding’ed the exhaust but seemed to enjoy himself. Dan was in good form and only love and care for the big Huskie saw him limit himself to 25 laps.
As the afternoon wore on, more modern bikes arrived for practice and the track became more rutted and a bit more dangerous. Watching people go past at head-height was quite amusing at times but you had to watch out for some very quick locals.
Sophie came over with lunch and refreshments during the afternoon and by 5pm everyone was knackered, so pack up and back to the campsite; all in all not a bad afternoon and something to remember of the trip. Some discussion about racing on the Sunday (MC Lille run classic classes), but decided against, though Dan was pretty keen to enter. Entry would have been around 25 euro, including the transponder rental and something to think about for the next trip.
Back to campsite, though we had to pick up my DT175 ready for a trip back to Lier. Kevin volunteered to ride it out to the campsite, following the van, so we could load it there. An interesting piece overtaking, a level crossing and a lapse in remembering which side of the road to be on, probably resulting in one motorist requiring an upholstery clean.
Then latter out to Kessel (a village near Lier) and the excellent Frituur Maria to experience the chips (fries) the Belgian way. Short chat with a guy whose father rode a Matchless in motocross in the 50’s and then back into Lier for some more entertainment, which continued in a number of venues through town until the early hours (bars are open till people go home in Lier).
Again, everyone was getting ready at 09h00 when Sophie and I got back to the campsite with breakfast and then said farewells to our hostess, before hitting the road back to Calais and Tredegar. Apart from queues at Eurotunnel, some very lethal farts and a catalogue of motorcycle related deaths experienced by residents of Tredegar and uneventful journey back (its’ about 6.5 hours of driving with the trailer). Despite the canceled race, made the best of the weekend and now planning for the next trip (maybe to Scotland in September ?)