A Welsh Team Abroad

Also, as my attempts to write up recent events, like the Ivor Morkott trial, haven’t been to succesful, the core readership of my blog / website (Kevin and Dan) have let me know they’d like more regular updates.

So here is a relatively prompt write-up, as requested, hot off the presses in Lier, where I’m sitting with a cup of tea and a body that is remembering the days just gone.

One of paddock fields from the road.

Dan Evan, Mark Evans and Kevin Pettit made the journey over in Kevin’s van, which was slightly lower class than the race homes and blinged out vans being used by the relative large English contingent that has made its was across the channel on Thursday and Friday, before Saturday’s racing.

The track, as has been described before is a little different from those you might normally find in Belgium (and in the UK) as it’s inside a Fort, which was part of the defence system for Antwerp . A tight technical track, with a table top, a jump etc, but is actually pretty rideable for classic bikes. The rain made going difficult for early practice, but it improved significantly during the day and was in perfect condition by the 2nd block.

For a modern view of the track; some of the jumps weren’t as stiff, but still pretty impressive in place. However, it was still good fun on a ’75 Husky. 125cc and 250cc are better than 500cc on the track as it’s all about 2nd gear with a brief flurry into 3rd on the back and start-finish straights.

First beers of the weekend

The bar was open for registration and drinks and it was the former that was initially more chaotic, with form filling, paying and getting that all important white slip so you could ride on the following day. Sophie was hostess for the weekend and duly obliged by turning up at the track with frites and sausages for the team, which were eagerly consumed. After a brief flirtation with sleeping in the van, common sense prevailed and I headed back to Lier, but only after Sophie had left and had to come back and pick me up.

Quite a large British contingent, mainly Evo mounted it seems, and rounded up by Dave King. A lot of use of the F word on the Friday night, Farleigh that is, and you do begin to think that it’s the only classic motocross meeting in the UK. Perhaps a bit of Teifiside promotion needed, but it’s about 400 miles and 40 years away from the razzle dazzle of classic racing on this scale.

Watching the action

Saturday was a packed day, with practice starting at 08h00 for Kevin in the pre72 class, and finishing with the Twinshock ‘A’ final around 18h00. Normally you get practice and two blocks of racing, but today there was three blocks, but time went quickly during what was a packed day. Having a push bike to get from paddock to track was a bonus in order to get some race watching in.

Managed to get out to the track for 07h30, after Sophie had been to the bakers and made pistolekes [[Think crusty white rolls, but great fresh and very crusty. A must for a Belgian breakfast]] and bought cakes. Weather looked to be better than forecast with it warming up quickly. The energy and vibes for the day were good, and excitement building in our far flung corner of the paddock (well more like one of 4 paddocks around the Fort itself).

The rendered TM250 after practice

With a packed paddock and a very healthy entry, it was going to be a busy day. Kevin went well in practice with the newly acquired Suzuki TM250 going well, and then me going out in the pre77 practice. Track still slippery in places, but the signs were good that it was only going to get better. Good fun, and tried to remember a seriously sharp corner after a quick wall-of-death left hander. The water and sand combination managed a tidy rendering job on Kevin’s pristine TM, but with a quick drying track most post 72 bikes were spared.

1st block of racing saw Kevin pull the TM in early as it was nipping up. Recently rebored and to a tight tolerance. The Husky went well until I pulled off the fuel pipe off with my leg at somepoint. Lost a couple of minutes and about 5 places. Really enjoying the track now, with some good berms, ruts and a great physical track. A 250cc Husky was about right and a lot better than getting the 250 Yam around a couple of years before.

Pressure of racing at the top level

Mark’s outing on the Montesa was limited to practice and race 1; not feeling too good he retired to his tent for the second block of racing, only emerging later in the afternoon and setting about a relatively speedy recovery in the bars of Lier in the evening. Whether the stress of racing at international level or spending 12 hours in the van with Kevin, the cause of the mystery ailment may never be known. Whatever the cause, he was smiling at the end of it.

The Police sorting out traffic

After riching the mixture and doing a test run up the road, Kevin broke the exhaust bracket race 2. I managed to pull off my fuel pipe whilst going well and lost 4 places or so. All a bit frustrating, but still very happy with the overall performance. Really great to ride this type of track from time to time.

It doesn’t take long for our part of the paddock to look more like a gypsy camp, with spares, clothes, food and general detritus strewn everywhere. Our nice clean neighbours (Dutch) were even pressure washing their bikes between races, probably hoping some would come our way.

The classic paddock look

Dan Evans is has now won more Welsh Championship titles than anyone else. Before the ‘A’ final for the Twinshocks, he pointed out that Sven Bruegelmans hadn’t one a Welsh title. That he was MX3 World Champion in 2005 and 2008 and twice runner up, seemed to be beside the point. He did dominate the race on his 250cc Suzuki and lapped everyone up to 11th place, which is where Dan finished. That Graham Noyce didn’t finished and there were a few current (and competitive) modern riders from the UK and Belgium riding showed the quality of the field. Some impressive racing all day but Dan had come 7th in both of the earlier races, commenting that his perfect suspension for Abbeycwmhir did not really match up to Koningshooikt.

Can you spot the British supporters during Sunday's racing ?

The Evo’s held less attraction for the travelling contingent, as it does for a lot of classic riders, but the action was excellent, with some close racing. Can you run classics with Twinshocks and Evos ? Well in Belgium you don’t get much choice and you can also run in pre81 50cc and 125cc race as well.

For the full results, they are available on MyLaps

A marshall in action during Saturday's race

Apologies but I left the helmet cam in Bwlch and a video of getting from paddock to the track would have been a 8 minute video on its own and worth a view. A quick blast down the road and a push through the tunnel and up to the start gate. The track itself was pretty interesting too.

So what’s the main similarities and difference between Belgium and Wales ? My thoughts on this
– in terms of bikes, there are lots of different makes and models and in the twinshock class some monoshock Yams have been retro fitted with twinshocks. Always like that there are 50cc and 125cc bikes.
– the the pre72 class, there’s a lot more than 4″ (10cm) of suspension travel and some interesting interpretation of eligibility. No real compaints though and no bans for Japanese bikes.
– its all a little more serious, though the racing is good fun and language barrier aside, everyone knows how to have a good time (on and off the track). Its more professional with the start, race order (and timings), use of transponders etc and that’s a reflection that normally it is the main national event for all classes from pre72 through to Evo. In the UK you get a lot of competing events, different organisations and there are a lot more riders.
– Belgium’s history of success in the sport means it’s well known, supported and understood. Everyone knows who Roger de Coster or Stefan Everts is. Makes the atmosphere at events a bit special, especially somewhere like Koningshooikt.

The evening after

Saturday night was good fun out in Lier, but I retired at 01h00, leaving Dan to attempt to lead Mark and Kevin astray. Sunday saw a visit to Namur (see other article) and a trip back to the Fort to watch the modern racing (also interesting). A great weekend and thanks to organisers and lots of others who made people feel welcome.