18th December 2007
John Randle competes in classic bike racing on the Continent, aboard his much-modified Triton. Here's how he fared throughout 2007: from gearbox gremlins to being given a trophy by Jim Redman...
Many of you will remember an article I wrote about Racing on the Roads, Dutch Style (www.realclassic.co.uk/ridesfiles/rides05121200.html). Since then I have continued racing and enjoying the trials and heartaches that my favourite sport brings. Through the last couple of seasons (since my first installment) things have generally been good and I have managed to keep the plot upright and on the black stuff. I have also made even more friends and acquaintances from around the world - what a wonderful pastime motorbikes are.John Randle's Triumph T100 Classic Racer
So what of the season that has just passed?
After a winter of fettling and painting and a host of other essential (and non-essential) jobs have been seen to, the season arrived as it does every year on April 30. This is the Queen's Day in Holland and therefore the Dutch equivalent of a bank holiday. So on the afternoon before the meeting we packed up and travelled to Holten which is only half an hour away from home but we still spend the night there. It is a good occasion to meet up with old friends over a beer and a BBQ.
Race day dawned dry and bright so a good day was promised. Practice was trouble free and I was happy although I needed to get my arse into gear in the braking department at the first corner. Lining up for the first race of the season always gives me a good feeling and this was no different. Although I still had to get my braking point right I had a good ride and finished in the top 50%, so at first it smiles all round. Sadly the smiles left in race two when the clutch cable broke. Never mind; a good day was had with no serious drama.
With the clutch cable repaired on May 16th we left for Germany and the Duisberg classic race on the following day. This was a place I had never been to before so I was looking forward to it. The circuit is an airfield which uses the main runway and some service roads to produce a fast if undemanding circuit. The morning of race day greeted us with rain, this soon disappeared and by lunchtime we had sunshine for the rest of the day. Format for the day was the usual one practice and two races in the afternoon. Despite choosing the wrong gearing and losing out on the main straight I finished a creditable 12th, the winner was on a full blown Nourish - nuff said!
The 28th of May is also a bank holiday in Holland which is known as 2nd Pinksteren. Tubbergen is the venue and in contrast to the first meeting which is on closed country lanes, this was on an industrial estate. Anyone who knows the history of Tubbergen will be able to regale you with tales of an event that was held on an international circuit of some 15km in length, with past masters such as Barry Sheene riding. Sadly we now have only a 1.6km circuit but the meeting is run well by a hard-working band of volunteers.
So to race day. It started wet and only dried out enough to be considered damp for the rest of the day. The day for me started and ended in practice due to a gearbox gremlin. Maybe I could have continued but I decided to call it a day and retire to the bar…
After a short break the next meeting was on June 10th at a small closed country lane circuit just on the outskirts of the village of Boekel in the Brabant region. It is a really small but efficiently run meeting in a wonderful setting. The weather was once again kind to us which is good for the organisers of the meeting because this means the attendance figures go up. As riders we get the easy bit, we only have to turn up and ride! So I always find a member of the organisation and thank them at the end of the day.
Practice was OK but I still had a niggle with the gearbox which I was unable to trace. I decided to try it in race one and see how things panned out. I struggled again so after a few laps I called it a day. After spitting a few feathers and cursing I decided to see if a repair would be possible, assuming I could find the problem. On removing the outer gearbox cover the problem was all too apparent: the circlip on the mainshaft had broken along with some of the casing. This naturally was allowing the mainshaft to move and flap at its own pleasure. Still, it was an easy thing to repair once I got home: throw the old inner casing away and fit a good one from the 'box of bits' that we all seem to have.
Schagen was the next meeting, on 22nd of July. The circuit had been extended since last season so it was looking good. By saying 'extended' I mean that the local council allowed the organising club to close a few more roads. The result was a superb circuit and I am looking forward to it next season already!
It was damp in the morning but dried really fast so by the time racing started we had perfect conditions. In race one I had a good start and just managed to miss a fallen rider at the first corner but it cost me a few places, and by the end of the race I was sixth. In race two there was another faller on the fist lap but at a different point - but it was the same rider as the first race! I was battling with a BMW rider for most of the race until the penultimate lap. I was in seventh place when one of the carbs fell off its rubber mount - bummer! Never mind, it was a good meeting.
One week later we were in Barneveld for what is the biggest meeting of the year. This meeting attracts crowds of up to 25,000 and is well worth a visit. For me the meeting was really uneventful and there is nothing to report other than that I rode OK in practice and both races, finishing in 12th place overall. The next meeting a few weeks later on the 19th August was a similar sort of meeting for me with nothing to report really and finishing in fourth place overall.
On 26 August we were at Eext in Drenthe for the Eext Classic GP. This meeting is also a 'must visit'. The circuit is in the village centre and there are not many roads that are unaffected by the meeting. We are made more than welcome by everyone in the village and the inhabitants can be seen setting up their own grandstands in their front gardens along with BBQs and beer fridges. Every year the organisers have a special guest, usually an ex-GP star. This year it was Jim Redman and, as is normal for the event, he took part in some demo rides on a Honda 4 during the breaks and presented the prizes. The evening before he even joined us in the paddock for beer!
Race day conditions were perfect and after practice I felt good. The two races were hard work but rewarding and I felt that I rode well. I obviously must have as I won (!) and had the pleasure of being presented with my trophy from Jim Redman. It doesn't get much better.
The last-but-one meeting of the year was at Anjum which is in Friesland. The circuit this year was different to last year's due to the roads the organisers were allowed to close for the day. So the start was in the village then we went out into the country before returning to the village on what was a bumpy but enjoyable circuit. Once again the weather was perfect for racing. In practice my chain snapped causing me a rather sore left leg and a walk back to the paddock. I had also underestimated the gearing I would need and so was down on speed on the long straight at the back of the circuit. I finished the day in ninth place so I was happy.
Onto the last meeting of the year which was at Hoogezand in the north of the country near Groningen. The circuit is on an industrial estate and as a result has really smooth tarmac which is a luxury when you consider some circuits like Eext are a mixture of block pave and bumpy tarmac. All season we have been blessed with perfect race weather and this was no different. I had got the gearing right and the bike was running well. I ended the day and the season with a third place, and a tired bike.
Next season I hope will be at least as good and safe as this year. I will also be traveling further next season to other countries, as well as the Holland and German meetings. If anyone is at one of the meetings come and make yourself known, and have a beer with us.
Thanks to my partner, Bea, for her patience while I go racing!
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