The Ice Experience

Further to last week’s column which concentrated on the Classic Road Racing and Off Road Show at Telford, I ran out of space and never got round to mentioning the great display of road racing machinery.

I know that this is a trials website, but as I’ve said in the past, many fans are enthusiasts of all forms of sport, I’m no different and road racing has always been of interest to me.

As well as the legendary Mike Hailwood’s 250 Honda four racer being there, there was a great display of 50cc racing machinery from the 'sixties/’seventies. I’ve never previously been able to get a close up look at the tiddlers, but they are fantastic pieces of kit. There was a 50cc Honda racer of the era but the machines of great interest were the 50cc Kriedlers. They were superb machines with their horizontal engines and carb on the side because they are rotary valve engines, and though many folk will scoff at them, the engineering efforts to make such tiny engines travel so fast are fascinating.

In fact the whole show brought together engineering abilities that are totally foreign to me. I could no more restore a machine to the state they were displayed than fly to the moon, but I admire those that can and it was a real joy to browse the machines and equipment on display. As I said last week, roll on the 2010 show, I’ll be there again. It was great.

Talking of close up viewing of machines, a good number of years ago I was under the impression that ice racing speedway bikes were poorly turned out lumps of junk – until I went to the one and only ice race meeting that I attended. It was at Assen in 1993 the year the ISDE was held at the Dutch venue. The ice race meeting was part of the enduro opening ceremony and as a member of the press corps I had the chance to visit the pits where the machines were parked throughout the meeting.

I was taken aback by the quality of the machines. What makes them look like junk is the layout, but when you get up close, they are superbly designed for the job in hand, travelling anti-clockwise, on ice, almost horizontal to the ground.

The meeting itself was fantastic to watch but was marred during the first five or six heats with some really bad crashes. There was a rumour at the time that there had been a fatality but I’ve never been able to confirm it and I’ve never been able to source through the internet if it was true. I do know that at the time, after the first few heats there was a massive delay before the rest of the meeting continued and the “devil may care” attitude of the riders from the first few heats was not replicated after the restart.

But whatever happened, it was a truly great experience and if you ever get the chance to see an ice race meeting, never pass up on it. It’s one of the real thrills of spectating that you have to see to believe.

As the years have passed, the spectating opportunities have increased immeasurably. Where there was once just scrambles, trials, road racing and grass track, nowadays indoor trials, indoor enduros, extreme enduros, hill climbs, beach racing, ice racing and long track racing, amongst others have been added. I’ve not yet seen them all but hope to in the foreseeable future.

As I’ve said before, it’s very easy to ride every Sunday and do nothing else, but there comes a time when experiencing the best riders at their forms of sport is a necessity, for one thing is sure, no matter what the variety of motor sport you go to watch, when you see the VERY best undertake it, it is always fascinating.

This week’s column has certainly drifted off trials, but it’s the close season for major events and most of the championship series don’t yet start for a month or so I hope you’ll permit me the chance to drift off topic occasionally.