23 Apr 2023
The penultimate weekend of April saw the start of our Golden Anniversary season at the Spring Live! show (almost) at the South of England Showground in Ardingly. I say almost, because those of you playing along at home may recall that we very nearly attended the same show last year, but the plug was pulled by the promoter at the eleventh hour, in part, over concerns about the damage we would do to the showground – worries that were quelled somewhat by their attendance at the Cowpie show later in the year. Unfortunately however, a wet spring, including the wettest March in over 40 years, rekindled these worries and ultimately caused another last minute change; moving us from the showground to the carpark! This had the knock on effect of moving us to the other side of the fence from the toilets; and of course expecting to have access to these meant that we hadn’t ordered toilets, for which we can only apologise to all left without the promised facilities overnight.
The event attracted nine entrants in Group 2, seven in Group 3 and fifteen in Group 4, which rivalled the best 2022 entries and saw five new names in Group 4, helping balance Algirdas Mociejunas’ move to Group 3 and Scott Herbert’s move to Group 2. Newbies Jason Steer and Paul & Michael Munnery shared their ex Scott Herbert Wheel Horse, Tom Stimson debuted on his shaft drive Honda and Sam Line campaigned the Jonathan David built Gazelle.
Saturday started off in a conventional enough fashion with track setup preceding drivers briefing, itself preceding practice and then racing proper. The clockwise direction saw a right-hander at the end of a short start finish straight take the track down a slight incline along the crowd line via a small kink, before turning right and following the fence that itself bore right, a right-left uphill complex then completing the lap.
Racing was the usual mix of heats and Championship rounds, with two heats available first thing to refresh the memory and blow out the cobwebs, before a Championship round, followed by another heat and then a somewhat unusually long lunch break to allow competitors to make the most if the show. Another heat then followed lunch, a Championship round and then heats sufficient to ensure we raced up to the end of the show day at 5pm.
As the grass cover started to diminish, it very quickly became apparent that the ground was soaked through, leaving a surface that was both soft underfoot and sapped power from the machines. As is often the case in these unusual conditions, this was to the benefit of a different set of machines to those that you might ordinarily expect to see at the top of the podium, and was somewhat compounded by a relatively tight track with little opportunity to move off the dry(er) line.
Amongst those having a good day were Stuart Johnson, who seemed to have an advantage over Dean Fuller in the conditions, Gary Botting who squeaked a Championship round win from Alfie Smith and Scott Herbert who kept his machine running all day! On the flipside, Jason Steer was seen to have a moment, when he failed to take the corner at the bottom of the hill and had to be extracted from the ropes.
A spectacular spring evening was followed by an April shower overnight. Well no, the evening was lovely, but it absolutely tipped it down all night long! This continued off and on throughout the morning and through drivers briefing (which took place in a gazebo that had clearly seen the worst of the overnight weather). Having already moved the track a number of times to minimise damage throughout Saturday and owing to the standing water and the absolute certainty that mowers would clog with the thick Weald Clay, the difficult decision was taken to knock Sunday on the head before it began. Unfortunately this hit no one harder than Scott Farrar who had booked in for just the one day.
Many hands made light work of clearing away the track, which is very much appreciated. Partly due to haste and partly due to not wanting to set things back up or stand around in the rain, the scores remain on the laptop in the race trailer. Prize giving will therefore take place at our next meeting at The Dip and the results remain a mystery to all…
Unfortunately this was not the start we wanted, although experience tells us that meetings in April do tend to have a lower success rate than those in later months. Hopefully this is not a harbinger of things to come, particularly as our next meeting is at The Dip, and many of us have seen that at its worst (noting that opinions vary over its best).
Until then we’ll keep watching the seaweed, perform a Sun Dance or two and keep you posted. Hopefully see you there.