Earlier this month I headed out to the Netherlands to race flat track and the second annual Hells Race in it's new home of Lelystad. To save a bit of money, and because they're great to spend time with, I jumped in the Transit with Mr DTRA, Anthony Co-Built Brown and Ms DTRA, Anna. As you can see, Anthony is the king of van packing...
I was pretty busy and if I could have got out of going without feeling I let the Hells Race guys down, I might have sloped out of it, but Anthony said we could drive out very early Saturday morning, miss a bit of Saturday's practice session and rush home after the race, so we decided to go. We're so glad we did.
It didn't take long before the perennially helpful Mr Brown was trying to sort someone else's bike. On this occasion it was the Motoroco Wood Rotax (that we did a Sideburn website story on). Unfortunately, the fork on the clutch actuator arm was broken and couldn't be patched up.
Lots of foreign riders have come to the UK to race over the years and still do, from Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. So it was great to see a really healthy bunch of British DTRA riders going out to support the Europeans and their grassroots race scene. The pros have been going to European races for years, but Hells Race attracted more vintage riders, framer riders and Hooligans.
Ross Jackson debuted his Yamaha DT, and in his very first vintage race meeting, he won the final.
It was fun to the see the UK guys and talk to people I don't normally get chance to hang out with at a UK races, because they're so packed and hectic, but the best bit was seeing races bike that I'd never seen before, like this Husky.
And this very tidy Suzuki something or other...
Another neat Suzuki, pretending to be a Yamaha.
Hells Race had timing specialists scoring the races with a transponder system. Riders loaned the little orange box, on the fork leg, handing over €50 and their passport or driving licence, and having it returned when they gave the transponder back at the end of the day.
Period correct rider... This is Franck S from Switzerland who entered the Rookie class. There was also Newbie class for riders to sample flat track on whatever bike they had, like Dirt Quake encourages.
There were loads of interesting budget bikes in the Newbie and Rookie classes. A race like Hells Race couldn't have happened in the Netherlands four or five years ago, there just wouldn't have been enough interest, but the flat track scene is growing everywhere.
Hells Race used DTRA rules as a template, so big gaps in mag wheels had to be covered up so they didn't allow arms or extremities through the spokes...
Stefano from Parts Europe, one of the event's sponsors, turned up on his tidy Dominator street tracker and won the Rookie class. The bike has 18in wheels, not 19s. Stefano is entered into the DirtQuake street tracker class.
Another neat rookie. These bikes remind me of the UK Short Track scene a few years ago, when bikes were a bit more make-do, while people worked out if they wanted to invest in more parts to properly sort their bike for the sport. I love this period of local evolution and the DIY ethic of it.
Nicolas from the Wrenchmonkees travelled down from Denmark to race his W650. The bike needed a 'shark's fin' sprocket cover to pass tech inspection. He made one from part of a UK car licence plate.
Author and magazine feature writer, Maximillian Funk (best name ever) came from Berlin to race his Honda. He rode it hard too.
There was only one lady rider, but she was on a neat Montesa.
Lovely Zoran from the Rusty Gold Motorshop, in nearby Amsterdam, sponsored the race, and came out with a booth of merch and his Dirt Quake survivor XS650. He got a bit carried away in the newbie final and broke his collarbone :-(
James HLT (black hoodie) got into dirt track after racing his chopper at Dirt Quake and now he owns these two beauties. The orange Ironhead is for vintage racing, the turquoise Evo Sportster is his hooligan machine. The orange one was for sale for £7000. Leave a comment if you want to be put in touch.
Lloyd is pushing the orange one. I've got an interesting story about him, but it can wait.
This wild Sportster turned up to race in the DTRA Hooligan class and we photographed for the next issue of Sideburn. Reverse head? Yep.
Retro helmets were the way to go, it seemed.
Ross 'The King' Herrod travelled over with the Survivor Customs crew a day early to visit Amsterdam. When in Rome...
The last time we saw the Hamburg-based Triumph was at Snow Quake 2017. It ran a lot better this time.
French photographer Amaury Cibot, swapped photographing bikes for racing them, and joined the hooligan class too.
The Lelystad track has been taken over by a trio of dirt track mad friends, who are putting practices on every weekend through the summer, weather permitting. It's going to really help the Benelux scene grow to have a dirt track-friendly track in the area. Find out more at Speedway Lelystad.
My bikes ran great all weekend. This was the first time out since on the Harley since I'd rebuilt the engine with the S&S Hooligan big bore kit and it felt good, even with the stock 883 CV carb, but I'm told different heads might make a big difference. Anyone got any advice on that? It's 883 bottom end, 883 heads, S&S 1200 barrels and S&S Hooligan cams.
Anthony doesn't race as often as he used to, now he has so much pressure on race days running the DTRA, but he's still damn fast, especially on a cushion track like Lelystad. Local rider Maikel Dijkstra jumped on a borrowed Co-Built Rotax, first time he'd ever ridden it, and ruled the framer class. Ross was 2nd, Anthony third.
Swede Jonathan Falkman flew on his Sportster to win the DTRA Hooligan class (sponsored by Harley-Davidson) ahead of me and fellow Brit, Ross Sharp from the Bike Shed on his Cagiva 750.
The two guys in the overalls are Angelo and Bram, the brains behind Hells Race. They put on a great race, well organised (only their second ever race), and it was the first ever race the new owners of Lelystad had ever put on. A fantastic effort all-round.
We packed the van in record time and hot-footed back to the Chunnel, panicking slighty we were going to miss it and have to wait to 6am on Monday, but we breezed it. Back to Oxford for 11.30, where I packed the bikes back in my own van and I home for 1.45am, and back to work on Monday. Good times. Thanks to Anthony and Anna to letting me tag along.