Sideburn Vintage Class at Amman Valley from the inside.
As round 6 drew ever closer I found my self eagerly anticipating the DTRA's annual trip to South Wales and THE BIG TRACK. I have always considered my Triumph (104) to be a 'half mile special', and had pleasant memories of stretching it's legs in third gear at Amman last year.
Regrettably the burgeoning Vintage class was somewhat depleted in Wales and we missed not having the likes of regulars John Boddy and Paul Harrison, the sound & speed of the big twins of Martin Huening, Chris Scheltens or Adam Brinkworth, the zinging two-strokes of Brindley, Gwyther, Herman and Bastie nor Hubert's effortlessly fast and cool compatriots Chatokhine & Coste. Poor James Smith was still too badly broken to make it and Ross Jackson and his gorgeous DT Yamaha couldn't come because of a much more important event involving a pretty girl, family, friends and a registrar.
In the first practice of the two-day meeting Ferran Mas showed that he intended to beat championship leader Gary Birtwistle, #11, by staying out in front and riding very fast on his freshly engined Bultaco, but the pesky buzzsaw seized even before the end of the practice session. Mike Fisher generously offered to loan Ferran his own Astro to race, but the despairing Spaniard declined, not wanting to risk frying two bikes in one day.
The track was good, the sun shone and everyone enjoyed great racing. Gary B won all his heats with a display of class riding and I had a fine old time with my new Paul "Fast Harry" Harrison motor making gobs of torque and my lovely new rear 'Gum Dipped' Firestone working well and digging in predictably [John is too modest to say he won all his Saturday heats too, he and Birtwistle were in different heats] . The final saw tussles and dices all through the field with Gary B coming out on top followed by Andy Smith on a 380 CZ borrowed from Michael Herman and someone else in third [John on podium!]. Sideburn Vintage rider of the day went to Andy Smith.
After the podiums were done the whole paddock relaxed into a lovely sunset evening of bbqs, fires and socials, whilst capable young un's Jake Dyer and Max Inman rolled and tyre packed the track until well after dark.
Come Sunday and the Vintage class was depleted even further to just 13 riders, so we all ran together in single heats. Anthony Brown was back out on Wilky's Triumph and kept Gary B honest, but ultimately it was young Gary who won all four races and showed us how we should be doing it. What a weekend for our new class champion, to convincingly win every race he was in. I flatter myself that I was able to stick fairly close to him in the Sunday practice and even show him my front wheel once, but I fluffed my only chance to get close to him in Saturday's final. It is a sign of his riding skill that he was able to stay ahead of the monster twins of Anthony Brown and David J Webb on his little Cheney Beeza in the final. I hope he comes back into the Vintage fold next year, as - to my mind at least - us old fellows need a you gun like him as a yardstick to pull us along now that Guy Sutherland has changed tack.
My particular sparring partner Rick the Bear #39 led one of the heats after a neat holeshot to prove that it wasn't all a one man show, and Anthony Brown was nominated Sideburn Vintage Rider of the Day, hopefully an incentive to keep him riding in the class more often.
On Sunday the track became very bumpy and rutted in the bends earning huge respect for Jon Dyer #101 & David Webb #140 riding rigid bikes. That David rode his BSA to a podium finish is ultra impressive.
I never would have thought that the short track two-strokes would have been much cop at Amman, but the speed at which Mike Fisher #80 overtook me on the back straight just astounded me and I was reminded that it was on Saturday last year at Amman that Mike's Bultaco was the first two stroke to make a DTRA Vintage podium, followed up by Michael Herman's sublime Kawasaki on the Sunday. Maybe those pesky lightweight smokers are the way to go? Whilst the jury's out I'll stick to my Triumph, thank you.
Us Vintagents who weren't riding in different classes had the rest of the day off to enjoy watching the other races and boy, they didn't disappoint.
Those youngsters never fail to impress. Jordan Miller winning every race he was in and as for Toby Hales and his two Pro wins... Sunday's Pro final was especially thrilling. The other riders who made an impression on me were the diminutive Grant Martin and Caylee Hankins riding their first DTRA races, having come (like so many of us) from DirtQuakes. To watch Grant blasting high around the cushion sending up a rooster tail and leading the likes of Herrod, Hill & Faulkner was inspirational and exciting. Caylee more than held her own on their shared Rotax in the Rookie class and has slotted straight in as yet another skilled girl of the DTRA. I look forward to watching them both at future meetings [I think Grant raced DTRA at King's Lynn. GI].
After everything was cleared away I treated myself to a journey home on my two favourite Welsh roads; the Black Mountain Pass just north of Amman and the A40 back to Aber. What a satisfying alternative to trolling along the M4, even in a 15-year-old Transit. Then as I crossed the old bridge at 8 o'clock I counted 20 hot air balloons in low flight ahead. A lovely finale to a memorable weekend.
Pics by Ian Osborne & Geraint Burgess' son