Mike Fisherm DTRA #80, successfully tunes and races an early Champion framed Bultaco in the Sideburn Vintage class in the UK. Like me, he has celebrated his 60th birthday this summer, but our two lives share a lot more than both beginning in the summer of 1959.
I first met Mike when I went to Peter Boast's Flat track school in the spring of 2015. I was there because I had entered Dirt Quake and needed all the tuition I could get to help me survive my first ride on a speedway track a few weeks later. Mike had just started his first season of flat track racing with the DTRA, and it was the earliest school he could attend.
We soon found out that we were born a month apart and both grew up on the outskirts of Southampton. We both rode Fantic Caballeros supplied by the same dealer when we were 16. We both competed in speed hillclimb events, Mike on two wheels, me on four, so we knew the same tracks and corners. We were both exposed to flat track by 'On Any Sunday' in our youth and we both learnt there was a UK Flat track scene from reading Sideburn magazine, to which we both subscribed.
It seemed odd that our paths hadn't crossed before. To say we hit it off would be understating it.
I thought he was great because he was already racing in the Rookie class and I soaked up everything he could tell me about it. He reinforced what I'd been reading in Sideburn for a few years, that an ordinary bloke like me could have a go at racing.
We next met the following year at the pre-season DTRA practice day. Instead of his 450 Mike was on a Vintage class Bultaco, and he taught me about Astros. We've raced together many times since, me always chasing his roost.
Mike's an organic market gardener, supplying vegetables, soft fruit, herbs and wild flowers to big names in the organic home delivery world. His specialist crop is tomatoes, grown by the million, which explains the Triple Tomato Jackpot logo seen on his bike and leathers in the style of a winning line on an old one-armed bandit (US = slots).
For his 60th birthday celebrations, Mike threw a party at his farm, which included a little bike show, before we swept and he watered the minibike oval Mike has created around the outside of his herb beds.
The sun was hot in clear blue skies as the afternoon was spent with everyone hooning around the track, the children in particular, getting merrily filthy in the dust.
Wilbur and Marcie Skipp put in more laps than everyone else, with Wilbur trying out every bike there.
As the sun sank and the drinks flowed from the teepee bar, fabulous food made from the farm produce appeared, before a couple of great bands played and folk danced into the warm, clear night.
Jamie Elliot arrived and blew all our minds with his latest acquisition; an all original 1958 European Championship long track speedway bike with the loveliest nose.
Meanwhile, two fields away, Mike's neighbour Jody Scheckter was hosting a similar but much larger and far less exclusive party, Carfest, on his organic farm.
Photos: Paul France; Ian Bush; Jeremy Skipp; John Harrison