The 850cc Guzzi rider didn’t like being passed by me on a hunkered down 1991 Harley Sportster and he’s lining up a move on the outside. He has front and rear brakes, but my Harley has only rear. The studs in the incongruous Italian heavyweight enduro bike give enough grip to exploit the Euro twin’s extra stopping power. Confidently the Guzzi rider brakes later and tips in directly in front of me on the downhill, 90-degree right. It’s a good block pass, or it would be if I had enough brakes to slow down and miss him. Instead I can do nothing except ram straight into the side of him, like a battleship out of shells having one last desperate throw of the dice to try sink an enemy frigate. If either of us had been on lightweight bikes, or single cylinder framers, it would’ve been messy, as it was the two bull seals shake off the concussion and carry on, having only lost a couple of bikes lengths to the bike in front.
After the race, the Guzzi pilot calls me over and points to his old, leather motocross boots. In the altercation my buzzsaw front tyre has slit, with almost surgical accuracy, every buckle strap off his right boot. ‘It’s like 007 did it,’ he says.
Incredibly, this is as close as Snow Quake flirts with disaster. Pretty close, I admit it, but no blood was spilt. Over 50 racers, many of whom are ice racing virgins, on a smorgasbord of cracking motos. And this is racing. Proper racing. Three classes – Inappropriate – for road bikes; Racer – for dirt trackers and the Di Traverso school’s modified SR400; Vintage – old motocross and enduro bikes of any size. Battling elbow-to-elbow.
The odd rider slides off, we’re racing on ice, what do you expect? But that’s it. The skill and tenacity of riders who enter Snow Quake, and its summer brother, Dirt Quake, is a constant pleasant surprise.
The bikes are superb too. Vibrazioni Design bring their Ducati Scrambler, with bodywork made from salvaged oil cans. MV Agusta arrive with a trick Brutale 800 piloted by their Technical Director, Brian Gillen. Ducati’s own Scrambler Concept, that apes the Pantah Ice racer of the 80s is flying. Then there’s an ex-Steve McQueen Husqvarna Cross, a dozen dirt track framers, Vespas, wonderful old enduro bikes – two- and four-strokes, plus Vespas, modern Morinis and Gold Stars.
There are even hardy spectators. Wrapped in army blankets, screen-printed by Deus with the event’s logo, the shivering onlookers stand near oil drum braziers, sip hot vin brulé and silently wonder why anyone would want to race a motorcycle in these conditions. The racers know why. Riding on ice is so out of the ordinary for 99.99% of the world’s motorcyclists that the whole novelty of the experience acts as a nuclear core to heat us from the inside out. On the Ice Rosa Ring’s challenging track, with its changes of elevation, not just a flat frozen lake, it’s even more of an all-consuming endeavour.
Results really are secondary, and that’s not just a loser speaking, but if you’re interested, Giovanni Bussei won the superfinal, ahead of Marco Belli and Jan-Willem Jansen. It’s only when we’re loading up at the end of the day, after seven hours on the ice, that we feel the cold. Then we can’t get out of there quick enough.
Words: Gary Inman
Photos: Xxxxx xxxx
Photos: Marco Renieri