As a kid I distinctly remember getting excited with each passing day leading up to the British GPs. Loading up the truck a couple of days before with enough food to see you through a second world war style rationing, making sure all your bags were packed was all part of making the GP weekends exactly what they are meant to be – memorable.
Hawkstone, Farleigh and later Foxhills all had a certain allure that made the event even more special and now it seems that the Gore Basin circuit on the Isle of Wight is picking up the baton and moving us into the next generation of British GP history.
The IOW GP last year was a surreal experience for me. I had been a small freckle face kid cheering on the likes of Thorpe and Nicoll then progressed to being their side of the fence and had the pleasure of feeling what it’s like to ride in front of your home crowd, albeit much slower. From that I’ve gone on to be actively involved in organising a British GP. Bringing the race back on to the calendar was such a buzz and something I’m ever thankful for but I just didn’t get to appreciate the first GP on the island until long after it had gone, it was tiring and stressful.
This time around though I had the luxury of going back to being just a fan like the kid I used to be and really enjoying myself. OK, I had some responsibility with MOTO in helping out with the minibike race but it paled into insignificance with bringing together the whole event. Mark Chamberlain, his family and friends, Craig Elwell, Tom (the land owner) Jennifer Collins and the unsung hero that is Julie Coyne done such a fantastic job in taking the GP from 2004 and helping it grow into something even better. Jonny DH again worked the track to perfection and with Johnathon Beasley, the promoter of Budds Creek over to help out it was always going to be mint. And if Richie Reid wasn’t on hand charging around that site like Braveheart minus his war paint and kilt the whole scene would’ve be painted a lot different. Credit where credit is due.
So with out being part of that stressful environment I had it planned to kick back and soak up the atmosphere of the event. That was until my team mate Bryan Mackenzie got himself an entry to the race and we decided to run the minibike race with Tristan at MinibikePro. So for Thursday and Friday at least I still had shit to do. Getting Mick from RS Motorhomes into the circuit and parked up was the first thing. Considering the man pulled out his top line truck which will hit you in the wallet somewhere in the region of quarter of a million smackers, just for the MOTO crew to lounge around in it was hardly a chore. Not only had Mick found the decency to loan the truck (which had only been out of the workshop once before) for the weekend he’d also decked it out with MOTO logos, brought along the BBQ and a Harley Davidson just for good measure. The whole thing nearly turned sour though when he came within a foot of driving it into a skip trying to park up after a torrential hour-long downpour. Mick didn’t seem fazed at all, I had my heart through my chest and an arse clenched tighter than an industrial vice. So much for a stress free weekend.
Once we had the RS Motorhome in place I went across to see how Tristan was getting along with the set up for the MOTO/MBP Trans-Atlantic minibike invitational. The track looked more amazing than it did on the pictures Tristan had wired to me and did nothing to calm my nerves for the race. This was a supercross track, no question, only in miniature version. To his credit Tristan and his mates had made a stellar effort, they’d worked tirelessly and it showed. I offered what help I could but it seemed they had it all in hand and were getting excited about the race. Kawasaki, Marzocchi, On Fire, Asterisk, Thor, Smith, Pulse and Muc Off had all got involved to support the cause. Tristan seemed apprehensive and rightly so, I felt the same but for different reasons. I reassured him we should get a good crowd, it’ll all be worth it and not to worry as I went off to panic about looking incredibly shite on a minibike. I ride one occasionally but I wouldn’t say I was confident on the lethal pocket rockets, I’ve smashed my knees more times in one year than I have in twenty five of them on a big bike. By Friday I was getting my head around the intensity of the track I had to ride and was starting to feel confident. That was until Jeff Emig and Tom Carson showed up and started having serious reservations about the difficulty level of what Tristan had produced. The confidence I had built up drained from me faster than Chubby Brown can down a pint or offend a good living Christian. Bearing in mind Jeff Emig is a multi national AMA champ and the only rider to beat MC in his prime and Tom Carson not only is Asterisk’s rider rep in the US but also the 2004 AMA national minibike champion you can understand while I was suddenly concerned for my welfare. If these two were having issues with it then I was definitely shittin’ bricks.
After Wobs had introduced everyone to Jeff, his brother in law Josh and Tom, they cruised back to their hotel with Blissy packing out the back of Dobby’s borrowed X5 with all his camera gear, I went down to the paddock to see how Bryan was feeling and set up my tent for the weekend. I had the opportunity to do the hotel thing but I wanted to get a taste of the GP and go back to the roots of being a travelling fan. Tents can be like girls with attitude, they’re difficult to get up for the weekend but once they are they’re fun to be in. That is of course if your girlfriend doesn’t leave the zip open for all the night-time dew to soak everything, part of the game I guess. Still, after a couple of beers it didn’t really matter and I managed to convince Laura she’d wet the bed for a while there in the morning. Saturday started out with a level of concern I’d never felt before. Emig was all set to ride my KX250 for the on board TV camera so we had to make sure it was to his liking. Jeff rides a stock Kawasaki back home in the States so we really didn’t have to do much apart form adjust the bars, controls and give it a few clicks on the suspension. Bryan Connelly who’s Bry Mac’s mechanic (it can get confusing in the Twisted 7 camp at times) was given the honour of being Fro’s mechanic for the weekend. Not a championship winner with Emig but he was to be called J-bone for the remainder of the weekend. I now feel for any mechanic like I’ve never felt before. I was so nervous that the bike would screw up and put Jeff on his ass in front of all the fans watching. It had only been ridden three times before but because of the circumstances I felt apprehensive the whole time. It survived as did Jeff who came back in with heaps of praise for the track, so that was a very satisfying moment for me knowing I had a big part to play in what had just gone before me. With the weather getting hotter all the time through the Saturday GP qualifying programme I started to feel the heat as my race drew closer. By the time Fro had plugged the minibike extravaganza with the race commentators I knew we’d get a good crowd up there.
With the race due to kick off at 6.30 it was a mad rush for not only me but for Jeffro who had TO finish off more TV work due to the light. I was looping out because I had to find Sean Stephens and Matt Bates a lid for the race. I called Jody Smyth who was also racing to see if he had any spare, I wasn’t pinning my hopes on it as I’d bumped into him the day before and he was cut up on cheap rosé wine. Jody was stressing too, he had the lids and had sobered up but he was busy on the day being his brother Danny’s mechanic. I hung up the phone with Jody swearing and screaming that he’d be there. Bar a couple we all made it to the line with time to spare which pissed Jody off for running up the hill. Jeff who was still riding the main track and Batesy who had gone AWOL. Warren Edwards was sat there ready to go but was also struggling for breath as his ringpiece clipper muscles were tensing so much it made it difficult for him to talk. “Look at the amount of people out there” he said as he stared down the start straight. “What you worried for? You raced with RJ, you used to be a SX specialist.” I reminded him. “Used to be! I specialise in other things now and they don’t involve bikes or pain!” Tristan called us up for practice after the 50cc riders had been out for the first time, the likes of Trevor Scott, Jonny Groves, Stu Hughes and Kris Brock made it look all too easy. By now the crowd seemed to be right into it and the whole place had a real good feel about it, a sense of genuine fun and entertainment was in the air. It was then just as I rode off down the straight that I knew I didn’t really matter if I sucked or not, that was not what it was about. By the time we’d all come in from practise everyone involved was buzzing and having fun. Neil Prince, The Flockharts’ and BryMac who had failed to make the main GP feature were all welcome of the experience. Previous Weston Beach Race winner Andy Gilbert had twisted his already screwed up knee on the first lap and called it a day and Jody was bitching about his feet hurting, I guess they would wearing ladies’ Pumas so I gave him my shoes and rushed back to get some more for myself.
Fro had made it back from his TV duties in time for the first 110cc all-star race. Tristan had assembled ten identical bikes all decked out with Two Brothers racing parts (which are now available to buy from www.minibikepro.com) and they were all lined up revving with pro racers past and present on the line. BryMac stormed to the first win, taking out his frustrations like I said he should. I came in 5th I think after dicing with Princey all race and getting done on the last turn by Emig coming through the pack. I went wide to slingshot the CAS team manager only to be parked by the ’97 AMA SX and National champ. Not every Saturday that happens in a field on the Isle of Wight, well not in the world outside of bizarre dreams anyway.
After racing seriously in the first two motos there was a break in the proceedings for the Red Bull skate and BMX demos. So Warren, Jody and myself shot down to the beer tent for a swift couple of pints. It was down there we decided to hang back and have a go at taking each other down, in a friendly way of course. By the time we’d got back Warren had slipped off, either bombed out or igniting his taste buds for amber nectar, so it was left to Jody to be my target. For the next two races I had the best time on a bike for as long as I can remember. We rammed, shunted and stuffed each other out of the way as much as we could without causing damage to each other and it seemed real popular with the crowd, In fact the whole weekend seemed that way. Even Ben Townley came out of nowhere to have a tear around. Emig ended up winning the overall but what does it matter, he also ended up signing shirts and even foreheads in the beer tent later and that’s the point. He was having fun along with everyone else and that’s what a GP weekend was to me as a kid and how they should always remain. I hope the Isle of Wight GP will pick up where the legacy of Foxhills left off.