Monday, 2 May 2016

Belgian Road Trip

Last Saturday morning I crawled out of bed at 2.30, woke up my 13-year-old son 15 minutes later, made a coffee and left for Belgium at 3am.
We met the Co-Built crew of Anthony, Anna, Geoff, Guy, Karina and Norm, in two other vans at the Eurotunnel for a 6.50 crossing. 
On the other side we drove the three hours/175 miles to Huesden-Zolder, where they have bread vending machines on street corners, street after street with no two houses are the same, a famous road racing circuit and a speedway track.
The British riders met with the Belgian DTRA contingent, plus the Dutch Brothers (only one of whom lives in Holland, the others are in Switzerland).
The Helzold track is going to host Hells Race, what could be the first ever dirt track race in Belgium, later this summer. Two of the Belgian DTRA riders, Angelo and Bram, have organised the meeting with the assistance of the local speedway club. The idea was to invite one dirt track class to an early-season speedway race for the speedway organisers to see what, if anything, they had to do differently. So this was an invite-only do at the Helzold Stars Speedway international meeting.

Saturday was open practice, Sunday was race day. Above is Belgian David's XT500.

Belgian Bram and his new Co-Built.
Norm and his Trackmaster Triumph twin.
Bram, David, and Hank looking mean. Co-Built Anthony's arm with an old Sideburn patch.
Guy and Geoff on their Co-Built Rotax singles. Guy painted both of them. Two very fast and stylish UK riders were back on the pace after disappointing (for their usual high standards) results at Rye House.
Co-Built Anthony (16), Jan-Willem Dutch Brother (15 - J and M Rotax), Angelo (55 Starracer KTM)
 Geoff and Jan-Willem
 Jan-Willem brought two bikes, his Astro...
and his J and M Rotax, with the wheels he designed himself. I had a few electrical problems, just as race day practice started, and both Anthony and Jan-Willem let me have a few laps on their bikes. Both were great and Jan's is sweet as. Short, great power delivery. I felt comfortable on it instantly.
I've started wearing an Icon AirFrame Pro to race in. It's the first Icon helmet with a flat shield/visor that allows tear-offs. I'm very impressed with the comfort. The lining is light grey, which shows up the dirt, but it is removable. It has carbon composite construction and a quick-release Pro-Lock system (which is similar to the Shoei system for those familiar with that). No tools required to remove it. Icon are so good with the details and I love the anodised gold double D-rings. Mine is an unbranded Rubatone Ghost Carbon and it's not as easy to wash as a gloss would be. Recommended. 
Luckily there was a couple of hours between practice and our first heat race. Anthony helped me find the problem with the bike, the CDI ('They never go wrong,' said Anthony). We swapped it, I turned the rear tyre for a better, but still worn edge and got going. I was disappointed with my results at Rye House, but think I know why. I felt pretty good at Helzold and beat both Anthony and Geoff Co-Built in a couple of the five 8-lap heats, which is a very rare occurrence now, so I can away feeling good.
Jan-Willem's brother, Mick, came from the Netherlands (2-hour drive) with a KTM DTX and this J and M Rotax. He chose to race his KTM and came second in the meeting having hardly raced at all for a year. Those Dutch Bros are fast!
Angelo is one of the men behind Hells Race. He also organises the Flanders Chopper Bash, and I'm sure Hells Race is going to be good.
They better book this flagman...
Support your local racetrack. Do like Angelo and support your local flat track magazine too. Sideburn zip hoodies are heavyweight and last for years.
Belgium is not known for its cuisine. I went for the chav pizza.
We rushed from the track as soon as the meeting ended for 21.20 crossing home. We were booked on different trains, all set off at different times but all got on the same, earlier train. Then it was 170 miles back north through England and home for just before midnight on Sunday night. Back to work (and school for Max) the next morning.

I was only accepted to race only a few days before the event (thanks Angelo!) and if I could have got out of going on Friday night without screwing people about I would have. Work is busy, I'm trying to build a hooligan bike for the next DTRA race,  I could do with saving money, but I'm so glad I went. Good friends, good riding and good spending time with my son. Motorcycle fun times. G

Photos: Stephen Volders, Bart Knops, Carina, Max I, GI
Get along to Hells Race!


Anthony Brown said...

Great times.

Baz said...

Enjoyed that...

Mike Hill said...

Nice read Gary ... Good times ��

#27 Tom said...

was a cool event and great to see you all again