Saturday saw me head for Wales in the van, taking about 6 hours to get to the hotel. In Wales, filling up with diesel I said hello to Brian Eland at the next pump who lives locally – small world. That evening I never did make it to the official social but I did meet up with several Ixies and shared food, beer and banter which is always good.
We remembered to account for daylight savings time changes, had breakfast, travelled the few miles to Sweet Lamb, unloaded the bike, signed on, got the bike scrut’ed and then just had to wait for our start times.
The rally consists of 2.5 laps of a circuit with 3 special stages of which you only do 2 on the final lap covering about ~110 miles. Also, the first lap and first time through each stage is untimed as a sighting lap. There are set times you have to arrive at the times sections by though.
I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive but it was good to finally get going. It was pretty much straight into the first stage but even though a small section went through an MX track it was nothing too worrying. The one double crossed arrows bit descending a rocky path, I felt right at home on.
We eventually we came to the second stage and first time around, it seemed ok. To keep some of the more experienced riders amused, there were some optional excursions marked in between the stages. At this point the group decided it was time to try one. I decided I might as well join them, how hard can it be? 🙂 It turned out to be fine and an interesting diversion. It did make time for the next section a little tight though. Of minor note was that at some point I did end up stopping and leaning the bike against a tree but that doesn’t count as falling
The lap seemed to go on forever and had some fun moments like when I found some sudden large bumps/dips in the track whilst travelling at speed and just had to ride them out, hoping the bike could deal with them which it could :). Eventually the Sweet Lamb complex came into view and I could fuel the bike, grab something quick to eat/drink and then off again.
The first proper timed section must have been ok, I remember little about it. The second timed section was where things went wrong as I came across Russell blocking an uphill bit, mostly made it round him, stalled, got going, looked back to see if he was ok, overbalanced and flooded the bike. Eventually got going then later on an uphill bit I managed fine the first time around, I lost momentum, started to struggle and then had the guy behind plough into me. It took a while to untangle everyone and get moving again but I stayed on the bike throughout. At the end of stage 2 I also managed to crash into one of the the stage exit posts in front of everyone but it was after the timing line so could have been worse :).
About this time my energy was running low and I slowed down to stop myself making too many mistakes. Eventually Sweet Lamb appeared again, yay, 2 laps completed. Only a few minutes until I had to be at the next gate so no time for a rest.
Strangely I had more energy and felt more optimistic about this lap. Stage 1 was fine. Stage 2 turned into a disaster as I dropped the bike several times, mostly getting away with it until in the clay I properly lay it on its side. Could I kick it back to life? Not for what seemed like an eternity, all just 200 yards from the stage end. I did get it started and finished however 🙂
Thanks to Shez, Gary, Andy, Russell, Jon and Pete for keeping an eye on me, that and just the company in general was much appreciated.
Did I enjoy it? Yes! What have I learnt? I’m hopeless on clay and fire roads. The track is different after 700 motorcycles have been over it pays not to make assumptions. Would I do it again? I’d not rule it out. Wales is a long way away but who knows 🙂
The trip back home was much faster, I guess the roads were just quieter and so I’ve got a few hours to recover before heading to the airport for 4am!