Photos & Musings: Miscellaneous

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The Hawkstone whoops

I first remember the whoops at Hawkstone appearing at a 250GP in about 1981 or so. I can't really remember what was there before, but the new whoop section created a great deal of interest.

What the Salop Club had done was scoop out a series of deep rolling bumps. It was very different to what is there today, these were more like holes than raised jumps. Riders dropped into them rather than jumped up off each one.

They were, and indeed remain, very difficult. The section before and the whoops themselves, are not straight, but instead form part of a large curve. This means that you are never upright when you hit them and you have to keep turning all the way through. There's no opportunity to straight-line through them.

Back in 1981 the whoops didn't lend themself to jumping in and out, so instead, I seem to remember Kees Van der Ven and Neil Husdon hitting them really fast, in a high gear and just skipping across the tops of them. It was amazing to watch. The commitment required to come into this series of eight or so enormous bumps without backing off was incredible.

What was really intriguing though was that some time later, probably the next year, I went practising at Hawkstone one day with a local amatuer rider friend, Kevin Bancroft. Kevin was a good AMCA championship rider, and at that time I was an under-performing rider in the British championship support class, so neither of us were GP calibre.

After riding the practice track for a few hours I suggested that we try the whoops on the main track. We pulled the ropes down so we could do just the whoop section, then loop back through the infield. After doing a few practice runs, and with the image in my mind of what Hudson had been doing, I had them nailed, skipping from top to top just like the GP guys had done. It actually felt easier the faster I went. Kevin followed suit, with a bit of encouragement from myself, and before long we were both skimming these awesome whoops as well as any of the top world championship riders had done!

In later years the digger drivers at Hawkstone seemed to lose their way, and the whoop section changed from the long rolling holes to more of a series of jumps. Riders would then double a pair at a time, if they got it right, or just wallow through them. Either way it wasn't like it used to be. With the original format the speed you could race through them was unlimited. The fast guys could hit them really fast, just skimming the tops, while the slower riders could wheelie each one like sand whoops. However, since they turned them into the present day 'rhythm section' everyone's speed is pretty much governed, as happens with all rhythm sections. Furthermore, if you can't double them you look like a spode riding through.


Blitzing the Hawkstone whoops, 1988 Enlarge image