Photos & Musings: Grands Prix

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Namur 1987

In June 1987 I suffered a bad knee injury. I had been riding really well that year, scoring 5th at the opening GP, then a fine 2nd place in Germany. Then, in practice at the British championship at Halstead, I was chasing DT and the back end just spun around on a smooth, slow corner. The bike low-sided and the bars pushed down and bent my knee at right angles, tearing the medial collateral ligament. It hurt like nothing I had felt before!

For fifteen minutes it was agony, then it eased off. I borrowed some knee braces and raced that day, even scoring a fourth. I thought my knee was OK but I still went to see my doctor on Monday.

"It doesn't hurt so much now so I don't think it's serious" I said. The doctor then told me that the reason it didn't hurt so much was because the ligament was actually in two pieces. Hence it wasn't pulling any more. However, my knee was like a tent with a broken guy rope - wobbly as anything.

The really weird thing though, was that it happened on June 7th. Why is that weird? Because it had been June 7th exactly 12 months earlier that I had accidentally walked through a supermarket shop window, slicing my right arm and screwing up my 1986 season!

I tried to race at the Italian GP the next weekend. I qualified but there was no point in racing. The slighest jarring sent arrows of pain through my body. So, off I went for a 'carve-up', as it was known.

I spent the next 6 weeks in a full leg plaster. Not one to lie around moping, I sorted out an automatic car and drove around with my right leg shoved up inside the footwell, braking and accelerating with my left foot. I had also just bought my first house and rather foolishly fitted a TV aerial on my chimney - climbing the ladder with a thigh-length leg plaster. We do dumb things when we are young...

Anyway, Namur, 1987, was my first race back. I had practised about once, and had done very little training. My leg had been out of plaster for about 10 days and I had skinny-leg syndrome. I thought that I would go to Namur in the hope of qualifying.

Far from being rusty, I was so keen to get out there that I rode better than I had all year, qualifying in third! Heinz Kinigadner said to me, "I ssaught you ver injured and had not ridden?" "Yep", I replied. "Ya" he muttered. "I sink you should be injured more often!"

On Sunday however, the heavens opened. Namur was always held on the first weekend in August and was generally blessed with great weather. This day, however, we had biblical levels of rain. In the first race I got a good start and kept moving forward. I was riding really well, and getting closer and closer to the leader, who was Van der Ven as I recall. Huge torrents of water were rushing across the track on the way down through the woods. Berms were completely submerged! It was surreal.

Eventually, with goggles long since discarded as useless, I had a chunk of mud hit me squarely on the eyeball. Temporarily blind, I missed a berm and crashed out. In racing a lot is down to luck and sometimes things don't go your way.

I have very few photos from that day, and while the ones I do have don't quite show the full horror of the conditions down in the woods, you can still see it was a pretty muddy day.

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The asphalt section was treacherous. The rain was so heavy that the circuit became waterlogged and slippery rather than heavy thick mud. (David Kilgour photo) Enlarge image

A really slippery first turn (David Kilgour photo) Enlarge image

A soggy Namur awaits the first moto (David Kilgour photo) Enlarge image