Photos & Musings: Vet's MXdN 2012

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Veteran's Motocross des Nations 2012

After three years of visiting the Veteran's Motocross des Nations as a spectator I decided last year that it really looked like so much fun that I ought to race it in 2012.

Held once again at the legendary and historic Farleigh Castle circuit in Wiltshire in September I originally entered the 2012 event in the over-50 Twin Shock class. However a few weeks before the event I was flattered when the promoter Dave King kindly asked me if I would move up to the Des Nations class and race as part of the English team alongside former GP racers Brian Wheeler, Neil Prince and the never-retired Phil Lewis.

Thanks to the generosity of my good friend Adrian De Hutton from South Africa I was able to borrow his beautiful Suzuki RM500 Geboers factory replica. Based on a 1980 twin-shock RM400 but with a later air-cooled 500cc motor the bike was great. I had not ridden it much beforehand, only managing one moto the week before at a local Cotswold schoolboy motocross where I raced the last race on the twin-shocker, winning against modern bikes.

The RM sounded awesome. The RM500s are easily some of the best sounding bikes I have ever heard, second only to Thorpe's mid-eighties RC500s. Strangely though, when riding the bike it doesn't sound at all like it does from trackside. The power was really smooth but, perhaps unsurprisingly, nowhere near as fast as my CR500. Whereas the Honda has a huge hit in the middle the RM500 instead has a very linear, but slower-revving delivery of power. It really doesn't respond to clutching at all and the best way to ride it is to just rev it out in each gear.

The 4 speed gearbox which Adrian's bike is fitted with is great for starts, with second gear being slightly taller than normal, but on the track it seemed like third gear was just a little too tall.

The suspension was surprisingly good for a 32 year old bike, and the turning was, if anything, better than my Honda. The drum brakes, however, were very weak compared to even my disc-braked CR500, let alone a modern-day bike.

I had a great time racing at the VMXdN. I qualified 14th fastest and I was running 9th in the first moto but unfortunately DNF'd when my carburettor fell off. I had checked the hose clamp myself before the race so I know that it was tight. That's just the problem with old bikes I guess - sometimes mechanical issues just appear out of nowhere.

In the other three races I finished 16-14-16 for 14th overall. Team England finished tied with France for 5th, behind Belgium, Germany, Twin Shock UK - the British 'B' team, (or I guess really 'A' team!) and the USA. We did lose quite a few points to DNFs over the 4 races, with my carb problem, Brian Wheeler crashing out hard in race 3 and not starting race 4 (see 7mins 17s in the video below!), and both Neil and Phil having bike problems in at least one race. But, as the saying goes, "To finish first, first you must finish". Congratulations to the Belgians and all the teams that beat us for their great speed and consistency.

To be honest, I found the pace surprisingly fast. I had done a lot of training and practice for this event, completing nearly fifty 20 minute practice motos. My fitness was great, but ultimately I lacked the speed to compete with those guys at the front. Hats off to them - they were quick! That said, many of the riders were anything up to 15 years younger than me so perhaps those advancing years are something that you just can't do anything about, despite determination.

It was quite exhilarating, (or should I say scary?) to be back on a start line and heading into that first corner with 40 other guys inches away from my handlebars. That's something I haven't experienced much in the 22 years since I quit racing.

I also found it very interesting that the aggression that I am sure all of us used to feel in a racing situation back in the day really wasn't there any more. But that's fine. I had no desire to crash out big-time.

I did my preparation beforehand and raced as hard as I could for the team. I finished 14th and that's that. At least I know that I put the work in, just like back when I was racing properly, so I can sit here and know that I did the best that I could

I think next year, if I race, I would like to stick to the over 50 class where hopefully the pace will be a little more befitting of my age!

As an event the VMXdN is just awesome. We were there from Thursday and had an absolutely fantastic time. It's a great atmosphere and throughout the four days all I seemed to be doing was chatting to old friends and people I hadn't seen for many years. It's a great social occasion, with brilliant entertainment in the beer tent on Saturday evening.

The racing was also really exciting and the track, which is devoid of modern man-made obstacles, enabled passing at pretty much any part of the circuit. It did get really rough though, with so many bikes and races.

It was also great to have Claire and my youngest daughter Lily come and watch. Lily wasn't even born when I raced previously so that was nice. She also took some great photos!

I also had many local friends make the journey down to support me. Some of these were friends that never knew Claire and I during my racing days and in some cases had never been to a motocross before. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves too. It was great to have them there and in turn, they got to view through a little window into my previous life, which was nice.

So, to Claire, Lily, Sara and Martin, George & Dean, Dave & Karen, Rachel & Charlotte, Steve Mabes, Dicky G, Mikey the Heffmeister, and of course Adrian, thanks for all of your help and support and hope that we can do it again in 2013.

I'd also like to express my thanks to JT Racing USA for providing me with the coolest looking and most comfortable kit that I've ever had the pleasure to wear. I received endless comments about how good that black and orange gear looked.

Thanks also to Rob from EKS Brand for the much appreciated and great-working goggles and Lee from Apex for helping me get bike-fit in all weathers.

Man & machine before the event (Photo: Gary Freeman) Enlarge image

Very nice JT promo shot (Photo: Gary Freeman) Enlarge image

Myself and friend Adrian De Hutton, who kindly lent me his RM500 (Photo: Lily Andrews) Enlarge image

JT gear looked awesome! (Photo: Charlotte Tudor-Baker) Enlarge image

Custom backgrounds looked cool (Photo: Charlotte Tudor-Baker) Enlarge image

Ready to go (Photo: Sara Potter) Enlarge image

Racing again after all these years! (Photo: Charlotte Tudor-Baker) Enlarge image

(Photo: Colin Beckett) Enlarge image

(Photo: Charlotte Tudor-Baker)) Enlarge image

Had lots of fun at Farleigh! (Photo: Lily Andrews) Enlarge image