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This was going to be a great day out. August bank Holiday Monday. Glorious blazing sunshine. A combined car & bike drag meet with “Run What Ya Brung” sessions as well, where Joe Public can turn up, get scrutineered & race their vehicles on the quarter mile track. On top of that, it was sponsored by Custom Car magazine, who were holding a static car show there during the weekend as well.
My girlfriend, (think I’m allowed to call her that now), Rainbow & I left Basingstoke a little later than planned but had a great ride up to Avon Park -sorry, “Shakespeare County Raceway” as they insist on calling it now, at Stratford on Avon. Her 600 Yam’ Fazer & my own 955i Triumph Speed Triple cruised effortlessly up the A34, turning off onto the A44 through Woodstock & out onto the A3400. A lovely biking road, winding through pretty little villages full of yellow stone cottages -& speed cameras. 40mph limits everywhere spoil what would otherwise be great riding roads. No matter. We had all day.
Arrived at the track, paid the exorbitant 20 quid each entry fee, (why IS drag racing so expensive?), & made our way through the campsite & various pit lanes until we found my brother Steve’s car & crew tent. Steve’s been running his 600BHP small block Chevy Competition Altered drag car for a couple of seasons now, & is doing impressively well. As soon as we parked the bikes up we were handed a video camera; he was just hitching his car to his tow van to head for the start line & we were given the task of filming & photographing his burn-out, (race tyres have to warmed before the launch to increase traction by spinning them -always an impressive sight), & launch performance. Precious tenths of a second can be lost by poor reactions when the lights change or by inconsistent use of throttle & gear change. We stopped at the marshal’s hut & picked up our Team Black Pig startline passes that allowed us right down to the …startline.
Then the Foul-Up Fairies struck. Stood by with the cameras -& Rainbow’s phone rang. She’s the manageress of a large frozen food shop in Eastleigh. It was her day off & the relief manager hadn’t shown up, so the shop couldn’t open on one of its busiest trading days. She had to turn around & head home again. ARGH! I’m lucky that my own job is fairly responsibility free. Badly paid but once I walk out the door it’s someone else’s problem. Unfortunately Manageressing isn’t like that. Many frantic phone calls were made to try & sort the problem out but there was no choice. We had to head back. Bugger. By this time Steve & his wife Lesley had made their way to the head of the queue in the fire-up lane alongside the track.
Cameras were readied, tyres were smoked, lights changed ….VROOOOM! -wobble, wibble, wobble…Bugger. The mighty Pig launched very impressively but came to a sudden & ignominious coasting halt. That’s not good. Even I know it’s not supposed to do that. Damaged or worn kingpins apparently -or wobbly wheels as we race pros call it. Well they were 30 years old & never designed for the rigours of drag racing. So Steve’s racing weekend ground to a stop along with his car. It was an elimination race, meaning he was out. No second chance. It’s a tough, unforgiving sport, drag racing. Steve took it remarkably philosophically I thought -I’d have been screaming & ranting & chucking spanners about, but my big bro’s way too cool for that! So it was back to the pits to load the Pig onto its trailer.
Meanwhile we had our own problems to sort out. Rainbow had to get back to Eastleigh to try & salvage something from the day’s trading -without a manager the shop couldn’t open. No-one had the keys to the doors or the tills. So I had ten minutes while she had a cigarette to dash around the pits & what was left of the custom show with my camera, clicking away at anything that moved. The static show turned out to have been on the Sunday but there were still a few nice machines dotted about. I really have got to get me a hotrod! Then we were off, dashing back down the A34 to Southampton, the opposite carriageway a sea of Vespas & Lambrettas heading home from the Bank Holiday scooter festival on the Isle of Wight. Two tanksful of petrol & two 20 quid entry tickets for an hour’s worth of racing & to watch The Black Pig travel 20 yards. Ah well. Still enjoyed it. It was a lovely day to be out on a bike & I always like the atmosphere at the races. I’ll be back there in a couple of weeks for the HotRod Drags, hopefully for the whole day this time!