This was round one of the 2011 GRAND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, held at the defunct Cowley Stadium. There hasn't been a motorcycle race here for over 5 years and in order for it to happen, a lot of hard work had to be done. The CO-BUILT guys spent a couple of weeks prior to the race, grading and watering the unloved track. On the day of the race, a bunch of us sheeted the entire greyhound track around the outside with tarpaulins and then secured them with literally hundreds of old speedway tyres!! We had to ensure that no shale whatsoever got roosted onto the dog track. CO-BUILT organised bringing in the plant hire needed to do final grooming and watering in between heats. There was a few uninterested parties who didn't want this to happen....namely the dog track guys and the owners of the tarmac go-kart track in the infield.
All the collected hard work paid off, it was a warm summer night with a record attendance of spectators. The grandstands were full as well as the indoor glass-fronted viewing balconies.
The track was a loose cushioned track that didn't groove up and suited my riding style. It was rather bumpy but that somehow added to its charm. It felt magical to ride under the bright floodlights.
The racing was very close and fast-paced with suprisingly very few stoppages, only one serious accident requiring the ambulance to take Geoff Baldock to hospital with a shoulder injury.
Special Guest, DAVE ALDANA put on a great show, riding like someone half his age......but crashing 3 times consecutively in the semi and the following restarts.....rendering his borrowed bike unridable. I asked him if he wanted to borrow a bike, he answered "who's gonna want to lend ME a bike after that!" ...I guess he had a point.
SKOOTER FARM had a great nights racing. Personally, I rode my best ever......leading my first two heats for the majority of the race but making a couple of mistakes and settling for two 2nd place finishes. This was good enough to put me 6th on the grid in the final. I rode hard and really on the limit and finished 10th overall.
Pete Wilky #99 also rode great on his Harley XR750, finishing in a respectable 7th overall.
Gary Inman #13 rode tough all night but failed to make the THUNDERBIKE final. He did do well enough in the super competitive SHORT TRACK class to make the semis.which is no mean feat!!
The whole event was a media frenzy with 2 seperate film crews and a host of Hi-Viz wearing photographers.
During the interval, the pits were opened to the public and literally hundreds of curious race fans came over to see the bikes and racers up close.....at one point 4 rows deep in front of the SKOOTER FARM/SIDEBURN race tent...it felt good to be the focus of all that attention!
It was no accident all these folks showed up. Again, CO-BUILT did an amazing job of promoting the race and can give themselves a huge pat on the back. Perhaps Friday night races at Grand National level is the way forward for getting spectators into the grandstands?
The UK racing scene has really stuggled to pull any sort of crowd since its launch in 2004.....I really hope that this Oxford race is a turning point in crowd attendance!