|Pro-Team style pits|
The Bala round of the Pearce Cycles DH Series always offers something a bit different. This year Bala played host to 2 races, the first on the high speed “Nationals” track and the most recent on a track offering a mix of old and new. Adding a bit of spice to the event for all Services riders was the fact that it was a CSR Double Points round.
|Still not convinced about Neil becoming the new RAF DH poster-boy!|
The promise of an awesome track, efficient uplift and double points lured riders in from far and wide. RAF Scotland was there in force with the guys making the epic drive from Lossiemouth and Leuchars. The Army went one step further and had 2 riders making the ferry trip from Northern Ireland. So a record attendance of 21 Army and RAF riders. Where were the Navy? They need to sort their entry admin out for next year!
It was clear on arrival that the Services meant business. The RAF and Army gazebos and flags dominated the finish area.
|Get off the brakes!|
Friday evening’s track walk revealed something of a rarity in the UK. A full-on high speed bone dry dusty DH track. Line choice was fairly limited on the top and bottom sections but the brand new middle sections had lines and cut shorts a-plenty. “Gap that” was certainly heard on more than one occasion!
|A rare species in the UK: a dusty DH bike|
After a good night’s sleep (interrupted only by some particularly aggressive sheep), we woke up to the disappointing news that Andy Lochhead’s front brake had expired at some point during the long drive from Lossiemouth. Kris Benson stayed behind to help him fix it whilst the rest of us jumped in the uplift and started smashing out practice runs. Fast, loose, dusty and rough pretty much sums it up.
|Jamie Corsby was rapid in practice!|
Just before lunch, the boys from Lossie were ready to join us after a complete brake change... Or they would have been had Kris Benson not attempted a simple wheelie in a flat field on the way to the uplift. Off the back he went and down on the ground he remained. A badly bruised coccyx laid him out in his tent for much of the weekend (or was it just embarrassment!?) and he was unable to race.
|The RAF's finest!|
A few red flags interrupted practice but the weather stayed fine and everyone was happy to take the time to relax in the sun and discuss line choice. Saturday night’s track walk revealed yet more fresh lines to be had but the overall feeling was surreal. A perfectly blue cloudless sky, dust hanging in the air and heat still in the sun at 9pm. This was Mid-Wales, what was going on? A BBQ, a bonfire and some banter followed before the relentless midges drove everyone to their beds.
Sunday dawned sunny again with just a few clouds bringing the possibility of a shower (which always makes the bottom field… interesting). Some racers do as many practice runs as possible on Sunday morning, others do a few, some do one and some do none. Andy Lochhead did as many as possible.
|Prior to the event Andy Hart thought the track looked "a bit lame". A last place finish|
in Seniors tells a different story! Appearances can be deceptive.
And so to the racing. It was fast and you had to go fast to do well. 62 kph through the speed trap was possible, high 50s was more common. Unseeded in his first Pearce race, Andy Lochhead went early and set the bar high. A time of 3.21 put him in the hot-seat for quite a while.
|Was Ian Churchill feeling the pressure?|
This subject has been discussed to death but I think it was hammered home to our “visiting” riders: just how high the standard of racer in the Pearce series is. Times started to tumble and our riders started slipping down the leader boards. There was pressure on our star rider Ian Churchill to perform here. A couple of minor mistakes cost him fractions but a 3.25 was only good enough for 47thin Seniors. Not something he’s used to!
|A rising star? Neil McFarlane|
Jamie Corsby had undoubtedly been fast in practice demonstrating his trademark style and laying down some very creative lines. However, race nerves got the better of him and his time was more than a few seconds slower than what he is easily capable of. Up-coming RAF rider Neil McFarlane has the speed and skills to do well but again, struggled to put together a clean race run.
|Andy Lochhead was on it!|
Kris Benson was behind the lens due to a failed wheelie attempt!
Andy Lochhead was quite simply unstoppable and in a different class on this occasion. A second run time of 3.18 placed him 16th in Masters which is no small achievement in your first ever Pearce race!
|Lewis "1 Run" Wighton|
So whilst the overall results might have been a little disappointing, the CSR results were an RAF whitewash. RAF riders in the top 5 positions demonstrating that our race preparations and tactics are starting to work. (See full results at www.facebook.com/rafdownhillteam) Ian Churchill now leads the CSR DH Series overall with Andy Lochhead very close behind in second.
In summary, one of the best race weekends ever from all aspects. Great track, great organisation, great results, great weather, great company and some great banter. Anyone for wheelie school?