By Dave Boothroyd
Have you ever seen one of those films where one of the characters remembers something that has been said to them earlier, and you hear the voice, with lots of added reverb so you know it is happening in the character’s head?
Has it ever happened to you? It happened to me and I have the scars to prove it!
I took up Motorcycle Road Racing at a relatively mature age. The chance to get hold of an interesting machine at a bargain price came up, and after years working on other people’s bikes, I decided to have a go myself. Realising that I would need every advantage I could get, I decided that before my first race I would go along to one of the Race Schools to learn a bit of racecraft. The session took place at a very hilly and twisty track in Lincolnshire called Cadwell Park. There are some very tricky corners there but one of the trickiest is a tight downhill right-left combination called “The Gooseneck”. After half a day’s tuition I was pleased with the way that I was getting through the Gooseneck, and so was my instructor and as he congratulated my on my style, he added, “Of course the really fast men can do it flat out in fifth gear”. I was impressed, but thought no more about it.
Picture the pages flying off the calendar. It was several years later, three bikes had come, and gone, I was on a beautiful little Yamaha. Everything was coming together with my riding, and I was taking part in a Match Race between English and Irish riders, back at Cadwell Park. There were a lot of bikes on the grid and when the flag went down I had a rotten start and was near the back of the pack. However, the bike was running well and I got my head down and started to work my way up the field. After three laps I was up to something like sixth place, and the leading bunch were in sight. Most of them were Irish- the English team was not doing well! That was it! My country called for a supreme effort. I could not catch up at all on the long uphill back straight, but the 180-degree bend at the end allowed me to close up and the next corner was the Gooseneck, I’d got them!
That was when I heard it, complete with reverb, the voice. It was saying ” the really fast men can do it flat out in fifth”. I suppose I must have thought about it for maybe a quarter of a second. It was time to give it a try! The braking point came and went. I passed a couple of riders as if they were standing still. Stay left, stay left. The first apex of the corner came into sight. Hard right! The concrete on the apex flashed under my right knee. Left! Left! Turn left as hard as you can, and keep that throttle nailed!
I could tell that we were well over. I’d had to pull my knee in. There was no room for it between the fairing and the tarmac. The bars were shaking. Something was scraping on the ground, and the bike was starting to run a little wide. No!- we were running badly wide, the bars were on the track and we were sliding- I’d lost it!
In a flash we were at the edge of the track and bouncing over the stones on the outside. Up to this point I was still in the saddle holding the handlebars, but I decided that the bike could look after itself from here on. I kicked myself clear of it just as we reached the grass. I found myself in a near sitting position, sliding down the steep grassy slope at something over 80 mph. It went on for what seemed like an age. I should have brought a book to read! After thirty yards or so I seemed to have slowed down, and anyway it felt as if the crash had happened two weeks ago and I was getting bored by then, so I decided to stand up. I put my feet down on the grass and stood up.
Big mistake! You can’t run at 40 mph; well not for long you can’t. I must have taken four or five strides, each one covering about twelve feet, before I gave up and fell over again. I did the last few yards to the bottom of the hill on my face. A first-aid man came running up. “Are you alright?” I was laughing too much to answer. I suppose he thought I was winded or hysterical or something and he got out his shears to cut the strap of my helmet. – I became a bit more serious then and was able to reassure him. I went back to the bike, which appeared perfect- on one side! There were a few bits and a lot of paint missing on the other. With the race now over I began the long push back to the paddock.
We are a friendly bunch in Racing and as I got back to my van a friend came up and asked if I had crashed, I said “Yes” and he asked if I was OK.
“No”, I said, “I was killed instantly”.
“Oh. Right” he replied, “Can I have your Bike?”
Copyright Dave Boothroyd.
Dave Boothroyd is a College Lecturer, guitar player, and lifelong two-stroke enthusiast. He writes from the United Kingdom.