Photos by Gavin Parr (see our Facebook page for a lot more)
And so we arrived at the final meeting of an extremely long and busy 2015 racing season with the staging of our Club Championship on Sunday 1st November, starting time 3:00 pm.
“Brrrr” would normally have been anyone’s first reaction to the proposed date but when I arrived at the track it was “Cor!” as the heat was unreal in beautiful clear sunshine and 17 degrees no less!
After a poor week suffering from either a cold or flu (or was it my recent flu jab’s fault?) I was aching from tip to toe with a very sore throat and a streaming nose, not really feeling like racing, but the glorious weather made my mind up for me so I would do my best to snap out of it. I already had the starting gates up when Jim Smith arrived to help out and he was soon followed by Michael Parr, the pair of them taking to the track with brushes before Mick did a bit of tyre packing with his car. The track emerged with a loose top but looking very racy and that also helped me to decide I was going to ride after all.
The start time grew ever closer as one by one the programmed competitors arrived, some leaving it pretty late, but at last we were ready to go with only one regular missing – our Middlesborough based team rider supreme, Andy Knowles. Young Lee Redshaw was promoted into the programme from reserve in his place and I couldn’t help but notice Lee has grown a foot since Tuesday night! (no, not the five toed variety).
There were some unexpected guest arrivals before we got under way. It was great to see Newcastle Speedway’s now legendary centre green MC, ex-Newcastle CSC rider Roy Clarke turn up to spectate along with a bunch of his speedway buddies. Roy’s done a lot of PRO stuff at Brough Park on our behalf and we’re very grateful for that. In fact, he could even claim to be playing a major part in the destiny of one of today’s trophies. We also had a good turn out of riders’ family members in support which added greatly to the atmosphere, always nice to hear someone cheering you on.
To put the icing on the cake, early Newcastle CSC “enemy” Keith Thompson (below, left), top scoring racer of the inaugural 1965/66 South Shields team had spotted the date on Facebook and brought along his old riding buddy John McConnell. Keith’s done a few laps here before for nostalgia’s sake but not since we dumped the timber inside markers and laid the shale, while John simply couldn’t believe the sophistication of the whole setup compared to the grass plateau he started riding on down at the South Shields links. We thought it would be nice if both of these gentlemen presented the trophies after the meeting, and you can see from the photos how chuffed they were to be involved again. Thank you both.
Below, the long list of previous and current incarnations of our Big Match:
TOC=Tyneside Open Championship
NRC=Newcastle Riders Championship
NGP=Nomads Grand Prix
NoRC=Northumbrian Riders Championship
1966 Norman Carson TOC
1967 Frank Auffret TOC
1968 Jim Graham TOC
1969 Ken Kerr TOC
1970 Terry Kirkup NRC ad hoc "unofficial" 12 man at the little black ash Eastfield track?
1978 Terry Kirkup NRC
1979 Ashie Patterson NRC
1980 Terry Kirkup NRC
1981 Phil Robson NRC
1982 Stuart Craig NRC
1983 Terry Kirkup NRC
1984 Stuart Craig TOC
1985 Andy Murray NRC/TOT
1986 Brian Mills NRC/TOT
1987 Michael Parr NRC/TOT
1988 John Wilson NRC/TOT
1989 Michael Parr NRC/TOT
1990 Gavin Parr NRC/TOT
1991 John Wilson NRC/TOT
1992 Kristian Walker NRC ad hoc "unofficial" 8 man match at the monstrous red shale Eastfield?
2012 Gavin Parr NRC
2012 Jason Keith NGP
2013 Gavin Parr NoRC
2014 Jason Keith NoRC
And after today:
2015 Gavin Parr NoRC/TKT (to be explained later)
There are a couple of traditions which have been maintained throughout the Championship’s history. Firstly, there has always been a real buzz of excitement in the build-up to the big day, with riders trying to guess how well they’ll do in each of their races well before the off. Secondly, the atmosphere during the meeting itself has always been a nervy, tingly one with an air of expectation in some quarters and maybe desperation in others! Third, and more importantly, we always get some great races and the occasional exceptional one. Today would be no different. And finally, it’s extremely rare for there not to be a run-off for at least one of the top three places, and yes, you guessed it, today we had another!
So to the racing itself then, and without a doubt we had a firm favourite to recapture the crown he lost by default last year in skipper Gavin Parr. Not much more can be said about Gav that has’ne been already, but while you may think he considered this a walk in the park I reckon he was as nervous, or perhaps cautious is a better word, as any of us before the start. There’s invariably an upset at these events and for sure that’s almost a rule rather than a possibility, so Gavin wasn’t taking any chances today, especially in view of the super awards up for grabs, provided by our pals from the Midlands, Dash Trophies.
With Michael Parr out due to injury, the four rostrum favourites took to the track and as expected won their opening rides – Dan Redshaw heat one, Jason Keith heat two, Gavin Parr heat three and Dan Wharrier heat four. Second places went to Keith Oldham, Shane Grey, Dean Douglas and Terry Kirkup. No surprises so far although it wasn’t certain if Fred would have enough fitness top overcome son-in-law Shane although he still had plenty of speed as he always demonstrates in these sporadic appearances.
Shane won heat four from an ever pressing Dean, both showing great form today with Dan W, Gavin and Terry taking the next three according to the form book. Heats 9 and 10 also stayed with form, Gavin and Shane adding to their rapidly growing scores while Gavin’s victory over Terry gave the latter a bit more confidence after getting away first pedal with the Champ but losing out on the second. It was here that he made his mind up to give the rest of his races a good go. Next up in heat 11 came one of those shocks I mentioned earlier when the very quick looking Dean gated superbly inside Dan Redshaw who weirdly seemed only interested in pushing the much fancied Dan Wharrier out wide, this allowing Dean a clear escape path around the inside and he never looked like relinquishing his hard earned lead. Could this be Dean’s opportunity of instant glory after amassing a superb 10 points from three rides in his first ever NRC, or perhaps the equal chance of an impressive Shane with the same score?
With Dan Wharrier coming in a totally unforeseen third in this one, after three rides each we now had Gavin on 12, Shane and Jason on 11 then the two Dan W, Dean and Terry on 10 each and Dan R on 9.
Plenty of programme study going on in the pits as the riders took their final pair of outings, and even more after Dean won his penultimate race. With just their last rides remaining that left Gavin unbeaten on 16, Jason on 15 and Dean on 14, a brilliant performance.
Fred won his last ride to finish with a creditable 13 points and almost a season between this and his last outing while the next heat produced a second upset, and also put paid to Dean’s podium chances. Norman Carson had grid 1, Dean 2, Terry 3 and Jason 4. At the first time of asking, the pressure got to young Dean and he moved at the start. Referee Michael Parr pointed straight to the pits gate, then decided a handicap would be more fitting after Dean’s so far super performance. However, a little chat on the start line between Norman, Jason and Terry saw the youngster recalled to the tapes for the restart.
Unfortunately the damage was done and he couldn’t repeat the superfast starts of his previous rides while the old man TK did exactly that, just getting the better of a still-battered Jason into turn one and somehow holding off the defending Champion to the flag. This result, of course, meant yet another run-off in the best traditions of the competition, the veteran tied with Dan Redshaw in a repeat of last year’s result. Dan lost the toss and was put onto grid 4 by the old man who, as in the previous race, managed to hold off his much younger chaser all the way to the finish to claim a very unexpected but hugely welcome third place overall, surely now his final NRC rostrum placing at 65.
After we'd tidied up and stowed the gear we retired to the Sporting Club for our 2015 AGM, one of the final points being raised by way of an explanation of the trophy symbol NoRC/TKT I mentioned above. This will now be known as, or I hope at least recognised as the Northumbrian Riders Championship/TK Trophy as I proudly announced at the AGM I would be sponsoring these very nice perpetual trophies while saving the Club another chunk of hard earned funds, the least I can do after the pleasure that racing has given me as I approach fifty years since my track debut.
Here's a nice group photo of our Junior racers this afternoon: