A beautiful afternoon, totally unexpected mild and sunny weather awaited us for the annual NRC/TKT at 11:00am. We'd prepared the track the week before and it was bare, damp and beautiful - probably the best it's ever been. Jason and Terry painted the starting grid by moonlight on the previous Friday night and that set the track off nicely.
As we got near start time just about everyone had arrived, including my late surprise inclusion, mad Midaircrisis mountain biker Piotr Szczygielski having his first taste of Cycle Speedway competition. Shame he arrived hobbling after sustaining a leg injury out running for fitness, but he still got stuck in. It was great to see Andy Knowles, our Middlebrough-based Clubman of the Year for the last five years return for this one although he's been off the bike for a long time now.
The big miss was our Norfolk import Josh Herring who couldn't make it in time to take his place, but at least our home-bred superstar Gavin Parr was present to give Jason a run for his money.
We also welcomed back (sounds strange,but true!) Treasurer Jimmy Smith and Secretary/Chairman Keith Dyer, neither having the opportunity or the need to visit the track this year with no regional league racing taking place. And speaking of returnees, how about a 50 year gap between matches? That's exactly what our old Newcastle Vikings teammate and great friend Frank Auffret brought to an end today, making his first competitive appearance since his return to pedal power just a few short weeks ago. Frank won this event in 1967 at our Monkchester Road, Walker track in somewhat nastier conditions.So even though there were only 11 riders contesting the title today, five of them were ex-NVCSC Champions!
So half a century since their last conflict in the 1968 staging when TK edged Frank into third place they were straight at it in the first race of the day. Terry took full advantage of his inside grid to lead away with Frank chasing hard when, inexplicably, he rolled almost to a standstill at the end of lap three. Now we know he'd been claiming to be a 3-lapper since his comeback but this looked way too deliberate! And so it proved seconds later when he noticed Richie Smith, Piotr and Terry maintaining their speed for another lap - yep, he though he'd finished at the end of the third! So much for Heckmondwike's training regime!!!
Shane Gray started with a bang, comfortably leading home Andy Knowles, Jordan Smith and Paul Thompson while Jason and Gavin clashed on the first bend of heat 3 leaving Gavin on the floor while Jason made his escape for a bit of an anti-climax - this one potentially being the title decider had it run its course.
Shane and Terry fought out a proper battle with a bit of passing and re-passing, the younger rider eventually coming out on top, and he'd go on to claim another victory for 3 wins in his 5 rides to finish second overall on 18 points - his best showing since he started many moons ago, well done indeed Shane. Predictably, Jason didn't drop another point to grab a maximum score and claim the NRC/TK Trophy for a second year, or is it his third? Meanwhile Gavin went into relaxed mode dropping a few more points in his last ride behind Frank and Paul, the Yorkshireman also collecting three wins in a magnificent return to racing at just on 68 years old and rewarding himself with a fine second place to Shane amongst the Division Two rider selection. That final ride of Gavins left him on 17 tying with Terry and thus requiring the virtually mandatory run-off for one of the rostrum places. The Old One managed to put up half a fight for the first three laps in what must have been the slowest race of the day before lowering his weight onto the saddle, but try as he might he couldn't cross the finish line behind a much too sporting ex-British and Euro-Vets Champion who didn't feel justified in claiming a trophy after missing the last two seasons in favour of his first love, Speedway.
We thought we were done until someone noticed that the Division Two third place hadn't been decided, with both Andy and Richie Smith sat on 14 apiece - yet another run-off to maintain this great NRC custom we seem to be stuck with. Andy drew the inside grid and led Richie away, and try as he might our Coach couldn't pull back the deficit, just missing out on his first rostrum place after a terrific effort through the heats. My Polish companion Piotr managed to grab a maiden win and also did well to chase SAhane home hard in the final heat.
Of the others, Paul tried really hard all day, Jordan had his customary sluggish start but would get into gear later against Hull and Edinburgh, while my old buddy Ashie struggled against his debilitating condition but enjoyed his races while trialling Norman Carson's Mielec in favour of his giant Archie Wilkinson bike.
Visiting North & Scotland League Competitions Secretary, Andy Schofield of Hull CSC presented the trophies. Thank you Andy.