Last year’s Ryedale Rally was a great event and even the weather was kind on the days of the race but sadly the area had seen torrential rain in the days before the event, which resulted in some fairly brutal conditions especially on the special tests.
So it was with some trepidation that I set off for North Yorkshire on a Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago.
Was it going to be another trial by mud and ruts or were the rumours from North Yorkshire of dry conditions and sunshine actually true?
To be honest, despite the conditions, the event in 2012 was still great fun with good organisation, a great course overall and some fantastic riding through great scenery. And so it turned out to be again in 2013 but this time with the advantage of much drier conditions.
After a long, hot but relatively uneventful drive up on Friday, including a stop for dinner at a Little Chef for old times’ sake (they used to be an integral part of any weekend of racing in the early days of Mad Cow Racing). I rolled up at the campsite in a field about four miles from Pickering just after nine o’clock, parked up and cracked open a beer! Some good chat and catching up with friends followed and I eventually turned in around midnight. I was thankful for always having a stock of earplugs on board as some of the local riders seemed to think that proper “race preparation” involved lots of beer, a potato mortar (don’t ask, oh if you must youtube) and what sounded like a very badly played bugle until the early hours.
Waking on Saturday morning to a brilliant blue sky and the temperature already well into the twenties boded well for the day. After sign on and depositing my fuel can reading to be taken out on course, then scrutineering (no problems) the bikes were placed in the “parc ferme” read: the other end of the field. And we had a relaxed wait for the start, resisting putting on riding gear until the last possible moment in the heat.
Eventually my start time of 10.34 rolled up and off I went. The first section of liaison was the same as last year, a few lanes, some easy off road then a ride over the North Yorkshire Moors past the village of Goathland (Aidensfield in the TV series Heartbeat), RAF Fylingdales and on to checkpoint one at the start of the lap. Here I took the opportunity to top up my fuel, remembering last year when I decided to do it after the first lap but because conditions caused a big delay in the special stage, I didn’t have time and ended up running onto reserve and loosing time in the special on lap two. This year I was determined to play safe and top up the tank every lap if possible. A lap that was largely unchanged from last year eventually took us to a heavily revised special.
It turned out to be great, a really good mix of fire roads, grassy twin track and some snotty stuff including a “big puddle”. This freaked a few people out but was no bother for me as I remembered it from last year (although ridden in the opposite direction) but it did cause my only problem as on lap three I hit it too hard, drowned the bike momentarily and at first it didn’t want to re-start. Thankfully it did eventually but I did lose a bit of time there. The course flowed really well and I felt that I was riding really well, certainly my fuel consumption seemed to reflect this as although I had calculated I should have some left to spare, I was unable to completely fill the tank before lap three. This was not a problem as the third lap was shorter having a large chunk taken out of the middle before reaching the special stage. This caused a bit of confusion as the early runners (I was number 14) got there in the middle of the riders towards the back. As these were the “sport” bikes this was not too much of a worry as they would be faster than me, so I was likely to get a clear track ahead of me. In the event I was caught by a couple of riders behind but both at points on fire roads where passing was easy, so I was able to trail them in, although riding in their dust was not very pleasant!
All in all a very enjoyable day, the sun shone all day and we even stopped for ice cream on the way back and still stayed within time.
It was a great course in all with some fantastic riding, a good mix of terrain, great scenery and the timings for the laps was spot on, enough time to get round easily but you were not left hanging around either. It was also good to be able to hang out in the sun after racing and enjoy a chat around the campsite. The curry on Saturday night (included in the entry) was a bonus too!
Sunday was another scorcher, again some familiar territory but much drier and far less muddy than last year. The special was in some ways a disappointment as it wasn’t very technical, certainly not compared to last year’s mud and rut fest. A start along a long straight grassy twin track with a couple of artificial chicanes was tricky enough but once out of that it was all fire roads (which is not my favourite).
Mind you it was twisty, undulating fire road so needed a bit of skill as well as outright speed. I think I was doing OK as I was often running out of revs in top gear so knew I was going as fast as I was capable on the straights, although my speedo had decided not to work so I was not sure what speed that was. (A later check on the road (private of course Officer) shows that my top speed in fifth gear is 89.8mph… wooo!) On the first two laps, I was passed by the leader of the big singles class, Chris Green on his XR600R about two thirds of the way into the stage. However on lap three I managed to finish before him, so I was hoping that was a quick one, or it could just be he arrived at the start of the special later as they were letting you go as you arrived rather than sticking religiously to your allotted start time!
So definitely the best Rally of the year so far and not just because of the weather (although it was a bonus). I hope I have managed to improve on last year when I finished 20th (so no points). Bike got cleaned yesterday and I’m a bit alarmed by the amount of oil pouring out of it, so a partial rebuild with a couple of new gaskets is required I think.
But a fairly successful weekend on the basis that I stayed on (well apart from a couple of low speed tumbles in liaison so they don't count). Nothing fell off the bike, although I really must fix the very loud and frequent backfire that is becoming increasingly annoying. Whilst I can get away with it out in the middle of some forestry, it might not go down so well in Carlisle City centre!!!
It was a week later that the provisional results came out and I was chuffed to bits to see I had finished in 12th place, I was even more chuffed to realise they had combined the big singles class (over 575cc) with the Rally Bike Class (over 400cc with frame mounted fairing and at least 18 litres of fuel capacity). I only recognised one rider, Ollie Lloyd who is definitely in the Rally Class in front of me but that means 11th place at least. OK so there could be other Big Single Riders faster than me who have been placed in the wrong class so I will have to wait until the final results are calculated before I know for sure but it’s looking promising.