report by Neil Magee
Saturday 15th August
BRITISH VETERANS CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
@ Hessle Raceway, Hull
British Championship Semi Final 1
Nobody gave the Vikings much of a chance of qualification, drawn against the favourites Leicester and last years winners Kesgrave, with Jason Burke-less Sheffield completing the group. Northumbria however made the most of their inside grids, taking 14 of a possible 16 points from the first four heats and leaving the others to chase. A gutsy ride from Shane Gray helped keep a narrow advantage, doing his job as he fought very hard to pass in his key race and then nearly pulling off a shock third in his last outing only to fall approaching the final lap. That seemed to have ended hopes of qualification, a miracle now needed in the final heat, but it arrived in the shape of Kev Burns who steamed under top Kestrels rider Danny Zagni with the Kesgrave man falling and ending up in last place as Gavin Parr completed his 16 point max in front. That meant a run-off, Gav losing the toss and left to find a way around Zagni which proved impossible with the former British Champ employing blocking tactics througout, until the two riders collided in the final bend, Parr getting the decision from the ref in an inicident with mirrored the recent World Final run-off, the Vikings now shock finalists.
LEICESTER: Craig Marchant 15, Kev Burns 13, Norman Venson 8, Mark Whitehead 7, Jason Ashford 7
NORTHUMBRIA: Gavin Parr 16, Jason Keith 13, Terry Kirkup 7, Shane Gray 4, Neil Magee 1
KESGRAVE: Pete Ingram 12, Danny Zagni 11, Gary Brown 10, Ray Pyke 8
SHEFFIELD: Chris Turner 10, Luke Morton 7, Paul Fisher 6, Rob Mawhood 5
British Championship Final
This was the first ever British Final for the Northumbria club and the first British Final a north east club had ever qualified for, so a momentous occasion that matched the grand entrance parade and presentations to the Town Mayor and meeting sponsors. Once the racing started it quickly became evident that Leicester were too strong for anyone to match, but also clear that Northumbria were not about to be outclassed in such exalted company either. Staring with grid two's Northumbria in fact went out and won the first two heats and were still placed handily in 2nd at the half way stage, the dreaded gate 4 races now to come. Only 4 points were returned from our outside starts, though it should have been nearly double that with Gavin Parr blotting his otherwise almost perfect copybook with an exclusion as he passed new British Veterans Champ Craig Marchant on the final bend, only to allow himself to drift too wide and bring down his opponent having done the hard work previously. It looked all over for the Vikings challenge, but this bunch of riders do not give up easily. Jason Keith came out and won heat 17, Gavin then winning the next and with Terry Kirkup then taking a superb 2nd place in the the penultimate heat, suddenly Northumbria looked a shoe in for runners up in the meeting. The pressure was very much on Jason in the finale he needing to beat Birmingham's Andy James and at the 2nd time of asking after a shaky first bend, making his way to the front of the race. Sadly this proved to be his undoing, Jason ending up on the wrong line when racing that man Marchant, James managing to sneak through on his inside. That meant Gavin Parr had to be sent out once more for a vital run-off, this time for third place overall in the meeting and indeed the country. Parr had more luck with the toss this time, showing others how it should be done as he raced hard for four laps to out speed an ever chasing Mark Winwood in a fitting climax to the days racing. Third place will very much do for Northumbria, when previously nothing had been expected, a historical and very enjoyable day brought to a very satisfying conclusion.
LEICESTER: Kev Burns 11, Mark Whitehead 11, Craig Marchant 11, Jason Ashford 10, Norman Venson 9
POOLE: Steve Harris 16, Dave Murphy 8, Pete Chant 8, Colin Rowles 5
NORTHUMBRIA: Gavin Parr 12, Jason Keith 12, Terry Kirkup 7, Neil Magee 2, Shane Gray 2
BIRMINGHAM: Mark Winwood 13, Andy James 8, Steve Hodgkinson 7, Paul Timms 7, Phil Widdas dnr
I'm afraid this will sound a lot like repetition after Neil's very comprehensive review above but I had it written anyway so here it is!
It is Saturday 15th August 2015 and we have entered the British Veterans Club Championship for the second year running. In 2014 the event was hosted by Kesgrave but our team of Gavin Parr, Jason Keith, Michael Parr and Mark Mulvey was unable to progress from their semi-final. This year our reduced strength squad for the meeting at Hull again led by Top Two Gavin and Jason only had 1980’s returnee Shane Gray, 1990s returnee Neil Magee and Old faithful Terry Kirkup to back them up, so not only were the cards stacked against them, the opposition in their semi-final was awesome! Unfortunately (for the event, not for us!) Wednesfield had withdrawn but that still left reigning Champions Kesgrave with ex-British Champion Danny Zagni, the Superstar Leicester crew including newly-crowned World Champion Craig Marchant and our good friends from Sheffield with ex-Over 40s Champ Chris Turner. So you may well ask, dear reader, what on earth was Little Northumbria doing here amongst this lot? ( To offer some sort of meagre balance in the achievement department, I suppose we were fielding current Northern League Veterans Champion in Gavin and current Euro-Vets Over 60s Champion Terry :)
Over the progress of the next hour or so we became part of an enthralling and totally unexpected tussle with the Vikings not only leading after the first handful of races (!) but still holding their own after sixteen! This was, of course, principally down to two things:
- the totally immaculate Gavin Parr and the partially immaculate Jason Keith who got us off to a great start and sustained their performances.
- the extremely gentlemanly racing of the Leicester lads who resisted the chance to flatten any of us amateurs.
We three members of the backup squad simply had to accept we weren’t going to contribute too much to the team effort against this level of opponent, but obviously every point counts and we scored whatever we could.
If there is a God he must be a Viking one, probably Thor, and boy was he smiling on his mortal insignificants today as down tumbled Kesgrave’s leading light Danny Zagni in the very last heat, while Gavin won it to bring the Northumbrians back level again!
So with ourselves and Kesgrave tied on 37 points that meant a run-off between East Anglian Danny and Gavin, with our super Skipper drawing the outside grid but racing hard and getting his reward for a hard fought final bend when both riders tangled, the Kesgrave star deemed to be guilty of an obstruction offence after a particularly slow (not at all Gavin’s race strategy) and tactical encounter.
Euphoria then erupted in the Northumbrian pits, sheer disbelief having descended until the stark realisation set in – we’d made the Final! We then had a very pleasant, relaxing hour or so watching the battle in semi-final two, with the other Northern sides Bury and Astley & Tyldesley being knocked out of this five-team match with short-handed Ipswich, leaving Poole and Birmingham to take up the last two Final places. Ex-Viking Mark Mulvey led the charge for his new club Astley but they just failed to gather enough points to join us in the Final.
So here we were then and where normally a few tired old legs would have had their owners complaining about another four rides, we were all high as kites after this amazing result, and absolutely dead chuffed just to have made the Final, so bring it on! We expected exactly zero apart from a few good rides from our top two, and just hoped we may be given a small memento of our achievement as we stood in the pits at the end watching Poole with recently deposed World Champ Steve Harris, Birmingham with reigning Euro-Vets Over 40s Champion Mark Winwood and Over 50’s Champ Paul Timms and Leicester mount the podium.
As in our semi, Gavin continued his amazing run of wins and with Jason once again having some great rides we were in the thick of it all the way after Leicester had stamped their authority to run away with the big prize. We had some great scraps with Birmingham and Poole and were once again in awe of the power displayed by all of the Leicester lads, Poole’s Steve Harris and Brummie Mark Winwood in particular. Neil, Shane and Terry still had to scavenge for crumbs but with the scores remaining extremely close between the three other sides as the match drew to a close our glee was interrupted by an exclusion for Gavin when he dived under World Champion Craig Marchant in his last programmed ride, passing cleanly enough but failing to turn! Ah well, it was fabulous while it lasted.
But wait some more!
Our final programmed set of four races saw two more wins and a second and suddenly a little cheeky air of marginal confidence began to show in our pit corner with Jason coming in as a tactical replacement in the final heat, and again off grid one! However, by this time he was feeling the undoubted pressure, quite visibly, and looked a little tired as he fluffed the second bend to pull out of it lethargically, costing him a very expensive overtake and collecting just one point less than we’d half expected. Another run-off!
Gavin continued his amazing run of form to conquer the blindingly fast Mark Winwood and thus send the Vikings into rapturous delirium. Of all the clubs present today we’re probably the only one that’s never accomplished a team podium in a major competition and this definitely goes down as the greatest achievement of the 2012 Northumbrians and of course the much older Newcastle & District Club c 1946, wot we still iz in reality. And to think we threw second place away (but we forgive you, Gav and jay!).
We suffered our expected crushing defeat at Stockport the day after in the Northern League but all through that one my head was still in the pits at Hull marvelling over my two “young” heroes and what they’d just achieved for our little Club.