Classic motorcycle racing made a most welcome return at Cadwell Park, when the CRMC held the first meeting since lockdown began. Classic Racer was there, along with a few discerning and socially distanced spectators…
Words: Jono Yardley Captions: Graham Lawlor
Photographs: Pete Morris
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Way back on March 23 of this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the nationwide lockdown in a bid to stop the coronavirus outbreak.
As we all know, it immediately had a dramatic effect on all aspects of our lives, including all forms of sporting activity, which obviously included our beloved motorsport.
This pretty much stopped dead in the tracks all the preparation and planning for road racing and a full and fun season ahead.
Prior to the lockdown, the Classic Racing Motorcycle Club had a full calendar planned of seven rounds, which of course was quickly scrapped.
For many classic motorcycle racers, the thought of any racing taking place during 2020 was a non-starter, and for most the race bike stayed at the back of the garage or workshop.
The CRMC’s vice-chairman John Davidson is one of the key people who organise their race meetings, he said: “The calendar was put on hold as the ACU first suspended all permits until May 31 and later all permits were suspended indefinitely, as it was realised new safety routines would be required for meetings to take place.
“Darley Moor was quickly rescheduled for August 22/23 as there was an available date in the Darley calendar.
“The CRMC would have preferred to postpone Cadwell until October and have more time to prepare, but this would have incurred a heavy loss on the July Cadwell booking, so this meant that as soon the Government and ACU allowed sporting events to take place, if at all possible we had to run the meeting.’’
The sport’s governing body – the Auto Cycle Union – kept a close eye on developments, and as things progressed produced a number of documents highlighting the implications and the likely restrictions that would be placed on racing in the short to medium term.
These covered many aspects, including social distancing, increased hygiene procedures and the ban on overnight camping.
This restriction was probably the one thing that effectively stopped a racing club from running a race meeting, with the majority of meetings being held over two days.
The CRMC undertook a survey of its members and the results clearly showed that most would not be prepared to attend a meeting if they were unable to stay on site.
This was understandable – years ago when racing on a single day was the norm, clubs were much more locally based and their riders lived within relatively easy distance of the circuits their clubs raced at.
This has changed a lot over the years and the membership of National clubs such as the CRMC, now live across the UK.
As the lockdown progressed, the CRMC were optimistic that the ‘no overnight camping’ restriction would be removed and the planning for a two-day race meeting was started.
John Davidson: “Putting this meeting together was quite a challenge for all involved. We never knew until quite late in the day how many competitors would actually enter or indeed if we could muster sufficient officials and marshals to actually run the event.’’
Detailed discussions with the ACU continued and their requirements for the issue of a race permit.
Part of this planning also included discussions with the management of circuits. Motor Sport Vision, who operate five circuits in the UK, were very supportive of the club’s wish to return to racing and the originally planned weekend for July 11/12 at Cadwell Park was very much back on the cards.
One of the things that the ACU wanted to see was the increased use of technology to reduce the amount of human contact and the CRMC’s new online membership and race entry system was used to great effect.
The system, although in relatively early stages of development, worked well and had the effect of reducing the amount of paperwork.
The ‘no overnight camping’ restriction was finally removed on July 4, by the Government and everything was in place for a weekend of classic motorcycle racing.
Amongst the many additional requirements was the need to ensure that everyone involved in running the event had correct Personal Protective Equipment, this in itself was not an easy task as sourcing PPE in the numbers required and at a reasonable cost is difficult.
In addition, all the officials and marshals required additional guidance and training on how to operate under the new guidelines, so that their safety was not compromised.
Only one person at a time was allowed in the race office, and a new system employed for signing on.
For the bike technical inspection, this was done without the machine actually being touched – a challenge in itself – but a system was developed which worked and was sufficient to ensure that there was no physical contact with anything that could allow transmission of the virus, but still ensuring that every motorcycle conformed to the technical regulations.
It was decided that there would be no printed results. This is something that didn’t cause any issues as the club uses the services of Motorsport Timing UK Ltd.
As well as providing an excellent and accurate service, which provides almost instant official results through their online website, they also provide an online ‘Live Timing’ system, which can be accessed by anyone with access to a smart phone, tablet or PC – anywhere in the world.
This has proved to be very reliable, remarkably quick and accurate. Not only does their system provide race results, but also the progress of each and every rider during a race, including their current and fastest lap times.
This is in addition to clearly showing a rider’s position in their class, as well as the overall race positions. For those that require a hard copy, this is easily achieved at home via a suitable printer.
A revised programme of events was drawn up and the main change was that no racing would take place on the Saturday, just two sessions of untimed practice and a single session of timed practice for each class.
It was a schedule that was very well received by the riders, with all appreciating the extra track time with little pressure to perform well right from the start.
The additional requirements for increased social distancing were met and followed in all areas, including signing on, technical and noise inspections and of course within the actual race paddock itself.
Everyone who attended was happy to comply, just being pleased to be going racing again.
ACU Deputy Clerk of the Course Ben Robinson describes some of the challenges he faced: “I think probably the main challenge was ensuring that everything had been thought of prior to the meeting.
Making sure that you were happy and confident that all the processes you had developed would be effective and ensure that a second spike wasn’t as the result of a CRMC meeting!
“Alongside that, I think another challenge was recovery. Having to run with limited resources, and having multiple assets to pick up sometimes (as much as it pains me to say it, sidecars were the worst), ensuring that you utilised your resource in an effective, yet safe way, proved challenging.
“Other than that, it was ensuring that you didn’t lose your focus and inadvertently revert back to ‘normal’ and you had to remember that you were working under Covid regulations.
“Whereas normally you’d go and hug someone you’d not seen for a long time, or shake their hand, standing back and thinking ‘hang on, we can’t do that anymore!’ was another challenge.
“In terms of meeting efficiency, it’s our names above the door, but it’s all the teams that make up the meeting that make it run. For me personally, very little felt different, however I know that the teams struggled at times, but, as we always do at CRMC, we got through!’’
And the club not only got through, it got through in style. It was a brilliantly successful weekend. The club’s email inbox quickly filled up following the weekend, full of supportive and positive comments:
“Thank you very much for putting on a great weekend – we’re so glad to be back, and that was the sentiment in the paddock from everyone we spoke with.’’
“First of all, well done to you and the whole team for the Cadwell weekend. I’m sure that was a major hassle for you to organise but it all looked incredibly easy and normal from my side of the fence.
“Great meeting at the weekend, thought you all did a great job in difficult circumstances.’’
“Just a quick one to say a big thank you for putting on the meeting at Cadwell. Please pass this on to everyone concerned in giving us all a great start.’’
One of the concerns was additional delays due to enforced stoppages when dealing with those that had fallen from their machines. In fact there were very few red flag incidents, and credit must go to the marshals who performed an excellent job.
There were several relatively minor spills, where an inexperienced marshal could have asked for a race stop, but they kept a cool head and allowed the racing to continue whilst a proper assessment was made.
The weather helped too, with just about perfect conditions on both days. Any doubts about how many would enter were quickly put to bed, and as the message got out that the meeting was on and that overnight stays were allowed the entries came in thick and fast.
Certainly one of the things that benefited the CRMC was the fact that other clubs had decided not to race this year.
One of the big surprises was that spectators were allowed. This was achieved by MSV limiting the numbers and keeping close control on them, which included segregating them from competitors and their teams, by not allowing them access to the paddock or Grandstands.
This is not an issue at Cadwell Park as the wonderful flowing circuit is bounded by large grassy banks, all of which provide excellent viewing from a range of viewpoints.
Those that came were all very keen to see some brilliant racing action, and they were not disappointed: race record speeds, some of the best classic riders anywhere in the world battling for the same piece of tarmac, ultra-close finishes, beautifully prepared exotic machinery being used as it was intended. Who could ask for more?
The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club has a further three meetings planned for the rest of the year:
August 22/23 – Darley Moor
September 5/6 – Anglesey
September 26/27 – Pembrey
This will be a total of 12 championship races for each class, with every round counting for points, i.e. no dropped rounds this year.
Also there will be two ACU championship rounds at each meeting, the Classic and Post Classic bikes have a race each.
For more information visit: www.crmc.co.uk
Read more News and Features online at www.classicracer.com and in the September/October 2020 issue of Classic Racer – on sale now!