Snetterton Racing – making history in British Motorsport

Snetterton Racing – making history in British Motorsport

Snetterton Racing – making history in British Motorsport
So, after two long years of liaison with the Auto Cycle Union, and working closely with Dave Stewart from Club Thundersport, I was finally given my ACU Road Race licence.  It was therefore with excitement and intrepidation that I turned up at Snetterton racetrack on 22nd June for my first set of races over the weekend of 23rd and 24th.  Colrai racing (in the form of Colin Groom) were going to be helping me for the weekend, as were Dave and Roz.  The weather forecast didn’t look great, but that didn’t matter as I’ve ridden many times in the wet and knew I’d be fine.  Scrutineering, signing on and all the paper was sorted out on the day so that left me with just the riding to focus on for the two race days.  The last thing I wanted to be worrying about was whether the bike was ok to race first thing in the morning. 
Amazingly I managed to get a full nights sleep in the back of the van, and was ready and raring to go come 8am.  My qualifying began at 9.18am, I would be launched from the pit lane and return to the pit lane.  This is slightly different to the rest of the racers as they all collect together in the assembly area before being let loose on the track.  I knew I needed to let the tyres warm up, so gradually built up speed throughout the 20minutes of qualifying.  There were times when I couldn’t see anyone else out there and it felt just like a track day, then the faster racers would come screaming past, far closer than a track day, and speed off up the track.  How can the bikes be so much different in speed?  Returning into the paddock I felt elated to have completed my first qualifying, with only one minor incident, when I ran off the end of the rumble strips exiting wide from a corner that put me into a muddy puddle and sent the bike shaking down the track for a bit.  The results were up by the time I had got back to the van, taken my lid off and calmed down a fraction.  I looked straight to the bottom of the results but couldn’t see my name, so working my way up the sheet it became apparent I had actually finished qualifying in 24th place out of the 30 racers.  Then came the long wait to the start of the first race.
The plan for the race start was the same as the qualifying.  Get ready in the pit lane, launch at the end of the group for the sighting lap, then come back into the pit lane and be started from the end of pit lane when the last rider went past the exit point of the pit lane.  Trying to keep calm and remember everything I had learned over the past three years of riding was the priority.  Don’t try and exceed your talent level, don’t get suckered into chasing other riders, keep looking ahead, don’t panic.  Before too long it was time to start.  The sighting lap was fine, I came back into the pits, got caught, could see Syd ahead of me with the green flag he’d wave to signal the start of my race, and could hear the revving of 29 race bikes the other side of the pit wall.  The lights went out, bikes roared off, the green flag dropped and I began my first ever lap.  Catching up the tail enders at the second corner I slotted in to file around the tight right-left flick.  Suddenly bikes were swerving everywhere as two bikes had crashed in front of me.  I managed to steer around the carnage and get past three riders in the process, ‘It’s all going off!’ I thought.  Head down I blasted along the Bentley Straight to the chicane before the legendary Bomb Hole.  ‘No need to try and set any records, just ride smoothly and like you know how,’ I kept reminding myself.  The laps ticked along and I kept riding within my limits, then there was a noise and a flash as Josh Daley, the leading rider on a highly tuned Kawasaki 400, came flying past.  Reminding myself that these racers have been doing this for some time, I was simply happy and honoured to be on the same track as them.  Going into the hairpin on the penultimate lap another Minitwin racer decided to put his machine in the non-existent gap between the kerbing and me.  With my body and bike about to hit his, I managed to sit the bike up, run wide but avoid crashing.  He did then have the manners to stick up a hand to acknowledge a harsh pass.  In one way I was thrilled, as it meant no one was giving me any leeway for being a disabled racer.  One more lap and the chequered flag was brought out, I crossed the finish line, screamed for delight and then burst into tears.  The emotions took over at the relief at reaching my goal, realizing my dream, not crashing and proving it could be done.  As I came around on the cool down lap the marshals and racers stood to applaud and recognize the achievement.  I had become, at that moment, a real motorcycle racer.   Those minutes are etched in my memory, they bring a smile to my face whenever I think about them and have gone to prove that someone who is paralysed can compete on equal footing with able-bodied racers.  My placing…..24th out of 30, not first but definitely not last!
The second race followed a similar path, but without the crashing of bikes in front of me.  I did try to up my pace and follow the faster riders into the left hand turn after the Bentley Straight, but that went spectacularly wrong, requiring me to straighten up, run across the grass and rejoin the circuit closer to the Bomb Hole.  A quick, sharp reprimand from myself and I returned to doing what I can do, rather than what others can do. 
The following day, having proved that I could start from the pit lane without incident, the plan was for me to join the riders from pit lane on the sighting lap and then line up with them on the starting grid.  No matter what grid number I had achieved through the days racing, I would be starting on the back row.  This took the racing to another level, as I got to feel the adrenaline and chaos of the actual start.  Looking all around me at the 29 other racers, getting the bike into first, watching for the red lights to go out, dropping the clutch and weaving in amongst the bikes as we all race down to the first corner meant the world to me.  It was incredible, it was superb, it stuffed everything else I had ever done into a little ball and tossed it away.  I would be happy if all races were one-lap dashes, so I could have the start and the first few corners over and over again.  What a rush, I fully recommend it!  Again the races were hard fought and fun, it couldn’t have gone any better for my first experience of racing.  I met some great people, had an amazing time and look forward to more racing.
I want to thank all those who have been a part of the journey, who have helped me to get my race licence and make it out onto the start grid.  It goes to show that the impossible is possible, that motorsport can allow for able-bodied and disabled riders to compete together, and that with determination you CAN.

Talan