Monday February 4, 2019 at 1:23pm
With just two months left until the roar of motorcycles once again erupts in the English countryside, activity has well and truly commenced for competitors and organisers as the 2019 season starts to shape up. Riders will be working hard to get machinery, equipment and sponsorship packages ready for their 2019 assault. Organisers and clubs have been meeting for AGMs and planning committee meetings across the country. With several huge events planned for the domestic calendar, as well as a whole season of club racing, we look ahead to what could be the best season of Grass track for many years.
Make sure you block out all of your weekends from 20th July until the 11th August. This is the time when some of the biggest meetings of the year will take place one after the other. The Wimborne Whoppa will kick things off under lights on 20th July, followed by Frittenden, Cornwall and then the British Masters finishing off an incredible run of meetings throughout early August. Big Time Grasstrack Is Back?
For any of you who visited Wimborne MCC’s glorious Whoppa event at the end of 2018, you will have seen that when all the elements are correct, big time Grasstrack is still alive and well in this country. A huge crowd gathered in Corfe Mullen, Dorset and saw spectacular race after spectacular race. And the die-hard Grass track through-and-through folk who make up the Wimborne MCC look to build on their success in 2019, by hosting the Wimborne Whoppa under floodlights.
Final details of this momentous event have yet to be released, but we do know that the club are planning a whole day of activity and action on Saturday 20th July (just as the school summer holidays begin), culminating in top 500cc solos, 500cc sidecar and 1000cc sidecar racing under the lights on Saturday evening. A party is sure to follow the racing on Saturday night and, although the winner of such a big event will be hard to predict, sore heads on Sunday morning are far more of a certainty! This one is not to be missed in 2019.
Two clubs who have held National Grass track together in recent years, Wainfleet and ASTRA, have made worrying noises of retiring from organising. As we faced 2019 with the prospect of losing both of these clubs, fans began to contemplate the hole that their absence would leave. However, both clubs will run again in 2019 and we couldn’t be more excited.
Wainfleet once again host the International Poacher on their traditional August Bank Holiday date of Sunday 25th August. After a serious spout of ill-health for chief organiser Reg Blackbourn and his wife, the pair are back fighting fit and wanted to offer another Poacher for 2019. After torrential rain ruined the 2018 event, the Blackbourn’s simply couldn’t leave the organising scene on such a bum note. The financial structure of the 2019 Poacher is to have a review, with Reg aiming to offer tremendous prize money, the likes of which have never been seen in this country.
ASTRA’s event, due to be held on Sunday 15th September, will once again take place at their Swingfield Raceway near Folkestone- the venue of so many fantastic events over the last 20 years. The meeting is currently labelled ‘Farewell Meeting’, but there are some hopes of the club continuing. Whatever the future holds, this meeting is sure to be a cracker. So often, ASTRA have stepped in to organise ACU Championship events of FIME events. However, this time, with the shackles of organising bodies removed, Graham Hurry and his expert team can get back to doing what they do so well- running excellent Grass track meetings. This must be on the list for all Grass track fans.
Frittenden Grass track club have also been busy making tweaks to their Battle of Britain event, set to take place over a whole weekend. The club have decided to run a Youth event the day before the main event, on Saturday 25th May. If the meeting is well-supported, this may be the start of a resurgence for youth racing in Kent. Then on Sunday 26th May all of the top stars are expected to be in attendance to race for the historic Battle of Britain title. The circuit at Sandhurst Bridge Farm in Frittenden, Kent has been one of the most iconic venues for Grass track racing in the last ten years. This year’s Battle of Britain is set to be a fine weekend for racing fans. Be sure to arrive on Saturday morning to watch the youth, before spending the evening in Kent, ready for some hotly contested racing on Sunday.
Another offering from Frittenden will come later in the year as they host the Summer Open Pairs event. The meeting, in its third year, offers a unique opportunity to see team racing at Grass track as riders’ pair up to score points. In its first season, the event was fantastic, showing a truly different spectacle. Sadly, rain ruined the 2018 event after only a few races. However, the addition of coloured helmet colours and several big names showed real promise for 2019. If you remember the National Best Pairs of yesteryear, the Frittenden club have created something of a likeness, and it is a must-see for 2019. The event will take place on Sunday 28th July, one week after Wimborne’s Floodlit Whoppa…what an 8 days that will be!
Finally, the Mid Cornwall Premier Motorcycle Club return an historic title to their Grass track meeting on Sunday 4th August as they host the Westcountry Winner. This year’s Winner will take place at The Boarded Circuit in Roche, Cornwall the day after the British Youth Championships (more on that event to follow). The club made several adaptations to their unique, multi-cornered circuit at the start of 2018 before hosting two ACU British Championship events successfully. The circuit modifications have made the circuit faster and safer, allowing racing to be much closer. If you haven’t journeyed down to Cornwall to see the action at this venue yet, this may be the year to do it for their double header event on 3rd and 4th August. British and European Championship Events
Midshires Grass track Club have had a meteoric rise as organisers of Grass track racing. Since they began running their Master of Midshires event several seasons ago, the meeting has become a mainstay in the domestic Grass track calendar, so much so, in fact, that the Master of Midshires enjoyed National status for the first time in 2018. Now the club look towards their next venture, and their next level! They host the 2019 FIME European Solo Semi Final at their excellent venue right in the centre of the country- Fosse Way, Leamington Spa. Eighteen of some of the best European Grass track racers clash, hoping to qualify for the European Final and go on to be crowned Champion of Europe for 2019. British hopefuls are British Masters champion Zach Wajtknecht, former two-time European champion James Shanes, former European champion Andrew Appleton, former European champion Paul Hurry and former European finalist and multi-British champion Paul Cooper. With these five proven winners in action, realistic hopes of all five qualifying for the final are very much a possibility. They will be joined by two Czechs, three Germans, three Frenchmen, three Dutchmen and two Swedes in what promises to be another great day for British Grass track.
This huge event will take place on Sunday 23rd June and will also feature the country’s top 1000cc sidecars, and a national 500cc solo support class.
The British Masters has been the pinnacle of the British Grass track season for riders and spectators alike for many years, and 2019 GTSA club are tasked with organising ‘the big one’. The club, whose circuit is based in Frittenden Kent (a different venue at the other end of the village to the circuit used by Frittenden club), played host to the British Clubman’s Championships in 2018 and put on a stellar show. They followed it up with an independent meeting entitled the Dig Dog Dash 2 (the venue sits in Dig Dog Lane) with similarly spectacular racing and organisation. Therefore, the club put themselves forward to host the British Masters for 2019. The racing surface has been worked on tirelessly over the last five years and many agree that it was the best racing circuit of the 2018 season. It is more than worthy of hosting the big event. Many look forward to seeing the best of British doing battle on the grandest stage of them all. The event takes place in the middle of the summer, on Sunday 11th August. Naturally, all of the country’s top talents will be in action at the superb Dig Dog venue, which has already been tended to this year.
Before the line-up for the British Masters is confirmed of course, there is the opportunity of qualification for the nation’s club racers. After disappointment and tragedy hit the club in 2018, Bristol club return to host the British Clubman’s Championships for 2019 at their super venue at Lower Stanton St Quinton. The venue, which hosted the British Masters itself in 2016, will see the country’s top performers from the 2018 season do battle in 500cc solo and 1000cc sidecar racing. The top 8 solos and top 10 sidecars (numbers to be confirmed) will be seeded to the British Masters itself.
Race fans and competitors will once again make the annual pilgrimage to the Channel Islands in September for the annual Sand Ace British Sand Racing Championships. The event, which has attracted some of the sport’s top names in the past, took a year’s break last year due to date clashes. But the Sand Ace is back with a bang in 2019, promising a full line-up of both British and European talent, set to do battle on the beach at Vazon in Guernsey. The meeting will once again feature the awe-inspiring 1000cc sidecars whose speed on the beach has to be seen to be believed. The event will take place on Saturday 28th September, so plenty of time to get your ferry or flights booked so that you can experience one of the most unique racing attractions in the world.
Mid Cornwall Premier MCC have been selected to stage the British Youth Championships for 2019. Youth Grass track is seeing a real resurgence at the moment with more and more competitors joining the sport. This year, many will make the journey to Roche in Cornwall and to the Boarded Circuit where the country’s best youngsters will do battle. The 2018 Championships held by Fenland was one of the meetings of the season last season. The kids at this circuit have shown that they race close and fast on the multi-cornered track. Racing is sure to be excellent. The club have also been awarded the British Under 21 Championships to run on the same day. The action is set to commence on Saturday 3rd August, with the Westcountry Winner being held the following day- a great weekend of Grass track racing.
Cheshire Grass track club follow up their outstanding British Masters hosting of 2018 by hosting the British Upright Championships at 2019. The event, due to take place on Sunday 30th June, will once again utilise the picturesque, undulated racing circuit at Gawsworth near Macclesfield.