Dyfi Rally 2006

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Blez on the Dyfi Rally - A reluctant Marshal's view

After being told, to my great chagrin, that the event was full, I decided to take my chances and turn up at the start of the event anyway in the hope that someone else wouldn't, and that I might be allowed in.

I arrived literally at the crack of dawn on the Saturday morning but the lady in the hut was not for turning. I couldn't have an entry, no way, no how. ‘We’ve got all the riders we want’ quoth she. No matter that there were several Sunday riders who wouldn't be riding on Saturday (and lots of drop-outs after Saturday who wouldn’t be riding on Sunday). My 100 was of no interest, strictly no entries on the day; so I took Ian Packer's advice and rode as a travelling marshall for nowt instead.

This option actually worked out very well, since it turned out that I would have had a really lousy result if I'd been competing. Firstly I was riding the KTM 640 Adventure like an old woman, and secondly, I got a front wheel compression puncture half way through the special stage on the second lap, despite not trying hard at all. (this led to a very exciting ride back to the paddock on the roads; riding with no air in my TKC Twinduro was a bit like riding in sand; if you could get past 10-15mph the gyroscopic forces would actually enable it to maintain a steady path up to about 30-35mph in a straight-ish line, but corners were scary, requiring large amounts of tiller-like swings on the handlebars to fight things back under control. ) Before my flat-tyred exit from the field of play I helped several stuck riders and took loads of photos on the beautifully scenic course, including several of the top men in the middle of the special stage on their first timed lap.

The conditions were wonderfully sunny, without being too hot, with views for miles from the top of the hills. The scariest thing for the competitors was a pair of imbeciles in a Silver Ford Escort who got onto the special stage when riders numbered 30-50 or thereabouts were on their first timed lap. Hearing rider after rider come in at the end of the stage describing their near-misses with the car sent shivers down my spine. I really thought someone might die out there. The idiots had driven past two ‘No Entry’ signs and ignored several marshals to get onto the stage, then the woman had the temerity to argue with the timing marshals at the end before reversing back into the stage instead of moving the barriers and coming out! (Apparently she was a local with a Ghanaian boyfriend whom she was probably teaching to drive in the nice quiet forestry roads.....I’m glad she got her car dented and I hope they both get prosecuted. If they'd done the same thing in one of the car rallies that are held in the Dyfi forest there would have been a very big accident indeed....)

The most bizarre and extraordinary occurrence was the miraculous escape of the bearded HP2 rider Ben Pope who rather carelessly dropped his 1200 beast off the side of the mountain! About ten of us, including Fiona Moran, heaved the damn thing bodily back up to the road. It must have been a good 20ft down. I just wish I'd had my pocket Olympus camera working to get some pix as we muscled it uphill - the shot I took with my SLR from the road just didn't do the situation justice - someone else did get some pix of the 'recovery' with a pocket camera though – I’d like to see ‘em.

Saturday Night & Sunday Morning

After a few beers and a huge curry in Machynlleth, followed by a second chilly night in the trusty Boxer van, Sunday dawned grey, misty and drizzling. In the slippery conditions I decided that I would probably be more use as a marshal on my newly-repaired KTM450EXC than on the beefy 640 (even though Rich Colquhoun had rescued me on Saturday evening with a heavy duty tube and an illuminating lesson in tyre changing - thanks Rich!). Apart from anything else, the 450 had the advantage of puncture-proof mousses in both wheels. Sure enough, it was a lot easier to get around, and so much lighter to pick up when I dropped it! I was still crap on the whooped out sections and I still managed to drop the 450 in the special stage in the exact spot where I dropped the 640 the day before. Doh!

I spent quite a lot of time riding with Fiona the Irish colleen who deserves some sort of 'spirit of the rally' award for her ever-smiling countenance in the face of much adversity on her far-from-lightweight DRZ400. She dropped it several times every lap but never lost her cheery outlook.

With the help of a battery borrowed from Pat Keenan's camera, my Olympus happy-snapper was revived half way through Sunday so I was able to get shots around the course much more easily than with the Canon EOS, which I’d been carrying in a rucksack. I did three laps on the 450 in the end and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

Hats off to everyone who got a big 'un around, especially those who did 4 laps on both days (Phil Gunn, Brian Eland, Seamus Sorohan and Darren Duesbury to name four). Steve Gard also deserves a mention for the three hugely masochistic laps he managed on his ancient Triumph Bitsa twin on Saturday, before retiring knackered (both him and the bike!). Congrats also to the ladies, Tamsin Jones (15th sports!), Claire Gwinnett & Fiona Moran. Former CCM ride-out leader Robert Bentham won the sports class on a KTM525 and rally veteran Steve Hague was runner up on a Honda CRF. Duncan Buck was credited with first trail on a very sporty looking Yamaha 2-stroke and Jon Stobbs was runner up on a Husky 400. Lee Hammond was third on a less sporty XR400. I can’t help pointing out that according to the MWTRA’s own regulations none of the first three ‘trailbikes’ actually qualified for the class! Seamus Sorohan was fastest trail big ‘un on his KTM640 after fast man Brian Eland got his 640 stuck in a ditch for no less than 15 minutes on the second timed lap on Saturday (and still finished 7th!). (For my money, Phil Gunn was the moral winner of the trail class, even though his monster 1200 twin was entered as a sports bike; he was faster than all but the first two ‘trailbikes’ and he still finished 9th fastest of the sportsbikes!).

The results also show no less than 56 DNFs which speaks for itself as to the toughness of the event, I think! Thanks to MWTRA for putting on the most challenging but also the most scenic of the UK trail bike rallies. There's a lot to be said for marshalling!


PS I have pix of all those mentioned above and if anyone else wants to know if I've got a pic of them, drop me a line at a paulblez@blueyonder.co.uk