Further Adventures From Skippy
Now like all race fans I cannot resist poking my nose into affairs that don't concern me. Hence on the Thursday before Good Friday I rang Mallory Park to ask in the Americans were going to practice there. I was told that it was a private practice and visitors were being discouraged. Since the worst that could happen was to be thrown out off I went. Thursday was an incredibly wet day and I was beginning to wonder if the Americans would ride in the rain but as I arrived at the track I tagged behind another couple of riders and followed them down to the paddock. The bikes had arrived, if not the riders. After poking about with the new Yams, Percy Tait arrived so we had a chat with him, trying to look as if we belonged with someone, fearing that we would soon be thrown out. In fact at that moment officialdom arrived, demanding an explanation. The man asked if we were the volunteers for marshalling. Honesty is not my strong point so we lied to a man and were ordered to the hairpin to take up our positions. Jim Swift came out personally to organise us and we took the opportunity to point out the poor spectator facilities and outlined our pet theories for new grandstands. Doubtless the poor man had heard it all before but he in turn pointed out the cost and difficulties of running a race circuit.
I heard later that Mallory is to close down at the end of this season and racing to be transferred to Donington. It will be interesting to see if this happens. Personally I believe it to be true as I can't see two race tracks within 30 miles of each other doing well. Anyway we took our stations. I was to man the hairpin armed with a large yellow flag, not that I had much occasion to use it although I narrowly missed hitting Gary Fisher with it whilst trying to warn him of impending doom just round the corner. We had agreed privately that if any rider did fall off we'd hide the body and make off with the bike, not that anyone did, in fact, fall off at the hairpin. Actually as things turned out we had a long wait. The rain continued to come pouring down and everyone but me and Mick Grant stood firm in the face of the wet and the cold. In the tradition of the thin red line we soldiered on, Mr Grant tuning blue with the cold while I was turning red with rain. My newly dyed silk scarf was running in the rain, all down my neck. Occasionally a Kennings' car would come round packed with racers and a woman driver. This year Kenning insisted on women drivers to escort the racers. Last year they had too many bent cars returned at the end of race week.
Finally in the later afternoon the sun shone very weakly through the clouds and the rain stopped. The new riders took a steady pace while the old hands like Nixon zipped round, never failing to pop wheelies on the way to Devil's Elbow. Kenny Roberts was soon lapping very fast and wide while Fisher on the other hand took it very tight. So tight in fact that he had to kick himself off the banking on occasions.
All too soon it was over, the bikes were put away and Jim Swift dragged me, protesting, to the bar where the drinks were laid on free, which as anyone knows, is the best kind of drink. In fact I got drunker than I thought. Luckily there were no Big Blue Meanies around the Braunstone Lane roundabout 'cause I took it in a series of very weird lines.
It was an enjoyable afternoon and, best of all, absolutely free, and no motorcyclist can complain about that!