22nd August 1986
MC Jet's (Belgium)
Well, having already had a camping weekend abroad, it seems the only course of action was to go to a European Rally next, especially since I had already done five 'overseas' rallies. Shetland is MUCH further than Belgium. It occurred that Lez Lumps was organising a mass magazine-subscribers convoy to the Jet's Rally in Belgium, so that seemed the ideal opportunity to try one.
The meeting point was Dover docks, to avoid any mass bike movement in England, (always a problem with the boys in blue), and that is where most of us assembled early in the morning. It took a bit of juggling, as the ferry company didn't want to fill a boat with just bikes. I think we managed most of us in two sailings.
While we were waiting, one rider was painting part of his headlight with yellow lacquer. He didn't fix beam deflectors, but the bits of the main beam in the wrong direction would now be seen as yellow, so he could pretend he was French. It made sense to him.
The first boatload of us waited around the ferry port on the other side for the rest to join us. We found a cafe/bar calling itself 'Eastenders', which seemed a good meeting point. Eventually we set off en mass down the autoroutes to the rally, stopping at a service place, to regroup and amaze the locals, then set off again to find the field.
The organisers were suitably impressed, especially as we all signed in with Rally Review as our 'club'. The badges were suitably immense, being over two inches wide, with a greater than 4½ inch drop. Lez had sourced run patches for us all with the Jet's logo on, (by permission), but they were smaller than these metal monstrosities.
The food and drink was obtained by tokens that you could buy at control. The food consisted of burgers and cutlets, which we immediately christened 'Shergar Burgers', after the missing racehorse of the time. We were convinced the cutlets were not of bovine origin.
We had arrived fairly early, so some of us went with Lez for a short trip over the border to Germany. We had great fun paying in a cafe in those pre-Euro days, as we hadn't brought Deutschmarks with us, except Lez, who acted as a Bureau de Change for the rest of us. We were eyed with suspicion by those locals, as only outlaw bikers wore cut-offs over there.
Having notched up another country on our itinerary, we returned to the field for the evening. The marquee was full of tables & benches, apparently Belgian bikers didn't dance much. We taught them how British rallyists spent the evenings, including some basic pole climbing.
On the Saturday it appears the tradition is to visit other rallies and sign in to pick up turnout awards. We did this at least twice, maybe there was a third. There seemed to have been several prizes picked up at each event, perhaps there was aggregate mileage awards as well? My language skills were not up to translating such things. How Lez got all the trophies home remained a mystery. He even allowed other people, notably Cliff, from the Parrot RC, (who was shouting that his club deserved at least as many trophies as Lez, for some mysterious reason) to collect some of them for him.
After these strange events we went back to the relative safety of the rally site for more Shergar Burgers, beer and music.
This was the year 'The Final Countdown' was in the charts in the UK, although it hadn't achieved much airplay at this time. It was obviously already popular in mainland Europe, as it was played about once in every four tracks.
I realise I haven't mentioned the toilet arrangements. There was a mobile-home sized structure on stilts. Once inside a cubicle there was a hole above which we sat and did our business, the output falling some distance into a pit. Towards the end of the weekend the time taken for this journey lessened considerably. Needless to say, nobody camped too close to this structure.
After many burgers, beers and plays of that record, we collapsed in our tents and hid until dawn.
Not everyone had the same idea about going home. Some went off touring for a day or two, but most of us made our own way to the ferry terminal, arriving in a steady stream during the day and just fitting the bikes in the boats where there was room.
Finding a seat was another matter, as the lounge on my trip seemed to be full of drunken teenagers.
- Phil the Spill
I went to this rally too. I'd just bought a new Triumph 750 made by Les Harris of Newton Abbot. He produced the Triumphs under licence.
Had a great time at the rally and got my first tattoo at the site. Went into Aachen with the rest of the crew on Saturday I believe.
Just after getting back off the ferry I broke down and had to get the AA to take me back to Cornwall, which was great as it was lashing down all the way.
- Phil Nicholls