Pad­dock Life


I have spent a large part of my life in mo­tor­cy­cle race pad­docks in one role or an­other, and boy how things have changed over those 60 or so years! My first ex­pe­ri­ence was in the 1960s at my lo­cal track, Cad­well Park, fol­low­ing my older cousin Colin around.the pad­dock was com­pletely open, packed with neat rows of Fordthames vans.the rid­ers’ fam­i­lies pre­pared basic meals in the open, while the rider and his me­chanic, more of­ten than not just his mate, worked on the ma­chin­ery. And at the re­ally big Cad­well in­ter­na­tional meet­ings the top Grand Prix rid­ers of the day, the likes of Mike Hail­wood, Bill Ivy and Phil Read, watched as their fac­tory me­chan­ics pre­pared the most ex­otic race bikes on the planet on the grass in the Cad­well Park pad­dock. Later when I started rac­ing, pad­dock life was much the same; it was much like a trav­el­ling town, with won­der­ful week­ends spent with friends and ri­vals. Friend­ships were made that last to this day. Al­though on the track your only de­sire was to beat the other guys, back in the pad­dock we all looked out for each other. Mov­ing on to big­ger events dur­ing my 17-year race ca­reer again noth­ing much changed; I re­ally thought some­thing as big as the Isle of Man TT would be dif­fer­ent. But you know what? It wasn’t, apart from the fact that many of us stayed in guest houses (the cheap­est we could find) in Dou­glas and worked out of a friendly lo­cal’s garage. Like most of us I guess I’ve mar­velled at the changes in Grand Prix and Bri­tish race pad­docks, with even the small­est teams run­ning a 600cc race bike, rac­ing at club level, re­quir­ing an ar­tic­u­lated lorry, com­plete with hos­pi­tal­ity for guests. How­ever, hav­ing spent a few days in the Pre TT Clas­sic pad­dock at Bil­lown this week my time ma­chine has clearly taken me back a few decades. Rid­ers, as­sisted by mates, worked on their bikes on the grass or un­der basic awnings, looked out for each other, then on the test­ing road cir­cuit they raced like de­mons. Hos­pi­tal­ity amounted to dis­pos­able bar­be­cues and you know what?there wasn’t a sin­gle ar­tic­u­lated lorry to be seen, just hun­dreds of beau­ti­fully pre­pared race bikes and happy faces. If you didn’t get the op­por­tu­nity back in the day, and you want to ex­pe­ri­ence a race pad­dock at its very best, then I strongly rec­om­mend you book the PRETT Clas­sic into your 2019 cal­en­dar. Clas­sic rac­ing at its very best in every sense of the word. Malc Wheeler

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