Certain motoring subjects have been done to death in the pub. Audi v BMW, FWD v RWD and Peugeot v chemical castration (a tough one, that). My brother in law is a biker and when he’s not recovering from multiple injuries we often discuss over a pint what is quicker; Car v Bike. I’ve never seen the appeal of dressing up like a power ranger and sitting on my scrotum with power I can’t put down for fear of becoming an organ-donor. I’d like to convey his side of this argument, but being as I’m writing this and not him, I won’t. Ha ! Some heated pub debates reach a clear conclusion outside in the carpark, but we decided to do settle this in a fair and scientific way instead, and have some fun too.
We agreed that we could each use any wheels of our choice and that the venue would be any convenient local circuit. I would fix the photographer and he would fix the venue. Keeping in mind our usual haunts, Donington, Mallory and Cadwell, I was quite confident that my choice of wheels would spank his, regardless of venue. Following his directions I ended up in Beaumont Leys, which despite being a dog-rough suburb of Leicester, is famous only for its lighthouse*. I had bent the rules a bit and blagged a supercharged 280bhp Tiger Avon on semi-slicks. I had driven Tigers before, they have beautifully informative steering and loads of poke and are a great for wind-in-your-hair and insects-in-your-teeth hooning. The thing is, bro-in-law had bent the rules a bit too. The venue was a Leicester’s new speedway track.
I had never been to the speedway before. The bikes have a 4 stroke engine fuelled by methanol, have no brakes and must weigh at least 77Kg. By using sprockets the single gear ratio can be adjusted as required for track conditions. Impressive, but it sounds like a lawnmower, I was still confident. My bro-in-law had, just the previous day, popped a rib (again) and had to call in a reserve. His stand in was some whippet-faced lad with a Scandiwegian accent who is “pretty handy” called Jan. Jan ‘the man’ Gravesen. I googled his name afterwards…
The track was empty, the photographers in place, and a few loitering staff were grinning knowingly as I did a couple of laps alone to get a feel for the track. The surface is packed earth with a marbley gravel topping. Do you remember that Pirelli advert of a sprinter in stilettos “Power is nothing without control” ? The Tiger lurched off, rear end waving about on the muck like a dog with worms, almost instantly you have to turn in for the first corner, get very sideways, and try and point the car down the short straight before gently squeezing on the go again. I stuck it in second and left it there, concentrating on trying to get a feel for the scabrous surface beneath, while the Tiger seemingly wanted to turn-around and do something else.
So, we lined up at opposite sides of the track, counted down 3-2-1 and just went for it. I hoped I could do the 4 laps before he caught me. I didn’t even manage 4 corners. The roar of lawnmower announced he’d caught me, and a facefull of cack confirmed he’d overtaken, I watched as he yanked the handlebars over and stuck out a boot to turn left. I followed the same line but couldn’t keep up, there was no run-off for mistakes and the barriers were getting closer with attempt to go quicker. I tried point and squirt, the car pointed, I squirted in my jeans. Jan lapped me while I was still thinking about how to react. I then spotted the inside line was rutted and tried grabbing some grip down there with the inside wheel and using less welly than before. This resulted in a tidier exit, less sideways shenanigans, and quicker laps. Quick isn’t always as much fun as though.
I had a breather, removed all the gravel from the cabin and my facial orifices, and re-thought my attack. Jim of Tiger had seemingly been giving birth on the sidelines watching my ham-footed attempts with his (usually) capable car. The merest hint of a question about technique had him hauling me out of the car so he could ‘personally demonstrate’, I think he just wanted to beat the bike, and enjoy some sideways stuff himself. He was smoother, quicker and still a mile behind Jan. He was loving it though. With narrower front tyres and knobbly rears, I reckon the car would be much closer, it might make for an amusing spectator sport too, like a dirty drifting contest. Are there any motorsports which pitch cars directly against bikes ? I’d pay to watch that.
So, after dozens of laps, who won this contest ? My brother-in-law claimed victory in Car v Bike but as I’m writing this, not him, it was a draw. We had a huge laugh and would like to thank Leicester Speedway and Tiger Racing for being such good sports. A draw demands a re-match, which will be at a venue of my choice, and should be a much fairer contest. Or, more likely, I’ll just cheat a bit more.
©2012 Rich Duisberg
*Beaumont Leys Lighthouse, aka the Police Helicopter.