The Donington classic bike festival has fast become one of the largest classic bike events in Europe. As well as a massive hall full of classic and contemporary classic bikes , there are also 3 days of classic bike racing round the Donigton Park circuit. All you have to do is walk out of the main hall and you are track side.
This was not the first time OSS have had a stand at the event but it was the first time since the new site was launched. The show is run by VJMC and it is well laid out and organised. Our stand is set up and run by Dave (katana) Whitehead and Mark Parry all credit must go to Dave and Mark for the effort that they put into organising the event for us. They really do a top job.
I had spent a lot of time this year rebuilding my Katana and working with the other Admins on the new site launch. Combine that with family and work and all the other stuff that we all have going on and I was in need of some time out.
I hadn’t been on a road trip for ages so I booked a place on the stand for my Katana and exchanged holidays and brownie points for a long weekend pass for some much needed OSS fun. I knew the weather was going to be “changeable” ( read probably pissing down) so I was undecided as to whether I should ride down or take a van. In the past I had always ridden to events because for me a road trip is always better on the bike. This time though a couple of things were telling me perhaps I should take a van. Firstly the rear-sets I had fitted were going to be uncomfortable for a 600 mile round trip( old bastard) and secondly I had removed all of the rear hangers which had been where my panniers had secured before. So I was going to have to travel very light despite having to camp for 3 days. In the end I hired a transit for the 3 days and stuck the Kat in the back. I figured the van would also double as my accommodation while I was there.
So late on the Friday morning I loaded up the van and set off for Castle Donington. It was nearly 6pm when I got there thanks to road works but I got there just as Dave was arriving and I unloaded the bike and put it on the stand ready for the next morning. The loading and unloading along with hall security is run with military precision. I felt totally at ease leaving the bike there overnight.
I made my way down to the camp site and set up the van, which took approximately 2 minutes. It was was about now that I realised I hadn’t eaten all day and I had already consumed a few beers setting up camp ( as you do)I was now starving but I had no food. I couldn’t drive anywhere now due to accidentally inhaling a couple of beers. Everything near by was now closed. ( note I had brought beer but no food- priorities) At this point an old guy in a Laverda T-shirt shouted that if anyone wanted some chilli they were welcome. I wandered over to find a full on camp kitchen with around 15 Laverda owners sitting round a long table tucking into chilli. I sat down and ate 2 bowls and drank the beer they also kindly offered.The old guy that had invited me asked me “what bike do you have” I replied “a Suzuki Katana” He then replied enthusiastically “oh I have a Bandit 1200″ Before I could stop myself I looked at him and said ” it’s OK I wont hold that against you” there was a momentary silence then the whole table burst into fits of laughter. The old guy then called me a “sweaty sock” which is Southerner slang for a Jock or Scotsman and friendly banter ensued. These guys were great. I had never met them before but they fed me and we exchanged good willed insults until I made my excuses and left.
By the time I got back to Camp OSS the rest of the troops had arrived and started to set up. I helped Fod erect his 16 man tent for him and his wife. Then we settled down for some more beers and good humoured piss taking. Fod had bought himself new “special black opps stealth crocs” especially for that weekend. Shortly after that Yoshi Johnny turned up in his mobile house/garage. Dave and Mark had already set up camp and Tom ( Havoc) had just arrived on his bike and we were soon joined by JP. The most important thing was that the weather was perfect for outdoor living. Pretty soon everyone was set up and the beers was flowing . We would finish the stand in the morning and the show opened to the public at 10am.
The Show itself was great with lots of very cool classic Jap, European and British bikes on display. The weather on Saturday, like the Friday , was perfect. Sunny and hot. I spent my time between the stand and the track side. The OSS stand stuck out like a sore thumb because there was such an eclectic mixture of machinery. Everything from Yoshi Johnny’s Lockhart race slabby through to Paul’s “cursed” GSXR powered chop. Tom Davidson’s EZ got lot’s of sideways looks too. On the Sunday I was asked to place a rosette on the bike that we wanted to put forward as the best of our stand. I wanted to put Tom’s EZ forward but apparently this didn’t go down well with the VJMC organisers so in the end I opted for Rossco’s GSXR 750 slabside. It looks at first glance like a standard bike but has 17″ 3 spokes and an upside down font end from a K series GSXR.Very understated but the sort of bike we would all like to take home. I could have equally chosen Paul’s turbo Bandit but the fact that I’m collecting bits for a slabby 11 build myself tainted my choice a bit so it was always going to be between YJ’s Lockhart race replica. and Rossco’s tweaked Slabby. In the end I decided that because YJ was already a minor celebrity that the honour should go to Rossco. The pictures in the gallery below are curtsey of Mark Parry ( who Dave affectionately referred to as his show bitch) Great Pictures Mark, thanks.
Tom and I also took advantage of our exhibitors wrist bands and and took a wander round the race paddock on the Sunday to ogle all the the race bikes.It’s easy to see how people can become addicted to the life of racing. The Paddock is a thriving community all in it’s own right. The smell of Castrol R mixed with BBQ made me wish I could move into this neighbourhood and put down some routes.
On the Saturday night it was more of the same OSS camp fire banter. Dave and Fod combined culinary forces and cooked up a first class BBQ before we wandered to the pub in the dark, a couple of miles away. On the way back we were all impressed at how
unaware unafraid Tom was of oncoming traffic. We were also witness to some mindless vandalism which as an OSS official I cannot condone.
The highlight of the show for me was on the Sunday. When all the weekend’s racing was complete we were invited to do 3 laps of the track led by none other than Fast Freddie Spencer, Nail Mackenzie, Steve Parish and Ron Haslam. The OSS team were right up at the front of the pack looking like they had taken a wrong turn and ended up on a race circuit.
In Fairness, Steve Parish and Nail Mackenzie were both on Fizzies and the laps were controlled by a pace car to protect some of the vintage mopeds that would be bringing up the rear. Nonetheless the first lap saw things get quite sporty. None of the safety measures stopped Paul running Steve Parish and his Fizzy onto the grass with his slightly larger Turbo Bandit powered ET on one corner.
It was quite surreal to be riding round Donington Park on my Katana in my Jeans and a leather jacket with Yoshi Johnnie on one side of me and Freddie Spencer on the other. It got more bizarre when big Paul flew through the middle of us on his GSXR powered hard-tail chop. He got a sideways WTF turn of the head from Freddie followed by a nod of acknowledgement. Fod managed a full 3 laps on his X7 without any issue and Dave never got to ride his Katana but still looked as happy as a pig in shit to be riding a 750 slingshot he brought with him.
So after the laps were done I loaded up the bike into the van said my fond farewells to my OSS friends, new and old and set off for the 300 mile trip back home. I had a few hours and the open road to reflect upon what had turned out to be an epic weekend with a wonderful bunch of like minded people. I was still pinching myself to make sure I hadn’t imagined the track action and I laughed out loud several times on the long journey home as my mind replayed some of the weekend’s events. I know that getting out from behind a keyboard into the real world and meeting actual people isn’t for everyone but I would urge anyone who wanted to extend their involvement and enrich their enjoyment of the world of OSS to make the effort to do just that.. I will definitely be coming back to Donington next August. My thanks to Dave and Mark for all of the effort they put into the stand and the excellent hospitality they extended to me. Thanks Guys!
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