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Tuesday, 23 July 2019 20:12

The Final Battle Featured

Randy Monroe The final race of the season would take place in North Battleford and I had two weeks to prepare.

By now I had learned that there was more to racing than just showing up at the track on the scheduled weekend.  Preparation had to involve practise time and basic motorcycle maintenance.  I tried to get out to the practise track at least twice a week in the ensuing days.

The track we had laid out was about 30 minutes from home but getting there on a week day was a bit of a pain as I had to grab a quick bite after work, load the bike then drive to the track and unload before getting in an hour or so of hard laps before reversing the whole process, shower and turn in.  That’s why I started a routine of practise on weekends and wrenching on week days.

Maintenance methods were something that I mostly picked up from the motorcycle shop mechanics and other racers at the track.  Just learning the basics, like how to oil and adjust the chain, clean and oil the air filter and check tires and spokes were all new to me.  I still hadn’t begun my millwright apprenticeship training so even common hand tool selection and use was foreign territory.  I do admit though that I quickly learned metric conversion since all motocross bikes were millimetres, litres and cc’s.

My 1972 Yamaha was performing well and I was pleased with its reliability. That doesn’t normally come from such a highly modified machine and was a good part of whatever success I had so far this season. I had flogged the bike through rain soaked, sloppy mud tracks and dry dirt terrain filled with clouds of choking dust.  Even the power-sucking sand hills that marked the Saskatoon and North Battleford venues didn’t faze the 175.  Since I had replaced my original ‘70 model with the newer one I had not had a single DNF and all of my finishes were in the top 4.  Obviously, I had the machine to win and now the rest was up to me.   

The other racers were not sitting idly by, though.  Everyone that was chasing the championship was improving and more riders were showing up to compete in this exciting motor sport that was new to Western Canada -  one of the original extreme sports.  I’ve mentioned before about the 175 Kawasaki’s that were potent racers in stock form.  This made them popular with new riders and more of them were showing up at the start lines hungry for a piece of the final results.  The challenge was mounting and it was imperative to fiercely fight off the growing pack so as to finish strong and have a shot at the Junior 200cc Championship.

Storm clouds gathered in the days leading up to the final clash.  Torrents of rain dumped on the track and inundated the entire area as the race date approached.  Powerful winds whipped through the prairie fields threatening major damage to crops, trees and buildings.  I was dreading the trip to North Battleford but couldn’t miss this final battle.  Every point counted and there would be no more chances to make up ground.   

Thankfully, the storm passed by Friday afternoon and it was all a go for the race day on Sunday.  Actually the heavy rains are beneficial to a sand track.  It helps keeps any dust down and creates a racer’s favourite friend – TRACTION!   

My preparations were complete and all that was left was the trip north on Saturday morning where I would once again stay with friends after the day’s practise that turned into a bit of a cross country ride as Mel Ross,  the top senior class rider led a few of us on an excursion through some of the sand hills surrounding the area where the track was located.  That served to ease some of the tension I had felt going into this all important final showdown.  The traction was superb and was an advantage to my machine as its superior power wouldn’t be lost in wheelspin on a drier, slippery sand course – it felt like a rocket ship -  so it only took a few laps of practise to boost my confidence for the next day’s race.

Sunday morning I was up early, eager to get to the track and ensure that there would be nothing left to chance in the day’s preparation.  Fuel tank topped up with premix, spokes and tire pressures checked, all the little things that helped keep my mind off the nerves that were building.  Finally it was time to pull on the leathers, jersey, boots and helmet and Prairie Dusters bib – gloves were last.  Fuel petcock on, gearbox in neutral, clutch in, a bit of choke and jump on the kickstarter.  BRRINGGG, DING DING screamed from the high pipe stinger as I revved the Yamaha, music to my ears.  Time to head for the start line.

Twelve other riders joined me, strung out in a ragged line.  I was on the far right, knowing this would give me the best line to carry speed through the critical first corner.  The nerves built again as seconds ticked away.  My toes dug into the sand, I crouched over the tank as the starter gave the “ready” signal. Snick into 1stgear, clutch in, revs building to shriek, then BAM!  Drop the clutch and I’m gone, slamming up through the gears as I blast towards the gully with the howl of a dozen bikes driving me on as they were hot behind me.  I held my line and muscled the Yamaha over the lip of the gully, down and straight back up then the hard left.  Whew, I finally remembered to breath as I rocketed towards the jump on the back straight, flew over it and heeled the bike over for the S-bends before grabbing a handful of throttle, front wheel clawing at the air as I headed to the next corner.  The track in front of me was clear.  I was in the lead!!   

Lap after lap I tore around the hills, gullies and berms, twisting everything I could out of the motorcycle.  At times I could hear the snarl of a Kawasaki bearing down on me.  “Keep to your lines, hit your brake points, stay in rhythm” went through my mind. “Concentrate!”  Last lap flag.  I kept up my furious pace until the final straight when I knew I had the first moto win as no one could out run me in a drag race.  Checkers flew and my mind raced.  I had done what I needed so far but there were three more motos, three more tests of me and my bike.

Second moto and I streaked to another holeshot but this time another rider muscled by in the tight S-bends.  The battle was on!  I was charging hard and keeping right on his rear tire as we ripped ‘round the track, gritty sand sprayed from his rear tire straight into my face.  I hounded him for the rest of the moto, sticking my front tire near enough that he could hear me breathing down his neck as I hoped for a bobble or any mistake that would let me squeeze by.  It wasn’t to be as he held on for the second moto win.  Two more to go.   

We traded wins again, I won the third and number 24 squeaked by me in the fourth and final moto to take the overall win (his last moto win counted as a tie breaker) and I settled for second on the day.  I had no way of knowing at that time what the championship standings were.  I believe that I was the only rider in the 200cc Junior class that had made it to every race that year and had finished well in all of them so now it was just a waiting game until the final results were announced.

That day wouldn’t come for several weeks.  The SMXA had decided to keep the points totals secret until they were unveiled at the first annual awards dinner.  I don’t recall anticipating what my final position would be as I waited for the event - I was just happy that I had raced a good campaign and loved every minute of it.  I had met some of the greatest people at the track, with the Prairie Dusters and many would become lifelong friends.   

Finally the day came for the awards dinner and we headed to the hall and now I was getting some butterflies.  A great banquet was provided – the usual roast beef or chicken and trimmings but the dessert was going to be: trophies!  I recall some of the winners were:  Mel Ross 1stin 250 Senior with Rod Yano 2nd.  I believe that John Perret was 1st in the 400 class but that is all I remembered outside my own 200 Junior class.   

The MC announced the winners starting at 3rd – a school teacher from Biggar who rode a Kawasaki 175 Bob Weenk, 2nd– Doug Sparrow another Kawasaki guy.  And the winner by one narrow point after a full season Yamaha mounted – Randy Munroe.  I was thrilled.  People actually were cheering and applauding!  No speech, just huge relief and a lot of pride in what had been a successful first season.   

How long would it be until my next one?

- Randy Munroe

Follow my 50+ year history with motorcycles from my first ride.

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Last modified on Sunday, 28 July 2019 18:31

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