July 2018 saw the Royal Navy Royal Marines Enduro Team take on rounds 6 and 7 of the British Enduro Championship over in the Isle Of Man.
Team manager Bill Callister, along with team riders Ollie Harcombe, and Michael Blewett set about the 3am start from Plymouth to catch the ferry over from Liverpool on Friday morning to go and compete in the two day time card enduro.
The race would start both days from the famous T.T Grandstand, with over 200 riders ranging from first timers through to world class professionals gridded in the pit lane, before embarking on the 6 hour + race through a mixture of green lanes, private woodland, and open mountain tops, with road stages included throughout.
Round 6 – Saturday
10:11 Saturday morning and Michael Blewett set off down the pit lane, showing off for the cameras he cruised past on his rear wheel. This marked the start of the first transition stage for the day. (A transition stage gives riders a set time to make it from A to B, with time penalties for arriving early or late.) Unfortunately for team rider Mike no level of preparation could have prevented the gear box issues he suffered only minutes into the first transition. Stuck in 1stgear for the remaining 20 miles he managed to get to the end of the transition, arriving at Carnagrie in the south where he was able to pull into the pits to assess the issue. Met by Bill along with Bri and Al from the Road Race Team (who were competing in the Southern 100 road race) they worked hard to try and get the bike back up and running. Defeated by an internal breakage Mike was forced to retire early from day one.
Meanwhile Ollie was out on course and taking no prisoners as he fought his way through the first of 5 special tests that day. With a mixture of fast grass fields, tight turns through the pine forests, large vertical tyres, stream crossings, steep drops and testing climbs, test one was there to push even the best of riders. Choosing to take on all bar one of the hard line options throughout the 4.5 mile off road special test he set the second fastest time of his category. Minutes after timing in at the end of test one, he clocked into the start of the second transition. With 1 hour 22 minutes to make it to the start of the second test it was time to think tactful about how to take on the lengthy transition. With miles of off-road mountain passes, woodland and streams to negotiate, Harcombe wanted to conserve as much energy as possible, and look after the bike but still making it in on time. Fortunately he hit the time spot on, and continued to ride a successful race throughout the day. Not picking up any time penalties he had set a perfect time card, now it rested on his timings from the remaining 4 tests.
The second test was very different to the first with a completely natural track and large wood section the track was for ever changing. Corners became faster as the loose forest floor burmed up nicely, and with ruts deepening and tree roots being exposed, there were some rather interesting line choices evolving as the roots persistently tried to send the bike off in different directions. Stepping up his game after the first test Ollie sent his Yamaha over every hard line and around each corner as fast as he could, setting the fastest lap times of his category for the rest of the day. Battling hard throughout the 6 hours and taking on the blistering heat which was relentless throughout the whole weekend, Ollie secured himself a 1stplace finish for day one, with a 7 minute gap on second place.
Meanwhile the team had been hard at work with Mikes KTM back at the pits. After locating the broken shaft within the gear box, they were able to weld it back together with the help from one of the sidecar teams at the Southern 100. All for the price of a few beers Mike had his KTM back ready to race.
Round 7 – Sunday
The team awoke early Sunday morning with hopes for a more successful day of racing.
With an earlier start time of 09:03 and 09:05 Mike and Ollie embarked on day two and round 7 of the British Enduro Championship.
Fortunately Mike made it to test one with no issues. However having not ridden the track Saturday, he was at a massive disadvantage with the rest of his field knowing the track. He was left riding blind for the first time. He knew he had his work cut out and would have to push hard throughout the day to secure himself a good result. Riding strong throughout the first couple of transitions and test stages he was looking good, and the bike was performing for him.
The start of transition 3 was the only “tight check” of the day.Due to the open road stages in previous transitions, safety dictates that riders must not be pushed for time, however The Tight Check between Cringle Plantation and South Barrule quarry was the exception to this, with no road sections it was the only transition where riders were given as little as 18 minutes to complete the section meaning there is nothing to gain over rivals but plenty to be lost in terms of time penalties.This section started in Cringle plantation and consisted of several miles of weaving through trees, hopping over stone walls and ripping down dusty stone lanes. Exiting the plantation riders had to negotiate arguably the most technical section of the weekend. A somewhat short but intense rock section through South Barrule quarry. With jagged rocks scattered everywhere and a few gnarly climbs and off cambered descents riders were testing their trials skills as they pushed on to the end of the 25 minute transition.
Ollie made into the time zone with only 3 seconds to spare and therefore keeping his clean time card record going. Unfortunately for Mike he suffered a few issues, pushing hard through the tight check he high sided himself whilst cornering on one of the dusty stone track. Slightly sore he cracked on to complete the transition slightly out of time, but in one piece.
After another long day of arduous racing both riders finished on a high. Unfortunately Mikes time penalty did cost him a few places, however with only 2 riders completing the stage in the time given it was nothing to be shy of. He had worked hard throughout, and secured himself a respectable 9thplace finish. In the meantime Ollie had kept up the fast pace he set on Saturday to claim 1stplace, and taking the overall weekend win for the team in his category.
A massive thank you to the Southern Motorcycle Club for hosting a fantastic race, to team manager Bill for darting all over the island to meet the riders at different stages with food water and motivation. The team would also like to say a massive thank you to Bri and Al from the RNRMRRT for their support along with the sidecar team from the Southern 100.
The team is always looking for new members, fins us on Facebook – Royal Navy Royal Marines Enduro Team.