24thAugust and the team set off to Walters Arena, Port Talbot, South Wales for the iconic 24hr off-road motorbike race which is Dawn to Dusk.
With its debut race in 2001, this event originally only ran a 12hr race which ran from 7am to 7pm, however with numbers increasing they introduced a 24hr race. Starting at 7pm Saturday the riders set off in a Le Mans style start. This lead riders out onto a 7 mile night lap which ran until 6am before opening up to the full 14 mile day lap, with the 12 hour race joining at 7am and the 6 hour race joining at 1pm. The chequered flag then comes out at 7pm on the Sunday to finish all races.
The team arrived at 5pm on the Friday in the rain (which fell for several hours) before finally drying up early Saturday morning. As the sun rose the event began to burst into life, with the start of the youth races at 9am there were bikes revving up throughout the pits. The team spent most of the morning and afternoon getting the riders signed on and the bikes through scrutinering before heading out for a track walk before lunch. The afternoon saw the sun shine for a few hours, whilst the lads got some last minute sleep (or more just lying there wondering what they’d got themselves in for).
6:15pm Bungy and Ollie fired up their Yamaha WR250F’s for the final time before the siren at 7pm. This was it, no turning back now. The rest of the team made their way up to the top of the first hill climb section, over looking the start straight and main quarry loop. With all the riders lined up and engines warm, the siren sounded for the experts, followed by the vets, and then the clubman category, with the remaining categories after. Both riding in the 24hr solo clubman category Bungy and Ollie were off, and with 24hrs of racing ahead they wisely chose not to battle for the hole shot as the bikes raced across the lose quarry floor and into the first corner. Despite this, Ollie couldn’t hold of for long and was soon up on the pegs fighting his way through the field, clearing the motocross section and heading into the off cambered rocky hill section. With the rest of the team cheering on from the side line, the lads had soon disappeared along with the rest of the field, and were out on the first of many laps.
The tactics were rather simple; don’t crash and pit every hour, or there abouts. Small but often stops would allow the lads to pace themselves and for the team working hard in the pits to ensure the bikes were running good.
Both riders had a strong start and 8:30 they came in to fit lights and battery packs ready to take on the course throughout the night. Running the main headlight and a single helmet mounted light seemed to hold up rather well, freeing up spare batteries and thus allowing them the option to run a brighter light.
10:30pm and Ollie came in for his third pit of the night, buzzing on adrenaline and with the bike running well he had moved into 3rdplace.
As midnight came and went the lads continued to put lap after lap in, stopping for no more than 5-10 minutes at a time the pit crew worked hard to ensure they were fed, camel backs were topped up, bikes re-fuelled and everything was good to go for another hour plus. It was at this point Ollie had not only caught second place, but passed and opened a gap on them.
It was around 4am when Bungy came in for another pit stop. Unfortunately due to a slight mechanical issue with his lights he was forced to take an extended pit stop whilst the batteries recharged, and used this time wisely to get some rest. Shortly after Ollie came in for yet another brief pit stop. With team manager Bill on the grave yard shift he fuelled up, changed headlight batteries and heated up some hot food. It was at this point when the riders were beginning to feel tired, however not even half way yet they had to suck it up and crack on. Passing through the timing zone once more Ollie was back out on another night lap.
As the sun began rise Bungy waisted no time in warming up his Yamaha and getting straight back out there. Knowing he had some ground to make up he pushed hard and put in some very consistent, strong laps. With the track beginning to liven up again the lads continued to make the most of the short night lap, before they opened the day lap at 6am. Getting 2 big laps under his belt it was time for Ollie to come in to the pits yet again. This time stopping for a 40 minute nap in the process to re-charge and recover before gearing up and heading back out. This extended pit stop had allowed the 12hr race to start and spread out, therefore avoiding all the carnage.
8 am and the heavens opened. The rain was falling and the drainage ditches throughout the woodland and quarry were filling up fast. By lunch time the marshals had redirected the riders around the once shallow streams which now had water levels well over your axles, and the rocks underneath beginning to move.
It was nearly time for the 6hr race to begin. Unfortunately due to a few issues team rider Mitch wasn’t able to line up on the start line. Absolutely gutted he grabbed a jacket and came out to the main arena to cheer the other two on.
Shortly after Ollie came in only to be met by an ecstatic pit crew. “You’ve done it Ollie, you’ve taken the lead!” Shouted Mike as he got the bike up on the stand.
Several hours passed by and unfortunately Bungy had picked up an injury in his forearms and was forced to take slightly longer pit breaks. Nonetheless he worked hard out on the course, and the results showed. He had pushed up into the top 10 and was now riding 9th. Fortunately the rain began to back off slightly and the visibility and moral throughout the pits began to increase. Non more than for Ollie who had now opened up a 3 lap lead on 2ndplace.
5Pm came and went, and it wasn’t long before the lads had passed the 23hr mark, and were now out on what could be their final lap. Having taken a couple of longer pit stops in order to stretch off and catch his breath Ollie was now pushing hard once again, ensuring that there was no possible chance of 2ndplace catching him. Flying into the pits at 6:45pm and with a slack chain Ollie was eager to make it through the timing before 7pm and take another lap. The pit crew on the other hand, had another plan. With several laps separating 2ndplace and himself, it was impossible for the distance to be made up in the time remaining. According to the live feed coming from the TV screen at the timing station, Ollie had won his category and Rob was currently in 9th, although still out on the track, cementing that position.
Finally, after 24hrs of arduous, and intense racing it was 7pm. The chequered flag was out and both riders had completed the 24hr Dawn to Dusk race!
9:00pm and team rider Ollie Harcombe stepped up onto the top step of the podium for the 24hr clubman solo race. Having put in 48 laps and completed an incredible 720 miles through the welsh quarries and forestry he had also claimed 3rdplace overall in the solo category, beaten by one Expert and one Vet. Bungy had held onto his top 10 and claimed 9thplace, covering 360 miles and 24 laps.
Roll on next year, and don’t forget you can find us on Facebook @ Royal Navy Royal Marines Enduro Team.