Valladolid’ – Spain

With the Valladolid Feira and race meeting being only one week after Bilbao, we all packed up and moved out of the paddock early on the Monday morning and set off in the direction of Valladolid.

My traveling companions also decided that it was now time to move on in their quest to get to Marseille. I took them as far as the major road junction just south of Vitoria-Gasteiz, a convenient point for them to get a lift from vehicles heading in the direction of Zaragoza, Barcelona and eventually the Spanish and French border, near Perpignan.

Some months later when back in England, I received a letter from my young friends telling me their trip through Europe had been a great success and thanking me again for the lift through France to Spain. They also thanked me again for contributing to their travel funds! Enclosed with the letter were some photo’s they had taken of me racing and looking very pale standing on the podium in Bilbao.

Having dropped my passengers off, I now had to put my foot down in the Dormobile to catch up with the Thames vans of Ramon Robinson and Barry Smith with whom I was to travel, in convoy, for the most of the Spanish Series.

Valladolid was already a major commercial and industrial city in the 60’s and it took us some time to find the race organisers office and then the international camping site which they recommended to us in a small town some way out from the race circuit and the centre of the city. The camping site was located in woodland by a river in a most idyllic setting and with a good café and all mod-con facilities. It turned out to be well worth the journey in and out of the city between practicing and the races, to be on this site.

Another real urban street circuit in the very centre of the old city, the circuit comprised of a half mile section of dual carriageway with a hairpin bend at one end. At the other end, there was a turn off into a narrow road in the form of a short S bend linking the dual carriageway to a ‘Plaza’ or Square with a small public park in the centre of the Plaza. The circuit continued around three sides of the Plaza before returning through another short S bend backtrack onto the dual carriageway. There were tram lines running down both sides of the dual carriageway and the surfaces of the two short S bend sections were partly cobbled!

With these track conditions, it was inevitable that we would get some rain and we did! Fortunately, it came as only a short shower during early practice and certainly livened things up for a while!

With my recent experience of riding in the rain at Dundrod, I was feeling more confident than most in these conditions and whilst the circuit remained wet I was at or very near the top, of the practice time sheets in both classes. Unfortunately, this was not to last once the circuit started to dry out!

In the last practice session of the day, an incident occurred which Ramon Robinson recently described as follows:-

“Another memory from Valladolid was from a 125 practice session when I heard your four stroke rumbling close up behind. I tried a new line around one of the cobblestone bends to find better grip when it all broke loose and I went down, to my amazement, I bounced right back up again and carried on! I didn’t know until you told me afterwards back in the paddock, that you were right on the outside of my back wheel preparing to pass when I went down and my right leg went up and kicked your front wheel out from under you!! You thought that I had gone down too until you looked up and saw me disappearing down the road. I don’t know how we got away with all of this back then?”

At the end of a days practice, Barry Smith, Tom Leslie (with pipe) Ramon Robinson, RM (with back to camera) and Andy Rickman, all relax at the Valladolid camp site.

Fortunately going down at a very slow speed with my leg still under the bike I kept the engine running and did not do any damage to myself or the bike so I did not categorise this incident as a crash!

I cannot now remember much about the 125cc race other than it was a hard race for me and I recall gaining another top 6 finish – it therefore came as a bit of a surprise when Jaime Barriga recently sent me a copy of the race report in the “Automovilismo en Espania” indicating I had finished in 3rd position behind Ramon Torras (Bultaco) and Cesar Gracia (Lube –Renn) What I do remember well of the meeting was receiving more prize money at Valladolid than I had anticipated!

Things also started well in the 250 race when I was back to my usual fast starts and after 5 or 6 laps thought I was safe running in 3rd position when suddenly I was passed by Barry Smith on his Aermacchi on the straight as we were approaching the end of dual carriageway hairpin bend.

Besides having better brakes than I had on my Parilla, I soon discovered Barry’s Aermacchi also had better top end performance. Trying as hard as I could to take the place back off him I found I could not get past even on the straight when I had the benefit, for one or two laps, of slipstreaming him. In the end, I lost the tow when trying too hard to keep up I out braked myself at the hairpin bend. By the time I had recovered from my diversion down the slip road, Barry was out of sight!

In a recent (2010) communication from Barry Smith he recorded his memories of the race:-

“I recall charging through the field at Valladolid after a bad start on my 250 Aermacchi and eventually catching up with Franco Farne on the factory Ducati, on the last lap. I led into the final cobblestone corner before the finish with the crowds coming onto the track and only allowing a very narrow racing line, the next thing I knew there was a bump on my rear wheel, Franco either kicked my wheel out or ran into me, I will never know for sure but, I think he kicked my back wheel! I went down on the left side but because we were only travelling slowly due to the crowds of people and the slippery cobblestones, I kept the engine running, lifted the bike up and went on to finish in 2nd place”.

It seems that Barry’s experience on the cobblestone section of the circuit with Franco Farne was almost an exact copy of my earlier encounter with Ramon Robinson in practice, but in my case I am certain Ramon did not intend to kick my front wheel out from under me as there was not any money up for grabs!

At the end of the race, I thought I had finished in 4th or 5th position so rode straight to our parking lot in the paddock. Later when collecting my start and prize money I was very surprised to be presented with a Silver Trophy and the prise money for 3rd place in the 125 or was it the 250cc race?

One very clear memory I have from Valladolid, or more accurately from the small town close to our camp site, was of an incident on the evening of the ‘Running of the Bulls’ Six or more Balls were released and then chased through the town and eventually into a Bull Ring where thirty or more enthusiastic teenagers took on mock fights with the Bulls all at the same time! The biggest problem was that nobody seemed to have informed the Bulls that they were only meant to be mock fights!!

At one point during the evening when sitting with the Colonials on the inner 6 foot high barrier of the Bull Ring, one of our group and I will not divulge his identity here, other than to say he was the only Australian I ever met who spoke with a Cockney accent, pushed two or three of us off the barrier into the arena just as two of the Bulls were charging in our direction! I have never seen motorcycle racers ever move as fast as we did that evening getting out of the arena!

On to the next chapter…Jerez