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As seen in issue 253 of 100% Biker

Now you know here in 100% Towers we like to look at any events which has promoted itself as alternative, and Dirtquake has been one of our favourites with all sorts of contraptions being built for racing on a dirt track which shouldn’t race.

Now in its eighth year, and third venue it classifies itself as a motorbike festival centred around “Run what you Brung” flat track racing for all-comers. Originally managed on a shoestring by the folk at Sideburn magazine, it is now run by Golden Goose a media company with corporate support Harley Davidson, who have sponsored the show for a couple of years. There were others such as ITV4, though Sideburn Magazine are still there to support the event, and the Dirt Track Association run the racing. Kings Lynn in Norfolk has been its spiritual home for the last 5 events but now it has moved south to the Arlington Stadium near Eastbourne home of Eastbourne Speedway.

On the Friday they still have the professional racing, which by all accounts was ace, but I was there for the madness which is the various amateur classes on the Saturday.

Not having been for a couple of years it was time to find out if the move of ownership and venue has kept that special magic which was always prevalent at the East Anglian site and early events. So, packing my best waterproofs, and putting rocks in my pocket due to the howling gale, it is summer after all, I headed further south. Stealthily avoiding all the fallen trees on the way.

First thoughts a lot better venue, as parking was better and there were free seats in the covered Grandstand, also the pits/communal area were accessible to all. Which was superb as it was always a shame when the preparation area was closed in Norfolk. This gave us more opportunity to look at the bikes and riders which is as much what this event is for as for the racing. The food stalls were far better than before (even at southern prices ouch) but still with the queues and nice to have some other stalls such as gasoline alley speed shop with their ever-smiling staff.

Now if you haven’t been to flat track racing one of the main memories you will have is the clump clank noise as competitors walk along due to the steel shoe they wear to help them slide the bike to the left. After a while it becomes a comforting sound.

There are various classes from ladies to street tracker and the Harley race, but the ones we love the most are the inappropriate bikes, scooters and choppers. Sadly, the chopper class was down in numbers with only around 5 bikes. But this class certainly had one of the best turned out teams with the Black Widow Pacoima Bike, as in “any which way was loose” and the rider had certainly had far more enthusiasm than skill. There were also several Elvis Presley riders, or are multiple kings elvi? And a banana and pirate amongst others.

The event also has a good turnout of foreign riders and especially amongst the scooters. The pit area was a great place to mingle where there were various food emporiums, stalls and a stage area where there were bands Friday and Saturday. I am sure purists will shudder at a Honda decked in a JPS Norton tank and seat. And for pure madness a full Honda café racer which I last saw at mad mile being used in anger still with its clip ons and rear-sets.

As the wind died down and it turned into a glorious afternoon, there was an enthusiastic children’s bicycle race, followed by the parade lap by all  in fact all around the place there were lots of families which is fabulous. So, finding a seat in the grandstand, I settled down, with ice cream for an afternoon of fun.

The street tracker class was the most hotly contended with lots of heats, though the girls were also giving it there all with some fabulous back of grid to win racing. While there were a few off, there were no major injuries which is great. But for me while the racing was good, and it was fab to see bikes in pits again it seemed to lack that certain chaos that is “Dirt Quake”, but trying to put my finger on it I can’t quite work out why.

Maybe however bad they were I missed the band doing TV themes, we only had musak piped through between races. Also, the craziness of the commentators with their antics between races, which brought the ad-hoc moments to life, it was just a bit clinical. I ralise that police cars and hamburgers or Daleks will never return but they were a crazy distraction. Maybe this is the because of the corporate involvement by Harley Davidson, who like things just so, or the fact of a new team. It was also a little jarring that the commentators, who admitted they were new to such an event were always plugging the need to post on social media where for many there wasn’t even a phone signal. And for an event plugging social media so much there was less of a buzz about the event in the build-up than previous years from the various shops and clubs who often get involved. I have no ideas on numbers, but it did seem down on numbers from a couple of years back and sometimes I wonder if it is because there are so many events on in the south that there’s only a finite pot of cash for such big events, it was quite expensive for a day, and especially if couples or a family.

Steve Parrish kept popping up geeing on the crowd, but the enthusiasm was already there as we all cheered on our favourites, especially for me the black widow who was lapped so many he was just having fun in the true spirit of Dirt quake and the few stars who wobbled around. I have to say I was supporting many older bikes BSA etc as I think anything past 2005 is almost factory fresh and cheating at such an event, he says with a grin.

Being ever the professional I have no ideas on winners, to me anyone who made it round without falling off was a winner to me, I know I would be on the floor from the off. So, a big win for cracking new venue and here’s to some of the quirkiness returning for future events.