23 Jun 2014

Bike Racing At Castle Combe And Meeting John McGuinness - The Perfect Sunday

Last Sunday I went to watch the Castle Combe Grand National Motorcycle Race Meeting.  It was a brilliant day.

Castle Combe Grand National Motorcycle Race Meeting

Looking for something to do on a sunny summer Sunday I checked the internet. Local to me were a Porsche day at Beauliea or bike racing at Castle Combe.  Racing won out over static displays so I headed on down to Castle Combe on the bike on Sunday.

I avoided the M4 and rode my Triumph Street Triple along the A4 through Hungerford, Marlborough and Chippenham. 60 miles in 60 minutes and a fantastic ride.  The day had started well.

I hadn't realised it but the race meet was the first two day motorcycle meeting at Castle Combe in a decade.  There would be racing all day on Saturday and Sunday with varied and packed fields, and there were a couple of big names demonstrating classic bikes.

It was only the second time I'd ever been to Castle Combe and the first time was for a steam and vintage rally.  It's a wonderful little circuit.  I parked the bike up and 30 yards later was on the grass banking overlooking Quarry Corner.  

It was lunchtime and I was starving so I walked slowly around the corner as the morning's penultimate race was taking place, found a burger stand and paid only £4 for a massive bacon cheeseburger. 

The last race before lunch was called Sound of Thunder.  The bikes were loud and the leaders raced for all they were worth.  Next up was a demonstration of some old bikes. 

Woah! John McGuinness on Mike Hailwood's old 6-cylinder Honda with Steve Parrish on a 500cc Honda 4 and David Hailwood on his dad's Ducati 900.

Afterwards the track went quiet for lunch so I wandered down through the paddocks to the pits.  The paddocks stretched out over three fields. With so many races and so many racers there were bikes, gazebos, vans, tents and blokes in racing leathers sitting in deck chairs everywhere.

Petrolhead nirvana. All race paddocks should be like this.

I found the race control building and went to check out the race paddock. Oh. My. God. There was John McGuinness.  He, Steve Parrish and David Hailwood were chatting with the press and marshals. After a few minutes they all came out of the race paddock and John McG was besieged by fans.  He stopped to talk with people, sign autographs and even shook hands with people who asked. 

He seemed a thoroughly decent bloke and had apparently spent 3 hours that morning sat at a trestle table signing autographs.
John McGuinness at Castle Combe Grand National Motorcycle Race Meeting

I watched the afternoon's racing at variously Folly, Avon Rise, Quarry and Farm straight.  All the viewing areas were great and the racing was superb, although a few of the back markers really shouldn't have been on track with some of the more experienced racers.

One chap was lapped on the second lap and didn't lean at all in to corners. Bit of a danger there, maybe he shouldn't be racing at all.

At the end of the afternoon we were all suntanned and had been blessed with a great day of racing and the presence of the greatest living motorcycle road racer.

A top day out.

I just wish I'd taken my camera instead of just my iPhone.  The photos could have been so much better.

John McGuinness and David Hailwood

Steve Parrish

David Hailwood on Mike Hailwood's Ducati 900
David Hailwood on Mike Hailwood's Ducati 900

By Matt Hubbard