And they're off...

Brands Hatch, March 4: The domestic clubbie season commences on two wheels

As I peel from the deserted A20 through Brands Hatch’s main gate, Radio 5 Live is discussing England’s ‘expected’ victory against the West Indies in the opening one-day cricket international – a symbol of how the balance of power has shifted. It’s not the only thing that has altered in recent years: time was that the first weekend in March heralded the dawn of a new car racing season, but no more. Bikers, though, were primed for action on a day featuring seven qualifying sessions and 16 races – a decent return for anybody that booked an advance ticket for £10 (including complimentary programme).

Despite many riders testing the previous day, there was some evidence of rust. Brothers Kade and Luke Verney collided on the warm-up lap ahead of the opening race, triggering a slight delay, and later three riders fell simultaneously at Paddock – again while making their way to the grid. For the most part, though, it was slickly run and embellished by the post-race camaraderie that seems to exist only on two wheels. One accepts that it’s harder for car racers to exchange high fives immediately after the chequered flag, but I’m not sure many would if they could.

Highlights included the unwavering commitment of quicker riders as they picked their way between hesitant backmarkers and the joyously acrobatic Hondas in the Thundersport 500 series, which the promoter describes as, “Absolutely the cheapest way to go road racing. A whole race package can be picked up for less than the cost of a top-of-the-range helmet and gloves.” That probably explained the 57-bike entry.

And being able to stand to the inside of Surtees, with riders flashing by a couple of metres away, eyes staring through me towards a prescribed point a few seconds in their future, remains one of the most intoxicating benefits of a media tabard.