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Belgian Rally 2003

Belgian Rally 2003 & Rusty in Drag

The Belgium 2003 weekend started with a broken fly screen and a bike still in pieces with less than a
day to go. Fortunately nothing else broke and the bike was serviced and ready for an early 4:30am
start on Friday. The neighbours probably weren’t impressed with such an early wake up call but soon
all the bags were tied securely and I was off. The M5 and M4 were pretty clear and progress to
Swindon for fuel was easy but cold.

I was glad to stop again at Reading to warm up and let the bike settle as the carburettors had been
icing up. At last the sun came up and by the time I hit the M25 all three lanes were full of rush hour
traffic only moving at 60mph. Got to Clacket Lane services by 7:30am and had time to check in with
the missus and grab a coffee.

At 8:05am Davermax and Geoff the Bolt arrived, Geoff complaining about a flat spot at 4000rpm.
Was this a sign of things to come? We waited until 8:25 for Moemax but unfortunately he didn’t
turn up. At last we set off with Geoff leading at an increased pace of 95mph.

Vmaxjon was waiting for us at Maidstone, Nolimit and Kelv had already gone ahead to catch the
earlier train. After fuel and a quick chat we mounted our steeds for a blast along the M20 to Folkestone…

Which lasted a quarter of a mile before Geoff pulled over to the hard shoulder with his bike back
firing furiously. Time ticked away as he pulled all four plugs out and started on the seat, the bike
shaking on the side stand every time a truck went across the bridge. By 9:35am Jon decided to send
Daver and myself on while he and Geoff tried to get the bike going.

Despite not having a screen we did over 100mph all the way to the Tunnel and checked in just in time to
miss the 10:05am train. Luckily it hadn’t actually pulled out so I didn’t have to fork out extra for another
train. Daver had an “open” ticket so he didn’t have the same problem. Incidentally, once past the first
check in bikes can pretty much get on whatever train they like so in future there’s no need to worry
about the specific time. This would have been quite useful to know on the way back.

Somehow we missed the 10:30am train so we boarded the 10:45. The guards gave the bikes a respectful
look, probably only used to seeing racers and Harleys, and we were the only bikes in the whole carriage.
The trip takes 45mins, only 25mins under the sea, which was just enough time to debate weather Geoff
was going to get going again and to plan a route. Geoff had said, “Head for Mech---something or other,
avoid Mach”.

We got off the train in France and pulled into the first filling station, pleased to see two other Vmaxes
waiting there. Despite us missing two trains Kelv, Nolimit and his son Sean had waited. After filling up I
was perturbed to see Daver speaking fluent French to the attendant, good job too because I don’t speak a
 word of it! As it turned out all the foreigners spoke perfect English anyway. Daver and Nolimit between
 them had a pretty good idea where were heading so they led on. After navigating the local roundabouts
for 15mins we were on our way again.

The French motorway was nice and clear and the weather was fine, but a bit windy. Driving on the right
was OK except for one mistake at the campsite later, but the road signs were all different. One said
“Brussels 200” which was a bit of a shock until I realised it was in Km.

The first petrol stop was good fun, we managed to hold up the queue trying to fathom out the pre-pay
credit card pumps. After that the journey sped up a little as the sun really came out and the wind died
down. There were plenty of bikes about and we passed a group of about 20 Harleys. A second stop was
longer as we grabbed some food and drink.

I was starting to get the hang of things and worked my way up to the front, resulting in us missing the turn
off. With Nolimit leading again we soon saw signs for the meeting and we eventually found it at 4:00pm
after almost a 12 hour journey.

We pulled in to register and receive the welcome pack, rode to the car park only to see Jon and Geoff
waving at us in welcome. Somehow they had got ahead despite the breakdown, or did they have evil twin
brothers? It turned out they had found a loose wire behind the battery after an hour of troubleshooting.
They made good time and knew the route so got there ahead of us.

Jon pointed out the cabin where we dumped our gear and I headed out to check the lay of the land.
There was a small bar outside that served beer in ¾ full cups but they only took tokens in payment so I
 bought a handful from the organiser’s tent.

The car park was about ½ full of Vmaxes by this time. Beast from the East, Doug and Rusty had wisely
parked their bikes right opposite the bar where they would get maximum attention and there was plenty
of time for more drink as we watched other bikes arrive, including “H” from Exactrep.

 

As the night came in many people wandered off to join the barbecue and I walked around the rows
and rows of beautifully customised Vmaxes, some even kitted out with fluorescent LEDs lighting up the
engine bays. As well as beer and junk food there were a few stalls selling T-shirts, riding gear, badges,
patches, and bike parts as well as meeting memorabilia. A live band also came out playing various rock covers.

By now the place was really filling up and it was good to meet so many familiar names including Vrooom
and many from the UK club. A good party atmosphere developed with a few beer fuelled burnouts and
donuts. By the time I crashed out onto my bunk I was too drunk to tell if Geoff was snoring or not…

The next day I was woken by the sound of Jon complaining furiously about the smell coming through the
wall next to his bunk. The cabins were fairly well made but there were a few holes in unfortunate places
 and his bunk was right next to the toilet… Apparently Sean was also unhappy with the state of décor and
had re-sprayed the area next to his bunk just as Rusty made off with Geoff’s covers…

I decided to risk the daylight and after breakfast Daver, Nolimit and myself went out looking for fuel.
Pulling straight out of the road outside was interesting as I temporarily forgot to drive on the right… By
the time we got back the place was buzzing with activity and it seemed to be pretty much full of Vmaxes.
There was an hour or so to kill until the ride-out started.

I don’t know exactly where the ride-out marshals led us (Mechelen somewhere) but it was a very well
organised ride through the local countryside along their equivalent of “B” roads. It was an amazing
spectacle with Vmaxes as far in front and behind as you could see, accompanied with a lovely subdued
thunder-like rumble. Many residents and passers by came out to watch the train go by and the marshals
guided us straight through red lights and across zebra crossings. Some marshals held back to stop the
traffic and Daver had a close call as one locked up right along side him as he sped past to try and catch
 up with the head of the train.

There was a false stop next to some irate anglers before a real stop 30miles from base at the edge of a
large lake. This gave plenty of time to look at the other Vmaxes and have a chat and a drink. The trip back
 was more direct and after 15miles we were back. Apparently almost 150 Vmaxes took part.

 

The car park was pretty full when we departed but it was completely full on the return, to the point
where finding a good parking space was difficult. There were again a couple of hours to kill but luckily
 there was no more riding so it was back to the beer seller and chance to look at the Vmaxes some more
 as the band came back on. Discovmax made an appearance and Sean and I had a closer look at his
stereo than we were expecting…

Rusty et al were hiding in the bar and someone said the establishment had run out of vodka at one point.
Lots of people had graduated from the small plastic cups to pint glasses and on to two-pint steins as well.

The organisers had closed each end of the road outside for the rest of the afternoon’s entertainment,
starting with 1/8 mile drag racing. It was good fun watching the spectacle under the sweltering heat,
especially the riders wheelying and burning out at the end of the run. The non-Vmax entries did pretty
 well but the spectators knew what they were there to see. Rusty kept us entertained and told me he had
 a good chance as no one else had flat-slide carburettors. Another chap with Viking horns seemed to be
 able to backfire on command and gave us a good laugh.

Shortly after that the stunt riders came out with some mad scooter riding, two ludicrous custom cars and
four loud sports bikes. At the end of the show they burned out their tires until they popped, but what was
 the surprise alluded to in the timetable?

Again there was a bit of time to kill so we went for a substantial dinner in the main building, a welcome
relief after chips and burgers. The party feeling began to build again as the evening wore on and there
was time to check out the huge number of amazing bikes. “Lawnmower” Max was there as well as “Rally
Raid” Max, a chain drive Max and a blue Max with a beautiful paint job to rival Beast’s. Rusty was a bit
 upset with me when I said that the ride out was the best part of the day. “Sorry – did you say my
performance on the drag strip?” he answered.


By the evening many of the day-trippers had gone but there were still hundreds of people milling about.
The best bike results were announced at 10:00pm, by which time it was dark and most of the winners
were worse for wear… 3rd place didn’t show up but Doug and Beast took second and first in the best
bike categories. Beast sprayed his mount with copious amounts of “champagne” but Doug was only given
a bottle of water!

The UK club got an award for the most turned out, but I think Vmaxchat was pretty close with over 10
 members there (many first timers), and Bent Bones was the furthest travelled. Apparently his missus had
flown part of the way and met him at the airport it was so far. An AC/DC tribute band came on to play
as more bikes came and went, including a naked rider who did a spectacular donut. Eventually the hugely
 anticipated stripper came on for a short turn, there was some question about the gender of last year’s
 but I don’t think anyone was in any doubt this time - including the children at the front! The poor guy
who got dragged up also had a raw deal.

The night ended with a special 10th anniversary firework show. A lot of people went to bed then as
there was a long day ahead, but many stayed out to party some more and were rewarded by surprise
reappearance from the stripper. Sean and Geoff made sure everyone was still awake long into the night
 chatting about dogs and treacle…?

By daylight many people had left but it was still about ¼ full. After breakfast Geoff, Jon, Kelv, Daver,
Nolimit, Sean and myself lined up to depart. We pulled out at 8:10am in light spots of drizzle, the only
bad weather all weekend. The journey back to Calais was much quicker that the outward trip with Geoff
 leading the way. At one point Kelv pulled us over to the hard shoulder with a broken rear brake, but
after checking it over he carried on with the front only.

At the tunnel check-in we each drove to different lanes and unsurprisingly each got a different departure
 time. Daver was first to go so we wished him well and he drove off demonstrating his new “backfiring” trick.
Kelv, Nolimit and Sean were next up but by the time Jon, Geoff and myself drove up to the station we caught
 up with them and travelled back on the same train. The “headmistress” style guard kept her beady eye on us,
after all you know what bikers are like…

Now, Jon is known for taking things easy but on the way back to Maidstone it was pretty draughty keeping
up with him at 115mph. After more fuel we said our goodbyes and drove off. I rode with Geoff for a while
before splitting off onto the M25 towards home. After another long run on the M4 and M5 I got home around
 5:15pm with plenty of time before Corrie started.

Overall it is a very long trip to do in a short weekend. I managed over 800 miles total and that wasn’t the longest
journey with Kelv travelling from Morecambe. There were also some slow parts after the ride out and after the
stunt show with relatively few other attractions on site. It was also a shame to take things easy on the Saturday
 because of the drive home Sunday. It was a very long ride for what was basically a single day event and I would
love to see something longer next time.

However, the party atmosphere was electric and I don’t expect I will ever see as many Vmaxes at the same time
anywhere else. Apparently there were over 500 Vmaxes admitted at the gate with over 350 there at one time.
It was also very well organised, surprisingly easy to arrange and the travelling was straightforward. It was
also cheap, I spent about £80 on petrol, £75 on the crossing and only £70 on beer and food the whole time.

With everyone pledging to meet again at Cheddar I am sure we’ll make it to Belgium next year as well.