37ste Snelheidsprijs van de Noordzee in Oostende
As we told you in our Hengelo report, we decided for this season to travel to the IRRC races one day earlier to start with the Saturday’s practice sessions more relaxed. For the first belgian event the mechanics Nail and Smoke made up their minds to arrive on the Thursday at the North Sea. Nail took the team’s Transit to Cologne, where Smoke joined him and they headed to Oostende. There they got a warm welcome by the successors of the vriendelijk Hotelier Alain Derbaudrenghien, the vriendelijk Hotelier Jo de Clercq and his wife Wendeline. They took over the hotel from Derbaudrenghien, who, how we got to know, has died the year before. For us it seemed like the end of a little tradition. But in the Hotel Primula nothing changed: rooms with the personality of a GDR-hostel, shower in the bed room, lavatory in the staircase. And breakfast could be ordered in the early morning, if required because of an early practice or race schedule. And the card reader still doesn’t work. But the Equipe’s amount of cash is, as we all know, unlimited - or better: the Hotel Primula is located inside the limits.
On Friday, after they enjoyed a substantial breakfast with heart healthy white toast and brioche with raisins, the mechanics visited Fort Napoeleon, an ancient coastal fortress planned by Napoleon Bonaparte - as the name can tell us, but at least not accomplished during his reign; a part of a fortification system, which should save Oostende from an invasion by the English.
After this (for the Equipe37 typical) voyage into advanced civilization the team entered the paddock, where there still was a big choice of places to stay. We searched for a piece of tarmac close to the mains connection and aside a hoarding (because of the wellknown shortage of cash Equipe37 again just had their party tent with them). The marquee became fixed to the hoarding and the Transit and furnished cosy. Nail had his mobile solar bed with him, which he moved through the paddock area, following the orbit of the sun.
In the evening driver Axel arrived, inspected the team’s work and then all went back to the hotel. In the Strandhuis they took a drink, watched (no Arte or 3sat was available in the hotel) BBC: „Friday night with Jonathan Ross“ and went to bed then.
Practice took place in perfect weather conditions, what meant, that Nail had to do all the work on his own, because Smoke suffered from the heat. For Axel the bike in combination with the track was new and he was simply amazed, when he discovered, that the start and finish straight has been shortened quite a lot and went into a 90-degree-corner followed by the harbour warehouses. But Axel did not just sign on for the IRRC, but also for the international belgian superbike championship; so he had enough opportunities for practice.
The rider criticized the soft front brake; so the team changed the brake pads and bleeded the whole system. But it didn’t help, because the right caliper showed trails caused by the disc - which did not run in the center of the caliper but more to the right hand side. Without a moment’s hesitation the mechanics mounted the discs from the rim with the rain tyre, which turned out to be no solution. So the discs went back to the rain wheel and the wet rubber has been replaced by a dry tyre. With these settings Axel went into the first race.
The first heat for the belgian championship was the final chord of the Saturday, too. And the improvised setting on the bike and Axel’s efforts during the practice sessions turned out to be successful: Axel received in a hard battle as an ordinary guest rider in an exquisite competitive field (Danny Lanoo and Victor Gilmore) his first points!
This success Equipe37 celebrated - following another little tradition - in the restaurant Sun Beach with a marvellous view on sea and sunset. We ordered a delicious fiske-platen and Oysters as starter, of course.
Sunday morning the sound of rain waked us up. Not cats and dogs, but a wet race could be possible. First we had our breakfast, while Jo told us some funny stories around his Rallye Escort, checked out and drove to the paddock. The first heat for the IRRC would be quite late and the schedule has been postponed anyway, so we let the dry tyres on the R 1 for the moment. All natives forecasted better weather! Meanwhile the sophistic mechanics analysed - without assistance of the dutch branch - the cause of the brake problems: The hub of the brake disc on the (original!) rim hasn’t been milled down to the correct size; so the disc sat outside the center of the caliper. The rim has been rejected. Now the team missed a spare front wheel!
When the IRRC has been told to the grid, the team decided after raising the eyes to the black sky to use wet tyres. Nail went fearless though the heavy showers for the race service, where unfortunately everything stood still: power failure! So Axel really missed the first race of the day, although his road racing experience made him more suitable to a wet race than most of the other riders. A pity for him and the german team in the IRRc’s nations cup. Later a wet tyre could be fixed and Axel went for the second race in the belgian championship. Now the other competitors had an advantage with the slippery track; so the things didn’t run as well as the day before for the Equipe37. But at least, Axel was back on the road again!
In the lunch break the sun came out, very hesitant at first, but it started to shine. The winds form the sea helped to dry up the tarmac, too. So Nail was on his way to the race service for the third (or fourth?) time. They had electrical power now, but a broken down compressor. We missed the enduro-rider Gary „Dazler“ Dalzell a lot, who can change a tyre with two screwdrivers. In the end we found a racing team with it’s own tyre changing facilities, so the front wheel could be fixed just in time, but for the tyre warmer it was too late. After a so-so rid Axel got just 8 points for the IRRC championship.
For a big farewell party the team had no spare time, because all members had to get home to earn cash on Monday again for racing. So they hurried up to pack the van and sped home, ignoring the belgian traffic rules at all. In the end everybody came home safe and sound. For the Equipe37 now a longer break begins, which will be useful to get the R 1 in an immaculate status again and check and arrange the equipment. Afterwards we will travel (from 23rd to 25th of July) to Belgium again. Our destination will be Chimay this time, where they have no fish but Trappist’s beer.