For most of December it looked as if this would be one of the driest Wild & Woolly’s on record. The massive storms and floods that battered the British Isles in the three days prior to Christmas however meant that was not the case. It was still dry compared with some years before the start and the water levels in the river were low. The temperature never rose much above 3oC all day, but the sun shone and a record crowd of approximately 5-6 thousand turned up from the surrounding villages to once again witness this historic event.
For this year there was not only a new track layout but also a rejuvenation for the entire event. There was more enthusiasm for the race than ever, a full line up of riders and a real buzz in the pits. Practise went smoothly with most riders completing their two laps relatively unscathed. It became clear towards the end that crossing three would as usual prove to be the difficult one. Despite widening and rebuilding it during the summer it proves a test for all but the best. A mixture of riding techniques make it hazardous as some chose to drop in and ride through, while others attempt to jump it and bounce of the far bank.
At precisely 11am the starting flag went up for the traditional dead engine start and the eerie silence was broken as the machines fired into life and headed for the first corner. Twice previous winner Jack Lee lead from start, arriving at the first water crossing with a comfortable advantage. Catching him towards the end of the first lap was Michael McClurg, but as he attacked the whoops after the canal side hill the bike swapped violently before spitting him off and bending his bars down. This required an immediate pit stop losing the best part of a lap to the leader. Ten time previous winner Ryan Griffiths also crashed on lap one and was forced out of the race with a broken clutch lever. Swapping his bike for a microphone, Ryan then climbed the PA tower and assisted with the commentary for the remainder of the race.
The early leader’s brother Chas Lee was now in second followed by James Barnwell and Neil Prince. By lap three James Barnwell had moved up to second place with Neil Prince in third. Neil tried in vain to hold off Jack Lee for a lap or so before he forged past to go a lap ahead. James Barnwell went down on lap three and also broke off his clutch lever, but managed to get going again and carry on without one. James somehow managed to develop a no-stop technique that saw through to the end of the race. As Jack Lee came round for his sixth lap Neil Prince went missing from second place. Consistent riding from Chas Lee saw him promoted back to second at this point, with James Barnwell running in an incredible third. Jon Lee was fourth for a while, making it an incredible three out of the top four for the Lee family although he was unable to keep it going to the finish.
Around the three quarter distance the leader went down hard tweaking his already injured knee, but he was soon up and going again and able to ride it off. After an the hour of racing the chequered flag went out to Jack after a cold and wet 17 laps. He finished three laps ahead of the entire field and in total command of the race. Brother Chas finished second on 14 laps, with the clutchless James Barnwell completing 13 for an impressive third overall. Fourth place went to another Woolly veteran Rob Saunders who completed 11 laps. John Abbott and Matt Willis finished fifth and sixth respectively after 40 river crossings each, both on 10 laps.
Congratulations to all the riders who took part in this historic event once again, and particularly to Jack who led for the entire race and never looked like he could have been beaten.
- Jack Lee- 17 laps
- Chas Lee- 14 laps
- James Barnwell- 13 laps
- Rob Saunders- 11 laps
- John Abbott- 10 laps
- Matt Willis- 10 laps
Full results on the club website once verified
Report: Fraser Law