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The 86th Wild & Woolly, Boxing Day 2011

The 86th running of the world’s oldest off-road motorcycle race saw a few changes for this year, with both a new venue and a new start time. Airfield Farm, Market Harborough proved a perfect alternative venue for the traditional Boxing Day mudfest. Whilst the track didn’t have as much standing water as the traditional Blisworth venue, it proved extremely challenging.  There were lots of new sections added to the circuit making it as spectacular as ever. The traditional dead-engine start was delayed by one hour to allow spectators time to arrive at the new venue, and arrive they did in their thousands. By the time the flag dropped the crowds were bigger than ever, estimated to be between three and four thousand.

2010’s winner Jack Lee hit the front almost immediately, and his extreme enduro skills shone through as he made the going look easy. Following him on lap one was Michael McClurg, followed by nine time race winner Ryan Griffiths, Neil Prince, current South Midland Centre Expert Champion Dale Raynor, and track owner Steve Harrison. Positions at the front remained unchanged on lap two, but the first of the big muddy ditches got deeper and harder for most of the rest of the field. Despite the efforts of the usual crowd of marshalls with ropes, it became impassable to all but the best. On lap three the course was diverted around the muddy crevass and the race really got into full swing. Jack continued to lead by example with a flawless performance. Next around Ryan Griffiths edged past close rival Michael McClurg though the pair were inseperable for most of the race. Neil Prince and Steve Harrison rounded out the top five after a painful fall cost Dale Raynor a lap.
On lap five disaster struck the early leader Jack Lee. A collision with an erratic lapped rider cost him a dislocated finger and painful ribs, putting him out of the rest of the race. Michael McClurg inherited the lead after re-passing Ryan Griffiths, with Neil Prince and Steve Harrison still behind them. James Barnwell was moving steadily up the leader board, now into fifth position as was Mark McCann now into sixth. By lap seven Michael McClurg’s grip on the race began to slip, a number of incidents dropped him back to fifth as Ryan Griffiths took the lead for the first time. James Barnwell moved up to second with Steve Harrison in a brilliant third at this stage. Moving up to fourth place now was 2007 winner Richard Main. After a problematic first lap Richard slowly reeled in the the riders in front of him, his progress largely unnoticed by the crowds. In a stealthy yet determined performance he adjusted well to the sticky conditions and was able to keep pace with the leaders from futher back in the field.
By the halfway point most of the top ten riders had suffered some kind of delay or fall. Richard Main progressed through to second after Michael McClurg, Steve Harrison, James Barnwell and Mark McCann all missed laps. Ryan Griiffiths lead commandingly from the front, however Michael McClurg refused to give up. Eventually he caught and passed the leader to unlap himself a couple of laps from the finish. This brave moved secured him third spot and put him back on the same lap as the leader.
After a difficult hour and seventeen gruelling laps, Ryan took the checkered flag and his historic tenth Wild & Woolly victory. Though thrilled at the win, he insisted it will be his last ever attempt and is looking forward to spectating next year. Mind you, he’s said that quite a few times before.. Richard Main took second and whilst pleased with the result, would dearly have liked to challenge for the lead had he not had such a difficult start. Arguably the fastest man on the track while he was going, Michael Mclurg was the third and final rider to complete the full seventeen laps for a well deserved third place.
Steve Harrison took a brilliant fourth on his home track, just one lap behind the leading trio. An equally impressive Mark McCann slipped to fifth after a problem two laps from the end. He was closely followed by Dale Raynor who came back through the field to sixth, James Barnwell, Adam Castledine, 1990 winner Mark Elliott and Marc  Bates.

That concluded the 86th Woolly and answered a number of questions that the change of venue had asked. Market Harborough had proved to be an excellent alternative venue, and the people of Leicestershire supported the event magnificently by turning out in such great numbers. Ryan took an amazing tenth win after twenty years of trying, a feat that would seem impossible to beat.

1. Ryan Griffiths- 17 laps
2. Richard Main- 17 laps
3. Michael McClurg- 17 laps
4. Steve Harrison- 16 laps
5. Mark McCann- 15 laps
6. Dale Raynor- 15 laps
7. James Barnwell- 15 laps
8. Adam Castledine- 15 laps
9. Mark Elliott- 15 laps
10. Marc Bates- 14 laps
11. Rob Saunders- 14 laps
12. Jamie Scott- 14 laps
13. Matt Willis- 14 laps
14. Martin Streeton- 14 laps
15. John Gill- 13 laps
16. Neil Prince- 12 laps
17. Ross Gray- 11 laps
18. Darren Faulkner- 11 laps
19. Ross Harrison- 10 laps
20. John Abbott 10 laps
21. Jim Appleby- 10 laps
22. Daniel Loveday -10 laps
23. Brad Willis – 9 laps
24. James Higgins- 9 laps
25. Christian Livesey- 8 laps
26. Jamie Nelson- 8 laps
27. Ryan Blackwell- 8 laps
28. Ashley Rilings- 7 laps
29. Hayley Rilings- 7 laps
30. Steve Potter- 6 laps
31. Mark Page- 6 laps
32. Nathan Wheeler- 5 laps


MX Vice Editor || 25

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