It is Easter weekend and the first official race of the season for the SP8BOARDS luge team. Our destination is Craig Goch Dam in the middle of the Welsh countryside and the event is Fumble in the Valley.
We have been eagerly preparing for this and really looking forward to seeing everyone again, but the freezing temperatures of the preceding weeks have marred the sense of anticipation. Indeed, in the couple of days before we set off, snow threatens to close the roads. With a little bit of trepidation, we pack up the campervan with all our gear and set off on the 170 mile journey to Craig Goch Dam on Good Friday evening. We arrived at a layby near the venue at 10.30 pm and yes, the weather is lousy - sleet and rain. When we wake up, it isn't any better - driving horizontal rain with rivers running down the sides of the roads. Still, the scenery is amazing, we are here and there is tarmac to be luged........game on!!!
This is our first time at the dam. The plan is the usual street luge racing on the Saturday and a gated time trial event on the Sunday. We start with the usual practice runs. The track starts straight with a slight slope into a left handed turn. Next is another (steeper) straight moving into a sharp right hand corner, followed by another straight and an easy left on to the finish line. As I soon found out, the track actually steepens after the finish line, has a couple of bends and a bridge - all of which makes stopping a bit tricky!
As we start the race heats, it finally stops raining. It turns out that it isn't to be SP8BOARDS' day today. I come 2nd in my first heat, 3rd in my second heat and 2nd again in my final heat. Dreek gets fourth place in all his heats, with a crash out on his final run (no serious injuries thankfully). All good fun, but not enough to get us in the final. We decide to drive into Aberystwyth and salve our souls with a kebab at the seafront.
Sunday morning dawns and the sunshine is out. We head for the track where the gated time trial will take place. The gated track is only a car width wide with lots of sheep scat (poo!) on it to add to the fun (thank you to Dale Goodwin for sweeping the track to clear it!). There is a long straight from the start line turning into a really tight left hairpin, then on to the main straight where the speed picks up to around 30-35 mph. Next is a serious need to slow down for a sweeping right hand turn followed by a ridiculously tight left hairpin. Finally there is an easy right and a slight left before the finish line. The track is far more technical than yesterday's and both Dreek and I decide to luge our downhill set-ups rather than our usual luge boards. Both Dreek and I crash out on our first timed run. Dreek makes it to the last hairpin but my run is fairly short as the first hairpin sees me trying to off-road (not to be recommended!).
We need to rely heavily on our second runs. However, halfway through, the farmer lets the sheep out onto the tracks and so, in the interests of safety (and sense) only the first runs qualify. I am not convinced I would do any better anyway and now I have the excuse to try out the pump track just a short drive away.
The pump track is a small smooth tarmac track surrounded by a larger rubble track used by bikes mainly... with some large jumps. Despite skateboarding for over 40 years (gulp!....) this is my first time on this sort of track and I really enjoy it.
Time to go home. Despite the muddy clothes, the sheep infestation and the distinct lack of trophies in the SP8BOARDS campervan, it has been a fantastic couple of days.
We will be racing again at The Crackling at Hog Hill. I can't wait !!!!