To Brands Hatch yesterday for the delayed first round of British Superbikes. A month ago we shivered in this:
Waiting to see if we could get our tickets refunded, we ate hot doughnuts and sheltered from the blizzard behind a handy ice cream van. K's boyfriend slid out entering the car park. All in slow motion, but at least he can say "I crashed at Brands".
The rescheduled meet couldn't have been more different:
We parked ourselves on the South Bank, drinking in the heady smell of hot castor oil, hot sun cream and other people's weed. And it was a fine day's racing, with Shane 'Shakey' Byrne storming his way to a stunning win in the first leg, and looking to win the second, after working his way up from about 9th, before the race was stopped.
There is something medieval and rather splendid about motorcycle racing. The riders, armoured like knights, belt hell-for-leather around the track on the limits of adhesion, locked in gladiatorial combat. Crashing out at speeds of up to 180 mph in a sliding, bouncing maelstrom of limbs and wheels, they are up and staggering to remount their machines, a triumph of courage and adrenaline over self-preservation.
The fans, watching the spectacle like Romans in the Colloseum, would seem almost obscene, except that most of them are limping, leathered, tattooed ex-bikers themselves, who know what it is to be catapulted along the tarmac. Beer in hand, women in tow, they salute winners, losers and brave fallers alike with the mannered applause of spectators at a village cricket match. There is no safer crowd on earth.
Brother Tobias wasn't made of such stern stuff. Whenever he came off and well-meaning bystanders rushed to assure him that his bike was all right, he was inclined to reply, "Bugger the bike. It's me I'm worried about."
And yet....every year the onset of summer brings a fresh, mid-life urge to return to two wheels.