We can vouch for ourselves how big of a blast Thundersprint is, with our very own Ken having participated in last year’s event.
Here is one for your next biking trivial pursuits quiz. What’s the biggest motorcycle event in the world in terms of one day attendance? MotoGP in Valencia, Spain? The Daytona 200? Sturgis? Maybe World Superbike at the legendary Brands Hatch circuit?
Every one of these is an excellent event, with a huge crowd, but the big Daddy of them all is unquestionably the Thundersprint held in Northwich, England, right in the center of this pretty little market town. In 2006, the mammoth bike fest will be held on Sunday May 7 – starting at 6am, as dawn breaks, and going on all day until six at night.
Confused because you have never heard of the Thundersprint? You can be forgiven – but the facts are that over 100,000 dedicated Thundersprint fans pack Northwich town center for what is affectionately known as, “The Grand Prix in a Car Park” – a quarter mile twisty sprint running round a 1950s car park smack, bang right in the center of this historic Cheshire market town, tucked away in the North-West of England.
Organizer Frank Melling explains: “At present, we are still slightly behind MotoGP at Valencia because in 2005 we had appalling weather at the start of the day but for 2006, we want to break the 150,000 attendance barrier.
“That’s a long way since our first Thundersprint, nine years ago, when we went home excited with a crowd of 5,500. But 150,000 is still not enough. We have the huge cities of Liverpool and Manchester within 45 minutes’ drive of Northwich and this means we have nine million customers within easy reach. Viewed this way, we are not even half way to achieving the full potential of the event.”
This 500 Manx Norton was one of the throwback bikes making the rounds at Thundersprint. Almost as impressive is the throwback sweater.
The only reason that the Thundersprint can exist is because of the outstanding co-operation shown by a very diverse team. The event’s leading sponsor is Vale Royal Borough Council, who are responsible for the local government in the Northwich area. Widely acknowledged as one of the most progressive Councils in Britain both local politicians and their staff are very ambitious to help make the Thundersprint the biggest, and best, bike event in the world. And this level of support is essential if a town center is to be turned into a race track.
Supporting the Council are Cheshire Police who like the tight, efficient organization for which the Thundersprint is rightly renowned and the friendly, family atmosphere which prevails. Total crime reported for 2005’s event was precisely zero – and there are not many 100,000 attendance public gatherings of any kind which can claim that sort of record.
Commercial sponsorship comes from eBike Insurance – Britain’s fastest growing motorcycle insurance group. eBike have revolutionized the motorcycle insurance business in Britain by being entirely web based and use the Thundersprint as one of their primary marketing tools.
Finally, the Thundersprint enjoys the enthusiastic support of Cheshire and Warrington Tourism Board who see the event as a flagship for tourist attractions throughout the region. CWTB go to great lengths to promote the Thundersprint not as a motorsport event but as a mainstream part of the region’s tourism industry.
Part of the charm about Thundersprint is that the classic racebikes from the past rub shoulders alongside the latest and greatest sportbikes available.
Working with Frank Melling’s Thundersprint team, these organizations provide such outstanding assistance that the whole event has been made free to enter for spectators. There is not even any charge for parking: truly, the deal of the decade as far as motorsport events go!
That the Thundersprint is unique is probably the understatement of the 21st century. The epicenter of the show is a mind blowing mix of classic Grand Prix thoroughbreds rubbing shoulders with the latest Superbikes on the unique sprint circuit.
The Thundersprint attracts one of the best entries in the classic world. Riders already confirmed include six times World Champion Jim Redman, riding a Honda CR750, and Sammy Miller with his fabulous four cylinder Gilera Grand Prix race bike.
All the racing at the Thundersprint is in the form of sprints which are very popular in Europe. Imagine a regular drag strip but with four tight corners and you will get the big idea. Spectators view safely from behind a steel mesh fence. Race fans get an incredible close up view of the bikes screaming past and are close enough to smell the race oil baking on the engine cases! This is how racing used to be sixty years ago and being this close to the action is simply unheard of in modern motorcycle sport.
One of the highlights of Thundersprint is the Cavalcade, where riders tour through the streets of Northwich, England so the fans can check out all the different motorcycles.
At lunchtime, the whole of Northwich echoes to the sound of race engines as 200 road and race bikes take a 5-mile cavalcade around the town. Running a screaming works Gilera 4 past the courts and police station – except as part of the Thundersprint cavalcade – is not to be recommended and it takes a lot of support from Cheshire Police to allow the cavalcade to happen at all.
At lunch time the sky reverberates to the roar of a Second World War RAF Spitfire in a stunning aerobatic display. Almost a mile of vendors selling everything from high fashion jewelry to bike leathers fill the town along with a fine food centre, bands, street theatre, Maypole dancing and traditional English Morris Men strutting their stuff – and you don’t see these at MotoGP very often!
In fact, there’s something for everyone – and an awful lot for anyone with an interest in two wheels.
American visitors are particularly welcome at the Thundersprint and have appeared regularly in both the racing and cavalcade as well as becoming some of the most enthusiastic Thundersprint fans.
Last year’s Thundersprint got a flyby courtesy of a vintage RAF Spitfire circa the Second World War.
Reaching Northwich from the US is extremely easy with direct flights from most major cities to Manchester International Airport which is just 30 minutes easy drive from the Thundersprint. Unlike many towns hosting major bike events, local hoteliers actually offer discounts for the Thundersprint weekend so US visitors can be sure of a very warm welcome – and of being treated fairly.
As well as the Thundersprint, the area around Northwich offers a vast range of entertainment and visitor attractions. Just half an hour away is the historic city of Chester, with its Roman walls and medieval covered walkways – and the chance to take lunch in a genuine 800 year old crypt.
Liverpool, with its Beatles’ museum, theatres and art galleries is under an hour’s drive from Northwich whilst the town itself is surrounded with everything from historical attractions to gentle walks along 18th Century canals.
There are more tourist destinations nearby Northwich for anyone interested in turning the Thundersprint into a segment of a bigger vacation adventure.
And no red-blooded motorcyclist would want to come to the Thundersprint and miss a trip to the world renowned “National Motorcycle Museum” which is only a couple of hours direct drive south along the main interstate highway. In fact, there’s everything for a memorable week’s vacation with the Thundersprint at the center of your visit.
The Thundersprint has an excellent website (www.thundersprint.com) and the “Latest News” section is always worth visiting.
For more information on the Thundersprint contact Frank Melling on 44 1928 740 498 or visit www.thundersprint.com