Sammy Miller aboard a Gilera, was one of the participants in the mad dash through the Northwich town centre that makes up Thundersprint.
Superbike star Leon Haslam wheelies and slides his Ducati 1000 and the crowd screams for more. The howls of classic Honda 4s and Gilera GP bikes bounce off the walls of the town centre stores whilst the folk singers strum their guitars: you just know that there is no-where else this could be but the Thundersprint in Northwich town centre.
Organizer Frank Melling was a happy man at the end of this year’s record breaking event. “We’ll never know exactly how many spectators packed into Northwich but Vale Royal Borough Council’s official figure, backed up by Cheshire Police, is over 130,000 and their assessment is good enough for us. Thundersprint 2006 was a huge success!
“What is even more important is that we had no-one injured either on or off the track.
“If any event has a huge, happy crowd, with no accidents, then that’s the best reason to be satisfied.”
Geoff Derham, Marketing Manager of eBike Insurance, who are the Thundersprint’s title sponsor, added: “I couldn’t believe how packed it was. Everyone I saw had a smile on their face and was clearly having an excellent day. It’s got to be one of the best biking events of the year.”
The action began with the Thundersprint Cavalcade which has become one of the highlights of the event. Lunchtime saw 200 race, and a few road, bikes take a five-mile trip around Northwich cheered on by literally tens of thousands of Thundersprint fans who packed every inch of the five mile route. Nothing like it had ever been seen anywhere in the world before.
With the rest of England suffering a real soaking the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire was firmly grounded in atrocious weather on the other side of England. Incredibly, Northwich remained dry until the very end of the day.
The Salvation Army Band played the National Anthem and then the air was ripped apart by the scream and roar of classic warhorses ready for battle. The snarl of a genuine ex-works Aermacchi competed with the howl of the factory Gilera. As the sound and smells invaded the town centre arena the atmosphere was electric.
There were so many highlights that it is difficult to know where to start. The head to head battle between Jim Redman and Sammy Miller was incredible. Redman gunned the screaming Honda 4 down the main straight to beat Miller’s howling Gilera by just 0.12 of a second whilst the crowd went ballistic with excitement.
Miller has already booked his ride for next year. “The Thundersprint is an amazing event and completely different from anything I have ever seen or ridden in before. It truly is unique and the crowds are enormous. I’ll be back next year with an even quicker bike!”
Completely different, but just as entertaining, was British Superbike star Leon Haslam. Leon, showboating Ducati Manchester’s brand new Classic 1000, had the trackside grandstands shaking with delight.
Leon was bowled over by his weekend away from his day job. “I had such a good time. The crowds were fantastic and so enthusiastic. It was great to be able to meet so many of them over the weekend, away from the pressures of championship racing. I loved every minute of the whole experience.
“If my racing commitments allow it, I’m already booked in for next year.”
Germans Steffen Bauermeister and Karin Leffrang finished first and second in the Golden Age 250 class on their AWOs – the first time that these ultra rare East German racers had ever been seen in Britain.
Karin said: “We have nothing like this anywhere in Europe and the organization is so professional and still very friendly. We are ready to buy our boat tickets to get to Northwich for next year’s Thundersprint.”
Almost inevitably the incredible Jaeson Caunce dominated the 350 Classic Class but this year, the fastest time of the day went to Irish Road Racing Champion Gary Jamison who took his Drixton Honda round the tight Thundersprint track in an eye-watering 22.46 seconds. Truly, an inspired piece of riding.
American Classic Champion Brid Caveney made the long trip from California took a good fifth place just over 4 seconds behind the flying Jamison.
The mood of the spectators was summed up by Northwich resident Steve Coppock: “I truly felt I was in paradise My kids got fed up with me walking round saying “love it” all day and the cavalcade noise gave me goosebumps. We’ve got the best bike event in the world and it’s here in Northwich. Fantastic!”
Away from the track, spectators tucked into curried goat and Thundersprint flavored ice-cream whilst the Morris Dancers jingled past and the Blues Harmonica player serenaded the Manx Nortons warming up for the Classic 500 class. Not an ordinary motorcycle race by any stretch of the imagination but something very special for anyone with a love of two wheels.
Thundersprint 2007 will be held on Sunday 13 May. Make sure you put a note in your diary.