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 Maxxis Asia 4 Day Enduro 2002

Thailand Leg. 

    Signing on Wednesday 13th March 2002 was OK but they came up with things that were not asked for beforehand, like blood group, insurance documents and national flags. Anyway, one way or another they were overcome like my drawing a Union Jack about ĹĒ square with a magic marker. My bike passed scrutineering with no trouble, like most other events. Some riders had not done a quick check of their bikes and found they where short on brake pads. Like my friend (Richard) Mr Buy from Dirt Shop soon saved the day by turning up with a new set. The scrutineer must have known what the course was like. 

First Day: 

    It started in Bangkok on Thursday the 14th at 10am with a BS ceremony for the cameras then we were escorted by the police in convoy about half way to Pattaya where the real start was. On the way, however, the police escort led us up the ramp for the elevated Banga-Trad highway, then stopped and decided against that, leading us back down the on ramp.  One begs the question what were they thinking.  

    The first stage was a road section getting the championship lads to just about 45Km from Pattaya, their off-road section started there.  All off-road sections were timed to the second, so once the Ďgoí was given you had to go like the wind. As I am only a lowly sportsman I went to the second off-road section. On the first day, two off-road sections only for the champs and one for us. I donít know what the first section was like personally but I was told it was difficult, hill climbs etc. I would like to have given more details but that was all in my instruction book which was lost; more about that later. My section looked OK from the start, a soft sand track that I had not seen before, but I have had a lot of practice at that sort of going so I was not put off at all. Once the Ďgoí was given I was on my way quickly up the track - for me like a bat out of hell - till I got to the first bend, when it was a different matter altogether- straight into a big hole formed by water flow with soft sand in the bottom. Thatís what you get for going too fast into a bend. It took me several minutes to get out off that, with much starting, restarting falling over etc. My mate Damo saw me in the hole as he was on the next minute but managed to avoid it; lucky him. Once out, it was slow and easy trying to catch my breath. So, on I went up the hill - nothing difficult.  

    But then came the getting lost bit. Two direction arrows pointed directly across a ploughed field so what do you do, you go directly across the field to the farm track on the other side, donít you?

    Well as it turned out. No. I got across the first field to the farm track to find nothing, ie, no markers so I reckoned OK, it must be across the next ploughed field as well. Having got near enough to see the other side it had no gap in the hedge one began to despair, youíre losing very valuable time and only because of bad marking. So I went back to the second farm track turning up it in the general direction of the overall course to see if I could pick up the markers. Nothing; so I went the other way. Nothing again, then I decided to circle back to the last markers I had last seen. Sure enough there they were pointing directly across the field, so try again, this time I found one tyre mark going right and, sure enough, there was the next marker. Now the reason you canít see them when you get to the other side of the field is because they were then behind the tree where they were pinned to by the time you were at the other side of the field so you couldnít see them.  

    So off again really disappointed not because of the markers but because I had been stupid enough to fall in the hole on the first bend. Why didnít you follow the tyre track of those in front you may well ask? Well the answer is I was one of the first because the champs had the other section to do first, so the sportsmen were first on this section.  So, all in all, our first section was quite good except for that one bit of marking. I still beat Damo as he got even more lost than me, just put that down to experience and my time was not too bad; 14 overall in my class, not bad for my age I thought. 

    So it was back on the road to Pattaya trying to follow the tulip maps, thank goodness we knew where we were and didnít need them for that bit. However I have had no experience of these before so I spent that night trying to picture in my mind what the maps referred to in reality.  

    The kilometerage must have been taken from the map as in reality they were a different story altogether on the road.  

Second Day: 

    The next day we were to start from the Montien Hotel in Pattaya, the first bike leaving at 8 am, I was number 62 so I left about 8.50 am as there must have been some numbers missing. There were to be three off-road sections for us sportsman and four for the champs on this second day.

    8.50am came and I got the Ďgoí- the first road section, which was a doddle as I could tell from the maps exactly where it was. This was a starting point that we use every Sunday on our club trail rides. So I thought this should be good as we know just about all the tracks that start from here. As I was given the Ďgoí for the off road section the back end started to step out a little with the wheel spinning on the compacted dry mud with a sprinkling of light sand on top. Calm down Paul I said to myself.  To finish first; first you have to finish. So the first half of the section I knew well, no surprises there. Then the arrows pointed across a farmerís field this time with new crops. I thought they must have paid the farmer for this.  

    No, the markers were bad again. A little further on there was a track that everybody missed, the farmer was not happy. Having got to the finish I decided my time was not bad so started the road section, following the maps to the next off-road section. Well me and Damo, as he was in front of me by now because he didnít fall in the hole on the first day, got 7/8th of the way there. Now you remember I said the lengths of the road sections must have been taken from the map as, in reality, they didnít look the same on my trip meter. We had overrun by some way, the distance allocated but hadnít found the check-point when I picked up some markers on the right. So I decided the check must be down there somewhere despite the map saying the check was on the left, so we went off down a nice little track but the wrong one. We reached the main road that we just turned off somewhere east of where we started I guessed. We turned right and luckily got back to the right road now approaching it from the right, not the left. We finally found the check a long way from where they had marked it but we didnít get any penalty for being late so that was OK. 

    We were told to wait as there was a problem, so we did for over an hour, when it was decided to call off that section. I thought we were going to be escorted to the next section as the maps where now useless as they begin from the end of the section we didnít do. I made a particular point of asking the check marshal if we should follow the truck, which he said we should. So we followed the truck but when they got to the main road it turned right, going south. Now I had read all the schedule for the day and I new the next section was some way north but what can you do but follow current instructions? OK youíre right, he was wrong, having gone about 50km south we all turned around and came back. All of the bikes where getting a little low on fuel by now so someone indicated to the driver of the truck that we all needed gas so we stopped at the next gas station. Boy, were they surprised by about 100 bikes turning up out of the blue. While the staff were overwhelmed by the very large demand for fuel there was no one serving at the little drinks cabinet. Everybody helped themselves I think that most people left some cash, I know I did.  But there were people from Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan as well as Thailand. When the girl finally came over she didnít look unhappy at the amount of cash anyway so thatís what itís all about - happiness. About another hour went by when we found the rest of the day was cancelled. They blamed us for following the wrong truck Hmm. Oh, yes. The reason the section was cancelled was revealed later; the bike doing the marking broke down so he couldnít finish marking and everybody got lost ie,  the champs that started it that is.  They found the rest of us at the petrol station. 

Third Day: 

    By this time there was a lot of fed up people. I had remarked all along that it was a horrendous job for a Japanese organizer to put on an Enduro in Thailand. I know very well what my good friend, Nick, has to suffer putting a one day event on in Wales.  We had now missed out on two sections from the day before, the champs had missed three so what was going to happen?  New instructions were given and maps. Confusion rained and many people were wet. However it was clear enough to me. We were to go to the first section that was cancelled the day before, starting from there. At that point all was fine. I got to the section and started: good for the most part, sandy tracks and I didnít fall in any holes. Then I came to the main road where there were no marshals, remembering this is timed to the second so you have go as fast as you can on the ďpublic highwayĒ Hmmm. It was only a small section of road then back to the sandy tracks with some woodland that I had seen before, at the end. So here I was into the third day on an international Four-day Enduro and not unhappy with my times overall, certainly not as I am 50 next month, when most of the other competitors are in their mid twenties. I had said though out that all I wanted to do was finish but I was only half way down the ladder against lads that could have been my grandchildren. Hmmmp. 

       We got to the second section of the day with no problem.  I picked up fuel at the one pump in the local town before the start. Sitting in the shade on my bike waiting for my start time the cameraman started zooming in on me just as they had when I was in the hole on the first day. Thereís a lesson for Enduro. If you see a lot of spectators, especially a cameraman - watch out, there is some sort of fun for them and potential disaster for you. I should have heeded my own warning shouldnít I ? Anyway I got talking to the cameraman, whoís company covering the event is from the Isle of Man, UK. He, too, had fallen in love with Thailand over the last two or three days and wanted to stay. He rang ahead to his buddy at the other end of the section to ask what the course was like when the answer came back, just like the start  - 22km distance, with long fast straights on hard packed flat mud with a sprinkling of soft sand. Now, remember this is off-road ie, off tarmac but public right of way. There can be trucks coming in the other direction.  

    Dangerous or what?  I told Damo and Richard who were both there from our Sunday club, our other three club members that had entered were in the champs, Ivan, Manote and Roland, to take it easy but Damo is an ex-track racer and it was Richardís first Enduro. The one who should have taken the advice was me. So I pushed my bike to the start and I am given the Ďgoí; in my mind I am not doing nearly as badly as I expected: fatal or almost. Well I remember the first part of the track. I remember saying ĎHelloí to a young lad watching the goings on then remember looking at my speedo hovering around 140kmh (84mph). The next thing I remember is waking up with a crowd around me under the porch of some building. I was groggy and didnít feel like getting up too quick but there was not a great deal of pain, not then anyway.  Soon afterwards a doctor turned up and I was bundled into the back of a truck and taken off to the hospital. They decided that I needed that.  

    When there I was practically held up in front on the X-ray machine. The doctor told me I had a fractured bone in my left shoulder, the clavicle, and I was taken off to the Bangkok Pattaya hospital in Pattaya. The surgeon showed me the X-ray fracture Ė a minor understatement; itís in 5 separate pieces all pointing in different directions. He wanted to put me under the knife there and then saying I would be in hospital for two days afterwards. Two of the directors of the Enduro arrived it was agreed that I go in next Friday to get sorted, besides the party for the end of the race was Sunday and I wasn't going to miss that.  I had only just taken out the insurance two days before, which I wanted to check on as I didnít have the policy yet, etc. There may be a problem with that I heard Monday last, for despite paying the money to the head man exactly what he quoted and despite his assurance that I would be on cover as of last Thursday: anyway I will find out more later in the week. This turned out to be OK.

    On later examination of my riding gear I found that both sides on my helmet had taken heavy damage and my bike had cart-wheeled. All the instrument cluster had been very badly damaged plus the handlebars.  

    I was told later that a Taiwanese lad who had been on the next minute had seen the event from a distance. He said the bike just seemed to spit me off in a cloud of dust. So I guess I just got high sided after hitting some small indentation in the road. He was very worried that he would have to give me the kiss of life but he decided after several minutes that I was breathing so he went for help.  

    Apparently the race was held up for 20 minutes while the doctorís truck was called out. 

    The third section was longer and more dangerous so I am told, there being a part of the dirt road that crosses a main road with no marshals and bikes approaching it doing over 100mph, Roland had a narrow squeak there as he just about stopped as a car passed, a tarmac road that has had several bikes across it is hard to see. I reckon they where just trying to sort the scores out the easy way; survivors won!!  

Fourth & Last Day 

    That was a bit of woodland where the marking was bad, then a bit of beach, then a one minute dash with a moto-cross test to finish, nothing dangerous there. Despite every one being lost in the woods I am told the moto-cross test was the hardest. 

Prize Giving Sunday Night

    This was a Buffet meal in the Montien Hotel in Pattaya, not a remarkable meal by any standards. However the main thing was to see how every one had got on. The only beer going was Singha, which has to be the worst beer in the world, in my opinion anyway. I was very glad I had smuggled in my own bottle of Sang Som. Thai people call it whisky but in fact itís very good rum. There were six competitors from our club and between us we got four awards. Minnoet came first in the AUM Champion class, Ivan came second, while Richard achieved a fifth place in the sportsman section this was extremely good as it was his first event ever. The last one was given to me in the dummy section they said it was for the most action, however according to my friends in the crowd I had the best ovation of all, probably because they couldnít believe an old man like me would enter such a thing in the first place. It all ended with most people being thrown in the pool as is somewhat customary at times like this.

The accident site re visited

    Today the 02/04/02 I was near the section where I  my accident occurred, visiting a very poor stupid girl in jail. If you would like to know more about this click on this link.

    As I got to the road entrance in my pick up truck  it seemed much narrower than it had on the day. This was just an allusion as I was in the truck. My trip meter is demolished at 12k so I imagined that I had got 12k into the section this was wrong. I must have forgotten to reset it at the start. It must have been from the last tulip map reference I passed on the road. The track was also a lot bumpier than I had remembered it but that only due to the truck as agenised the bike as well. It was still as we would regard in the UK as a Motorway section.

    Just 3 to 3 1/2k into the section I came across the accident site. It was a small village of about a dozen houses well if you could call them that on the left hand side. Just shacks really occupied by the local farm labours. There was also one very large well made house just a little further down on to the right. This was a house and a business using very large trucks any of which could have pulled out of the front entrance directly on to the track and collected a bike on the day. Just before the beginning of the shacks there was a hard track junction on the left and on the right at the same point there was the end of the field marked with a row of hedges. All this was at the end of a long fast straight. So I would have been approaching the village at around 140k per hour this is 84mph, on my left obscured by trees until I was right on top of it is the junction and after it the row of shacks. On the right is the hedge which was a blind for anything come out of there and I would have been able to see the large house a little further down on the right. Then there was the obvious culprit, a particularly vicious speed hump of about 12 to 15" On talking to the locals who remembered the mad flying frang very well, I was shown where I had ended up. Which confirmed my suspicion about the speed hump, it had been around midday so the sun was at it's height leaving no tell tale shadows.

    So and I am still only guessing as I still have no memory of the event, I must seen the junction on the left that was hidden be trees, just as I was on the speed hump that I hadn't seen and braked hard. This being the all time No No on a jump. This brings the front wheel down when where you want it is in the air. I guess I landed badly on the front wheel, and tucked it in under the bike and cart wheeled both me and the bike. At least I know now what I must have done wrong. I thanked all the locals for taking care of me until the doctor arrived and we tried to follow the track on but only 500mt after that the track became interesting and a little to much for the truck. This would have brought the speed down to half the speed of where the accident happened. The joys of Enduro.

My Conclusions

    This event was run under FIM Rules and they state that the maximum speed should not exceed 55KMH. Well this event was run at around twice that speed. All but 3 timed to the second sections where run on public roads that where not closed to the public with no or few marshals. It's a wonder there where not a lot more casualties or even deaths.

    If this event where held in England the organisers would be likely facing criminal charges by now. One of the first events that I ever attended as a marshal was in a forest in Whales. One poor man died because the special test i.e., timed to the second section was run on long fast straights between the trees. This was considered to have been very bad planning by the organisers. But was in no way held on any part of a public road.

    My conclusions having been back to the site of my accident is that at very least the organisers are criminally negligent to run a timed to the second section on an open public road through an occupied village.

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