August. It rained. Always.
Flasks of tea and sandwiches, Saturday morning
bombing down the roads at eight o’clock
where humps were roofs of leprechauns’ houses
heading for Dundrod. Roads closed at nine.
Parked the car in muddy field and
trudged to find our spot on sloping ground.
Beyond the lower road that formed the course,
beneath the drizzle, Lough Neagh’s vast expanse
bordered the racecourse edge. The tarry ellipse
lay below us. Men in leathers,
not so waterproofs and rubber boots
were jumpy with thrill of wet Antrim day
intoxicated by motorcycle perfumes
and speed-singed rubber rings.
Camping stools in place, we creased
the programme open. First race, 250cc,
little bikes, but nippy. Listening
for their hum, swarms of heat-crazed insects
striped black and green, white and blue
shiny gold and silver heads, determined
hunched and flying straight towards their target.
Lap by lap, marking their positions
in the programme and cheering on
our favourites. Sidecars were the best
flat platforms with no walls
where men lay, stretching out over the ground
for right turns, climbing up onto the pillion
when the bike leaned left and both men kissed the road
or so it seemed. The Superbikes were last
roaring, grunting monsters steaming through
persisting rain. At six o’clock we scrambled
to extricate the car from deepest earth
and raced around the bends, now leaning left,
now right and making whining cycle noises
as Giacomo* took the victor’s prize again.
First published in Purple Patch
*Giacomo Agostini b.1942. The most successful Grand Prix rider in the history of motorcycle road-racing. Fifteen times world champion.