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.





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