Wild & Woolly 26/12/09

Northampton Motorcyclists Club's 84th Annual Wild & Woolly Scramble

Report: Fraser Law
Photos: motoxphotos.co.uk

This year's event was proceeded by weeks of very wet weather followed by a fortnight of snow and freezing temperatures. As the temperature on Boxing Day rose and the sun made an all too brief holiday appearance, it was always going to be a wet affair. However every cloud (or in this case lack of) has a silver lining and the glorious weather brought out thousands of spectators for the 84th running of this historic race. Pre-race favourites were the nine times winner Ryan Griffiths, 2004 winner and close runner-up last year James Berrill and 2004's winner Richard Main. Richard's threat never materialised as his bike expired during practise.

As tradition dictates at precisely 11 o'clock the flag fell on a silent start-line to signal the start of the race. The dead-engine start favours those with easy starting bikes and this year it was no exception. As the crowds thronged to get the best views of the muddy river crossings, the marshals and 'puller-outers' waited anxiously. Emerging from the start as the early leader was Jack Lee with Ryan Griffiths close on his heels by the end of the first lap, looking to take the lead at every opportunity. Behind them in third was Jack's brother Jonathan making the opening lap a family affair. Club Hare & Hounds rivals Mark Bussey and Matt Willis took up the next two positions with Richard Sabin completing his one and only lap in sixth. Also in the leading pack were Nigel Batchelor and Dennis Harrison, while James Berrill and Adam Castledine moved rapidly through the field following poor starts.

On lap two the lead changed somewhat inevitably as Ryan pushed through to the lead and Jack Lee dropped back to sixth. Jonathan Lee took his chance to move up into second, while James Berrill had managed to move all the way up to third. Behind him and also in a hurry was Joe Mitchinson moving up to fourth from 13th on lap one. Adam Castledine too was making up a lot of places, now moving into fifth.

With the water crossings getting harder, deeper and more congested by the lap, the leaders had to call on every ounce of grit and determination just to keep circulating. With the racing beginning to look like an extreme enduro, it allowed some of the more specialist trials and enduro riders to come to the fore. The depth of water was not helped this year by a group of illegal and irresponsible 4x4 drivers who had broke through barricades and driven around the course in the week leading up to Christmas, damaging the banks and destroying all the club's pre-race preparations.

By lap three James Berrill had closed to within striking distance of the leader, relegating Jonathan Lee to third. On the following lap James made his move and went through to the lead testing Ryan's resolve to the full. Jon Lee dropped back to sixth allowing Joe Mitchinson through to third, while brother Jack moved back ahead of Adam Castledine into fourth.

Ryan dug deep and managed to snatch back his early lead on lap five, showing just how much he wanted win number ten. It wasn't to be however as later that lap the big Honda drew in a mighty gulp of the freezing water ad refused to restart. Ryan's Woolly was over, leaving win number ten to wait for another year. James Berrill charged on relentlessly, as behind him Adam Castledine moved up to second and Mark Bussey claimed third spot briefly from the early leader Jack Lee. From this point onwards positions remained pretty much unchanged.

James Berrill took the win after sixteen cold and wet laps, during which he lapped the entire field twice. His second ever victory was particularly sweet after he had been so cruelly denied the win last year in the closing laps when some fencing became tangled in his rear wheel whilst leading. Adam Castledine was clearly ecstatic after fighting off both a bout of the flu and a last minute charge from Jack Lee to take his best ever runner-up finish. Behind Jack, Mark Bussey took fourth at the finish with Jonathan Lee just behind in fifth. Nigel Batchelor, Dennis Harrison, Paul Baldwin, Marc Bates and John Abbott rounded out the top ten positions. All proceeds from the collections will go to local charities and the ambulance services.


1 James Berrill 16 laps
2 Adam Castledine 14 laps
3 Jack Lee 14 laps
4 Mark Bussey 13 laps
5 Jonathan Lee 13 laps
6 Nigel Batchelor 13 laps
7 Dennis Harrison 12 laps
8 Paul Baldwin 12 laps
9 Mark Bates 11 laps
10 John Abbott 11 laps
11 Ashley Wilson 10 laps
12 David Sampson 7 laps
13 Laurence Wiltshire 6 laps
14 Steve Harrison 6 laps
15 Kai Passmore-Jones 6 laps
16 James Higgins 6 laps
17 Sean Dowling 6 laps
18 Richard Lowe 5 laps
19 Rob Brown 5 laps
20 Garry West 4 laps
21 Giles Agar 4 laps
22 Steve Wright 3 laps
23 Jamie Nelson 3 laps
24 Tony Homer 2 laps
25 Dan Holmes 1 lap



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