Northamptonshire’s Boxing Day Wild and Woolly scramble returns with huge crowds despite ‘mindless vandalism’ at venue
“I'm so happy to finally grab a win, I've tried six or seven times to get that result.”
After an absence of two years due to land issues and the pandemic, the world famous Wild and Woolly (W&W) Boxing Day Scramble returned for its 94th incarnation.
This year's edition took place at a brand new venue, the NMCC motocross track at Long Buckby.
While the circuit incorporated most of the motocross track, it also took in three brand new purpose built water crossings in true Woolly style.
As is the tradition on Boxing Day, once again huge crowds of spectators descended on the charity event. So much so that just before the race started the car parks had to be closed as they were overflowing.
Ironically later on it wasn't just the carparks but more on that later…
Months of work preparing the new track paid off as the circuit ran really well in practice.
Tough without doubt, but rideable with the right mix of skill and talent.
At precisely 11am as is the tradition the starter raised his flag on the dead engine start line.
The bikes immediately roared into life and the race began in earnest. (Always a feature of the W&W, the dead engine start is not so much of a challenge as it once was now that many possess electric starts).
Brothers Jack and Charlie Lee traded places at the front on the initial laps, alongside Paul Field.
As the crowds roared in excitement every time bikes reached the water crossings, the front group were joined by fast charging Jamie Berry.
In the next few laps the water crossings got much tougher and started to take their toll.
Early leader Jack Lee's bike expired on lap three, followed two laps later by brother Charlie who had taken over the lead.
After dropping well down the order following a fall and a pit-stop, Michael McClurg began putting in fast consistent laps.
He reached the front as Charlie's bike gave up and dominated proceedings from that point onwards.
Nick Williams also made good progress, moving up through the ranks to third on lap 7 as the field started to thin out.
Some other performances of note:
Dan Whitehead was looking good lapping around seventh place for the first four laps.
Lewis Huckerby put on a serious charge from quite far back to reach third place before retiring on lap six.
Kyle Creevy was also moving up nicely, reaching fourth place before the bike stopped on lap three.
By the half way point nobody was going to catch the leader McClurg barring misfortune.
For the riders still circulating it was all about keeping out of trouble and willing the bikes to finish.
Jamie Berry's charging start got him up into the leading group early on. Smooth consistent lapping allowed him to keep this position all the way to the end, taking the runner-up spot.
Whilst it took Nick Williams a little longer to get towards the front, he reached third place by lap seven and maintained that all the way to the flag.
Seventh at the start, Steven Chilvers dropped back down the order a couple of times before finding consistency.
Once in his groove Steven rode through to a fine fourth place at the flag.
Ryan Blackwell had a terrific race, building from a 12th place on lap one to fifth by lap seven. Similar progress saw veteran W&W campaigner Garry West come from outside the top 20 to sixth at the finish.
After dropping from the leading trio at the start to outside the top twenty, Paul Field fought back to claim seventh overall.
Also losing a lot of time in the first few laps, Joe Golding dug deep to salvage a creditable eight place at the finish line.
After an hour and a lap of hard slog an elated Michael McClurg took the chequers a full four laps ahead of any of his rivals.
Explaining the race from his point of view, he said: "I'm so happy to finally grab a win, I've tried six or seven times to get that result.
“The track was so hard, I found it my hardest one yet since my first Woolly at Blisworth. I dropped the bike on the third lap in the final water hole.
“After that I pitted for new gloves and goggles.
“We also removed my hand warmers as they were full of water and my hands were freezing.
“My Dad gave me a heads up that I was leading about 40 minutes in and all I could think was don't drown the bike and stay calm.
“I could see Jack Lee and Ryan (previous winners) cheering me on at the end, such a good feeling.”
A final note regarding the overflowing water crossings and why they became so tough during the first few laps.
The three purpose built water crossings sit below a large pond used for summer track watering.
This pond has a large outlet pipe sitting proud of the surface and capped.
This is used to maintain levels in the pond and also to regulate the water level in the water crossings.
A video posted on social media showed a man and two youths deliberately vandalising the pipe just before the start of the race.
They broke off the capping and forced the pipe below the surface of the pond, holding it in place with wooden posts.
This mindless and moronic act unleashed thousands of litres of water into the track.
No one knows what they hoped to achieve, but this idiotic behaviour caused untold damage to bikes, flooded a large area of the field, destroyed months of track work and jeopardised the future of the venue.
Mike McClurg 16 laps
Jamie Berry 12 laps
Nick Williams 12 laps
Steven Chilvers 10 laps
Ryan Blackwell nine laps
Garry West eight laps
Paul Field seven laps
Joseph Golding seven laps
Corey Blackwell six laps
James Higgins four laps
Christian Livesay four laps
Ben Giles four laps
Richard Ford four laps