The Gravity Project was born almost three years ago, whilst out on a cross country ride GP’s founder came across an old disused quarry.
After some Miss Marple-esque investigations the owners were traced and discussions began on creating a new private members only riding venue for the South of England. Three years later, and the Gravity Project Team had grown to include a further two collaborators as well as having spawned the East Hants Downhill MTB Club with organised membership and insurance (through British Cycling).
By this point The Gravity Project Team were itching to organize their first race, with an emphasis on grass roots racing. A date was set, the timing system was booked, the race was given a name and much help and advice was sought from Mason Thomas of British Cycling! The end result? The Honey Race! Why the Honey Race? Simply put, The Gravity Project has a collection of bee hives at the quarry that produce some of the finest award winning honey in Europe and (with a lack of funds for prizes) what sweeter prize could be offered than honey?!
The Gravity Project has around six downhill tracks on-site, the track used for the first race probably being one of the easiest. From the start ramp the track leads into a series of rough pumps before disappearing into a short tight twisty tree section. Emerging from the trees it’s a short sprint across a grassy flat into a wooden kicker/step up, then into a series of banked berms that twist down through the second wooded section before spitting you into a sweeping right hander with views straight across the quarry. Make it around this corner and the track get significantly steeper with various steps cut into the track, before coming to a long steep off camber and very loose left hand corner.
Get this corner right and you’re on to a winning time (though get it wrong and your run’s pretty much over!). Exiting the corner you’re faced with another loose rocky right hander which drops into a compression before shooting you out across the main quarry plateau. Now it’s a quick sprint before a nice little step down straight into a small banked right hander. This leads into a big left hand hip and another larger off camber banked right hand turn. Exiting the turn it’s just a few peddle strokes before you hit a blind left hand drop down a steep slope into a small (but brutal) rock garden and finally across the finish line.
Saturday practice arrived and the weather was looking great with sunshine and clear skies. A light scattering of rain over night had given the track a little moisture and riders were enjoying finding some grip on the corners. The quick push-up meant that riders got in over 15 runs and there were some great creative lines emerging. The lower loose off camber turn was causing a bit trouble for the riders, as was the final blind drop into the rock garden and both claimed multiple victims as the riders struggled to find a quick line through. By the time 4pm came and practice finished there were a lot of happy tired riders on the hill eagerly anticipating Sundays race.
The weather stayed on our side and Sunday morning brought another perfect sunny day. Despite showers overnight, the grip on the now notorious off camber corner hadn’t improved and it was clear this was where runs would be won or lost. There was a great atmosphere as riders and spectators started arriving and everyone was looking forward some exciting racing.
The race format was going to be three to four runs depending on the number of riders with the fastest run of the day taking the win. The first run saw Chris Gray (senior men) set the bar spectacularly high with an impressive time of 0:55:01. This remained the fastest time until Run 3 when Gray pinned an even faster time of 0:54:98, though he had Chris Charles (senior), Bill Farrington (youth), Magnus Goddard-Jones (junior), Alex Darby (masters) and Bow Cann (junior) all hot on his heals with times in the 0:55’s. By the final run it was only Chris Charles that was able to beat Gray with a 0:54:80 taking the top place in the senior men’s category and the overall win with fastest time of the day.
With the racing over, it was time to get down to the prize giving! First, second and third places in all categories took home a much coveted jar of Gravity Project Honey alongside a selection of prizes kindly donated by Mavic. For the fastest time of the day and the overall winner Mavic had also very generously donated a pair of Mavic Alpine XL All Mountain spd shoes!
All that’s left to be said is that it was a great first race, with an excellent atmosphere and a great show case for an exciting new venue in the South of England.
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.