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On track with the Army's motorcyclists

The Army has long had a close relationship with the motorcycle. In fact, the old Army Motorcycle Association can trace its roots back to the 1920’s; probably the most famous Army motorcycle enthusiast of all was a certain Major T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

However, today the Army no longer includes motorbikes on its kit inventory, although rumours abound that it has recently started trialling E-bikes for field service, and the Royal Signals’ motorcycle display team, The White Helmets disbanded back in 2017.  Yet it is a wholly different picture when it comes to bikes in the Army’s burgeoning motorsports discipline.

British Army Motorsports includes: 4x4 Navigation, Karting, Rallying, Sports Cars, with Adventure, Enduro, Road Race and Trials being open to two wheeled competition as well.

Just racing alone is amazing. I get to do it with the Army and I’m getting paid to do the sport and I’m representing the Army which is fantastic. I’ve stopped road riding as this more than scratches the adrenaline itch Corporal Daniel Dove, Queens Own Yeomanry

The British Army’s Motorcycle Road Race Team were in action at Brands Hatch GP circuit for the latest instalment of the club racing and inter-service championships. This was to be the fifth of a seven-meeting race season held monthly between March and September and saw the team compete both in sprints and the endurance competition at 600 and 1000cc classes.

The race starts in a scintillating Le Mans style with the riders sprinting on foot across the track to mount and start their bikes before roaring off down the tarmac. This particular race lasted 3 hours, but they have been known to compete at up to an 8-hour duration. It is the team that has covered the greatest distance that earns the most points. It is a severe test of stamina for both rider and machine.

The team currently has 20 riders on its books, but they are always on the lookout for newcomers, each rider has their own support usually a family member or other half. They range in ability from complete rookies to those competing at national level.

Since 2014 the team has been subsumed into the Army Sports Control Board which has meant that it benefits greatly from extra funding, resources and recognition as an official Army team sport meaning that its riders can be granted time away from their normal duties to compete.

Team second in command, Sergeant Richard Spencer-Fleet explained, “When I started out back in 2014 we literally only got a hire van, you had to buy all your own kit and it was difficult to get the time.”

Today however, although they do still have to fund their own bike purchase there is financial support to help with the cost of competition entry fees, tyres, and safety equipment.

For a soldier, be they regular or reserve, wanting to join at entry level, they can purchase a Honda CB500 or Suzuki SV650 for £2 - £2.5k and be up and riding for under £4k, but for those wishing to take it to the limits there are some seriously fast machines with prices to match.

For the two wheeled thrill seeker it is an amazing opportunity to get into motor racing which would otherwise be well beyond the financial limits of all but the those with the deepest pockets.

Army Reservist Corporal Daniel Dove who serves as a Combat Medical Technician with the Queens Own Yeomanry spoke about how he got involved with the team,

“Since I was a kid, I enjoyed watching racing cars. I went to a local race meet at Oulton Park and saw an Army tent and that’s how I got into the team back in 2018. I was on the spanners first and then in started racing in 2019. I did have a year or so off and tried doing it on my own, but it is a lot harder; from setting up, no one is cooking you have to do it all yourself, the logistics everything. Being with the Army team means you get discounts and financial support for safety equipment makes it so much more affordable.”

It is certainly a high-octane sport and one which fosters a strong loyalty and camaraderie within the team, hardly surprising given the risk management and what’s at stake entering bends at 140mph+ with their bodies centimetres from the tarmac or going down the back straight at 160.

Daniel Dove explained what it meant to be a part of it, “just racing alone is amazing. I get to do it with the Army and I’m getting paid to do the sport and I’m representing the Army which is fantastic. I’ve stopped road riding as this more than scratches the adrenaline itch.”

This weekend, many of the British Army’s Motorcycle Road Race Team will join with others from the many other disciplines within the Army Motorsports Association to showcase their bikes and achievements in the military village at the British Grand Prix MotoGP being held at Silverstone.



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