Race Report: A Rhythm Track Race at the Northern Downhill Castlewood TT

Jun 9, 2021
by Jerry Tatton  
Nick Turner railing the dusty berm

Last Sunday saw the return of the Northern Downhill (NDH) entertaining 124 riders at a very unique location. It's all a bit strange for the NDH race series, as they are mostly a winter racing series, with the exception of the Naughty Northumbria, they haven't put on races in the summer months since 2018. But I suppose these are not your typical times.

When I heard Carl was putting on another race in a farmer's field, my first thoughts went to the amazing Eastgate race and the huge field he's secured for racing. Then I heard it was a small field just outside of a small town in Country Durham called Tow Law. I did wonder, how the hell is this going to work? There's simply not enough elevation. But then I realised, this is Carl we're talking about. Not only a race organiser for some years now but someone who raced downhill way back in 2001. Yes, you heard it, 20 years ago! He has a plethora of experience both between the tape and organising behind the tape.

Aerial view of the entire course

With a team of trail builders, a dedicated team and friends the Castlewood TT was born. With an utterly outstanding understanding from the farmland owner and his support, Wallace let the lads build whatever they wanted in the time they had. For once a race didn't have steep chutes, rocks and roots, but berm after berm and jumps put in for added gravity fun. Probably the wildest feature of the course was the series of 7 tight berms that required pace, control and a rhythm to get through if you weren't to stall and lose time. But technique in berms wasn't all you needed, you also needed the ability to deal with loose dust.

Jon Moss staying sharp in the loose dust

bigquotesThe track was short, sub-one minute for most, but it was tough to make up time in the tight turns. Full gas from top to bottom! Stoked to take the category win and 3rd overall. Carl and the rest of the crew spent a load of time digging this new track at Castlewood and it was well worth the effortBrad Illingworth

Michael Tait (17-18 men) put in a cracking 2nd fastest overall and winning his category

The fastest riders were finishing the track in sub 50 seconds, the less on the sharp side of racing were completing the track in 70 seconds. This wasn't your typical TT race either, with such a short course riders were able to race and record their fastest time as many times as they could fit into one and a half hours. On average riders managed to get in 4-5 race runs, with one or two managing 7 race runs.

Purpose built starting ramp. Paddy the marshal spotting the camera.

40 seconds into the race run and you're jumping into the finish arena

The overall fastest time of the day went to Jon Philogene (19-29) in an incredible 43.96s, followed by less than a 2-second gap was Michael Tait (17-18 ) in 45.69s and then third fastest went to Brad Illingworth in 45.89s. The racing was so tight on this course, the first 21 fastest places were separated by only 5 seconds.

Jon Philogene going full beans in the berms

Brad finding his rhythm in the berms

The women's race was also tightly fought out, with the legendary Helen Gaskell taking the fastest time in 49.94s, her fastest time being her final third run and breaking in under 50s. Next fastest was Hollie Vayro in 52.50s, I said many times, Hollie is one to watch for the future. Third fastest was Lucy Bell in 52.89s, less than 1/2 a second behind Hollie. Unbelievably close racing!!

Helen Gaskell, eyes on the prize

Looking pinned Hollie Vayro

For a full run down of the results, head over to roots and rain.

So that's a wrap for this completely unique and outstanding race. The post-race euphoria has been off the scale this time. It was a tiny venue, but the track itself was superb and everyone I spoke to had an absolute blast. Long may this venue live and develop. Huge thanks to Wallace the farmer who let this happen. To find out more about Northern Downhill races, head over to their Facebook or website. Next up is the Descendant Enduro at Danny Hart's Descend Bike Park.


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  • 2 0
 In photo one, the riders name is Nick Turner (Team rider for ‘The Development’) (AKA, my hero!) not Michal Kiecok. Good edit and big up the NDH Team for the build and event.
  • 1 0
 Says Nick Turner?? ;-)

Cheers, I did get it sorted. My eyes are getting olde.
  • 2 0
  • 3 0
 It's like dual slalom but not dual, its mono slalom... unislalom? Anyways, cool event. Nice photos and write up too.
  • 2 0
 Certainly had that vibe to it. Many thanks for the compliment.
  • 4 0
 So cool, reminds me of some 90s races we over here.
  • 2 0
 Yes, it definitely had that vibe.
  • 3 0
 Be interesting to see race video... the "S" section looked a bit too tight??
  • 1 0
 It was very tight, agreed. However, some managed it really well, even on longer 29ers.
  • 3 0
 It looks dry, are you sure that's the UK? Wink
  • 1 0
 On very rare occasions, we see the sun. :-)
  • 2 1
 Track actually looks pretty well laid out and the grass section is sweet even though it won't last.

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