Pre-Race Report for Le Mans 2002
By Ian Johnson.
HAS EVERYONE GONE BONKERS?
Throughout the many seasons I have raced with FISC, the Spridget Café entertainment has been, shall we say, varied. Dutch singing and accordion playing has shaken the shutters on many a night; the disco beat whipped up by Mr Whitt has rocked the rafters, but Friday night at Le Mans was something else! An overdose of excitement! An orgy of competition, suspense and tension! Enough passion to drain the most passionate! Yes, we are talking Conkers - that apparently most British of British schoolboy pastimes (leaving the bike sheds aside). What better way of bonding with our brothers and sisters over the water, than threading your nuts on a shoelace and bonking 'til you bust!
At almost no cost Mad Dog racing had supplied enough pre-drilled conkers to fulfil the needs of every prospective Conker Bonker. A hit list was drawn up pitting Dutch virgins against British hard men and the knockout began. No quarter asked or given amidst gasps of elation and disappointment.
Simon Page collapsed under the weight of Dave Shannon; Mark Dols succumbed to the dexterity of Dr Rob; Hans Dullaert was whipped by Whitt minor; Peter Hiley eventually triumphed over David Johnson; Dr Rob succumbed to Wim's accuracy; Ian Burgin was trounced by Ian Johnson; John Faux crumbled to Trevor; Ian Whitt was blown apart by John Hopwood; Case pummelled John Clayton; Hans Chaden smashed John van Kooten; Jeff d'Arcy showed Michael van Kooten the way and Pieter Bakker was no challenge for Willem.
Even after this first round the excitement was becoming too much for some. Many were seeking spiritual guidance with cries of "God, how much longer?" and "Jesus, how much more?" But yes there was to be more.
Rounds 3 and 4 seem a blur already, and yet at the time, time seemed to have stopped. People could be seen looking at the ground, or their shoes, anything to alleviate the intensity of competition that filled the air.
At the end just three men stood erect, Hans Chaden, Peter Hiley and John Hopwood. These three fine athletes had indeed 'conkered' but who would stand alone as the ultimate champion with his nuts intact. Hiley started the final with a form we had come to recognise - an air shot. John Hopwood had probably bonked for more seasons than most; his eye was true, his action firm, crack - a solid blow. Hans was next, showing a surprising flair for this simple yet technical challenge - a resounding thud was emitted as Peter and Hans' nuts met!
Round and round they took their turn until the spectators could take no more. Hopwood's plan was to smash his opponents' conkers with force. Hans had a similar plan; Peter however seemed to be trying to frighten his opponents by nearly hitting them. A late change of the rules saw him out of the competition. This left just John Hopwood to uphold the honour of the British but even with his experience, his touch, his aim, his nuts could not compare with the younger, more active guy, and finally Hans held his superior nut high to take the adulation of those left conscious and end the first, and possibly last, FISC Conker Challenge.