Wacky Races

A short while ago, back in those halcyon days of summer, the sumptuous grounds of Kevington Hall in Kent played host to a spectacular weekend garden party known as the Malle Mile.

Back for a third year, this event – organised by London based moto couturiers Robert Nightingale and Jonathan Cazzola – collectively known as ‘Malle London’ was the biggest and best yet; nestled in parkland on the outskirts of Orpington, we enjoyed summery weather that perfectly complimented the laidback ‘Pimms on the lawn’ atmosphere.

I rolled up on the Saturday afternoon just as the sprint race was about to start. Or so I thought.

After wandering around the paddock and marvelling at the vast array of the more than 300 motorcycles and scooters present, ranging from the sublime to the frankly ridiculous, I grabbed a good vantage point near the start, hooked up my long lens and waited for the action to begin.

And waited. And then waited some more. Meanwhile a vintage Chevy step side pick-up arrived, looking very authentic in its rust laden patina and bearing a cargo of haybales, on which rested a sound system, which was meticulously set up. A DJ then played a cool selection of tunes, many of them reggae cover versions of well-known hits. It all seemed so right.

People came and went, as did four o’clock. White boiler suited marshals arrived, re-arranged flags, moved a few hay bales and then disappeared again. Everyone was so… casual.

Then the marshals came back and had a briefing, did some pointing in random directions and then a couple of them had a dance to the groovy tunes blaring out across the track. They then all disappeared again.

About an hour later, some kind of invisible, inaudible signal went up (possibly just a ‘vibe’) and suddenly dozens and dozens of random and often completely unsuitable bikes started firing up, and patiently heading for the paddock area, waiting for action.

There was a Harley Superglide with a huge backrest, a Brough Superior, even a brightly decorated and chunky tyred Puch Maxi.

Eventually after what seemed to be a trial run cum warm up down the field, (which incidentally looked to be a long way short of a mile, but hey-ho…) the riders returned in an orderly line and re-grouped in the paddock.

Then the flag was dropped and suddenly, two at a time, the riders seemed to be really going for it. Well, some of them did.

Others just didn’t seem to be taking it that seriously. But then few were wearing leathers, or even visors or goggles come to that. And the bikes were frequently extremely mismatched, for example a vintage Husqvarna twin shock scrambler taking on a half faired Laverda Monjuic. On road tyres. You get the picture.

Elsewhere a rather tasty CCM, ridden by a guy in a caped Evel Kneivel suit left a barely modified vintage SR500 for dead.

But the one thing they did have in common, was that they all seemed to be having fun, so it really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

The general atmosphere brought to mind Stephen Poliakoff’s 2005 movie ‘Friends and Crocodiles’, in which a stately pile is home to decadent and slightly disorganised revelry, using the rolling grounds to great effect.

Just in front of the house stood a boxing ring, ready for a bout later that evening, while to the west side of the house stood the ‘ride-in cinema’, also known as the ‘Lost & Found’ bar, looking splendid with its palms, packing cases and huge gramophone horns. The bartenders were of course very smartly turned out, as one would expect.

An American school bus was being used as a catering unit, while a vintage caravan seemed to be housing a commentary position.

While the whole premise of ‘The Malle Mile’ was that of a motorsport event, there seemed to be little of the usual restrictions associated with watching hundreds of boy and girl racers, no lines of catch fences, just the odd hay bale dotted here and there, and… No ambulance.

This seemed like something of an oversight on Saturday evening when a girl riding a dirt bike came off and put an end to the day’s racing.

There seemed to be an awfully long wait for help to arrive. I do hope she was OK…

But anyway, enough of me rattling on, the best way to get a feel for this unique event is to have a browse through the photos.

And then book your tickets for next year…

Martin Haskell

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