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Flat out for success

In 2017 Grant Martin had never ridden a flat track bike. In 2018 he came within a whisker of winning the UK Hooligan Racing championship. Will 2019 be his year?

Grant Martin’s assault on the Hooligan Racing Championship started like so many other projects – a conversation with friends down the pub.

 

Just 36 days later, Grant and his team had built a Street Rod® 750 flat track bike, taken it to the 2017 DirtQuake round of the Hooligan Racing championship and won the class against a field of international racers.

“At the start of the DirtQuake race I had never ridden the bike before, or ridden on a flat track, let alone competed in a flat track race,” recalls Grant. “I ended up winning the Hooligan class first time out. So we thought – let’s give it a go and do the whole series in 2018.”

A lifelong passion

Of course, luck played no part in that early success. For Maidstone-based tattoo artist Grant, racing fever started on a motocross bike when he was three or four years old. He went on to compete at national level in the UK, followed by racing in the Australia state championships. Sixteen broken bones and four surgeries later, motocross was abandoned in favour of cycle racing, and Grant competed at national level for several years. But before long, flat track racing began to catch his attention.

“I mentioned to my old school friend Harry Pearce, who runs Maidstone Harley-Davidson®, that I wanted to get back into racing and that I was interested in flat track – I’d seen [motorcycle racing documentary] On Any Sunday as a kid and that had stuck with me, and the profile of the sport was on the up. We met down the pub and came up with the idea of building a race bike based on the Street Rod.”

Basing the race bike on a Harley® was a no-brainer for Grant. “I’ve had Harleys in the past, including a Forty-Eight® for several years, and when the Street came out it really ticked all the boxes for me – light, with a powerful water-cooled engine. I didn’t have to think twice; that was absolutely the bike I wanted to use.” Maidstone H-D® supplied the bike, and the game was on.

Ready to race

Hooligan racing rules allow any modifications to a road-going motorcycle as long as the frame remains stock. The Street 750 needed only minor changes to make it competitive: the main modifications were to fit 19-inch wheels with dirt track tyres and uprated suspension front and rear. Grant’s father made a custom seat unit and stainless-steel exhaust system, and a side-mount modification keeps the fuel tank out of the way.

Just 36 days later, Grant was on the start grid of DirtQuake. Against the odds, he won, and the scene was set for a full assault on the 2018 championship. The five-round series went right to the wire, but on the very last corner of the final race Grant low-sided, dashing his chances of winning overall.

“Obviously not winning the championship was a bummer,” says Grant. “But that’s racing! I’ll be back for the win in 2019. It was really cool coming into a sport where no one knew who I was and smashing it. The bike was amazing and performed really well.”

We certainly aren’t betting against Grant and the Street Rod taking things even further this year…

 

 

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What is Hooligan racing?

Hooligan racing is a ‘run what you brung’ grassroots motorcycle sport – based on flat track – for modified road bikes, where amateur riders build their own bikes and compete on a dirt track. Hooligan bikes must have a standard road frame and an engine of at least 750cc from the same bike; front brakes are removed and 19-inch wheels with specialist dirt track tyres are fitted.

The 2019 UK Hooligan Championship covers five rounds, and started at King’s Lynn, Norfolk, in April; the European round includes three races, with both Championships finishing at Greenfield Dirttrack in Lincolnshire on September 21, 2019.