It was great to be back after my four-year break from motorcycle racing, at Brands Hatch for the first round of the ThundersportGB Golden Era Superbikes races at the weekend. I was so excited to be there with a great looking bike. We’ve worked really hard on it since the Donington testing, where we found the rear shock spring to be too hard.
Kais were brilliant. We sent the shock up to them and they installed the softer spring we needed to get the sag right. They had it done, dusted and back to us within two days. They don’t hang about in Atherton.
R&G were also on the pace getting the new crash protectors to us after my spill at McCleans in the wet. Top guys!
Also, big thanks to Cradley Kawasaki for their help and support in getting me this far - it’s been a hectic rush to get things finished in time.
So, we set off to Brands on Friday morning after about 3 hours kip. We’d been flat out all week painting the fairing, putting tyres on, fitting and making new parts. The laquer wasn’t even dry enough to put the stickers on, so we left it to the last minute and put them on at the circuit just before practice.
Friday’s practice was good. I managed to gradually knock seconds off my lap times as the day went on. It was very cold, but sunny and not a bad day really - it felt great to be back in the saddle on a track I really like. You can watch the on-board video to get an idea of how the ZX7R goes.
On the Saturday I qualified fastest in the Golden Era SBK class on the very wet and cold 1.2 mile Kent Circuit. Only a rider on a BMW S1000, with traction control, in the GP1 1000cc class (running within the Golden Era SBK race because of over subscription) pipped me to the number one position. This was a promising start, I thought.
When it started raining I knew I’d have a good chance against the more powerful bikes. I am still running a standard 750cc engine because my tuned engine wasn’t finished in time for this meeting. It sort of levelled things out a bit – you don’t need horsepower when it’s wet.
In Race-1 I finished second in a shortened 10-lap race. Unfortunately, in Race-2, I was taken-out by a novice GP1 rider on a Fireblade, who tried to out-brake me at Druids. We both nearly collected John Dieterman, last year’s champion, on the way. I was lucky really, when the guy hit me I didn't touch the ground, I just slid to the gravel with my bike on to top of his. When the Marshall helped me up he said I was good to go again. I just got back on and managed to score a few valuable points.
Satisfied with my recovery for some points I should’ve gone for a quick lap, because I ended up 9th on the third row for Sunday; damn! I’d forgotten that grid positions for Sunday are allocated from lap-times achieved on Saturday.
On Sunday the weather was still cold, but the circuit started to dry out; it was time to test the dry conditions for a change. Not really knowing how well I’d do against the tuned competition, I thought that if I finished top ten, I’d be happy. So you can imagine how thrilled we all were with two podiums, finishing second in Race-3 and 3rd in Race-4. They were very exciting races to be involved in and close – just like old Superbikes.
It was great return to motorcycle racing for me with my team and a good solid performance on an underpowered bike and very pleased to be third in the Championship standings so early on.
Thanks once again to my family and friends for turning up on the Saturday and Sunday to watch, I hope it was as exciting for them as it was for me!
Next round: Donington Park - 27th-28th March.