The Easter weekend races at Donington Park were a real challenge and for much of the time we were not happy Bunnies.
We arrived on the Friday night for practice on Saturday. It was cold and wet again.
This is not a circuit I’m happy about at the best of times. I enjoy riding it, but somehow, in the past, I’ve never been able to match the pace of other riders. So I started from scratch – base suspension settings and off I went, riding and making changes. It was predominantly wet all day, so I didn't get much chance to get a decent dry race set-up. In fact, qualifying was to be the only dry session for me until much later in the weekend, so you can imagine how pleased I was to stick the bike on the front row in second place. I just made a guess at what I thought the settings should be and it seemed to work. I surprised myself, to be honest, with pretty good pace at last. It was to my last bit of good luck though - from that point on it was pretty dire for the rest of the weekend.
Race-1 was a real fiasco and the weather played a big part in my race. The circuit was very wet from a recent downpour and I felt pretty confident. I was off the line sharpish and was leading as I tipped the bike into Redgate. Down through the Craner Curves I was a couple of bike lengths ahead, but at the old hairpin the track was much drier; it had only rained heavily on half the circuit. The bike just didn't grip as I thought it would when I started to roll transition onto the drier part of the track and I slid wide, finding myself on the grass (going from first place to 23rd) and having to re-join just before Starkey’s bridge. Anyway, I got my head down and pulled back to 7th - really pushing the bike, until I pushed a bit too hard at Coppice where I experienced massive chatter on the front. I tried to get out of it, but it was too much and down I went. I’d had this problem earlier on in practice on the sections that were partly dry; it didn't do it when it was fully wet. It was weird; we even had the wheel rebalanced because we thought it might be that. I think in the end it was just the wet tyre’s ridges setting off a ripple effect that just got worse over the bumps when pushing the front. I was unhurt, thankfully, but the bike was a mess.
Oh dear - the bike’s not feeling very well in the Scrutineering Bay after my crash at Coppice. Good job we had the spare fairing on!
I had to miss Race-2 because we couldn't fix the bike in time and that was that; the first day over and no points scored – damn! I was very frustrated and I started blaming myself for the crash. My Dad and I decided to go out and have dinner away from the circuit for a while and we had a good chat about things. We decided to put it all behind us and get on with the job for the next day - Easter Monday. There was a proper stormy night going on outside but it didn't keep us awake because the bike wasn't finished 'til gone midnight and we were both absolutely knackered.
Feeling better now. Thanks to Richard Blunt who lent me his windscreen screen; it was fitted it later.
The morning warm-up was on a very wet track after heavy overnight rain – we even had snow! There were no issues with the bike – it felt good after the big crash.
Race-3 was a complete and total disaster and it was down to the weather again. We just didn't have enough time to change the wheels after rain threatened, then stopped and threatened again. In the end we opted for dry tyres thinking it would blow over. Then it tipped it down when they called us for the race and there was no time left to do anything about it. It was pointless going out on dry tyres. In fact, a lot of the lads who did go out on dries came in after the warm-up lap; that’s how bad it was. Now I was 3-races into the meeting with not a point scored. It was a nightmare really.
But they say every cloud has a silver lining and there was one waiting for me at the end, but only just. Race-4 was a long wait from a 10 o-clock morning warm-up to a 5.30 race in the evening, but the weather was beginning to settle at least. We had lovely sunshine for hours and the track was drying nicely, until another rain cloud came in about 20 minutes before I went out. ‘Here we go again’, I thought - luckily it blew over quickly and the track dried almost instantly.
I felt like a needed it!
From the start I was off quick off the line again, but I missed a gear and was unceremoniously shut out to about 4th or 5th at Redgate. I had a good scrap with a couple of the lads at the sharp end though, eventually overtaking them, but alas, I couldn't quite catch Richard Steadman who managed to get away early on. Still, I was happy to reel him in to within two seconds at the finish line and bring the ZX7R home in second place, setting the fastest lap.
I left Donington on a fairly high note, but still couldn't help reminiscing over what might have been. No good dwelling on it though – I'm still third in the championship after missing three races, so I guess things aren't that bad.
Next round is at Snetterton on 1st-2nd May, I hope the weather will be much better then.