Snetterton: my bogey circuit. I like riding it, but it’s one that’s always had something in store for me. I’ve never had the best of luck there - and last weekend was the same old story.
Sun’s out, bike looks great - what could possibly go wrong?
We arrived for Saturday morning practice and found it hard to find a spot to park up and unload. The paddock was rammed. The last time I was here, I was on a KTM at BSB Rounds and there were more competitors at this Thundersport meeting than at BSB.
Things went wrong from lap two. As I was negotiating the new section at Montreal, the bike lost rear grip and it spat me off. I wasn’t even pushing it. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I got up; there were dirty tread marks on the tarmac from what looked like a tractor. It had left dirt and dust everywhere, particularly on the exit. Two more lads went down during that session on the same corner. One poor bloke, unfortunately broke his hand. It beats me why they couldn’t clean, or at least sweep the surface, before we rode on it.
I was able to ride it back to the paddock and while examining the rear tyre we found a self-tapping screw that had gone straight through it. So, it was a combination of a slowly deflated rear tyre and dirt on the tarmac that had me off. Snetterton was beginning to feel very familiar again.
Luckily the bike wasn’t too bad and it was a fairly easy fix, but I’d injured my knee and arm, which caused me problems the next day.
After the bike was tidied up, I took it out for another session. My rebuilt and recently installed, over-bored engine was going strong. It was fast and it felt really good pulling onto the long, long straights. About half way through the session I thought there was a Ducati with a dry clutch close by. I looked around and to my surprise there was no Ducati; the sound was coming from my own bike. I felt sick. I nursed it back to the paddock and it was almost cutting out. We talked about what it could be and decided to call it a day after listening to the mechanical rattle from inside. As a precaution, we took the old standard engine with us as a backup; I'm glad we did. It’s proved very reliable, but sadly well down on power, but it was my only option. Another late night swopping engines, and thanks to a team next door, lending us their Halogen Floodlights, we managed to finish before midnight.
The Next day was race day and a qualifier without any practice on a comparatively slow bike didn't fill me with much confidence. However, 9th place putting me on the third row was better than I expected, to be honest.
Race-1 was a fairly good scrap for 6th place. I thought I might be on my own for most of it but I had to do quite a bit of overtaking and use the draft to keep up. It was good practice. I settled in about half way and found a pace that seemed to be my limit with the engine I had. I was 15 mph down on most of the other bikes on the straights.
Might’ve been a bit slower than most on the straight but it still managed to kill a few flies.
Race-2 was pretty much the same, but I managed to steal 5th after Ryan Stafford was nicked for a jumpstart. This was a typical of Snetterton meeting again, where feelings are mixed with joy and despair at the same time.
With points in the bag, my Dad and me took a walk round the circuit after the day’s races and we could see the many marks of carnage at Montreal. It really is an interesting corner to look at – technical – but it’s bloody difficult to get your head round it. A lot of riders hate it, I can see why.
In the evening we went to a great pub called the Angel - just up the road. The food and atmosphere was excellent. If anybody reading this goes to Snetterton, I recommend you pay a visit. It’ll be well worth it.
So, Bank Holiday Monday arrived and it was wet session to warm up with. I was quite pleased about that because rain was forecast for later in the day. It gave me chance to set up my suspension- just in case.
Race-3 was a bit of a scrap to start with but once again I found myself riding on my own for a while in the later stages. Being down on power here meant I just had to ride the best I could and get across the line for some points. I knew I had to finish 4 races to have any chance of keeping a decent position in the championship.
They spelt my name wrong again!
Race-4, now, this was another story. It started to rain just before our delayed start. Normally I would be cursing this, but I had a good feeling about it. It was on and off for a few minutes but it continued, making the track very wet. We made the decision to change the wheels for wets. This time we got it done in time and when I was on the start line I had feeling that I was going to do well. I got a great start too and shot into 4th place from the third row. I saw John Dieterman out break himself at the end of the back straight and he ran on to re-join further back. I was now behind Richard Blunt on his ZX7RR and pushed as hard as I could to overtake him at Murrays. He came back past me again on the straight, but I got him back again at Riches. Next on my list was Richard Stubbs; also on a ZX7R. Once I was passed him at Montreal I took the lead and I was away. My pit board showed me about holding a steady gap ahead of the second place rider, but my Dad was unaware of how quickly John Dieterman was catching up. Next time I saw the board it said, “+0 Dieterman”. I missed a gear on the penultimate lap coming out of Montreal and he pounced. I tried all I could to find a way to make a move on the last lap just before the drag to the checkered flag. I was only 0.8 seconds behind him. If I hadn’t missed a gear I might’ve held on. Still, it was a good race and it was nice to mix it up with last year’s champ.
A trophy for my efforts and the bike takes a well-deserved rest.
As for my engine, well who knows? It was a lot of hard work over the winter and having run it in for nearly a thousand, faultless miles, I’m a bit mystified and a bit miffed. The investigation begins soon.
Cadwell Park next…I like it there!