The infamous Gooseneck – my favourite part of the track
On the Friday night we arrived late at the circuit, in fact, very, very late. After a 3-hour wait on the M25, due to a vehicle fire, our trailer then blew a tyre just before Hatfield. We not only had to change a wheel, but the tyre and inner tube too.
We rolled up to Cadwell Park at about 11 o’clock at night having left Leatherhead, in Surrey, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Sheeesh, we were knackered before we started.
Back to basics at Cadwell - there are no garages for anybody here.
Luckily, Saturday was a lovely morning for a change and we were able to set ourselves up fairly swiftly with our temporary garage and put the warmers on the tyres. Getting used to the track again took a bit of time, but it was a good day’s practice and I enjoyed being back there after 5 years. We still haven’t had time to fix the over-bored engine after it failed at Snetterton, and my standard replacement was feeling a bit sluggish at times; adjusting the ignition map made no real difference. It felt fine at Snetterton, considering it was down on power, but here it felt not quite right somehow.
Back for lunch, I’d worked up quite an appetite after a good morning’s work
Anyway, I’ve always liked Cadwell and managed to achieve some respectable lap times just before the lunch break, even though the bike felt the way it did. The weather continued with warm sunshine and it was a real pleasure riding the ZX7R on the sinuous Lincolnshire circuit. It was bit different from the last time though, when I was on a lighter, more powerful 600 Suzuki!
Towards the end of the day I was fairly pleased with the way things were going, but then I heard a disturbing noise from the cam-chain side of the engine. We didn’t have a spare engine this time so, quite rightly, we were very worried. We took out the cam-chain tensioner and could see that it had jammed. The small spring that operates the catch mechanism had ‘popped-up’ stopping any free movement. We managed to release it and get the small spring back into place. When we started the engine it was a lot quieter. Job done - or so we thought.
During the qualifying session – which was a complete disaster with so much traffic, I just couldn’t get a clear run at all – the noise started again. We took out the tensioner and the same thing had happened. I asked everyone who had a Kawasaki like mine in the paddock if they had a spare, but to no avail. We had to get a bit creative… or go home. The idea was to cut the head off a bolt to the right length and replace the long tensioner spring with it. Once inserted, we were effectively replicating a manual tensioner. For the fine adjustment, we had ‘shim’ the distance with small washers so that the tensioner could go in toward the chain drive in tiny increments. When it stopped making a noise, we left it as it was. It worked; I was ready to race.
One good thing followed another, when I found out from Mark Wright (Holbeach Tyres) that the long awaited Metzeler slicks were available - things were beginning to look up.
Race-one was good, I enjoyed being out there again, but it was much harder than I thought with my standard engine. I was getting hammered on the straights, which were a lot longer than I remembered. I could only do so much to stay with the faster bikes along these sections and had to rely on my old skills through the Gooseneck, Mansfield, the Chicane, the Mountain section and through Hall Bends. In fact, my timesheet showed me faster than most through this sector. The bike felt much stronger now it was running with the right cam-chain tension and I was pleased to finish where I did with a good lap time.
Looking back down the Mountain
In Race-two, I concentrated on getting a good lap knowing that the lap times from day one are used to re-grid the riders on the second day - I did just that, and actually raced to a strong 6th place. With a Row-three position under my belt for the next day, I went for a pub meal with my Dad, feeling a much happier person than I was at the beginning of the day.
On Monday the conditions allowed me to try a few things out in the warm-up with some worn out wet tyres on a dampish track. When the weather started to improve, it was back to the slicks again for Race-three; they felt great with much better grip. This was my best result of the meeting and I had to really fight for it. I knew that if I got a good start and stayed with front-runners, with a clear track in front of me, I could keep my lap times consistent and finish well. I managed to fight my way up to lead the second group of riders and it was all going to plan. Then, with about 4 laps to go, Ryan Strafford on his SP2, started to reel me in. When he came alongside me, we swapped positions - he’d come past me on the straight and I get him back on the corners. It was great, I was really enjoying this race and I planned to overtake him at the Hairpin on the very last lap; I knew I could do it. I lined everything up and was ready to pounce, but the Marshals were waving yellow flags for no overtaking from the Mountain, through Hall bends to Barn - damn!
‘You shall not pass’ said the Marshals through Hall Bends
Ryan was safe at this point and all I could do was follow him to cross the line in third place. He was quick to give a thumbs up on the warm down lap and just as quick come over in Park Ferme to say how much he enjoyed it too. It was a great race.
Race-four didn’t go entirely to plan - it was the complete opposite of the previous one. I found myself at the back of the second group by the time I got the end of Park Straight. Cadwell is a hard track to pass other riders when you’re all doing similar times and it took everything I had in me to hold on to the tail of Nick Williamson. My pit board showed +9 seconds on the last lap, so I knew I had nothing to worry about behind me and I managed to get close enough to take advantage when Nick went offline in an attempt to overtake the rider in front of him, which upset his rhythm. It was an invitation I gladly accepted, passing him at the Hairpin. At Barn corner it was close again. Nick had a good run on me and was right alongside me on the finish straight. I just managed to out-drag him to the line – there was no more than a tyre width in it at the flag.
Another trophy and another cap for my collection
It was another enjoyable race and I was really pleased when Nick acknowledged how well he thought I was riding my ‘slow bike’ as he called it.
I just need to find the time to try and repair my broken engine to go faster in a straight line – but that’s another story.