It’s been nearly eight years since I last raced at Anglesey. The last time I was there I was on my Suzuki 600 and I’d completely forgotten what the place looked like. This time though, I took almost four seconds off my fastest time; it was a real achievement for me on the Kawasaki ZX7R.
It was a long drive for us to get there – the Bank Holiday traffic didn’t help either, but I was all set without being too late for practice on the Saturday. It was a fine day, a bit breezy but dry. As well as familiarising myself with the circuit again, there was a lot for me to do because I’d made quite a few changes to the bike’s geometry and suspension.
Blue skies and a yellow Kwacka ready for Saturday’s practice.
It was a bit like a pre-season shakedown test. Lucky for me there was hardly any stoppages and I was able to use full sessions to set up the ZX7R, which was going well. By the end of the day I’d got my times down to 1-minute12.8 seconds. That was just under 3 seconds faster than I’d been on my old Gixer. I was well chuffed at the end of the day and it was time to fire up the barbecue for a satisfying and entertaining evening with our garage partners – Team Mally - from Sheffield. What a great bunch!
The garage is a kitchen and dining room on Saturday night.
Sunday’s qualifying was a bit of a disaster. The overnight rain had made the circuit very wet. I had a walk round with my Dad at about 8 o’clock in the morning and thought that by the time we were out for qualifying around 10.30 it would be dry; no chance. It was half and half, so I made the choice of staying with the new slicks we’d put on the night before and hoping that by the end of the session it would have mostly dried out to put in some fast laps. Anyway, it didn’t quite work out that way and I ended up on the 6th row in 16th position! There was a lot of work to do in the race and after a blistering start I was up to 7th by the end of the first lap. With the bit firmly between my teeth I pushed on harder to finish 4th just behind Ryan Strafford. I really enjoyed it; it was a cracking race.
Moving on up; finishing well in the race after a sketchy qualifier.
Race 2 was bit harder because I was held up at times by some of the other lads, it’s not an easy circuit to pass other riders on, but it’s easy to run into the back of someone if you’re not careful. I really had to watch it and pick my moments to overtake and made my way into 4th spot again. Then, completely out of the blue, my gear lever came loose and I was unable to change up or down – I was stuck in 4th gear for the rest of the race finishing 6th, which wasn’t too disappointing considering my position on the grid and the fact I couldn’t use the gear box. It was so frustrating! Thank God for the Mega-Laps though, because my faster times put me on the second row for Monday’s races and I felt I’d done my job for the day.
The calm before the morning warm-up.
Monday was a beautiful day again, it was a blue sky from horizon to horizon by the time the warm came round and I didn’t hang about either – second fastest was good enough for me. I felt really confident about the races and was pleased to see some family relatives, who have a house on the island, turn up to watch and cheer me on.
Ready and focussed at the lights on Bank Holiday Monday.
I had a great start but was shut out into turn 1. By the time I’d fired the Kawasaki out of the banked hairpin and onto the back straight I was 3rd. It was a fast pace and I had to call on every skill I had to stick with the front-runners on their more powerful bikes. It wasn’t long before I managed pull a decent gap on Richard Blunt who was behind me in 4th. My pit-board told me I was 2 seconds in front of him – I misread it as 0.2 because I couldn’t believe that I‘d pulled such a gap and so soon. When I went to +4 there was no mistaking it then, because by that time – after about 5 laps – I’d caught up with Ryan Strafford and was challenging him for second place.
There was no chance of catching John Dieterman who was leading, so I thought I’d sit behind Ryan for a bit to check out where the best and most advantageous place would be to pass him. Then on the on lap 8 he ran wide at Rocket, which is at the top of the long straight. It was a good a time as any to go for it, or so I thought, so whipped up the inside of him. On the last lap I was in second place and I thought I’d done enough to make it stick, but in the same spot I overtook him I made a mistake - missing the apex and was off line into the next right-hander. I could hear the Honda SP2 behind me so I rolled on the power, a bit too quick though and the ZX7R shot me straight out of the seat! I saved the hi-side but lost my position to Ryan as he went up the inside of me back into second. Damn! I had a go at passing him again at the bottom of the Corkscrew – it was very close, but not close enough; I had to settle for third. Still, another podium is not to be sniffed at and I always enjoy a good race with Ryan.
All smiles after a great battle - Ryan, John and me on the podium again.
I was now in the 1.11’s for lap times and felt confident again about the last race. I made a promising start and was 5th again into turn 1. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the end of the race, losing front end on lap 2 at the banked hairpin, trying to go round the outside of Ryan, but instead of picking my way through the field, I ended up picking up a bike and the bits that came off it! Ah well, as they say, if you don’t try you’ll never win.
I still don’t know why the bike went down, I’ve always had full confidence in the front end, but it gave me no warning whatsoever; one second there was grip, the next nothing.
Exhausted, the ZX7R needed a bit of looking after once we got it back home.
Anyway, there’s a bit of fixing to do before Donington Park, and after my last meeting there I’m looking forward to a better weekend than we had last time. We’ll see!