Well, it was a much better weekend than the last one I had there – I actually managed to finish four races instead of just one! However, as always, it wasn’t entirely without incident.
Some good racing with Ryan again over most of the weekend
I got off to a good start on practice day with a nice dry track for a change. Mainly concentrating on setting up the bike to turn quicker and deliver the best performance through the gearing. It was a long day and the tyres were totally shot by the end of it, but I got there in the end. I found it better to go with a gearing choice that went completely against what I originally thought. We found out later that the front sprocket wasn’t the one I wanted either, my Dad put the wrong one on, but it worked. A happy accident, you might say.
I was close to my best previous time there (1.39 when I rode a KTM RC8) with a low 1.40 on the ZX7R. The last session felt really good, as the sun was setting over Donington and I felt we’d done a good job to get the bike ready for qualifying. I knew I would need a decent low 1.39 to be anywhere close to the front row.
An early start for us on practice day
By the time we’d replaced the tyres and finished all the other fine-tuning it was nearly midnight. The longest practice day I think I’ve ever had - having started the day leaving from home at 5 in the morning. It wasn’t long before I was asleep in the back of our new Transit van, which is absolutely brilliant. We were that knackered even the planes taking off from East Midlands Airport couldn’t wake us up!
The team bus…our super-quick and very comfortable Ford Transit.
Saturday’s qualifying was good, I got held up a bit in the middle but still managed hit the 1.39 I needed, which put me on the second row. I was fairly happy with that considering the competition. Not to mention Terry Rymer, one of the great British riders from the time when our bikes were new. He was on pole with his Yamaha OWO1.
Terry Rymer on pole and me on the second row looking for a way through
We were first on the circuit with race number one, so I didn’t have to wait long to get cracking. And it was a cracking race too. I got away with a great start and held on to the front-runners: Rhymer Dieterman and Richard Blunt. Then, as I went into Coppice, Blunt went in too fast and started to look a bit unsteady; the next second he was off. I found out later that his brake caliper had come loose and spun around his disc when he pulled the lever in.
Getting my head down and cracking on.
Anyway, back to the race which, was really beginning to hot up and I had my old adversary Ryan Strafford to deal with along with another guest rider and ex British Champion, Chris Martin on his super handling 250cc GP 2-stroke. We changed places quite a few times over the remaining laps, but on the last lap a back marker got it in the way and lucky for me I came out of the Foggy Esses in front of the lot of them to finish third; putting me up on the podium again. It was great result with a personal best time of a 1.38. To be up on the steps and shake hands with Terry Rymer was a real bonus.
Picking up points and another trophy, along with Dieterman and Rymer
Race two was a different kettle of fish though. Not such a good start had me struggling to keep up with the leading group and I was knocked about a bit in the middle of the pack. This really upset my rhythm and I kept running wide and wasn’t hitting the apexes on the all the corners, as I had before. It was all over for me half way through really; I had no chance of catching anybody in front and I finished 7th. A bit frustrating and I made a mental note of making sure that I would try and get clear from the middle group the following day. This was when I realised that maybe I should’ve ordered another rear slick – the one I had on the bike was looking a bit tired.
Warming up for the warm-up
After some heavy rain on Saturday night the track was very wet for the warm up.
I didn’t mind this so much because it was less wear for the slick tyre that I had to save for racing later. I went out on the bike feeling really good on the first lap. Then I lost the front end braking at the Melbourne loop, it was really slippery and I couldn’t save it. Lucky for me the Scrutineer let it go after taking a good look; there wasn’t too much damage. By the time we’d washed off all the mud and tipped out the gravel we were running out of time. I managed to get out for a few laps with the GP1s to check everything was straight, but only after we had to push start the bike with Nick Williamson, my Dad and a passing spectator - it was a bit hectic to say the least.
Once again we were the first race out just 5 minutes after I returned to the garage and I couldn’t change the tyres in time from wets to slicks. There was only just about enough time to put some petrol in! The track was still wet when I went out though, but it really dried out fast when the sun came out. I was struggling towards the end and finished 10th.
The last race of the day was dry and I was off to a blinding start and went straight into third place. Richard Blunt was just behind me and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he went past me on that powerful Kwacka of his. I held on to fourth spot for a few laps and could hear the bikes behind me. Once again I was suffering from a lack of power on the long straights and the left side of my tyre had had it making the run through Craner and up to McLeans too erratic to hold the position and dropped back a few places. Still I hung on to them and lapped a decent 1.39s to finish in 7th spot. Not bad considering the way the tyre look afterwards. I’m going to have to take a few more tyres with me next time I go.
So, a better weekend than the last one there? Yes, it was and it was good to see some of my family turn up to support me too. My Mum surprised me on Saturday, bringing a new Quick-Shifter that I needed – along with more beers for my Dad – and my brother James turned up on the Sunday, with his girlfriend, to watch. Also some friends who had driven all the way up from the South to watch too - that was nice.
Championship positions after Round-8 make for an exciting final at Cadwell
Final round at Cadwell Park promises to be fun, as a few of us will be we fighting it out for second and third spots. Looking forward to that! I like Cadwell!