My determination to win at Brands Hatch started back in October 2016
It started the moment I left Cadwell Park at the end of last season with busted gearbox and shattered hopes of finishing at least third in the championship.
From that moment, every nut, bolt, piston, rod, ring, gasket and valve - no matter what part or how small – was put into my new engine with the intense thought and will of winning at Brands Hatch at the start of the 2017 season.
It spurred me on through the long sessions of building. Long nights in a cold garage, my Dad and me worked with the same mindset – this engine will win.
So here we were again, at Brands Hatch; it was like turning back the clock. Only difference was last year I had a standard motor under me - not this time though.
Thanks to the generosity of Wiseco, the fast service from Cradley Kawasaki, advice form Carrillo, the invaluable expertise and support from Kais Suspension and technical help from Opie Oils, I had a competitive bike to take out for Round 1 of the Golden Era Superbikes at my home circuit.
It wasn’t that easy though, I crashed out in the second session of practice going round a slower rider at Clearways - not his fault really - I went very wide where the dirt collects on the edge of the track and mixed with the recent rain the surface wasn’t too good for traction. Before I knew it I was up in the air, over and off. Thank goodness for the new R&G crash protectors – they worked a treat.
Work to do for us though, because my bike and me looked like we’d been in mud bath.
Once we were cleaned up and everything was straightened out I was ready to go again.
After lunch the weather improved a bit, but because it was cold - and still a bit damp - I only had a rough idea of where I should be on set-up.
Conditions were still less than perfect for qualifying, so I decided to get out first and stick some fast times in before I hit a bunch of riders. At Brands, being so short, you can soon get caught up in a group. Anyhow, I went straight to pole on lap one and was never topped - job done.
In race one, everything I had thought about for months was now focused on a red light in front of me and when it went out I made a lousy start. The guy next to me got in front of me on the straight, but I was having none of it, I out-braked him round the outside into Paddock Hill and took the lead up to Druids - I was never passed and won by a decent margin.
However, my closest rival, Ryan Strafford put in the fastest lap, so I knew I had to not only win the next race, I had to put in a faster lap to retain my pole position for Sunday.
Race two soon came round, the track was nice and dry and I had a new tyre on the back. Always good for at least another second a lap when you get it right… and I did. I won by 16 seconds and almost broke the lap record set by Richard Blunt at 49.5 – I was 49.7. Damn.
Still a win settled me down and I was beginning to see the possibility of taking another couple of wins on Sunday.
Racing aside, it was really nice to have my wife Mandy, friends and family come to watch and support me. Mum was on hand to supply the endless cups of tea Dad drinks and to make everything work in the caravan. Mum’s special pasta wants some beating after a day’s hard work too.
Sunday morning brought rain with it, and it was heavy.
Warm up was a disaster, I rolled out and only got as far a Clarke Curve and the bike went from under me – like I was on ice. Down again, I couldn’t believe it. I had new wet tyres on and I’m still mystified as to how it could’ve happened. It was in the exact same spot as the previous day – if you could have put money on it, you’d be a millionaire today! More work to do and more mud and gravel to scoop out.
Scrutineering done, I was ready and eager to go once more. Probably a little too eager - I jump started – Ooops, not like me!
I just got my head down, got in front and stayed there. My pit board told me I was +6 seconds on lap 10 and I needed to be +10 seconds to win over the 12 lap race! Well, I had no idea who was behind, so I just put in two faster laps at the end to increase the gap. I crossed the line first; although Pearson (GP1 Classic on his R1) was first on the sheet, I was still the winner of SBK class by 11 seconds.
And so it all came down to last race of the day, which was probably the best race of the weekend. A better start put me ahead, but Ryan and me fought it out to the finish. We were so close at times we were rubbing shoulders and elbows going down Paddock Hill.
We swapped places once or twice, having to deal with quite a few back-markers towards the end, and when I got back in front for the final time I could always hear his bike breathing down my neck. Fortunately, I managed to out drag him to the line in exciting last lap – two tenths of a second ahead.
We shook hands after; it was a great race.
Victory at last with the weekend’ haul of trophies – we did it!
Well it was a long time to wait, over a year really when you think of it. Still, like the old saying goes; good things come to those who wait and to win all four races was well worth it. Thanks to everyone for their support and help. It’s been a long journey.
Donington Park long circuit is next. It’s a layout I’m still unsure about with its additional long straights, but we’ll have a go.