I got a hat-trick of wins at Snetterton in Round 3 of ThundersportGB’s Golden Era Superbike Championship – but then came Race 13!


Snetterton has never been a great circuit for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can ride it OK, but the only time I’ve ever come away from the place happy was when I was a Novice, about 10 years ago, when I won my first ever trophy.

Call me superstitious if you want, but the number 13 has always been a factor too. Once in a 600 meeting I was in garage 13. I ended up with a broken chain in qualifying and then I was run off the circuit in the race. In the KTM RC8 SuperCup Championship I broke my collarbone, and last year in the Golden Era Superbikes we had an engine failure, which had us up most of the night swapping motors.



Was I looking forward to another round there? Well, you can’t see that far into the future can you?


We worked hard after Donington Park, putting in a few late-night shifts repairing the Kawasaki, when the inlet valve failed and made a bit of a mess. We only just had the engine run-in on the Monday before the meeting.

Me and Dad were pretty exhausted before we got to the circuit, it was hard enough getting the bike to a point where we could compete and – because of my previous experiences there – I had an inkling that things might get harder still over the weekend.

Looking back I was wrong I guess, although the crash was disappointing in the last race, the majority of the weekend was nothing short of brilliant for me.



The cheeky Suzuki SRAD was waiting in the garage when we got there.


Andy Plaskitt turned up with a spare bike for me too. The Suzuki SRAD I did so well on at Donington was parked in the garage when we got there. Can’t complain about that! Thanks Drew! It’s nice to know someone’s got your back if things go wrong.

Practice went really well with me going much quicker than last year when I had to run a bog standard engine. Apart from an oil leak at the cylinder head, which later magically cured itself, things were looking good. It was great to be back on the ZX7R and I gradually increased the pace and performance to it’s upper limits over the weekend.

In qualifying I got off to a blinding start by putting the ZX7R on pole for Sunday’s race. The Kwacka was back on track, carrying on where it left off at Brands Hatch.



At the end of qualifying Dad showed me that he’s still quite an artist.


In race-1, I took the chequered flag by a convincing margin over my nearest rival, Ryan Strafford, setting the fastest SBK lap of the weekend – 1:14.5 seconds. Although I was just beaten on paper by Shane Pearson on his Yamaha R1 GP1 Classic – he nicked the overall victory – my bike felt absolutely fantastic to ride.



Back on the top step again, this time riding the yellow Kwacka.


The best race of the day was to come next though. It had my Mum and Dad on the edge of their nerves while they were watching on the pit wall. It was so exciting my Dad actually forgot to put my pit board out at one point! (I need to have a word with him that.) It was a thrilling 10-lap contest between Ryan and me; we were swopping places all the time. But I knew that if I could get him at Murrays, just before the start-finish straight, I would be able to outrun him to the line. It was damn close though; I had to rev that engine higher than ever. The ultimate test in a great race, I really enjoyed it.



Another win in the bag, it even brought my camera-shy Mum out for a picture.


Monday’s warm up was a wet affair after some heavy overnight rain. It was still raining a bit when I went out, but I had to go and test out my new ignition unit and quickshifter. I’d been running the standard unit with a conventional foot change linkage previously. It made a big difference – like magic with the Nova Transmissions gears – and I was revving the bike a lot higher with this set up.



Flat-out in the wet – handling was smashing!


I was looking forward to the next race and it wasn’t long before we were out again just before lunch on a dry track. I wasn’t just competing with Ryan anymore either, Shane was fast on his R1 too and he wanted to make a race of it… even though he’s in a different class. In fact most bikes had the edge on me for top speed through the trap.



Going through Montreal, a difficult corner that played its part in the final race.


I got off to a good start in the first race of the day on Monday and led from the lights to the flag, I was never really challenged, although I nearly lost it at Corum with a massive, front-wheel slide. I thought I was off, holding it up on my knee for a split second, then the bike hit a small bump and righted itself – I rode my luck there I thought. Next time round I could see a big black line where it slid. It was more like a rear-wheel spin mark than a front! My pit board told me I was well ahead so I eased off a bit. I crossed the line in front of Shane Pearson (GP1 Classic) by 2.2 seconds and Ryan Strafford by 11.1 seconds. The Kawasaki was storming along but the unlucky bit was yet to come. Race 13!



Snetterton was enticing me along thinking everything was fine, and then it turned on me and bit me.


In the last race of the day I didn’t get away as quick as Ryan and Shane and I had more work to do in this one if I was to try and win it. I knew I had the pace to reel in Ryan, who was just in front of Pearson, so I pushed on, out-braking Shane on the entrance to Montreal on the third lap. Unfortunately, I was a bit off line going into the corner and lost the front. Down I went in a shower of sparks. I was unhurt and the bike wasn’t too bad either – thanks to my R&G crash protectors.

It was a disappointing and unlucky end to the weekend, but I still feel optimistic about putting up a decent fight for the title now that we have a proven race-winning bike. When you think about it, every time our ZX7R has crossed the finish line this season it’s won! I’m very pleased the engine we’ve built got through the most strenuous test, and probably the most demanding track of the racing calendar.



Once again thanks to Wiseco Piston Inc, Kais Suspension, R&G Racing, OPIE Oils, Cradley Kawasaki, CP Carrillo, TA-Creative, Holbeach Tyres and Nova Transmissions for all the help and advice.


Next round is at Cadwell Park. It’ll be nice to go back there after last year’s end-of-season disappointment.

Ritchie 71

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