Oulton Park Round 8 Saturday 9th July 2011

This is my local track, and as such required the least amount of travelling yet. I wondered down after work on Friday to Oulton Park, where a test day had been going on in the very changeable conditions getting there at roughly the same time as Doog so it’s all hands to set up near the scrutineering bay. Then it’s off to get a good nights sleep.

Saturday starts good and early. I had stayed off circuit and so got up nice and early to get in and ready. I roll the CBR the short distance to get it looked over at scrutineering. As I am waiting in the not small queue I am joined by Richard Connell’s (No 97)  team , sorry forgot your name, if I ever knew it, with a lightly beaten up R6. He’s had a slow off on the test day but is fine. We catch up and are joined by Ricky Elder who has come along to his old haunts in the NGRRC rather than his normal stomping grounds this year of the Triumph Triple Challenge. Anyhow the bike gets checked over and I am off to race control to get a practice card to see if I can remember the way the track goes. I run into Bongo and have a quick chat and make a note to go and find him later on and other Throttle Monkeys. Needless to say I didn’t get chance to. Soz people. I get my practice slot and head back to the grid.

I get the tyres warmers on and try to guess what the weather is going to do. I chat to the bloke next to us, Mark,  who has come on his own all the way from Cornwall. He has a bit of a problem getting his Gixxer 1000 through the noise test for the early practice session and we all try to help out to get him out. He has never been to Oulton Park before so I try to give him what little knowledge I have, only having been here 3 times before.

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My practice comes round and it’s time to see what the track is like. I take it steady, in fact really steady. There are a couple damp bits, not wet enough to really worry about and every is fairly comfortable out on the track. I am not attacking anywhere and really am just bimbling around. I still have the Open Qualifying to push much harder. The flag comes out and I go back into the paddock. I have a chat with Mark about the conditions and what I have remembered after being out. Doog wonders around with time sheets and I am very slow. I am not worried but I am a long way off the pace and where I thought I’d be, only managing a 2:07. Oh well I knew it was steady but not that steady.

Doog is to go out for the Mini Twins as I get in, but the SV refuses to start and despite Doog’s best efforts, and it being a fairly simple fix he can’t get it sorted in time to head out for the race.

There is a long wait between the the practice and the Qualifying for the Open. I go off to meet up with Darrel Jones No. 76 and Gary Lucitt No. 233, who I owe for a rear tyre from Pembrey… and the bugger sells me another set as well. Damn you ;). It eventually comes around for the Open and it’s time to up the pace. I know I am unlikely to worry the final grid and I need to find a good few seconds (like 7). I roll out and set about the task. I am reasonable happy and comfortable straight out the pits. The damp areas of the track have now totally dried out and I am confident enough to have a bit of a go now. I have hung towards the back of the pack to get a bit of track to myself and also not to get in the way of the fast lads. I am finding it hard to carry speed into Island and up the kink at Clay Hill, my stupid brain wont let me go as fast as I know I can go into the corners and I am loosing time here. I have a bit of a issue turning in too early for Old Hall and Cascades but apart from that it feels good, not fast but good. On a fairly early lap I get on the brakes a bit early for Cascades, just as the bike goes over the top of crest and everything gets a bit wobbly for a second. Nothing too scary but it does knacker the lap. I have a bit of a worry that I haven’t put enough fuel in, as the fuel gauge is showing only one bar. I do a couple of laps after I notice but aborted the last one, as I don’t want the ride of shame in the pick up van… and the ribbing from Doog and Helen. On the plus side I was getting quicker and quicker every lap, except my wobble lap, and I get my lap time down to 2.00.85. I am sure that with another lap I could have broken the 2 min barrier (I’m starting to talk like a racer if not ride as fast as one 🙂 ). Needles to say this is not quick enough to get on the grid for the Open Final, there is 53, and I am placed into the Street Stocks which I am fine with, as I will get to see what it’s like in that class as I am thinking of entering it next year. Back in the paddock I have a check around the

Next up is the 600 Heats. My guests have turned up, Claire and my bike disapproving parents. After a bit of a wait I am lined up in the first heat, right near the back, 23rd on the grid. I get ready to practice my start, something I really to practice. As we are waved off I get a good start and hope I can reproduce that at the real start. As the grid accelerates up to Old Hall there is a coming together ahead and to the left of me. 2 bikes seem to go down, which is not good. I have no idea who it is or what has happened (I later find out one of the riders is Ryan (TooTall) off Throttle Monkeys and Track Day Riders. The grid reforms, as they have red flagged the warm up lap and the race is reduced a lap and we have another warm up lap to do. I get a reasonable start, not as good as the one I had for the warm up but I am at least with the group into Old Hall. I can’t really remember much about the race. There are no moments that I can think of, no close battles or anything. It’s not boring by any means, but just not a battling, place swapping race. I am staying in touch with the group ahead of me, but at no point do I think I am closing in on them or that I can slide the CBR up the inside into any of the corners. Out of the Lodge on the last lap there is a yellow flag is, someone has gone down going across the the line. I haven’t been lapped, which is one of my goals for the weekend and so I shouldn’t be as it’s a long lap around Oulton.

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The next race is going to be the Street Stocks, my race instead of the Open finals. I am really excited about this as I have it in my head it’s more my sort of level, that’s not to say slow, as there are fast riders on bikes up to 1300cc, but there just there seems at other rounds more bikes lapping around my sort of pace in the up to 700cc . It is my plan to race in this class rather than the Open next year, where I am seriously out classed. I wonder to the holding area and we are held a fairly long time as the powers that be check tyres, as Street Stocks run a control tyre, Metzeler Racetechs  and I am not on them. I have a quick conversation with one of the men in overalls and point out I am not technically in the Street Stocks and it then time to go out on the grid. I am right at the back and ready to do another start. We are waived off for the warm up lap and I get another reasonable good practice start, maybe I am starting to get the hang of this. There is no repeat of the crashing off the start and I get some heat into the brakes and tyres as we amble back to the grid. The lights go out and I make a fair start. This is starting to look up on this front. In to Old Hall and a couple of people get caught up with each other and go down in front. I’m tight to the inside and slot into the stream of bikes as we head down the Avenue. Through Cascades we go and out on to the straight. I am on the back of the bike ahead and lose out a bit on the drag down towards Island. I brake too much for Island but gain what I lose through there by being stronger on the brakes into Shell Hairpin. Out of there and on to Britten’s (my least favourite part of the track). I get good drive out and I am chasing hard. Up a gear, it feels a little woolly on the selector, accelerate hard and go for the next gear… and nothing. I look down and see the selector bolt has undone itself again. I instantly know it’s game over for the race. I am not the only one having issues, a white Triumph is also having issues. I straight line the chicane of Hislop’s, stuck in 3rd or 4th gear, and ride it back round to the pits. I very annoyed. I look down and see it’s the same problem I had at Pembrey. I  check this bolt before going out every time and it was fine before I go out. By the time Claire and my parents get back from the watching at the Avenue, I have already fixed it, with a huge quantity of Loctite. I have a bit of a chat with Doog and have a cunning plan to lock wire the bolt in to remove any chance of it happening again is the consensus of what needs to be done before Anglesey.

I try to put my annoyance out of my head for the 600 B Final, which is tagged on to the Sounds of Thunder grid and seems to come around quickly. Out on the warm up lap I notice that I may have overtightened the selector in my bid to not have another DNF, as it’s fairly stiff, but at least it’s on.On the grid of the 600s next to No45, Ryan Fawkes on his Gixxer ahead and to the left of me and Doog #101 on his SV to the right of me. I look around and see Matt #99 is back out on the grid after his off at Mallory, his bike now being blue rather than the bright orange. Another practice start and round for the warm up lap and back round to the grid and await the start. The lights go out and I get a good start. The front comes up a bit just as I slot into 2nd gear and it all comes good. As we head to the Old Hall right hander I am along side and ahead of Ryan. There is a bit of shenanigans going ahead and it takes a while to sort out as we stream down through the Avenue and round Cascades. I am sort of holding on to a Triumph ahead down the straight and Island. I try to stay with them out of Shell and Britten’s but they start to build a bit of a gap. I keep my head down and try to hold the gap as best I can, but on the rest of the lap I can see it’s starting to stretch a bit. I close it a bit on the brakes into Lodge but it still  looks that they have a bit of pace on me. For the next 2 laps it’s like this. The gap getting bigger but nothing I can do about it, the occasional moment where I get a bit closer only for them to go away again. On lap 3 Ryan pulls a lovely move on me down the Avenue I had no idea he was coming at all, I could hear a bike behind me as I braked into the Shell Hairpin on the previous lap but I had no idea he was that close  and I didn’t think I got that bad a exit of Old Hall, despite turning it in too soon. Now at least I have someone to follow. I tag on to the back of him and follow as close as I can. I am keen to get back past but I am not going to do anything silly. The gap yo-yos between the 2 of us as we go round counting the laps off. I am not close enough to make a good manoeuvre but right there or there about. On the 5th lap Ryan make a mistake going into Hislop’s. He out brakes himself into the first right and I have a look. I have got drawn in a bit too much and fixate a bit on the back of his bike and I can’t make the move. I get in my mind that he is tiring a bit and that I should be able to get him. Into Lodge I think about having a look but decide against it, well maybe not this lap. As we cross the line the last lap flag is out and it’s time to make that move. I try and get all over the Suzuki’s rear wheel and feel I can make a move on the brakes somewhere, maybe into Hislop’s after his last lap. All the way around to Shell I am with him and I go a little deep into Shell but get a good drive out and am pulling back on the 45. In to Britten’s I have made it right on to the back of him again and get my best exit of the nasty little corners I can ever remember. I am quicker and close, I have to try it. Up over the hill and I am along side on the right ready for the right hander. Now it’s just a question of being later on the brakes. I am and I get the place. I do like it when plans work :). Now it’s just a question of making no mistakes. The way I figure it is that I only really have to defend into Lodge and the position is mine, but that is a long way to go. I concentrate on hitting my marks and hammer it up Clay Hill and through Druids, making sure I am very smooth and on my lines (however off the fastest lads’ ones they are). Out of Druids I make my intentions for Lodge quiet clear as I move a bit to the right. Into Lodge and I don’t see any front wheel or hear any bike behind me. I’ve got this!  Across the line and I am buzzing. I get back to the pits and the misery of the DNF has gone. I am chatting with my parents, Claire and Doog’s brother Dave, a former racer with NG, bouncing off the adrenaline. Doog walks over with the time sheets saying I have won. You what now? You’ve won the 600s. No way? I had no idea and made it all the more delightful. I bit of banter starts about “or 4th to last”. But still I can wind up some of my friends later about winning a race. Looking at the lap times I have dipped under the 2:00min lap as well, on the last lap with a 1:59.75, even with my overtake and defending the line into Lodge.

For the final race of the day, the 600 A Final I am second reserve having once again missed out on it with  and I know there is at least 1 person not out in the final. I turn up and I get waved into holding area having to stop to the right to see if I get let out to race. I chat to Richard England #136 who didn’t realise there was a B final. Anyway we are waved on to the grid and we are both in the race. I take up a position, slightly out of where I should be, but to be honest it’s not important. I get  a good start and I get to roughly where I should have been on the grid. Again it takes a few corners to sort out and when it does I slot in behind 2 bikes on the run along Lakeside.  I feel I am on their pace and stay with them all the way for the first couple of laps and then they start to just inch ever so slightly away. I don’t seem to be able to keep with them, which looking at the lap times I can easily do. I keep them in view all the way to the flag in a second unremarkable race. I end the race around 2 seconds behind the No.70 and only able to put in a 2:01 which I am annoyed at a bit as I know I can run 2 seconds faster than that and that would have put me a couple of places further up, or at least battling them. The results class me as last too, even though I know there was couple of bikes behind, but hey what can you do about that.

To sum up I had a great race day, apart from the errant bolt stopping my Street Stock. I would have preferred to have set a better lap time in the last race, but you have to be pleased with a win, no matter how you get them

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