The weekend didn’t start off too great, a long drive to Pembrey after a long, a shockingly long week at work (a 3 am finish on Friday morning) is not the best way to prepare for a 250 mile trip. I set off late and arrive after driving through the rain at about 1 in the morning. I move the GSXR to the side of the van roll out a sleeping roll and try to get some sleep. A mix of adrenaline and Relentless leads to a less than restful sleep.
An early start, I get my bike scrutineered and sign on. The weather is wet but it’s not raining. The track is damp and my nerves are on edge, after my experience of Mallory I hope it drys up and stays dry. The problem is with the dry is that my tyres aren’t legal for the Street Stocks class, and scrubs are in short supply so there is no choice but to buy new (£269 of OUCH). As the practices start, and with a bit of a chat around, I decide scrubbing in the new tyres as the track will try by the 4th session, the one that I am out in. It’s a faff changing the wheels, the rear just won’t line up, but with a little help and a bit of swearing it slots home. The time this has taken has prevented me from getting to the gate to meet up with 2 friends who I haven’t seen in years, and the less than helpful staff at the circuit won’t let them in without someone going up to the gate with a ticket. Helen comes to the rescue and heads off with little Issac to go to let them in as I get out.
The track is grippy but my mind won’t let me push at any rate. There are no prizes for lobbing it in practice. I am bedding in both the new tyres and the new brakes. I wobble round relearning the track and trying to get comfortable on the gixxer. There is nothing really to say about it apart from that. I pull in and get the bike sound checked, 97dB, so lots of space there from the 98dB limit.
It’s back to the pits. I have parked up next to a bloke (sorry don’t know your name) who is pit crewing for his young, and quick lad on a 125 and have some good chats with the whole of his family over the weekend (and a coffee or 2). He’s off to the TT where he’s in the sidecars (nutter). Also a load of local lads who are about on ZXR, Gixxer and Honda. Lots of banter around, as normal at NG events.
First race up is the 600s Qualifying Race for me. Doog is in this one too, and trying to get in my head saying how he was “coming past on the brakes” in to Hatchets Hairpin, and that I had to be ahead before then or he was going to hold me off. Fair point, so lets make this a good start then.
I am lined up a good 15 places back from Doog. I am once again got my entry in fairly late to make sure I am near the back, I am 28th on the grid, the outside into turn one. The lights go out and I get a fairly poor start. I pogo a bit, I am still in touch, thanks in some way to the quick shifter being used to bring the front down. I have moved to the inside, as a gap had sort of opened up. I find that I am following Doog in to Hatchet’s. As we filter round the corner, a few more bikes filter between us. Gradually these got past Doog, with his lack of power to the 600s, then it’s my turn to get past him. I easy past him on the straight and then the bugger does as he says and does me on the brakes into the Hairpin.
I sit behind through Spitfire’s and into the Paddock bend. Last year I could easily get an exit out of the Paddock bend and get him on the run to the right hander. This year I can’t. I am not sure if this is down to me being not in the grove yet, Doog got better, more power, hehe less weight, well whatever the reason I can’t it done and all the other bikes are well away. Around on to the back straight and I have the legs, naturally on his SV, but I am still rolling off too much for the Woodland Kink and loosing my advantage, leaving me behind behind into the final corner. No worries…. GIXXER POWER!!! 115 is a lot more than 69 and so I shoot past… Now comes brakes. Later this time, too late. I run wide and the not wanted sight of the thumping Mini Twin comes into my vision. Not to worry, I shall get a drag out. But No. In my giddiness I have only gone down one gear to little and bog down nastily. This is getting silly. Not to worry, it’s all good fun and I can almost hear Doog saying “What are you doing” and “I told you so”… hehe and Helen saying “Don’t take him off”.
This time I make a much better exit of the old hairpin. This gives me much more drive out on to the back straight. This allows my big horsepower advantage to come to the fore. I ease past Doog and now can see an empty track ahead of me. I keep it pinned and now with the gap of being in front I should be able to fend off the braking maneuver into the hairpin. I spot my brake point and have a bit of a defensive line into the corner and with some relief there is no SV under me.
The rest of the 600s have scarpered and the rest of the race is a bit lonely circulating around. I go past another bike, monstering him on the start finish straight, presuming he had a problem and later finding I was lapping him. The next time I see any bikes is when I get lapped. I did hear the sound of mini twin on one occasion at the hairpin which did make me think “NO!!!”. All too soon the chequered flag is out and the race is done.
With that it’s back to the pits for a bit of banter and piss taking. I wait a bit and pop the baffle in ready for the Street Stock, once the exhaust has got a bit cooler so as not to forget.
We are called for the race and I head out, with some of the lads opposite to where we have set up. They seem to be in pre-injection bikes, but well we shall see what’s what out on track. I get a bit of a jerky start again and kangaroo a bit. I think the adding more teeth on the rear sprocket from Thruxton has made it alot more wheelie prone and I am not getting my weight far enough forward. I am sucked backwards, at least I am free to choose a line into Hatchet’s. There is a bit of fairing bashing. I am not sure if someone goes down. gone down fairly hard and totaling his Daytona 675. I am behind Dave Tilley #28 on his Gixxer Thou and Mark Geary #28 on his R6. They swap places a bit and Mark gets the upper hand. I manage to pass Dave as well by out braking him into the Hairpin, as I start to find a bit more confidence in the new brakes. I only hope I can stay ahead on the back straight giving away the 400cc. I need not worry I get a little gap. I am chasing the R6 of Mark for the rest of the race but can not get close enough to have a go at getting past before the red flag comes out. No idea what has happened, but as we are close to race distance the result is called. I am not sure I would have been able to have a stab at getting past Mark, but I like to think I’d have had a go somewhere 🙂
It’s back to the paddock and a spot of light lunch and chat with everyone again.
It’s soon time for the 600s final. I have nothing really to say about this race, as it’s a total blur. Nothing really stands out about it as once I get past Doog (another crap start) which take 3 laps (yes yes yes I know). Damn it. I have lost contact with the rest of the bikes and from there it’s just counting off the laps. I suffer from my drop in lap speeds compared to the previous races where I am chasing someone and I am lapping over 2 seconds a lap slower than when I am chasing someone. I count off the laps and try to relax and get a flow but I still am not “feeling it”. I get lapped and get the flag and one of the most unremarkable races I have had is over. I am a bit frustrated. I expect to make an improvement in each race and I feel I rode worse than I did in the previous races and I wasn’t overly happy with them.
The next race is the Street Stocks Final. I make another awful start and I am dead last going into the hairpin. I am behind both Mark on his R6. I can’t seem to do anything about them at all. I seem to only be able to stay with them and at no point can I send one down the inside or get on it earlier. I don’t seem to be making anyway like the progress that I hoped I would do through the day. I am quiet close to him but not that close. I can have a good look down into the Brooklands Hairpin. I feel I am a bit better on going to there but can’t get out of habit of comfort braking through the Esses. It doesn’t do anything but upset the bike and make me turn too early and yet I am still able to “almost” able to have a look in to Brooklands. I keep looking at both the hairpins but I am just not close enough or good enough to have a go and so I end up following all the way round to the flag. Another disappointing race.
The final race of the day is the Open Newcomers. There is only a brief gap between the Street Stocks and the New Comers, in fact just one race, the Upto 500 Newcomers, so it’s a bit of a splash of fuel and go back to the holding area. They keep the Street Stocks quiet a long time in the Parc Fermme to check that you aren’t running illegal tyres and exhausts and the like. A quick drink for me and the bike and it is straight back to the holding area.
Once again I don’t really get a good start, not my worst by any means but I am still flapping around the back as we approach the hairpin. This time I am on the outside as I couldn’t make my way over to my preferred inside. I filter in trying to make some places but at the end of the first lap I am only ahead of #80 Andy Fellowes on his Fireblade, running in the pre-injection class. As the race unfolds I am following the now familar sight of the #28 R6 of Mark Geary. I sit behind him for a couple of laps looking to see where I can get past. There is no doubt he can run a bit faster than me in some places but I am fairly sure I have the better of him in braking in to the hairpins. I might even be able to have a go into the Esses if I can get a good exit. On lap 3 I manage to stay with him round the Woodlands Kink and and through Honda, so I make my move. I stick the bike to the inside and get past nice and cleanly also on that lap I get past the 128 ZX10-R of Dereck Wood so I am flying (in relative terms). My euphoria is a bit premature though as on the next lap Mark comes past and starts to gap me. No matter what I try I can’t quiet live with his pace and little by little he pulls a way. I can see him for most of the race, except when I get lapped on the last lap I get pushed quiet wide and lose a lot of more time to him. Still all is well and the chequered flag is a welcome sight at the end of the day, crossing the line 18th.
I have ACTUALLY raced today. After missing Brands Hatch and the Abandoned Mallory Park meetings I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get out on my bike. I haven’t still jelled with the GSXR through the day. I am sure it’s just in my head and probably more so now, but it’s still a new bike to me and the first time out in the dry this year… and I have scored points, granted last in class in the Street Stocks but points in points. So all in all not too bad a day.
What about tomorrow 😉