So, my first race weekend. A daunting prospect and no mistake.
I set off to Cadwell from West Manchester, where I work at about 18:00, so much for the early exit, and had a fairly uninteresting and uneventful drive over. The only real things I can remember is that at some point I was overtaken by a van that looked like it might be heading to Cadwell as well and that it started to rain at a few points along the way. In fact the near I got to the track the heavier the brief showers appeared to be. I really didn’t want to be going into the Hall section of the track, under the trees, in anything other than totally dry conditions failing that proper wet, but there is nothing you can do about the weather, though the forecast promised good weather. I get to the circuit after dark and find a place in the paddock to set up. I hadn’t had time as planned to put the number boards on at lunch so I set about putting them on in the dark, and instantly discover 2 things. 1 I am still rubbish at doing them and the dark doesn’t make it easy and 2 the paddock is full of friendly people as an offer of a light and a hand is give straight away and it is not a solitary offer either, eventually 4 people are helping and advising. It was good to have something to do as the nerves had really started to get to me. I give up on the boards after getting a couple on and an early start is required to finish the job before scrutineering. I throw up my tent and get my head down.
I awake early and continue putting the sticker. I happened to have pitched next to Richard Connell, No 97 on a R6 and he and everyone he brought with him helped me out a great deal through the weekend. Once the numbers where on the boards it was time to wonder down the scrutineers. I must admit that I was nervous about the scrutineers, as this could scupper the whole weekend in a single persons decision. I take the the bike down . The CBR was bought off a racer at the NGRRC, who used it as in the championship about 2 years ago, but as with all things the rules can change, bits can get bent, smashed up and generally wear. I was expecting a longer queue of people getting their bikes and kit through but because of the test day the day before it seems I had struck lucky and I get straight through to being checked. “Well that’s and instant fail on the numbers….” WHAT? Eh? Noooo! Why? “There too be big. We can read them”… It takes a second or 2 for the fact he was joking to settle in my mind. The rest of the scrutineering goes with out any problems, I get an advisory about the sharks fin, but I am not sure why as it’s, I’ll have to have a look at it.Looking around the paddock there were a number of people that had the same sharks fin on, so it must just be a slight adjustment of where it is place. I pushed the bike back up the hill to the paddock, it’s a steep old hill with no engine. I then returned to have my riding gear inspected. No dramas or jokes with that one.
I set my bike up next to Richard’s Yamaha and take him up on his generous offer of using his spare tyre warmers and generator. Yes I know I should get some, I couldn’t get a generator in the car anyhow, something else I am working on.
As the time gets closer to go out I am feeling remarkably calm. I am nervous but I am not as nervous as I thought I’d be. I had entered the 600s on both the Saturday and Sunday, the Open on just the Saturday and the Open Newcomers, which is on the Sunday morning. The first action of the day is the practice, I had the choice of 1 of the 2 practices for my bike, sorted by capacity, and I have choose the one that has the lest people in it. This is going to be a mix of 600s and 1000s. Soon it is time to go out.
Tyre warmers off, and roll down to the holding area. I can feel my heart pounding now. This is the moment I will see how far off the pace I actually am. Out we go and I take it easy to start off with. Someone in the side cars has left a bit of oil around the circuit, which obviously isn’t ideal. There is a cement dust down, through from the Mountain and Hall bends, not the place you want there to be any worry about grip. Around the hairpin there seems to be a liquid that isn’t covered in cement. I’ll be giving that a miss for certain! the sun is shining and I am enjoying myself. Cadwell is hard work and I really enjoyed my only other visit to the track. This visit let me not have to be learning the track as I go. I am not quick and I am past quiet often, no great surprise and I am latching on to a few people for a few corners and they are dragging me along. This is all good tuition on Cadwell. The passing I had been warned would be a lot harder than at a trackday, this doesn’t appear to be the case, not yet.I even overtake a few people, well 3 to be precise. These stick out as there aren’t that many and, of course, this is racing. I need to know I can get passed. All to soon the flag comes out and it’s back to the paddock. I don’t bother looking at the times when I get back, the cement dust and liquid at the hairpin must mean that it won’t be that impressive. I am still learning this track but I am grinning like an idiot and enjoying myself.
Next up is Qualifying, unlike I was lead to believe, for the 600s. Normally the 600s have a qualifying race instead. I sit in the paddock chatting away to the very friendly people all over the paddock, I know I am going to be near the back but this is the first time I am actually being competitive at any track on a bike. The oil of earlier has been properly cleaned up and it’s time to go a bit quicker. I have decided to head out nearer the back than the front, something I am used to from doing trackdays, get a feel for the pace and then go for a few quick laps and see where I end up. Ideal I want to have someone just in front of me that is just a bit quicker than my “normal” pace to drag me along a bit. When I did a track day last month I struggled to break 2 mins as there was always traffic and I know the quick guys will be nearly 30 seconds faster than that, I am not to worried. I know there are a few areas where I can go faster, I used the Qstarz BT-Q1000EX lap timer last time out and I can see that I can at least be 5 seconds faster if I can hook up a lap. There is a number of firsts on this session. I have never tried to read a lap board before and have always thought the excuse of “I couldn’t see it” was a bit lame, but now I know it is generally more tricky than you’d think. The number of minutes left in the session was put up on a board. I wasn’t expecting this as totally missed the first one they put out. I knew there was a board put out, but as to what it said I was totally at a lost. As it happened I guess the first one said “5 mins remaining” as the 15 mins session clicks down, due to the next one saying “3 mins”. With that board I am finding I am catching someone. No idea who but I am very well locked on and pushing hard. Through the first corner as hard as I have ever been through, but still my brain wont let me attack the corner as much as I think it can be attacked. Up through Charlies 1 and on to 2, not as quick as I have been through before, running a bit wide out of Charlies 2, still keeping that bike in front in view. Park is next, and I know I brake too early and scrub off to much speed. The rest of the lap seems to flow and the bike in front gets bigger and bigger. All in all a good lap, but not remarkable, smooth and no dramas. I get another lap in, but make a bit of a mess of it so the chicane before the Mountain. I decide not to and look at the lap times again and concentrate on my riding.
I get back to the paddock and have a good chat with Richard Ebb (No 117 in the F400 Class) who has come over to say hello hearing that it’s my first event. As we are chatting away I happen to notice a large amount of grease all over the wheel of my trailer. I push the tyre with my foot and it move off to an alarming angle. Damn it. The ever helpful people around help to quickly diagnose the wheel barring has gone. Now where the hell am I going to get a wheel barring from in the paddock. I run round the stores, ring a few people that people suggest (those that have any form of internet connection and after stealing a phone). This is something to think about later as it’s time to go out in the Open qualifying.
Off to the holding area and I scan around. Not so many here as before and I am looking… there is a distinct lack of orange bibs (signifying newcomers) on the riders. It appears as if I am the only one. Eek! I will admit that I was nervous about entering this class more than the 600s, despite the reputation for them being the axe murders class. I full expect to be last on this one. I am really using this to get more track time from this group and hopefully stay out of the way as they come round to lap me. As before I head out towards the back and set about doing some get in the swing of it laps. There isn’t anyone to really hang on to on this one. I am badly out classed by everyone. I am very aware that I am off the pace by quiet a margin. In some clubs I am told the Open is the one that no one really cares about, not so in NGRRC. I lap has hard and as fast as I can yet I catch up with no one and I am passed a fair bit, nothing near as bad as some people had led me to believe. I continue to push as hard as I can and try and hold on to people as they come passed me for a few corners to see if I can learn anything and get dragged along as best I can. The flag is soon out and I know the position I have got on the grid.4
Back in the paddock I turn my attentions to the wheel on my trailers wheel barring problem. I head out of the circuit to a caravan centre mentioned by the track management that might have one. I am in a bit of a rush but time should be on my side. There are a few races before my first race. The very helpful man at the caravan centre does have a barring, but they take an eternity to find. I rush back to the circuit to take my place on the grid. I am met buy Richard as I get in saying “They have been calling for you, you’ve missed your race.” You are kidding. I hadn’t been gone that long and I can’t figure out how I could have missed my race. A quick run down to race control and it is explained. Their are so many entries for the 600s that they have decided to move the last 8 or 12 to the Street Stocks race. My qualifying time (1:51.292) fits me into this group and the race has been. I am annoyed as the only reason I have gone of site is because there was a big gap between the Open qualifying and the race for the 600s. There is not much I can do about missing the race, they say to get me out there for a race they will put me in the Sounds Of Thunder and Powerbikes race. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.
All this means that my first race is going to be the Open race which is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.
The race is called. This is done by calling 3 times for the riders to go to the holding area. This means that I start getting ready on the first call, get to the bike on the second and head to the holding area on the third. It takes a bit of effort to get my helmet on gloves on as the adrenaline coursing through my veins is making me all fingers and thumbs. This is it. I wait once again in the holding area. There are a few more orange bibs in there this time. Not to many but a few more, than just me. I am told my starting position on the grid as I enter through the entry gate. The woman tells me a number and my mind goes blank trying to figure out what row that makes it on a grid 3 wide. Never has the 3 times tables been so complicated. 28th On the grid. Fairly easy that one. That’s the middle of the 9th row, but it’s amazing how hard it is to think straight at this moment in time. Out on to the grid, which is not even half a lap away as we head out through Hall bends, the Hairpin and round Barn before forming up on the dummy grid. It’s hard to find the right place on the grid, is it pole on the left or the right? which marks are we using? arrgh I never thought to ask that. The boards to the left say the row number and with a bit of I found my place on the grid and sit there, my heart bounding and my mouth dry. We waived off, and lots of the others use this as a way to practice the start. I never thought about that, and set off down the track. No warming of tyre weaving, just trying to get a good pace and make sure everything is as it should be. I stay up with the pack as we filter around. Soon I am back to my grid position. A few take a bit longer to get in position, but soon all the players are in place. The bloke at the front with the red flag points up at the lights and symphony of engines roar as the revs rise. I can’t remember the feeling. I can’t remember if I was terrified or anything. All I was looking at was the lights. The lights go out and we are racing! I make the worse start. The rest of the grid shoot off and I am left a good distance back. Bugger. Not to worry I already know I am going to be last on this one. This is just practice for the rest of the weekend. I still wanted to get away with the group and see if I can learn for a few laps or corners. I must be 2 seconds back as we peel into the first corner, Coppice. The jouselling for position and people on the wrong line and the like allow me to close up a little. I hold on around Charlies 1 and 2 and down the straight towards Park. Again the fighting on the breaking in to Park allow me to hold on a bit and then the run through the Chris Curves, I start to fall back a bit through these, a weak spot of mine. By the time I have gone through the Goose Neck and Mansfield I have lost a good contact and I know I am dead last. Not to worry. I settle into as gooder pace as I can muster. Looking back I must have been really tense because I was seconds off the times I was doing in practice, 3 or 4 seconds shy of what I had been doing earlier. There is nothing really to say about this race. I was on my own very early on and basically time trialling rather than racing. I was lapped, unsurprisingly, and yet again not as I had been told to prepare for. All just sweeping passes, with no hope of holding on for a couple of corners, they were just too fast. I make it to the chequered flag, lapped, last but happy. I have made the finish. I have apparently finished 26th, I have no idea what has happened to the other 2 people. I haven’t seen any yellow flags or any bikes parked up. My objectives was just to finish the race and have fun, so all achieved.
I head back to the pits all buzzing with excitement. Lots of people come over to
The next race is the Sounds of Thunder race, that I have been put into to “give me a race”. As I have said before I am not wildly excited to be in this race, but a race is a race. I know that I am slower than the people out in this race and I don’t want to be in the way of someone else’s race. It’s different if I am racing in that category but this is simply a make up my value of the ticket. I am let out again on to the grid, and once again I am at the back. The same start procedure as before and after the warm up / sighting lap I again wait for the red flag to be removed. Once again the revs rise (nicer noise on the SoT grid, maybe I should track the 675 rather than the CBR) and out they go. Again I get a shockingly bad start. Not as bad as the one in the open but still fairly shocking on the general standard. Now at least I know I need to work on that now. I am tagged on to the back of the pack again swooping Coppice. I have a look up the inside of someone on the run up to Charlies as they have been hung out around Coppice, but alas it’s not to be. As we head off towards Park there is a fair amount of passing going on, and I get a bad run out of Charlies 2 on to the straight and I lose a little bit of drive. I gather up on the brakes in to Park. No passing is possible and I stay behind and hang on around to them around Chris Curves and the Goose Neck. I think about a move into Mansfield’s but it’s not my strongest area of the track. I sit back behind and lose a bit around Mansfield’s and gather a bit into the chicane. I get a bad drive out of there and loose all I have gained on the way in, on the way out. A simple, classic case of fast in slow out. I loose more through the Mountain, Hall bends, the Hairpin and Barns and have, by the home straight I have drifted a bit away from the back of the group. I slip back more and more over the laps as I am not able to catch up as the pace is just a little bit too fast for me, I am starting to get the feeling I am rubbish at this racing lark, still all good fun though. You’ll be shocked to read I get lapped, again not close or a hard pass in sight. After the chequered flag one of the riders seems a bit upset, with me. I have no idea why or for what for. He is chatting to someone else on the cooling down lap and pointing back at me. Maybe he’s just confused by why a CBR is out in the Sounds of Thunder, maybe he caught me up at a section where I am not so far off the pace and found it hard to get passed me. Anyhow, I couldn’t make out who he is or what sort of bike he’s on. I try to find him later on to find what his beef is, not to hard granted, but I can’t find him and so give up.
I get back to the paddock and it’s all chats with everyone. I decide a tyre change is the order of the day, as the rear tyre is seriously ripped up. Yet again Richard helps me out as he has a set of Dunlops he is selling. Nice one. While doing this I decide to swap to my new brake pads (which I got earlier off www.moto-racespares.com), with the plan to bed them in the practice the next morning.
With that it’s time for the bar for some hero stories. I get to meet up with Richard Ebb, his wife, Robert and Louise Rout (No 19 and 39 in the Street Stock 400s) at the bar. Later we are joined by No 17 in the F400 class who has been struggling all day to get his bike running, sorry mate I can’t remember your name, too many names over the weekend. We were later and a good evening is had by all. I turn in early ish and stay to a couple of beers.
So that’s it… my first day as a racer.
- Not Crash: Achieved
- Finish the Races: Achieved
See told you my goals where modest.