After an early night I woke good and early for the next instalment. I would say bright eyed and bushy tailed but that would be a lie. My air bed has developed a small leak and this really hasn’t helped my sleeping, I dare say the adrenaline coursing through my veins doesn’t aid it either. I have a quick look at the laps from yesterday, which I said I wasn’t going to look at until after the event. I wonder around to see who is up and about, and make it down to Shaun Wynn, who had offered to help out through out the weekend. I find out that I need a pass to go out in the practice. So off we go down to race control and grab a pass for the free practice. I have a few things to check out, bed in the brakes, which I meant to do at the track day before but when I took a look at the pads I thought they would not need replacing until after this weekend, unfortunately not. Also there are new tyres to get used too. Not only are they Dunlops, I have never ridden a bike on Dunlops, but also it’s a 190 rear, again I have always used 180s on the CBR so this could be an interesting “test”.
As I head towards the track I drag the front brake a bit to get the feel for the brakes, and I must say they are feeling very positive even before I get on track. It’s amazing how much different a new set of pads can make. Out on to track it’s all good. I take a lap or 2 to feel the bike and brakes. It feels odd. The brakes are fine but the back of the bike is unsettled. I’m not sure why or what, but it feels unplanted and as if the back is pitching round. The last thing I was expecting to feel from a 190 section tyre. I stay out to get the feel for the bike but I am not enjoying the feeling. I am not going to be fast, I’m once again not pushing it. I just want to get the feel and I am glad I have this practice to get used to it. I have a little run on at the chicane when I out brake myself, no biggy, just one of those I “could” make it through or I can take the safe root. Soon the flag comes out and I am back into the pits and have a bit of a conversation about the feeling I am getting. A quick check shows the tyre pressures are quiet a bit too high and a recommendation of dropping them. I drop the pressures down and sit and await the call for the first race.
The first race of the day is the Open Newcomers and a whole sea of orange novice bibs is down in the holding area. The grid positions for this are set up as NGRRC received and process the entry forms. I deliberately sent in my application late in the day to make sure I was at near the back. I am 29th on the grid. Once again I have a bit of a mental arithmetic to do. Out we go and as soon as we go through Hall bends I have a horrible feeling the front tyre is too soft. It feels horrible. I have a decision to make. Is it because it’s just not up to temperature or have I put the pressures too low. If it’s too low I am going to have to pull out of the race. I figure that I can do the warm up lap, work the tyre hard and see what it’s like on the first lap. I line up on the grid and set off on the warm up. I set off quiet steady through the first few corners. As I am at the back I get on the brakes and try all sorts to get as much heat into the tyre as I can. I have no idea if this will do anything and I probably look a bit of a knob doing it but if it works it works and I don’t care. On to the grid and the bloke with the red flag points to the lights and runs off the grid. The lights go out.
Another terrible start. I plummet back down the grid. This time I have kangarooed it and get swallowed up. Damn it! Everyone has gone past me and I am stuck behind an FJ. This should be an easy job. It isn’t. I am faster than him but everywhere I am faster I simply have no way of getting through. He has a knack of putting his bike in the way, which is the point I know and I can see the others pulling away. I follow, showing a wheel where I can. through Hall bends I am all over the back of him. I have a little think about a move into the Hairpin but I can’t dive under as I don’t have the confidence to do so. I let him get a little gap into Barns. The speed advantage of a my Honda over the Yamaha should be enough to get him on the pit straight, but I have given too much away through Barns. He is off the power so much earlier than I want to be on the way into Coppice it takes me by surprise a bit. I am so much faster through Coppice that I am having to roll off not to run into the back of him. In to Charlies I can’t find a way through and on to the straight I have once again ruined my run out, bogging the CBR down as I try to find a way to get a run on him.
This continues through the next couple of laps, someone has an off at the Mountain, I hope they are all right, but I don’t think too much about it. I know I am quicker, but there is simply nowhere I am confident enough to have a go. I have figured my best chance is to get a good run out of Charlies and out brake the heavy FJ into Park. This seems like a plan. About 2 laps from the end I have a good run out of Charlies having left a bit of a gap to get a little bit more of a run. All the way down the straight I am closing, closing closing. I dip to the right to be on the inside. This is going to work! I stare at my apex, watching the FJ out of the side of my eye. I’ve got him! Awesome. Then as I go for apex he comes back past me. Bugger. I have slowed down too much and left him a clean run and he needs no second invitation. Damn it. It’s as we where around the track. At the start and finish straight I have a think of going in hotter into Coppice but decide against being so rash. That worked, it’ll work again and I can’t see any other riders I am likely to catch.
The last lap flag is shown and I think “right, this is it”. Again I get a good run onto the back straight. I am a bit further back than last time but I know this is the time to do it. I close again at speed, head down faster and faster. We pass the first board side by side. Now it’s on to the brakes. I have thought of a new way to make sure he can’t cut back in front. I am hard on the brakes, as is number 179. I stay on the brakes keeping the FJ off to my left. I can make the corner now, but I stay where I am just a tad longer than I think I need, block passing a bit. It works! I am ahead. Head down lets go! I know I am faster than him through Chris Curves and The Goose Neck. Down to Mansfield (I’ve not been comfortable here at all), all I can think about is “don’t give him a chance, don’t give him a chance”. If I can get to the Mountain ahead I have it. Through the flip flop chicane and up toward the Mountain. Keep it calm keep it neat. Up and over the Mountain, through the Hall bends, On the hairpin and I’ve got this. I take a quiet tight line into the hairpin. On the power. Off to Barnes.Yes! No chance of getting me know…. and there isn’t I fly across the finish line. For the first time I have had a race and it’s brilliant! I’m bouncing. Who would have thought fighting for last would be so much fun. Oh and this is the first race of the day!
All is chatty around the paddock. I wonder off to find No 179 as it was all good fun, I find Paul Harlington but he has to go out again in the next race so we don’t get to chat long. I wish him luck and head off back around the paddock trying not to be highly annoying and bouncing with adrenaline, I probably fail this quiet badly. I only now that I think about my flat feeling front tyre. Well it must have been OK then.
The next race is the 600s Qualifier race. This is a change from what they had planned. It was going to be 15 mins qualifier but with the number of people not doing the Sunday races it has been changed to a qualifying race, with the grid places ordered by the qualifying from yesterday. This isn’t so bad as I did a fairly good lap last time, and anyhow the way my starts seem to be going it doesn’t matter where I start. I take up my grid slot, or at least what I think is my place, apparently I can’t do the 3 times tables as I go to the right side rather than the left. I am told to take might rightful place after the warm up lap. D’oh! I line up after the warm up lap in the correct place and the wait for the lights. When the lights go out and I make… you guessed it a crap start. Not as crap as before but still rubbish and do my now traditional dive back down the grid. At least this time I am on the back of a group of riders and not having to catch up for half a lap. I think of trying a move into Charlies 1 but decided that it’s early days and back out of it.There is a few of us in a little group hammering around the lap. One by one they get past the orange ZX6 No 99 and soon it’s my turn. And I simply can’t do it. Where as before I had a definite machine advantage against the FJ, there is nothing I have in way of advantage against a ZX6R. I get behind him and sit there, unable to manufacture a pass. I am faster through Coppice all the way through to Mansfield. He’s a little bit better through Mansfield and through the Mountain. I catch a bit through Hall Bends. This is going to be tougher than before. I reckon my best bet is to repeat my move into Park, the problem being I need to get on it good and early on to the back straight. I have a go a few times but I just can’t get a good enough launch out of Charlies 2. Some laps I gaining enough to have a think about it, but not really seriously, and then sometime I am just nowhere near. I am not waiting for the last lap again. I want to get past and away. I get a good line into Charlies and carry lots of speed. I sweep the corners as one and I get a really good run out, this is it. I doubt I’ll get a better shot than this. I am out of the slip stream and it’s all going to be on the brakes. I win this one. That’s 2 people I have overtaken! Brilliant. Now it’s head down and go, just like before. I try and push a bit to open a gap before Mansfield but more importantly not make a mistake. I get through there and through the flip flop. I half expect to see a wheel appear along side me, but none does. Up over the Mountain, and still nothing. If I can get in to Coppice I reckon I will be away and gone, but that is along way away yet. Into Hall bends, I don’t think there is a way through here. I am a bit defensive into the hairpin as I can hear a bike behind me. Into Barns, and hope beyond hope that I haven’t give him a run on to me. Suddenly there is a bike underneath me. But it’s not a ZX6, it’s a Triumph! What? Oh I am being lapped, I tuck in and follow the Triumph and scream across the line, where the chequered flag is waving. Oh? That was the last lap…. oh bugger it, I NEARLY didn’t get lapped by under a second! Still the annoyance is lessened by the fact I had a good race again and again I came out on top.
I wonder off to see the number 99 after the race in the paddock to have a chat. I enjoyed that even though it was again for the back of the grid. I manage to find No 99, Matt Webster, and have a good chat with him and his family member team. Apparently he had no idea I was behind him which makes my good racing only one sided. Still there is the final race of the 600s to renew this fun little dice. As no doubt I won’t get a good start. Richard Connell #97 has decided not to do the final race as he has a long drive ahead of him and everyone with him. Subsequently my tyre warmers and electrical supply is disappearing. In other paddocks this might be a problem, but I already have an offer of a spare set of tyre warmers from Matt, both rears though, and then people that I have been chatting to who are next to me, 221 David Mitchell, offers me to set up with them and plug into there generator and while I am at it they have a spare set of tyre warmers I can use. It is really a friendly and helpful paddock. As I am getting ready to go out the Ebbs (No 117 in the F400s and his wife) and Routs (No 19 and 39 in the Street Stock 400s), who I have been chatting to all the way through the weekend declare they are off to watch me in the final race, just to add another bit of pressure to me.
The final race see me start second to last, just in front of Matt after our first race tussle. As the lights go out I have another shocker of a start. I really need to get this better, not so sure how I can practice this, it may be all right for Rossi or Caimer to get shocking starts but they have considerable more talent than I do. Once again I am at the back, starring at the back of the No 99 orange ZX6R. Damn it. It is by no measure my worse start of the weekend and I am away with everyone else. I have done it before I can do it again. This time however Matt knows I am there. I stick to his wheel tracks around the first lap, I try and pop out at the end of back straight, but it’s a bit too far back to try a lunge into Park this lap. I try and drive underneath through Chris Curves but I can’t get enough of an advantage to make a move into the start of the Goose Neck. I can’t get a pass through the rest of the lap either, so I think that Park is my best bet. As we charge down the back straight I am not quiet close enough, but I have a little look but nothing is doing again. I try a tight line again through Chris Curves, but still there is no way through I am climbing all over the back of him. I loose a bit of time on him round the mountain area and catch it back on the next few corners. This time leaving Charlies I am too far back to even think about a move. I close on the brakes and once again try to make something happen around Chris Curves and into the Goose Neck, this time I think about a move in to Mansfield’s left hander. I can get close but not close enough. This is hard work. I hang with Matt all through the rest of the lap. I dare say I am giving the newly acquired “fan club” something to watch as I try a bit of a move into the left corner leading into the Mountain. Again, nothing happening. Next lap I am once again too far back from Matt to attack into Park, as I got too close on the way from Coppice and into Charlies. Still there is no way through, for me else where. It is starting to look like I can only pass into Park. Oh well, there are still some more laps, and next lap I get my chance. I get a good swoop and drive out of Charlies and Matt’s Kwaker is much closer than the last 2 laps. The time to pass is now. I get a good run down the dip and then up to crest into the braking area. I dive out to the right to make the move, waiting for Matt to get on the brakes. I shoot passed. Yes! result. Now to get my head down once again. I am told by the people watching that I gap Matt once I have got passed, but once again the chance of chasing someone else down has gone. Still it’s all good fun. I get lapped through Chris Curve on the next lap, earlier than last time and a slight disappointment. There is one lap to go and I try to get a good fast lap in, for no other reason racing wise than my own personal satisfaction. There is no one in front that I can realistically catch but we will have a go 🙂 I haven’t got near my qualifying times in the previous races and this is the last chance I’ll get to see what I can do. It’s all going well, nice and quick through Coppice, now with no one in front of me to dictate my entrance speed, dropping a gear and staying off the brakes. Down another gear and tip in to Charlies 1 sweeping it in an attempt to take the 2 parts as one, not the best I have ever done this but I get a fair run on to the back straight. Nice and late on to the brakes. Through Chris Curves in to the Goose Neck, all nice and smooth. Down into Mansfield and through the flip flop chicane. There is nothing outstanding about this lap, and then there are yellow flags going into the final corner, Barns. I slow up and 2 people who are lapping me nip through. Maybe I slowed too much, I come out of the corner to see 2 bikes on the floor and cross the line and take the chequered flag.
So that’s that. My first race weekend over. So many people helped me out and I had such a great time. Roll on Pembrey… now where are those entry forms!