Myself, Alex and Josh fighting into the Final ChicaneSunday had been promising to be a drier day when I looked at the forecasts. As I traveled up to the circuit the reports on the radio seemed to have changed their mind, with “substantial rain” promised for the afternoon. While I would prefer it dry after the day before’s good “feeling” if not speed I wasn’t too worried, it’s amazing what a good race will do for your confidence. The talk around the garage was of weather and the like and as there wasn’t that much to get set up for, except swapping the wheels to those with the dry Metzlers on and I go to get a practice card and another for one of the lads in the garage.

Practice was just really a amble around, no point in chasing lap times or podiums, as there aren’t any. It’s just to refocus and get ready for the races and of course more seat time.

The first race is the Street Stocks again. This time it’s a lot less of a rush to get out to grid. I am once again on the inside. I make a good, for me initial launch but yet again I am too early on the brakes and not confident enough to follow others in to Redgate for the first time. As such I get passed my a large number of people. I lose place after place as I drop down Crainer Curves, and another into the Old Hairpin. This won’t do. Something to work on is to be more aggressive off the starts, as it does seem to push me down and I spend the rest of the race catching up.

The race thins out into it’s normal line of riders through the rest of the lap and I sit behind, catching noticeably into the final chicane. Ahead Josh Khan (52), Alex Jones (#888) and another rider on some GSXR have a battle which I sit behind for the lap. Back out in to lap 3 I get a run on Alex along the start finish straight and pass him trying to stay with the GSXR (which I think is a 1000). A simple power pass (yes I know I have more than you Alex 😉 ) on the brakes pass into Redgate makes sure I am passed and I continue after the unknown Gixxer.

The lap continues and the target of the white Suzuki starts to pull away (I really hope it’s a 1000 now) and I think to myself if I am going to suffer the drop off in speed I have when I am running on my own. In the run into Coppice I get my answer as the white 52 Yamaha R6 of  Josh slides up the inside of me. Bugger. I pick the bike up a bit, not because it is close but just out of surprise, and we barrel down the back straight. As we head down the straight I am hauling him in with ease, more power, better exit, what ever the reason, he goes to the normal racing line and I have already made my mind up to out break him on the inside. In the end it isn’t as late a dive a s I think it’s going to be, but it does mean I am really tight on the entrance to the chicane.

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I half expect a wheel up the inside of me going into Redgate’s and as such have a bit of a tighter line that I would normally, but I know he’s there or there abouts. Off down Crainer again and I can still see the bikes in the distance.  Oh how I could do with a rabbit to chase to get my speeds up.

Going into McLean’s Alex jumps me on his Kawasaki. I totally wasn’t expecting that. Fair play, clean, accurate and smooth pass from a lad that broke his collar bone back at Brands in the opening round…. the git… Come back here! 😉   Up into Coppice I reckon if I get the same exit and drive I’ll be able to either power passed him or out brake him into what is becoming my favoured passing point, the Chicane at the end of the straight. I already know that my brake markers are way too early for the corner and hopefully I can take advantage of his not 100% fit shoulder 🙂

I am right. My bike definately has the legs on his and I am along side before we even get to the 200m board for braking. I am not as hard on the brakes as I was for passing last time and I am back in front. Still there is a dot of a bike up in front.

Last Lap Scrap DoningtonInto the old Hairpin Alex passes me again. Mental note to self, stop him doing that next lap. I am too early on the brakes and I seem to coast in to that corner too much. It should be power to brakes but I seem to just almost cruise to it. I run a bit deep and Josh gets passed as well. Damn it. As we go up to first McLean’s and then Coppice I know I am faster. I now have someone to chase as well. If I can I will pass one or possibly both down the back straight, especially if one has ago at the other… all hail horse power :). Along to Coppice and I gather them in. I have this. I don’t seem to get as good drive but I am in my zone and both bikes are coming back to me. As I move to the right to pass the R6 a wheelie-ing Yamaha R1 streaks passed. Bloody hell, I’m being lapped, been a while since that’s happened. Still I get passed the R6 and think about a bit of a do or die move on Alex. I am a bit too far back and I think it’s better to let him have this one or at least hope I can get the drive to the line. It’s not to be. The flag is out and I can’t get up along side to challenge. Another 1000, running in the Street Stocks 1300 class, blasts passed me on the run to the line, those guys are quick! On the slowing down lap I notice a few red flags, but don’t see why they are out so quick after the race. Turns out that the race was red flagged so technically I didn’t get lapped, but we all know the truth 🙂 I reckon I could have, if I’d had another lap got Alex, but I didn’t and that’s the fact of the matter. Still a very fun.  race. This weekend just keeps getting better and better.

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A 10min wait in the holding area, to allow anyone that wants to protest and then it’s back to pits. There is little to do on the bike, in fact nothing except put fuel in and wait. Some friends wonder in and the chat follows. Then the rain. It starts while the Sounds of Thunder class is out and racing. I look out down where the weather is coming from and I can tell I am going to be changing tyres soon. I wait a while, but there is no sign of the weather changing. I start changing the wheels over earlier than most, as most are scanning the skies in the vain hope it will stop raining. It lessens a bit, but after hearing the forecasts I know that it’s going  to be wet racing from now on.

The Open 600 is called. There is no heats this time, it ‘s a single qualifier.

I am 24th on the grid and directly in front of me I can see that there are 2 people that haven’t made the start. I had a bit of a slide on as my bike crossed the start line yesterday, and as I am just behind the line I make a mental note to be a little careful of the the line on the start. I get my now all to familiar bad start, not my worst by any means but again my lack of race time means I am on the brakes too early for the first corner, Redgate, but no one passes me (I must be at the back 🙂 ). I slot in and feel my way through the lap, gauging my performance on the bikes in front. As I come down the back straight I decide there is a bit more grip and the bike in fron is going to hold me up and let the people in front get away, so I attempt my now standard pass into the chicane, which I manage and gives  me a confidence boast into the bargain.

The next lap passes slowly closing in on a bike in front. I am getting a little  shake from the rear as I shift down  going into the Old Hairpin and it makes me a bit more careful. Another lap goes by and another… it’s getting a little lonely, but it’s far from boring. I can’t seem to close on the bloke in front. I am not giving up though and keep trying to close. I know that if I can just tag on, if history is anything to go by I’ll speed up and catch up quickly. Just as  I am thinking this the CBR I had passed earlier passes me into McLean’s. Damn it, but at least I have something to chase properly now. Double damn it, another bike comes around me into Coppice. I presume this bike must have run on somewhere as it goes passed me very easily.

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No matter how hard I try I can’t make up the gap and the race ends rather disappointingly. Yet I am not disheartened and have actually enjoyed the race. I just need to push a bit more early on and catch a tow a bit. The secret is confidence and the start.

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Next up is the final for the Street Stocks. Again there is not anything to do except put fuel in and check things over (tyre pressures mainly). I get to the holding area early for the race, no point waiting until the last minute as I am not using warmers on the wet tyres. I get a reasonable start from my lowly grid position and move from my second to the left track position more to the inside, again to miss any mishaps on the outside. I am too early off the brakes but shockingly I have actually made up a place on the run into the first corner, Redgates. Most of us seem to tip toe down the first time down Crainer. I have a bit of a run on the Yamaha in front and think about having a go in to the Old Hairpin. I can’t quiet be bring myself to make the move and let him swing across my nose. On the way out I get on the throttle a lot earlier and get more grip and shoot passed even before we go under Starkey’s Bridge. I seem to have a bit more confidence than those in front and close up quickly to the rear wheel of the bike in front before McLeans.  Coming out of Coppice I notice it’s Alex (888) ahead of me and shoot straight passed down the straight. Around to complete the lap and I get an SV mini twin in my sights and shoot straight passed, so that’s 2 in a couple of corners. I follow around for the rest of the lap. I can see a bike ahead but can’t seem to close… until the chicane. Here I seem to rapidly close in. Am I pushing it too hard there, I don’t think so, there is no warnings to suggest that.

I continue to close all the way through the lap. I think it’s a Fireblade, damn a PI bike not a Stocker. I get along side him down the back straight and out brake him into the chicane. Now is there anyone else?  I can see a bike a far way off in the spray and mist of the rain and set about chasing him down. It could be the concertina effect of slowing down for the final chicane, but I do seem to catch him noticably at that point of the track. Another lap ticks by and I am closing now. Another lap or 2 and I’ll be on him. He is close enough now to measure my speeds against him and it’s looking good to me. As long as I hit my marks and don’t try too hard I will be on him by the end of the next lap.  By the next time around Redgate I am able to measure my braking points and corner speed using him as a reference. Through the Old Hairpin and I am nearly with him. Up through Mclean’s, then Coppice and my move is on. This time I see a number plate. I notice it’s got 2 exhausts, damn it, it has to be a GSXR 1000, so not in my class. I decide to just go for it as I have caught him quickly enough, but can’t see anything in front of him. I dive on the inside into the chicane, I know you are surprised that’s where I did my pass. As I come out of the chicane, on to the start and finish straight, I can see an empty track in front… and the last lap flag, this will give the chance for the 1000cc bike to follow me and just use it’s power advantage on the back straight. I am thinking this through in my head as a streak comes passed me. Who the? What the? chequered flag? I’ve been lapped? Oh just as well I went for the move. In all honesty I don’t know if I got passed before the line. I have watched the video a few times and I can’t tell. Anyhow I decide to obey the flags (it is wet and horrible) and I am unlikely to pick up any places. I am sure if I had continued on at full chat for a lap I may pick up the pieces of someone else’s mistimed move.

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So to the last race of the day, The Open 600 Final. I was half thinking of skipping this, as the chance of getting points are slim and it’s been a great weekend and one last race might have been pushing my luck. Sarah had said, before she set off home “You don’t need to do it, it ‘s a long drive home” and it got me thinking then with Shrek having an off in the Mini Twins race, it got me really thinking, would it be pushing my luck. It was really slippy and getting on a bit, and with it gloomy. But all that went out the window, I was having such a good time I didn’t want to miss a lap! So out on to the grid. I got to the holding area early again, so I can be inside the garage they where using to hold everyone before going out on track.

I am deep on the grid and on my favoured inside, but not right on the right. There are a few holes on the grid as people decide that it’s not worth going out in the weather or for other reasons.  I get a good inital start, but then a bike in front of me moves into my way and I roll off a bit as I try to go to his right. I then get swamped by other bikes from behind. I am met with a wall of bikes going into Redgate’s, for once I am not the first bike on the brakes. I try to go around the outside of a Honda (number 45) but he runs me a bit wider than I want to go and can’t hold him behind me. I follow behind him down through Hailwood’s, down Crainer Curves and into the Old Hairpin (where it looks like it’s 3 wide into the corner). I don’t try and get passed on the way in, thinking it’s better to try and out drag him up under Starkey Bridge.  I get up along side him on the way out, by being quicker on to the throttle than him. Again unfortunately I can’t get in front enough before swinging into the left hander and he’s back passed. I can’t quiet get positioned to have a go into McLean’s though I do think about it. I am seem to be on the throttle earlier than him again and as a stroke of luck we are catching another bike, who seems to be struggling to get going towards Coppice. I decide to strike, they seem to lift off early, maybe not up to speed yet,  and I go up the inside of both of them. There is a little gap to the main bunch ahead and I use my strong point of braking to get  back on terms with them.

Across the start finish line and there is a bike which I am much quicker than ahead. I am past him before braking to the first corner.  The rest of the lap I am trying to close the gap on the group in front. By lap 3 I am still closing. I am still moving my brake point for the final chicane, inching it further and further to try and get the optimal point. In front there is a bit of passing going on into the chicane, this will slow them down, fighting, so I hope to capitalise. I do. I get up to the bike in front and I am getting along side before I notice he’s going into the pits, damn it.

I am more determined than ever to get to the bikes in front. I hold 4th rather than going up to 5th  under Starkey’s, to see if I get a bit close. I can’t tell if that was any better. I am quietly confident I can get the 2 of them if I can get close enough on the back straight. It’s just a question of getting that close. Into the chicane one passes the other and I can get closer even more. Keep it up lads 🙂

Next time round the 2 are fighting into the Old Hairpin and I hope I am inching closer and closer. I hope there is enough laps, as by this time I have lost count. I am not sure how but now there are 2 bikes ahead, slowly coming closer. Damn it. It was the last lap and I can’t get close enough for a go and that is my weekend over.

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So that’s it. My weekend of racing is over. So what did I learn. Well I am much, much, much happier in the wet than I have ever been before. Weather this is the new suspension set up, confidence or all in my head I don’t know. I am not so scared of the bike in the wet and so I can hopefully not just go backwards when it’s raining. I also learnt that I need to be more aggressive at the starts. I know that I was bad at starts but I am too timid into the first corner and from there I am always playing catch up. This is something I didn’t realise until I got the camera on the bike.

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