Mallory Park is a special place for me. It’s the track that I first took a bike around, 7ish years ago. It is also the track that I have probably done more laps around than any other. So I have really been looking forward to this one. Over the winter they have relayed the track, which it desperately needed as the old surface was a bit agricultural, to say the least. Which has taken away most of my markers for the track so though I know the basic way to wobble around Mallory there is still a large amount I need to learn about the track.
I have spent the weekend down in Earl Shilton as I have friends that live there, very helpful that, and so wonder down to the track nice and early on the Sunday morning to find that most of the paddock got there the night before making finding a spot a bit more difficult than I had expected. My early arrival at the circuit meant that I couldn’t find anyone who I was expecting to see, so park up the only place I can find that isn’t off in the middle of nowhere. It’s then kit unpack and off to scruiteering, no dramas there, sign on and then it’s time to hunt down Dave (No.45 on the MiniTwins and 400s) who has Doog’s gennie for me due to a long list of circumstances (Doog having a winning bid for a service in the for in the charity auction at Pembrey from Lee Davis. Doog was off at the Isle of Man TT so Lee was to bring it to Mallory only for his van to have a barring go on it… follow that? No neither do I, enough to say I have the gennie.) This takes a bit of finding. On finding him I happen to get a hand back with it. Next it’s a run over to Daz (No.76) to get some scrubs off him. Everything ready and it’s time to wait for practice.
Practice time: Out I roll and say hello to the new to the old friend with it’s new botoxed and facelifted surface. Straight away I feel at home and I am loving it! Confidence is up and I have a good feeling about the coming races. The tarmac is so grippy and all the big bumps and overbanding and the like are a thing of the past. The only problem I can see is that the car track day the day before has dragged mud on to the track at Edwina’s. The session is red flagged near the end and we filter back in. I find out that it’s Matt Webster No 99 who I race against at Cadwell who has gone down at Gerrard’s, the big sweeping right hander. I don’t see him as he’s off around the paddock when I find his bike and team of family. He seems to have got off with it fairly lightly but the bike is a bit of a mess and it’s a really early bath for him for the day. Such a shame. I am handed a timing sheet and I find my times are not too bad, I am back of the middle group of riders. I am not overly happy with the time, a 1:02, but I am fairly happy with the position. I have not been pushing too fast too soon so my good feeling continues.
My first competitive time on track is for the Open Qualifying. 15 mins of being blasted off the track by the REALLY fast guys on the Thousands. I roll up a bit late as it’s hard to hear the call and rather than rush I get everything on and roll up a bit late, just as it’s red flagged. This is not a good start, 2 sessions and 2 red flags and also in another session there has been some oil put down into the first corner, Gerrard’s, making everything run late’. I am made to run from the pit lane back to the holding area and see my friend and my girl friend looking out for me stood on the bank over the other side of the track, so my pit crew has arrived 🙂 We are quickly under way and I roll out. I am shocked to find that, unlike at Cadwell, I am not massively out of my depth. I am not quick by any means but I am overtaking a couple of people and with the tracks short overall length I am not being totally annihilated. I have a bit of a moment coming out of the Esses near the end where a combination of gust of wind and a bit wide line combine to put me up on to the verge of a bit of grass tracking, but I don’t grab a handful of brake or anything daft and it’s fairly controlled.
I have been banging in good constant 1:02s again and dip into a 1:01.13 which puts me 40th out of 44. Not brilliant but as I am only really using this as practice time I am not to disappointed. There is a bit of a problem as there is only 32 riders allowed out on the grid, so I know I will be either the 8th reserve rider or put into another race.
My pit crew arrive inside the circuit and I instantly put them to use to fetch another friend, who is a photographer, has arrived after I cajoled him into coming along to take some shots of me (ego trip and to break up these long old reports) with promise of corporate hospitality of Ginsters Pasty and overly brewed tea was too much for him to resist :). I have a bit of a problem as the tickets I have been given are only for pre 11am entrance and with all the delays and them being very local I have texted to say when I am out on track and it is now past 12 and the track are being a bit “letter of the law” with the tickets. With a bit of time before going out I have time to replace the rear tyre, which is now totally knackered. I think that the SC1 was too soft and I don’t think I’ll be using one again.
With all the people around, the noise of generators and the timing running a bit out of kilter I miss the call for the first and second calls for my race, The 600s first Heat race. There is a lot of people here today and the 600 have 2 qualifying races and I can’t see anyone heading out. I hear the final call and have a bit of a panic getting everything ready and out. I miss the chance to take up my 20th position on the grid and will have to start at the back of the grid. I am slightly annoyed at myself but put it to the back of my mind as I tag on to the back of the pack at the Esses. I remember to warm up the brakes and try to get my head into the right frame of mind. I wasn’t too badly dealt with as there are only 24 in the race, so I am only a row further back.
When the lights go out I get a fair start, by my standards. I even have made a place up on the start. This is a new one in my racing career, making a move on the start. We stream into the long right hander and the lad I have got the jump on tries to get around the outside of me, haha no chance, I hold my line and keep it fairly quick and not give in and fight track day etiquette instincts to let him go. In no time we are up to Edwina’s and there is a bit of commotion on the entrence. I don’t know what has happened but there is someone sat up on a Daytona 675, looking like he’s about to fall off, dancing one then the other on the deck and the bike making all sorts of funny shapes. Bikes scatter around and I thread my way through fairly easily. Out of Edwina’s and off up the Esses to the Hairpin. Everyone being fairly sensible. As the race strings out I find myself in a bit of a battle with Robert Mitchell (#91) and Ryan Fawkes(#45) and Adam Grosch(#72). Looking at the lap chart it seems like it was fairly static, and it was in terms of position swaps. But it was exceptionally good fun. I found that I was faster around Gerrard’s and round to the hairpin. But from there I am rubbish and lose ground. I try a couple of time to gain on the brakes into hairpin and Edwin’s. This seems to continue lap after lap: close in, drop back, close in drop back. The only break from this cut and thrust is a yellow flag caused by the SV of Matt Page #35 dropping it on the exit of the Hairpin, I learnt my lesson about flags and don’t back off too much so as not . I can get close, but can’t make any places up. I lose a place to the recovering #152 Daytona 675 of Chris Richardson after his first lap dramas. I get lapped and I know the last lap is close. No matter what I try I just can’t get into a place to overtake. I take the flag happy to have been dicing and generally in the mix with a few other riders. I get back to find I’ve got 20th, which is where I should have started at, so all is all right, not startling but not bad.
Back in the pits, I have to go to the race control to see where I am going to have a race for the Open, as there is only room on the grid for 32 riders and I haven’t quiet made the grade, shocker 🙂 . I find out that I am not in either main race final, missing out on the 600 final by a very small amount and being second reserve rider, meaning that if 2 people drop out I am in. To sort this out NG put me and a the other riders into the Powerbikes and the Sound of Thunder classes to make sure we get a race, though I am fairly sure I can get into the 600, as while I am talking to the race officials one person who has made it into the 600 final says “I wont be staying for that”, so that’s just one more to drop out and I will be in. The up side of this is that I can get in the 3 more races if one more person drops out. Excellent. The downside is the Powerbikes is the race right before the 600’s so that would mean coming in and going straight out again with no break what so ever.
Back with the bike and all the gang now there and tell them what’s what as best I can. I try desperately listen out for the call to the grid this time, as the gaps between the calls is much shorter than they where at Pembrey and Cadwell as they are trying to make up time.
Soon to next race. My Open final, or the Sound of Thunder for the others. I make it out in good time for this one as I have learnt my lesson and keep a good ear out for the races as they are called. Out on the grid I am out to the outside of the track at the dizzying height of 15th. I might get a nose bleed being so far up the grid. As the lights go out I get a reasonable start but drop backwards a along way from my grid placing, anyone would think I am getting better at them. I get on the inside of someone, at the time I have no idea who again and it’s all a bit elbows and brave pills through Gerrard’s. I am not sure where I am in terms of the whole race but I am on the back of a blue Suzuki GSXR, turns out it was Ryan Fawkes #45 again. I have a look around to get passed as the race settles down, but I can’t seem to get a good move on him. I can stay with him but I am simply not fast enough to get passed. On lap 2 I out brake myself a little into Edwina’s and James Kilby #26 ZX10R sneaks by. Bugger. Once I again, I am of the opinion I am a tiny bit faster than both Ryan and James, at least while they battle but I can’t get through. I even was ahead of Ryan in the qualifying round so I KNOW I should be able to do it. It’s a bit Deja vu for me, laps go by and I just can’t find a way around. The laps tick by and by, and still I can do nothing. I have a look into the hairpin and Edwina’s a couple of times but I can’t get the job done in anyway. I can get a fairly good run up on James through the first long sweeping bend, but I keep timing it a bit wrong and occasionally have to roll off just a little as I catch him at the wrong point, if I can get it right I could just get a sniff of a chance into Edwina’s. The laps are running out and once I get lapped I know it’s a now or never sort of deal. Out of Gerrard’s on the last lap I take a deep breath and keep it pinned out onto the straight, despite giving away 400cc I am up along side and it all comes to “who will brake first”, and I know it’s not going to be me. I position myself to the inside of the first part of the chicane, and wait and wait to brake as long as I dare. Fortunately James brakes first and I can get by. A bit of a block pass but it works and I am head down through the Esses, I’m quiet protective of my line into the hairpin as this is the most obvious place to have a stab at getting me back, no move comes. Once out of there I just have to keep it together through the bus stop and nail the throttle through the Devil’s Elbow and that’s exactly how I did it. On the outside and in reading this it sounds fairly dull but I am having a great time on track.
Back in the pits, Paul #179 comes over to say he enjoyed watching the battle, and reassures me my move was fair despite my concern it was a bit of a block pass. No one is touching my Corporate Hospitality I notice as I await the final race. I make sure there is enough petrol in the bike to do the 2 races, just in case I do the first and then have a bash at the 600 final. With conversations going around I realise that I can easily be in the final as I know of at least 2 people that aren’t going to make the start. To be honest it’s me that I am most worried about. 2 x 10 lap races will probably kill me and then there is the small matter of the drive home too. I have a bit of a plan to use the 600 final as a simply a chance to practice my starts, and boy do I need that!
Out on the grid I am right near the back this time. Now if you have been paying attention you’ll know what type of start I get. That’s right, rubbish and I am right near the back, I presume the very back, but I am there or there about as we leave the first corner. I decide to have a bit of a lunge into Edwina’s as I up on the inside and I have a bit of a run. Unfortunately I am pushing a bit to hard and make a bit of an arse of it and run too deep into the first half of Edwina’s and everyone streams off away. I am lucky to get away with that really. My luck continue as I make it back in contact with the back of the group of rider. I get a good run on to James, who is the person in front of me again and I get passed him into the hairpin early on, I forget if it was lap 1, 2 or 3 if I am honest, and set about chasing down the bikes ahead, an R1 of Stuart Williams (#82). We seem to be running around the same pace but there is a good distance between us, a good 20m, though it alters through the lap. I can close here and there but when he opens up the thou I can’t stay with him. It’s a lonely race. Looking at the lap times I am cutting tiny bits of a second every lap but nothing that transpires into closing in on him. Everything is going well, I am in a good constant pace and everything is good with the world. Then with a couple of laps to go coming out of Edwina’s I get what feels like the mother of all slides coming out on the right hander. I know it’s probably nothing to the on looker, but from the saddle it feels huge! I am convinced that the rear tyre is shot. I contemplate coming in but I decide to nurse it home as there is only 1 lap after this one to go. My pace drops from 1.01’s to an 03 and 05 respectively as I take a great deal of care when lent to the right, which isn’t easy as basically all the major corners are right handers. Not surprisingly James sneaks by on the last lap, tagging on to one of the leader coming out of Gerrard’s, not that I have any fight to give back and it’s a relief to see the chequered flag to end the race. Needless to say any idea of trying to get into the 600s race is now gone. I signal to my watchers at the side of the track and that was that. Mallory for me was over, a top weekend racing, each gets better and better.
Oulton Next! I can’t wait.