Having skipped the very soggy rounds at Pembrey, rounds 11 and 12, due to a wedding, I returned for the last round of the year at Thruxton. NGRRC is the only club that races at this very, very fast track and as such I was advised by Doog to get my entry in early to make sure I got a place and also that it would be busy… boy was he not wrong. After spending the Friday night at Doog’s we are met by bright if cold weather as we head to the circuit. We find a place to park up and it’s a bit of a race to get set up as it has taken longer than expected to get to the track and get set up. We are met late by Rob and Ben Team Cheese members who I haven’t seen in ages… and they are even later than we are 🙂
It’s a number of firsts for this weekend. First time at the track and with no track time to settle in. First time racing the new GSXR. First race with race pattern shift. First time in the Street Stock class. So being put on the back foot by turning up a bit later than we expected puts a bit more stress on me than I would have liked. I miss the group I would normally go out with and so I am out with the 400s and the 125s for my first look at the track. This is bit of an ego trip down the straights as the 600 naturally has the legs over them and I generally try to stay out of the way of them through the corners where they are quicker than me.
All is well, I am still thinking about the shifting and I am by no means quick, but I am happy enough with the track lay out, the bike and how I am riding…. Just need to man up and find some speed now 🙂
Roger, from Simple Signs and Graphics, had accepted my ticket for all his efforts in getting me stickers and decals all through the year and he turns up to watch just in time for the races and after a bit of a chat it’s time for my first race. The Street Stocks.
By the fact I have got my entry in a bit early than I normally do I am further up the grid… eek. This is not idea in my world, as those that have been reading my reports will know, I am rubbish at them. Add to the this I now I have to remember I am on a race shift, having a good few people behind me is not ideal for my confidence. Still, race face on, lets do this!
I start a fair bit higher on the grid than normal, up against the pit wall, which is a bonus and a curse. Bonus because on initial launch I only have to worry about people going around the left of me, or at least that is the way I see it. Now as you may know my starts are not the strongest part of my racing arsenal. As such I am a bit more nervous with quiet a few people behind me, coupled with race shift I have a lot on my mind. The lights go out and I get a fairly good initial launch. Then it’s time to shift and I remember which way to push the foot. I have always been a bit skeptical of quick shifts. I clutchless shift and I like to think I am fairly good at it, not brilliant but fairly good, but the HM quick shift is awesome. I actually make places up. I lose a few as well but I am right in the mix into turn one.
I am still learning the track and the bike. My first lap is too cautious. I am braking where I should be on the throttle, hesitating as I am not sure of myself. What looks like a simple track takes alot of nerve. I just don’t seem to have it. As I am building up my knowledge, confidence and nerve I am up behind a bike in front. I know I am faster, but I can’t find a place where I am confident enough to go past. I try out braking into the final chicane, but with the speeds into the braking zone off a 140+mph straight are a bit too hard for me to judge and I can’t seem to pick a good braking point. I try but I just can’t get on the brakes late enough. Coming out of the chicane I am faster and I can get half a chance into the first corner, Allard Corner. Once again I bottle it and swing in behind. He is faster than me through the Campbell and Cobb complex, but what I loose there I make up through Segrave. I can’t get past on the run to Noble, a fast left that I struggle with all the time there. Then we are on the speeding up run through Goodwood right. Again he pulls away from me through here but I seem to get better drive and then the run down Village to Church Corner I am gaining all the time. I make a thought that if I had more bottle I can go faster and get a run next lap on the run up to the chicane and not have to be as brave on the brakes. I get on the brakes and I am closing quickly on him, they must have over braked or being careful and I am right with them on the exit with much better speed. Well so much for planning, here we go. I get along side and slide down the inside into the first corner with no really drama, now that is a result.
The rest of the race is over in a flash. I’d like to think I got better with every lap, and looking at the times I posted on the results it seems to be borne out, slow but every lap faster than the last. About 2 laps from the end I feel something “odd” at the front coming out of the chicane, not sure what it is, it’s almost like the left bar moving back a bit. I test a bit to make sure it isn’t that pushing on both bars forward and pulling back on them, it doesn’t seem to be so I continue.
There is nothing much to say about the rest of the race. I cross the line happy with my new GSXR. I am really happy with race shift and didn’t once really have to think about it and I am really happy the way it helps off the line. There is a new part to coming into the pits after the race, I have to have to have my bike checked for compliance with Street Stock class rules. Now I know my tyres haven’t been bought from the AR Racing or Denis’ but they are RaceTechs so I am not sure if I’ll get excluded and have to start from the back of the grid. I had arranged to meet up with someone who had a set but I hadn’t had time to find them let alone had time to fit them as I was running late. I did get a “Where did you get those from” from one of the scrutineers and I explained how I had only just got the bike and I would be swapping the tyres as soon as I could find some in the paddock. He seemed alright with that, I am sure if I was up the front end and if they weren’t the right make and model, Metzler RaceTech K2, there may have been more of problem. Then comes the noise test. This is always a problem. I don’t have a sound meter at home so you are never quiet sure of the levels. I got tested at the track day I ran at and it was nicely inside the 98dB limit, but who knows. It’s a fair wait to get tested. I get called forward, up to the revs…. hold it there… and a tap on the shoulder and “That’s fine mate”. All good.
Back to the pits and Doog is shoving his video camera in everyone’s face. I get about calming myself down from the adrenaline rush, tyre warmers on and hunting down the tyres… there isn’t much time before the 600s so I have a brief search for the person that has said they would be bringing some down. I couldn’t find them.
Before long it’s time to go out in the 600s. I am out in the 600 B qualifying race.
As the lights go out I get another reasonable start and I am elbows out sort of racing, as the fast lads behind me swarm round. I am a bit too cautious going into turn one and slip places away. going into the second corner there is a bit of a touch of bikes and someone gets a big scary sit up and tankslaps a bit. I roll off just for a second so as not to get caught up in it all if he goes down and, yes, stupidly I get a bit target fixated, stupid brain, and run wide being dragged towards the wobbling bike. The right hander follows and I am again a bit to cautious and don’t get my arms out. I stay with those in front as we start to get strung out.
I can really not remember much more about this race if I am honest. I can see a bike ahead, but don’t catch it up and only just get past by the recovering tank slapping bike, as I recall. I may have got past by more but I really don’t remember. Ever lap I am getting better and better. I am picking up the pace a bit, and I am running a second a lap quicker than I was in the Street Stocks, I seem to remember I was following someone and I presume they dragged me along a bit.
I get to the pits happy enough, small steps all the way. My starts are better which helps to start with and I am getting gradually faster (which is always my goal).
I go off to find the tyres, but alas eventually when I find him, there has been a bit of a mix up and he hasn’t brought the spares. I run around for a while seeing if I can get a set but I can’t find anyone that has any. I am not overly worried, if I get excluded I get excluded, it’s not like i am after the points and in the chase for a championship. I trudge back to the pits to be met by Roger who is back in the pits again. A bit of a chat,about my body position and the like and he hops on the Gixxer to see what he thinks and demonstrate what I am doing . “Do you like the bars like this?” he asks. I had forgotten the earlier slight movement with everything going on, and now looking you can see that the left hand bar had moved in a fair bit. Ahhh It’s nothing major but moving bars are not good and it’s out with the sockets to put them as they should be.
All this takes time, a coffee and a a chat about this and that. I look over and I can’t see the Street Stocker who were out with me in the first race. Is it Race 12 yet? You can’t hear anything where we are except generators constant drone, as the paddock announcements. I am flustered. I quickly grab my Shoei, gloves and everything. I rush to the holding area, where I try to calm it all down as I get to the holding area. “You are early” I get told as I roll up. Phew I think, not missed it, and then “Oh you are meant to be in this one” Arrrrrrrrrrgh! I have missed it. They are just heading off on their start. DAMN IT! If there is a red flag I might get out but it’s a slim hope and I don’t want to benefit from someone else’s misfortune anyhow. When there is little chance of that happening I head back to the paddock, rather annoyed. I am annoyed that I can’t hear the circuit announcements and the crap PA system but more annoyed at myself for not noticing other getting ready and heading out. I had been counting races as I realised early on how rubbish the PA system was and so it’s doubly annoying.
Well I have nothing to do but wait for the next race… The 600s and try and calm down a bit.
The 600 race comes around. My annoyance is put into context by Rob, as his front tyre warmer has gone faulty and caught fire and melted the tyre. He has no time to change it so it’s game over for him, through no fault of his own where as my race miss was basically down to me and no one else.
We head off to the holding area, and wait… and wait and wait. What is going on? We are held there for ages. Has there been an accident? Oil on the track? Eventually someone tells us they are holding us because of the sun, which as this the last race is right in your face as you come into the stadium section and looking for a braking point from 140+ with the sun in your face is not ideal. The idea is if they hold us a while then the sun will go behind a section of the stand and cease to be a problem. Who would have thought that the sun would be a problem in October?
We sit there for what feels like and eternity. A few people head back, a few have runners go and fetch stands, clear visors (as there is a good chance that it’ll get dark). I have no such luxuries and just sit on my bike, chat to people and wait.
Eventually we are good to go. It’s quiet dark by this point and the tempreture is dropping quiet quickly. While waiting on the grid I have a bit of a misting up problem on my visor. I have to make a conscious note to breath down and not out as normal. It’ll clear as soon as we set off, but it’s not what I want, by a long shot. I get a reasonable start again, and I am in a battle from the get go. I have a target in my mind, Hi Ryan :), as I have seen his times are close to mine and I have raced him before. He’s a bit further ahead on the grid and I can see the back of his GSXR with a couple of bikes in-between us. I sit behind the Royal Navy GSXR of Colin Wilson, #31 and what later turns out to be a Yamaha R6 of number 25 James Carn. I am not able to get past or even get close to it. The “pace must be faster than before” I think to myself and find what feels like a better line through Church following Colin. I am thinking I can get a run on Colin, and start to think where I can have a go at him. The problem is he is fast where I think I am fast and slow where I don’t think I can make a pass. So it’s behind him I sit. About half way through the race Colin just seems to find another gear and I start to loose touch with him. He away and I race around on my own watching him getting further and further away, until the chequered flag. I later find out I have got slower in that race. I don’t know if it’s the sun, the cold, the darkness or my new line through Church which I thought was
So that’s it. The seasons over. My first season. Grand total of no points, 1 crash (not my fault), a win (yes, yes I know it was a B Final), LOTS of money spent and TOTALLY addicted.
Role on 2012