I lay there in the caravan, my eyes slowly opening. It was seven AM on Saturday morning and I could see the sun shining through the sky light…strange, I thought, it was supposed to be piddling down?
I ventured out into the awning to start with the days preparation and it wasn’t raining, in fact it was quite nice, some clouds in the sky, but no rain…mmm, maybe we’ll be lucky then? We got the little Kwak out of the van, checked tyre pressures, fuelled her up and gave her a quick polish. It had been eight weeks since the last round and to be honest I was feeling a touch rusty. I hadn’t had time to test the bike after the latest work had been done, so knew that some of the qualifying sessions would have to be used to test the new bits.
So, with about half an hour to go before the first session, it rained, brilliant, thanks for that!!!
It was just drizzling, nothing heavy, you know the stuff, that horrible stuff that just about gets you wet..
So, we watched the sky for the next twenty mins.. We also watched the floor getting wetter and wetter. Then with ten minutes to go we decided to change the tyres. It was a rush, but we worked like a well-oiled clock, me swapping wheels whilst Amanda was handing me the tools, job done! Out we went for the first session, brand new wets and brand new front brakes, gently does it then…
We wobbled round for ten minutes, bedding in the brakes and new tyres. It’s been almost two years since I’ve raced in the rain and to be honest you could tell. I was well off the pace. I qualified fourth in the Formula Darley class, but I was about two seconds off the pace. It would come back though…surely it would??
The second session was for the Sounds of Thunder race and I really struggled to get a fast lap as it was full of traffic with varying levels of speed and bikes. I just kept falling unlucky with each run and finished seventh, not bad, but I knew this would cause trouble in the races.
The first race of the day was the Formula Darley class. I’m currently sitting in second place in the championship, seven points behind Brad Vickers, so a good result was required (good equals in front of Brad!). The rain was still coming down, only lightly but it was still full wets weather and I needed to up my pace a touch, without chucking the bike up the road!! Our start was reasonable and we headed down to Park corner lying in fourth place, as I tipped into the turn a green ER650 came underneath me, I stood the bike up and ran a tad wide, then as he put the power down he highsided off the bike. I had nowhere to go, I braked as hard as I dare and managed to stop right at the bellypan of his spinning bike…that was close!! I restarted and set about chasing the leaders, but they were long gone! At the hairpin the red flag came out so we re-grouped at the start line for the restart.
Second attempt was a little better but Brad Vickers, Ross Richards and Dave Carson were all flying. I really struggled to get anywhere near there pace finishing a lowly fourth with ten seconds down on the race leaders. I really needed to up my game in the wet. I simply had no confidence and looking at the sky, the weather was here to stay.
The second race was no better, still wet and this time I had to start from the second row. Again the start was Ok, but I couldn’t run with the leader’s times. I pushed on but kept losing the rear out of the turns, which then made my confidence worse… I finished 4th in class, but again way off the pace.
I sat in our Gazebo, looking at the bike, trying to work out why I was now rubbish in the wet, when I used to be ok?
The team manager had a little “pep” talk with me and suggesting I was getting a bit old for this kind of larking about and maybe I should leave it to the kids…she smiled as she said this, knowing it would spark a reaction. I looked at her and offered a “maybe?” in return she looked surprised and then quickly told me to “snap out of it” and to “just ride the bloody thing and have some fun!”.
Then like someone upstairs saw my plight, the rain stopped….quick in with the dries!!! We scrabbled around and literally minutes before the next race was called we were ready with some beautifully sticky rubber. It looked like there was only a few of us that had managed to swap tyres in time. Down side was that one of those people was Brad. I knew this was going to be between me and him for this one. We both got cracking starts and within one lap we had dropped the third place man Ant Porter by a couple of seconds. Brad had 1.5 seconds on me, but I just got my head down and put some consistent laps in. By lap seven I was just half a second behind, but try as I did, it wasn’t enough, Brad crossed the line 0.38 seconds in front of me. Gutted really gutted, it was a good close race and we set the fastest lap. We did well, but second is never enough, especially when it’s that close. It’s almost better when the leaders are miles ahead and you can just say to yourself that there’s nothing you could do. But when you can literally reach out and touch them, you question what you did, where you could of gone faster and where you could of tried a move…but all in, it was OK!
As always a big thanks must go to the people who help us, who, without them none of this would be possible. My wife Amanda, team manager, logistics, strategist and top tool passer. Carole Nash, Plantec Assist, MIS Northwest and KDM Motortech, thank you all for all your support.
Round 4 coming soon!