So my brands hatch weekend started on Friday morning, I didn’t have a practise place booked but the friendly staff at NLR managed to squeeze me in ( big thanks to Toni! ) and let me get some good set up time in before the race weekend really began.
I spent most of the practise just trying out a few different lines and different gearing for a few corners. Also slowly building up confidence in the front end, dropping into Surtees without really braking always has my heart in my throat :D. I also switched from dropping into paddock hill in 3rd gear into 4th. My corner entry speed wasn’t much faster but with less engine breaking through the corner and being able to get back on the throttle earlier I was coming out the other side much faster and drive the bike right out to the edge of the track on the exit. It also gave me less to do in preparation for the corner which is always nice.
Saturday morning wasn’t a great start, it had started to rain and due to budget restraints I didn’t have a set of wets with me. So I had to skip qualifying and watch everyone else poodle around the track. It may well have been a blessing in disguise as it was a bit of a crash fest.
When it came to my race I was starting at the back of the grid, 31st out of 36th. The track was still a little damp but I was confident there was a dry line I could stick too, so my slicks wouldn’t be a problem. The race itself seemed to fly by, I made a good start and jumped alot of places within the first couple of corners. After this I just tried to settled down, find a rhythm and made sure I bought the bike home. After a few more laps and a couple more overtakes (mostly around paddock hill after my new way of attacking it) . Then I saw the yellow flag with a black cross through, one last lap was all I had to do and there wasn’t a chance I was going to let anyone get a place back from me. Despite feeling pretty exhausted I set my fastest lap of the race, managed to get my official best lap time down from 57 seconds to 55 on a drying track. I ended up finishing 14th overall so was very happy with my progress.
After the race I could relax for the rest of the day, kick back and enjoy the endurance race.
Sunday I had 3 races and knew I was going to be exhausted by the end of play. First things first I went and got some new slicks fitted to the bike as the ones I was running were the same I had bought for testing in cartegena and used at silverstone!
Race 2 I was to start in 21st, the race start was a fairly scrappy and ended up being red flagged after just a few laps. A collision on druids required some medical attention, so we were held at the start line whilst that was dealt with.
The race would be restarted and reduced down to 12 laps from 17, I was pretty grateful as I wasn’t sure I would be able to hang on that long anyway :D. Unfortunately after a few laps I lost touch with the riders in front so couldn’t grab a tow from anyone and had a pretty lonely race, I ended up finishing in 18th and got my best lap down to 54.200. I was also the fastest honda out there in that race but that’s because the front runner had crashed out.
Race 2 was my favourite of the weekend. I started in 21st and didn’t get a great start, I’m not sure if I went backwards or forwards in grid position but I just got my head down and focused on the rider ahead.
The rider in front was on a very similar honda and I could see myself closing the gap each lap. Then when I was close enough, I tried to ride around the outside on Surtees and squirt up the inside into clearways. Unfortunately the rider in front wasn’t to keen on this idea and didn’t leave me any real room, So instead I ran up the curb… I instantly knew this was a bad idea and did not realise how bumpy they were till I was sat on top of my tank hammering on the brakes to make sure I I didn’t just run straight off to the medical bay, I managed to just get it stopped in time then threw it hard into the right and tried and recover the mess I had made of clearways. I didn’t loose a position in this mess but I had lost a far bit of ground to the rider in front. I managed to close the gap up again within 2 laps and on the exit of clearways the blue flag was waving. The rider in front must have hit the brakes upon seeing it as I went sailing past them, then as I moved over to let the leader come past Adam Parker on another Honda CBR came riding around the outside into paddock.
It was a great overtake and I even remember saying out loud in my helmet well done as I then dropped into paddock myself. I latched onto the back of him and started chasing him down. On the drive up to paddock Adam grabbed the inside line, I tried to hold the outside line as I knew I could get better drive out the corner. (After talking to him after the race I was pretty much leaning on his bike around paddock) he managed to push me wide and stop me getting on the throttle. I tucked in behind him and followed where I could. I was definitely faster though druids and graham hill and I think it was pretty even through Surtees but he had clearways and paddock so an overtake was going to be difficult.
Unfortunately for me the front of the pack had started lapping us and someone stuffed me up the inside into druids and caused me to run on. I managed to get it stopped before ending in the gravel but I had lost touch with Adams bike and couldn’t pull the gap back. I ended the race in 21st still but set a new best lap time of 53.9.. was buzzing after that race and grinning from ear to ear.. Hope to battle with Adam again soon!
Also in the course of race 3 I destroyed me knee slider…. I remember clipping a kerb through Surtees but had no idea how hard I must have hit it. Here’s a pic of the aftermath
I was always considering skipping Race 4 on the Sunday, It was scheduled for 5:50pm on the Sunday and did not sound very appealing. However after the fun I had been having during the day and as NLR were somehow running 45 minutes early I decided to give it a go. I started 24th and didn’t make a great start I was tired and I could really feel it. I decided I would try and just smooth out my riding move around on the bike less and just use it as practise. I didn’t have any real great battles although I’m sure I made a couple of over takes.
I did make a few adjustments to my riding which allowed me to save alot more energy whilst racing. I ended that race in 19th setting a best lap of 54.6 but it was a very comfortable 54.6 and I was just happy to bring the bike home without any incident
Overall the weekend was fantastic, I had great fun and would like to thank everyone that came to visit, the marshall that make it happen and the NLR staff!
**Feature Picture by Alex James Photography and inline picture by Rob Morgan