Donington Park National Circuit - Saturday 22-3-08
Two weeks after the first race of the season and we were back on track over the Easter weekend. Myself, Luke de la Cour, Nick Daghorn and, racing in the Clubman 600 class, Steve de la Cour. This time a new circuit for most riders, Donington Park in Leicestershire. It has two layouts: the longer GP circuit which takes in the Melbourne Loop and the shorter National circuit which we were using. Of the two it is my favourite as it flows a bit more than the full circuit.
Before we left Jersey the weather forecast was predicting strong winds, low temperatures and snow! Well they weren't wrong. The bitterly cold wind was extremely strong and the skies were dropping snow flurries every hour or so, with the odd bit of heavy hail thrown in for good measure. We managed to get a pit garage for this meeting as we thought we might loose our awnings in the wind.
The track was wet the first time we went out on track, so everyone had fitted full wet weather tyres. Even so on the first lap going down Craners both tyres slid a little and I hadn't even lent the bike over much. Hopefully it was just a case of the tyres not having enough heat in them yet. I think that was the case as it din't happen again thank goodness.
Riding in the wet is still an area I need to make a lot of improvements. Basically I need to get confidence in how well the tyres will grip in wet conditions. So that's the excuse out the way. I managed a best lap of 1 minute 42.219 seconds which put me in 26th position for the first race. This was somewhat distant from the pole sitters time of 1 minute 28.297 seconds. A special mention to the rider who got that pole: Luke de la Cour, one of the other racers from Jersey. He beat some experienced guys to set that time.
The track had been drying slightly, but most of us chose to go with full wets. It was obvious on our warm up lap that this was the wrong choice as the track was dry, with the odd damp patch here and there. At this point you consider if it is worth ruining a good pair of wets by racing, or pulling out. Well it's a race, so you get on with it. One thing that did help was the fact that the track temperature was so low the tyres might not get too much damage by overheating.
Starting in 26th place from row 7, there were plenty of bikes ahead of me, including Nick Daghorn on the next row and of course Luke on pole. The lights went out and I got a good start passing Nick straight away and four other riders who were ahead of me, so I crossed the line in 21st place after the first lap. I remember chasing Gerrard Fallon for a couple of laps and was trying to find a way past him. On lap 2 I came out of Coppice, onto the Dunlop Straight, in too high a gear. As such I got poor drive onto the straight and lost touch with Gerrard. To add to my problems Nick managed to out brake me into the chicane onto the start/finish straight. I managed to beat him down the straight and got back in front of him braking into the next corner.
I managed to keep him behind me for two laps. Then on lap 5 it was like an action replay. Exiting Coppice I was in too high a gear again and lost some drive onto the Dunlop Straight, giving Nick the chance to out brake me going into the chicane. He didn't need a second chance! However continuing the action replay I out braked him again going into Redgate.
On lap 6 I was trying to stop Nick passing me into the chicane again and left my braking a bit later. Too late as it turned out. The wet front tyre was squirming pretty badly when I was hard on the brakes and I only just managed to make the corner. Amazingly Nick didn't get past, but yet again I was in the wrong gear coming onto the start/finish straight and Nick passed me here. I thought I would out brake him again going into Redgate, but he was too clever and had moved over to the right to prevent me doing this to him a third time. He stayed ahead of me to the finish, but I lost another place as Matt Flower out braked me going into the chicane for the last time.
I crossed the line in 21st place out of 28 starters and did a best lap time of 1 minute 25.494 seconds.
Jersey Rider Results
8th Luke de la Cour RACE TIME 9 minutes 30.992 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 20.719 seconds
19th Nick Daghorn RACE TIME 10 minutes 04.522 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 23.279 seconds
21st Rob Currie RACE TIME 10 minutes 07.734 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 25.494 seconds
Although the skies were quite threatening, the track was dry so I went with a dry rear tyre and intermediate front. I should have put the dry front on, but it would have meant swapping discs over as well. As it was so cold I was pretty sure the intermediate would cope OK.
Having finished the last race in 21st place meant that my grid position for race 2 was 21st on row 6. I probably got my best start ever because at the end of the first lap I was in 14th position. I'm pretty sure most of those places were made up before we got to the first corner. I think my starts are improving! I was on the back of a pack of other riders and got past a couple of them, but I can't remember where. On lap 4 I passed Peter Woodall by going down his inside entering the chicane. I was still able to hang onto the back of those riders ahead of me and was ever so slightly gaining on them. Unfortuantely on the last lap Peter Woodall got past me at the same place I passed him. Seems to be a lot of passing going on at the chicane.
I really enjoyed that race. I had my best start ever and managed to keep my pace up for the whole race and chase the pack ahead of me. I improved on the last race by finishing in 16th place (out of 27 starters) and did a best lap of 1 minute 20.079 seconds.
Jersey Rider Results
7th Luke de la Cour RACE TIME 7 minutes 56.143 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 18.249 seconds
16th Rob Currie RACE TIME 8 minutes 10.702 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 20.079 seconds
19th Nick Daghorn RACE TIME 8 minutes 32.186 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 23.165 seconds
Donington Park National Circuit - Sunday 23-3-08
There were a lot of crashes on the previous day due to the cold and wet conditions, which meant the organisers couldn't get through the full programme on Saurday, so morning warm up was cancelled and all races were reduced by one lap on Sunday.
We were lucky again as the track was dry, although it was damp off line. So dry tyres were the order of the day, although looking at the sky it could have changed at any time.
My grid position of 16th on row 4 put me on the inside of the track for the first corner, where the fastest line is on the outside. To further complicate matters the inside line was wet so I really didn't want to head there. Forming up for the start I aimed by bike for the outside and luckily when the lights went out I got a straight run to the outside line. I managed to pass five riders in the process. My starts are definitely improving. I think the extra power from the new GSX-R1000 K6 I am riding this season also helped.
Running down towards Craner Curves for the first time I saw Andrew Burke crash on the left hander. I was about 30 metres or so behind and was praying that no-one else would get caught up in his crash as there was about five bikes between me and him and it could have been carnage. Luckily we all managed to avoid him.
I was a little tentative through Craner on the first couple of laps as it was quite wet off line and I seen what had happened to Andrew Burke. I don't think I passed anyone and I managed to hold 10th position for the first 4 laps. This was new territory for me and to make things better I was even starting to catch the three riders ahead of me. Trying a bit too hard I was a little too late on the brakes into Redgate on lap 5 and thought I was off as I ran out wide near the rumble strip.
My mistake cost me a place as Steve Thomson flew underneath me through Schwantz. Steve is one of the front runners and had started at the back of the grid for some reason. Then Adrian Chamberlain passed me droping me down to 12th. I only had Dean Bowling on the 1098 to chase. Although I was faster in some places than Dean, he was quicker than me in others. So we ended up pretty evenly matched and he finished a second ahead of me.
My final position was 12th (out of 23 starters), my best ever result and my best lap was 1 minute 22.289 seconds.
Jersey Rider Results
5th Luke de la Cour RACE TIME 9 minutes 10.701 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 17.215 seconds
12th Rob Currie RACE TIME 9 minutes 45.519 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 22.289 seconds
14th Nick Daghorn RACE TIME 9 minutes 51.867 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 21.894 seconds
About 15 minutes before our last race there was a quick snow flurry. As the wind was so strong it just blew around and didn't stick on the track and melt. So the track was still dry for our race. However the skies did suggest differently. I felt that it wasn't going to rain during our race and left my dry tyres on. As I headed off to the collecting area for our race, Luke decided to swap to full wets, as did Michael Neeves (one of the front runners) who was next to us in the pit garage. I felt this was the wrong choice, but we all make our own decisions.
I was on row 3 of the grid in 12th position. I have never been this high up on the grid, so it was quite a strange experience to see so few bikes ahead of me. My starts remained consistent and I headed off to the the first corner with the pack. Running with the leading group felt very strange and I almost felt I shouldn't be there. I was fully expecting to have a sea of bikes come past me. I kept the pace going only to have Mark Lister come flying past me before the first lap had finished. He had missed the last race and so had started at the back of the grid. He went on to win the race! Mark was the Rookie champion last year and is absolutely flying.
For the first five laps I was running in 10th position, but all the while I was still expecting to have loads of riders come past me. On lap 6 Peter Woodall went down the inside of me as we went round Schwantz. I managed to keep my lap times consistent and was chasing a group of four riders, one of whom was Luke. This was the closest I had been to him in a race and I was gaining on him little by little. With only a couple more laps left I was unable to make a pass on any of the group ahead. At the finish I was 1.5 seconds behind Luke. I knew this was because he had put wets on and they would have been sliding all over the place on the dry track. Michael Neeves who also went out on wets pulled in after 1 lap, probably because he didn't want to ruin his wets.
Although I don't think I actually passed anyone I would rate this as my best race ever, so far. I had a really good start, but I'm really pleased with how I went fast from the start and kept the pace up for the whole race with my laps times very consistent. Definitely the hardest I have ever ridden. Also I had my best ever result of 11th (out of 22 starters) with a best lap time of 1 minute 19.400. On a track day on my previous bike, a 2002 Yamaha R1, my best time was 1 minute 24 seconds in much warmer conditions. So this represented a good improvement. Hopefully things will continue this way.
Jersey Rider Results
9th Luke de la Cour RACE TIME 9 minutes 25.476 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 19.332 seconds
11th Rob Currie RACE TIME 9 minutes 26.956 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 19.400 seconds
15th Nick Daghorn RACE TIME 9 minutes 42.291 seconds BEST LAP 1 minute 21.298 seconds
For full results of each race click HERE and click on the BMCRC Powerbikes class.