Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Brands Hatch Race Weekend - 22 July 2012

After rounding off our Contiki trip around Europe, Rox and I got back to Colchester a week before the race and I got back to routine of hard preparations for the race. We met back up with boys, loaded up the van and made our way to the historic Brands Hatch circuit!

Our schedule was hectic for our Friday, which is normally a relaxed practice day. Because of the noise restriction on the area of the full GP circuit, the BSB series gets limited time on it. So we had our first race on the shorter, Indy circuit. We had a practice in the morning, qualifying at lunch time, and a race in the afternoon!

I knew the Indy track from earlier in the year, so we got straight to quick times, but had a little to find. We made changes for qualifying, which never worked, so this put us 6th on the grid for the race - not where I wanted to be! Noting our mistakes, we corrected the set up and hoped it was the right thing for the race.

We lined up on the grid with the top 13 being covered 1 second! The lights went out and I got a great line into the first corner in 4th. From then, the race became hectic! It was a dogfight of note for the lead between the top 6 riders, being lead, narrowly, by Rob Guiver. He kept the lead the whole race, and our scrap behind gave him just enough space that I wasn't able to make a pass on him. I got bombed back in the closing laps and after some last minute passes, I got back to 3rd by the finish line, just managing to pip fellow South African, Phil Atkinson for the last podium spot. 2nd was taken by Finnish rider, Valter Patronen for his first podium this year. I really had fun and it turned out to be a cracker of a race!

Champagne and trophies behind us, we got straight to work on set up for the GP (full) circuit. I was happy with my set up on the short track, but the GP track is a lot faster and has much harder braking zones and dips and rises to compensate for when you're on the edge. We decided to leave in the short settings for the practice to get an idea of the changes we needed to make.

The practice presented a few rear end stability problems for me, so we made the changes and had to hold our breath as we would go straight into the race with them, no practice to try them!

We were given two warm up laps before we lined up on the grid and I used them to try the settings, and after nearly flinging myself into the woods, as I lined up to the lights, I knew I made a bad decision with our settings - they made it worse!

The lights went out and I gave it my all, fighting to stay near the front as long as I could, holding up everyone behind until eventually I couldn't safely keep the pace with the bike trying to buck me off out of every corner. I got left in 5th, chasing as hard as I dared, until the many crashes behind and in front of me left me, pleasantly, with another 3rd place! The consistency payed off and we were back on the podium, albeit not in the position I felt we were well capable of.

We noted the suspension 'characteristics' of the shock after our changes and have learned from it for the future. After a good hour of analysis and head scratching after the race, we kicked back and the guys enjoyed our spoils (bottles of champagne from the podium) and we threw some meat on the braai before packing up the caravan.

It was a very different race weekend for me - It was my first race without my Dad! We had an all new team in the (funny-looking) shape of Morne as new mechanic and Chris as tyre and timing man on friday. Jason Davis and the fam arrived for Saturday and Sunday to get us going with advice and help as usual, and my lovely Roxanne was once again (way overdue and missed) my Brollie Dollie! All in all, still a great weekend on and off track!

We have 4 weeks until our next race at Cadwell Park, so we have a few track days and training planned in the coming weeks. There after, our calendar is jam-packed with racing - just how I like it!

Rox left for home (South Africa) yesterday, and we had an awesome holiday and time together again. She's off to work for Unilever and we'll be carrying on with our norm - BIKE RACING!

Cheers for now!

Our current support team, without the main driver behind it - Dad!
Back row, left to right: Jason Davis, Rab, Owen (Rab's son), The one and only Eevie, Bjorn Estment
Front Row, left to right: Donna (Jason's wife) with their girls, Holly, Meg and Little Eevie, Morne (don't look twice!), Chris (Kloppy), Rox and Me.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Behind the Pit Walls, Eps.2 - Brands Hatch Race 1

Behind the Pit Walls: Eps.1 - Brands Hatch Race Prep. 17 July 2012

Our amateur Vlog of Behind the Pit Walls had a second episode! Check out a bit from todays racing and my thoughts for tomorrow and Sunday.

We'll do another one after the race on Sunday, slowly improving...


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Behind the Pit Walls: Eps.1

Behind the Pit Walls: Eps.1 - Brands Hatch Race Prep. 17 July 2012

Check out our new Vlog of videos we're starting. Compliments of our 'pro' media 'guru', Chris Kloppenborg, aka Kloppie...

Here's our first quick, amateur attempt at Behind the Pit Walls!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Amazing Austria

Our quiet bus of post-party travellers stopped at the foot of the Austrian hills in Tyrol, where we had a morning of white water rafting!

We disembarked the bus, got into our thermal wet suits and each grabbed a corner of a raft to carry them down to the riverside. The scene looked like a Zombie apocalypse of tourists carrying boats to the river...until we got in the FREEZING, fresh water from the mountain springs!

The water is incredibly clean and healthy to drink straight out the river, which we all did! Rafts in the water, we started our move downstream with safety briefings up first, starting with another unexpected dip into the river for man-overboard. With all safety stuff done, we got paddling (not that we needed to with the current).

From the moment we got into the river, which was pretty much at the foot of the mountain it flows through, the views were beyond spectacular, really making a person feel belittled by nature, but as we got further down the river, the views only got better!

We had a few rough sections but nothing too extreme, with the main memory for me being the amazing natural terrain of Austria. It really is the most beautiful place I've ever seen, on a post-card and in real life.

After an hour of rafting and gasping at the perfect scenery, we beached at their end base, greeted with a traditional 'not for sissies' Austrian Schnapps! A group photo and lunch later, we were back on the bus to thaw our extremities for some more incredible sights in the town of Tyrol, where our hotel is.

The next stop was the Swarovski Crystal world, aka girls' dream world... Shiny stuff covers nearly everything except the grass outside! It was quite impressive, I appreciate fine craftsmanship and Swarovski seem to have that skill finely tuned as they show off in their crystal museum.

A quick drive and we were back in the mountains at our hotel. We had a few free hours to walk the, almost intimidating, valley of what can only be God's artwork.

After seeing some of the clean, modern but historic village, we had a swim in the pool under some warm Austrian sunset and, after supper, boarded the Schnapps train for a trip around the village to see the sights up close.

The 50s style old steam train (which was actually a converted tractor with trailers) arrived and hauled the lot of us up the steep hills into the mountains for the evening. A couple of stops at some local mountain top Schnapps brewers, and a whole lot of scenery admiring later, we clocked in for an early night.

The next morning we got up early to a misty Austria, still as beautiful as ever, but with an eery blanket over the hills. We, unfortunately had to leave, but it is definitely a place I want to return to.

Next stop - Venice and Rome, Italy!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Bier Steins, Bicycles and Austria

After a great kick start to our tour, we left The Netherlands and set course for Deutschland.

I closed my eyes for a snooze, opening them to the sight of the post card scene of the Rhein Valley's Black Forest, Germany.

We carved down the hills to the riverside and into the the little town of St. Goar, arriving at our hotel. We checked in to a tasty german supper, and used our free afternoon for a relaxing walk along the Rhein river, taking in the sights of medieval castles and villages. We retired to bed early for an early start the next morning.

After breakfast we headed straight to a Bier Stein crash course on the making of and history of the sturdy German beer glasses. Amongst their collection are limited edition Steins such as their Berlin Steins, which each have a piece of the actual Berlin Wall when it was destroyed, uniting East and West Germany. The Steins are so much more than containers to the Germans, not to mention the excellent craftsmanship and painting on them, which caught my eye, forcing me to buy my own little Stein as a reminder of this little bit of German history.

Across the road was a Black Forest Cuckoo clock shop, where more stunning craftsmanship in the shape of these wooden clocks. The fine details and artwork got the better of Rox and she now has her own piece of the Black Forest. We then packed up and headed to Munich.

After a long drive, we arrived in the amazing city and hopped straight onto bicycles for a riding tour - my highlight of the tour so far!

All 50 of us made our way through the streets, stopping at the many historical monuments and landmarks of the history books hosted by the city, including palaces, court houses and gardens where Royalty of the 16th century went about their royalness...

We arrived at The Englischte Gartens (English Gardens) - the most perfect example of public gardens or a park you could imagine. Huge green fields, sunshine, forest and a river were the prime features.

We rode through the leafy, green forest paths to a point along the river where we decided to take a dip. This was where the braver of the group stripped down to undies (it's a nudist legal park, so we were fine) and jumped in! We were immediately accelerated to 20-25km/h in the freezing, fresh water! Fast flowing downstream, we grabbed an overhanging bridge and shimmied to the side. We ran back to the park and lined up for round two! No one was keen for a third round, so we got dressed and made our way to the Bier Garten for some supper.

The Germans are renown for their beer, meat and pretzels, so when in Germany... Do as the Germans do! We all grabbed a Stein (1 litre) of the Deutsche brew, and an oversized meal to go with it, mine being a massive Eisbein (Pork Knuckle), and Rox a pretzel bigger than her plate!

A wobbly gaggle of tourists hopped back on the bicycles and we headed back out the park. On our way, we stopped at a section of the river where a wave forms as it follows the contour of the riverbed, making a natural wavehouse! The surfers lined the banks, taking turns jumping in to surf the wave - quite a sight to see in a park in the middle of a city!

After a (rather squiggly) ride back, we walked into town to see the famous Bier Hause (Beer Halls), including the Haus that Hitler burst into when an opposition party were meeting, and fired a shot from his gun through the roof to silence them. The bullet hole is still there of course!

We had a night on the town planned for the evening, so we freshened up at the hotel and made our way to the high-end German night club, Pacha. We kick started a great night out, making memories and stories with our new mates.

The next morning, our very quiet bus took us to the post card country of Austria, but that's a whole new blog!

Cheers for now!