Monday, 3 September 2012

Cadwell Park - The Mountain and it's Mental Race Track

The last 2 weeks have been nothing short of hectic, and our next 2 week schedule is just as busy!

After Brands Hatch, we had a month gap until our Cadwell Park race meeting. Luckily we had this time to get some practice in at the famous Lincolnshire woodlands circuit. We had a few trackdays with typical English weather of dry-wet-dry-wet-dry track conditions, including one dry session in which I pushed hard to find the limits of my bike on this unique little circuit. I found that limit, but unfortunately went sailing past it when the bike sent me sky high in a violent flick over the high side coming out of the chicane before the bottom of The Mountain. A huge thanks to Morne for grafting hard to get the bike ready for the race!

Being a long weekend, the "Party in the Park" (Locals nickname for Cadwell Park BSB rounds) starts on Saturday and ends Monday. We arrived on Friday to literally thousands and thousands of spectators already set up! The mood was set early for a cracker weekend!

We got set up and took a walk around the track to see if there were any more details to pick up of this rich circuit. It really is an amazing place, enticing over 75,000 keen race fans on BSB weekend doesn't happen for nothing! It has an awesome mix of fast/slow, on/off camber, up/downhill, smooth/rough, flowing/stop-start corners! I've never experienced such a mentally tough track to race on.

A lap of the track as I've experienced it:
Out of the last corner, off camber, slippery under the trees, 2nd gear roll onto the Start/Finish straight.
Full taps in top gear into turn 1 left-hander, back a gear with a slight touch of the brakes back to flat out up to the right hand flick into a double apex right hander, half way through the right, back another gear and roll on to the second apex and onto the 'straight' which curves right down hill, then curves left to a steep uphill.

At the top of the hill you hit the brakes from over 140mph (230km/h for the modern ages) down to 2nd gear, 90 deg right hander, up to 3rd and dip it in right again to the long Chris Curve, constantly accelerating, then off the rev-limiter onto the brakes into the Goose Neck (right-left flick) through a big dip between the on and off cambers, and accelerate down a steep hill. Hit the brakes hard on the off-camber, then dip in to the on-camber left, accelerate hard up to the flat, stop-start, chicane (This is where I got dismounted on my way out) and then on to the bottom of the famous Mountain section.

Hit the brakes hard and turn into the steep uphill left hander, it flattens out as you flick right, then stand on the pegs and hit the tar motocross jump called The Mountain! Front wheel high in the air, feel the back wheel touch down again after getting some air time, and back on the power up to the Woodlands section. Off-camber turn in right to on-camber at the apex, flick left, flick right over a little hill, flick left again, brake hard into the 1st gear right hander, back on the power hard and dip right into the grooved last right hander before it's off-camber exit onto the Start/Finish straight.

What a lap!

Nothing can replace local knowledge and experience, so I had real task on my hands trying to put in a fast lap on this extremely technical track. With full concentration, I could get a full lap together so qualifying went well with us in 4th with the top 5 cover by only 0.2sec!

Race 1 was a hot pace, 6 way battle for the lead, including a local wild card rider. I sat comfortably in 3rd and decided to wait until the last lap or two to make my move to the front. Little did I know that Chrissy rouse was going to dive bomb me on the brakes into the chicane, sitting me up and relegating me to 4th. Foolishly, I repassed him straight away at the bottom of the Mountain, I ran wide and hi cut back across me to shut the door. I lost all my drive for the Mountain and was now far off the lead. Focusing on regaining positions, I started making small mistakes, now taking the toll of being a foreigner to this unique track. I was soon overtaking again after a mistake over the infamous Mountain, and crossed the line in 5th. I was irritated at myself as we were well capable of winning the race, having held the fastest lap of the race until the last 2 laps!

The fast, but not yet consistent laps meant I would be front row for race 2 start, but have the challenge of inexperience during the race against riders who grew up club racing on this track. But we are here for a challenge, so we got the bike prepped and called it a night.

Morning warm-up went well with us being fastest most of the session, eventually ending 2nd, only out done by Rob Guiver.

Race 2 saw the weather become typically English...Wet-dry-wet-dry-damp in patches, then light drizzle on the start line. I decided to go with wet tyres but we never had time to put the soft wet suspension in. We were hoping it would continue raining during the race, but it quickly dried out! I got a great start and took the lead, followed by Chrissy Rouse, we pulled away from the field. The problem came form about mid race when my rear couldn't take the punishment anymore, I lost nearly all grip and the others started coming past. After a race full of retirements and crashes, one behind me nearly taking us down too, we crossed the finish line in 4th. Again, irritated with the result, but happy with what we had achieved in foreign conditions and track!

Fortunately we still took the double win in the Premier class, extending our lead in the championship points.

It was an incredible race weekend at this truly spectacular, complex circuit. Seeing the pros jump The Mountain in the Superbike class was mind-blowing, no other words! Check out this video to give you an idea of the place, bearing in mind that the camera flattens it out very much.

A big thank you to my Dad, Mike, who spends the race weekends back at home biting his nails and pulling his hair out watching live timing, Lawrence at LD Refrigeration, Jonny and the team at Moto Direct and Stuart at Forcefield Body Armour. We couldn't do it without the help of Morne, Jason & Donna Davis, Chris and Bjorn over the weekend, it's greatly appreciated!

Next up on our jam-packed agenda is Triumph Live this weekend at Mallory Park - Triumphs annual 'everything Triumph Motorcycles' festival, including a race, demos, live music, etc. Looking forward to it!

Cheers for now!

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