Thursday, 13 September 2012

Donington Park - Finally On the Top Step

Cadwell Park was an incredibly difficult track to learn, and even more challenging to race on. I battled to stay at the front but the local knowledge eventually got the better of me, once again stripping of us the win.

We arrived at Donington Park with my mind fit from the technical Cadwell, so learning this World Super Bike circuit seemed a much simpler task.

With only one trackday under our belts, we set our sights on topping the time sheets as early as possible in the weekend to weed out any niggles in suspension. We finished our practice in 2nd place, harldy touched the bike, threw some fresh tyres on and got ready for qualifying.

Qualifying turned out to be the start of a very hotly contested weekend, with Rob Guiver, Phil Atkinson, myself and Chrissy Rouse being covered by 0,4s. It was eventful on track too with Phil and me possibly getting in each others' way.

Race 1 came around and thanks to Morne, Jason and our little team, the bike was ready to perform and I felt good about our setup. We entered the circuit behind the Nissan GTR pace cars and assembled on the grid, anxiously awaiting the 1 minute board. The teams and cameras cleared the grid, we set off on our warm up lap, returned to the line and set our sights on the lights.

The lights went out and we got off the line to the hole shot into Redgate (turn 1), I then attacked Craner Curves (the next set of fast sweeps) as hard as I dared to try break a lead. Nearing the end of the first lap, we braked hard to the Melbourne Loop hairpin where I was dive-bombed on the brakes by Phil Atkinson in 2nd. Unfortunately for him he couldn't get it stopped in time and crashed out of the race. I put my head straight back down and tried to bang out the fastest laps I could, extending my small lead by a second or two.

Nearing the closing laps, my brain was working overtime to get me safely and quickly around each lap of this circuit that we had such little experience of. With a lap to go, Rob was on my tail with only a 1 second gap when the red flags came out. Tom Ward had crashed and that marked the end of the race. We had done it! Finally we were awarded the victory that we had been working so hard for all season!

The team were going nuts when I arrived at the Parc Ferme knowing we were on the top step! Rob Guiver was a great sport and congratulated us as we headed up to the podium to spray the bubbly and collect our much anticipated trophy. The feeling was awesome when I stood over the crowd and sprayed the champagne from the step we had worked so hard to stand on. We headed back to the pits, elated, but I had race 2 to focus on as the rest of the team celebrated into the evening.
Sunday was time for Race 2, the tension was thick in the air and we repeated the routine to line up at the lights, waiting for them to go out. They did, and the race was underway. We got the hole shot into turn 1 and, again, I attacked Craner Curves as hard as I could to try break the pack to get a lead but this time the others were wiser to my tactics and there were more of them. Phil was hot on my heels with Chrissy and Rob in hot pursuit. I pushed as hard as I could to try break away and got the gap up to 1 second and managed to hold it for nearly the whole race. 2 laps to go and Rob Guiver was on a charge, chasing down the dangling carrot in front of him, which was me!

I had a small high-side coming out of Melbourne loop and Rob needed no more invitation as he was now right on my tail and made a pass on the brakes at the end of Park straight into The Esses. I followed him into the hairpin, braking where he braked and we both ran a bit wide, he had a moment out of the hairpin, which I capitalized on and planned to pass him back into the final corner, Goddards. I couldn't believe it when I missed a gear changing into 2nd, it hit the rev-limiter and I lost the ground I gained on him, but I had already dedicated to getting him on the brakes, I went through anyway but ran wide mid corner where he got back through, we crossed the line and I had to settle for 2nd place.

I pulled in to the podium and was greeted by our ever enthusiastic team, as well as the one and only, Carl Fogarty! I got a handshake and congratulations from Foggy and headed up to the podium to collect our trophy. What a day!

I was still very happy with what we achieved over the weekend. Rob has an edge on all of us in the final laps of the race at these circuits where he uses every single millimeter to gap us.

1st and 2nd in the Elite class for us was the best weekend we've had this season. We're back up to 2nd place in the overall championship, and have a nice lead in the Premier championship.

We are now back at our flat in Colchester after a testing 3 weeks of racing, travelling, practicing, repairing and now, finally, relaxing! Here's a quick breakdown of our schedule since Thursday 23 Aug (3 weeks ago):

  • Thursday - Pack and leave for Cadwell Park race weekend
  • Monday (Public holiday race day) - Finish racing at 4pm, pack and leave straight away, drive to Donington Park at night
  • Tuesday - Trackday at Donington all day, pack and leave for home in Colchester, drive at night
  • Wednesday - Prep bike, change oil, wash, etc.
  • Thursday - Leave for Silverstone, spend night at track car park
  • Friday - Trackday at Silverstone, pack and leave Triumph Live at Mallory Park, drive at night again
  • Saturday - Triumph Live 110 year Festival, fun race weekend
  • Sunday - Pack and leave, get a blow out on the caravan. Tyre rips apart fender and destroys cupboards and wiring. Eventually arrive home after spare wheel is wrong and AA take 3 hours to arrive.
  • Monday - Home and start fixing caravan in caravan park.
  • Thursday - Pack and leave for Donington Park, finish repairs at the track
  • Friday - Race weekend
  • Sunday - Race and pack and leave for home, drive at night
  • Monday - RELAX!

Just a taste of what life has been like here as a struggling, shoestring budget team that works out of our complex's car park and the back of a van!

A huge thanks, once again, to Morne, Jason & family, Eevie & Rab, Bjorn & Tam and everyone else who was supporting us over the weekend! It doesn't happen without my dad Mike, Lawrence at LD refrigeration, Jonny & the Moto Direct team and Stuart at Froceifield Body Armour!

Our next stop is the famed Silverstone GP Circuit in 2 weeks time. A bit of a rest now, then straight back to hard training.


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