Tuesday, 22 July 2014

First Top 10 Result! 9th Place - Brands Hatch GP Rd.5

I've had a good time back in South Africa over the past 2 weeks, having braais with friends, training hard, seeing one of my best friends get hitched, and have some much needed catch-ups with some special people! But when I had to return to the airport, I actually couldn't wait to get back to the UK for this race.

As usual, hectic pace was present as I landed in Manchester on Tuesday night, unpacked my case, packed my bags for the race, had a sleep and I was off to Brands Hatch 7am Wednesday morning! But it dodn't ease up there with a string of hold ups all the way down... From Mark and I both forgetting our wallets at breakfast, to spending 4 hours in a road block for a brake light just 1km from the track! Not a great start to the weekend...

I was confident coming into this weekend as I knew we had the whole package; bike, team, fitness, track knowledge, etc. all in good form and improving each round, so I was expecting quite a bit when we arrived. This started early as we had a good FP1 (Free Practice 1) so felt good going into Q1 (Qualifying 1)

The weather was very hot, even by South African standards! Over 30deg with 70%+ humidity, the tyres and cooling systems (of the bike and rider!) were suffering. The forecast looked dodgy for Saturday's Qualifying 2, so I wanted to use all my tyre allocation in Q1 to throw in a fresh tyre half way through the session. Fortunately the wise advice of my team convinced me to save my tyre just in case the small chance of a dry Q2 came about, because it did!

Sitting in 19th from Q1, knew we had top 12 pace to reach in Q2. I hit the track with my new saved tyres with a few mins to go so they wouldn't overheat, and the pace was looking good with our times quickly approaching my Q1 time. Two laps to go I bettered it by 0,2 and started my final lap already up on my best, with each sector showing even faster  setting us on track for a predicted 11th! Then I came up to a slower rider with about 1/3 of the lap left, so I went for a pass trying not to sacrifice time, and he cut me off!! I tried again immediately at the next corner as every corner I was behind him I was losing time. Again he blocked me and I managed to get through with 1 corner to go, costing me 0,4 of a second!! Which saw me get 17th instead of 11th. I was highly irritated... My ideal lap time would've put me 9th! But that's how it ended.

Determined to show my pace, even though it wouldn't count for anything, I went hard in morning warm up to prove to myself and the team we had the pace and we came back in 7th place! Ecstatic to say the least to be in a strong top 10 placing just before the race!

The race came about in the heat of midday and we lined up in 17th, eyes set firmly of the top 12. Lights on, lights off and the bike launched great into turn 1, seeing me shoot a few places up, I lined up a gap into turn 2 at the hairpin, shot into it, but unfortunately had to sit up when the rider in front of me got sat up by the rider in front of him, seeing a bunch of riders shoot past both of us, putting me back to 20th!

I gathered myself and kept calm to stay on the bike, chipping away over the 16 lap race. The bike felt great and we were making great progress through the field getting inside the top 15, then into 12th place with about 4 laps to go, but a big gap to the top 11. I pushed with everything I dared to close the gap, and with just one to go, I managed to grab the back of the pack.

With just a few corners to go, I knew I had to dig deep to make sure I didn't settle for 11th and into the last corner I lined up the two riders battling in front of me for 10th. They were going at eachother oblivious to my position and as we ran into the final sweeping corner they defended their lines and I decided to go in wide to carry my corner speed as that would be the only way I could pass them on speed over the finish line - exactly how it panned out in our favour! I got onto the front rider's outside through the sweep and pinned the throttle as early as I could and tucked myself into the bike as tight as I could manage to out drag him to the finish line by just 0.04s to take 10th and our first top 10!

It was an awesome race, I'm really enjoying my bike's setup now and it's so satisfying returning to the pits greeted by a jovial team jumping for joy. We celebrated our 10th place finish with the knowledge that we were capable of even better than that if I had got a clean opening lap, and were later graced with news of a rider in front of me who was excluded for not complying with technical regulations! This gave us our deserved 9th place!

I am thrilled to get our first top 10 finish and also now sit 15th in the championship, just a few points off top 10 too - a major milestone in this championship's standings.

Our whole team is working like a well oiled machine now, starting to reap race results, and such good vibes in the evenings between all of us. A rare thing to have in a race team.

Thank you so much to Mark, Dan, Ian and my whole MWR Kawasaki team for giving me the support I need on and off track.

A special thanks to our sponsors Rocket88, Leatt, Pawsons Commercial and big welcome to our new team sponsor Spur Steak and Grill!

Next up is Thruxton down south on 3 August to start our full month of races.
Cheers for now!

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