This weekend was my first Desmo Due race and at the Mini-Nurburgring, Cadwell Park. A bit of a daunting process but my plan was to take my time, learn the track and get faster over the weekend. They had a track day on the Friday night before the racing on the Saturday and Sunday.
The plan was to go down early doors Friday morning with Steve, get set up at lunch time then try to see if i can do the last session on the Friday night so get a bit of a clue about where I am going.
On the way down I was quizzing Steve about the track armed with my circuit map and Niall Mackenzie track guide. I even watched a youtube clip of one of the Desmo riders clips of Cadwell. To be honest I was getting good information but without seeing the circuit or knowing it it didn’t make a lot of sense but I felt like it was important to give myself as much of a head start as possible.
Steve and myself arrived at about 12:30-1pm. My lesson in how to put up an awning began as we get everything set up. We timed it just right cause as we finished the heavens opened. I went to race control to see about getting on the track for the last session. I could. Time to get the wets on.
Luckily the last session didn’t prove to be too busy as I drove round like a tourist trying to get a
where to go. After once the track was closed we walked the track with Steve talking me through my lines. A valuable experience, but bloody hell some of those hills are steep!
For the rest of the night it was socialising with the other Desmo Due guys and while we waited for Brian, Debbie and Duncan to arrive. They set off later as Brian had to work.
The next morning was wet again. The weather forecast was to dry later but this gave me another good opportunity to get out in practice to find my way about without the speed being crazy. The rest of the day was scheduled for us on 2nd last for qualifying, then 3rd last for the first race, then I was on last for the Newbies race.
While being almost last meant a lot of standing about nervously waiting it did actually work to our advantage as the track dried out and we got dry qualifying and a dry race. I qualified 22/27 with a time of 2:05:82. There was a group of 5 of us all within a second so I was looking forward to having a bit of an interesting race.
Race 1 – So i’m sitting on the grid. The red light comes on. It goes off. I drop the clutch and get a shockingly bad start. Then into the first left hander up the hill I realise my race craft is terrible and just sit behind the guy in front, rather than trying to make up any places. As everyone thinned out I made a pass on the back straight and then was onto the back of Kenny Nehls. On the last corner Kenny ran wide and onto the grass and I passed down the start finished straight but now i was on my own. Starting to get a bit better feel for the circuit and where to go i put in faster and faster laps. Then on the last lap the yellow flags were out. Rounding the hairpin i saw the familiar sight of a red and white bike. It was Duncan who had been punted off by an overtake move by Peter Pritchard. I rounded Barn and down to the chequered flag in 19th of 25 finishers with 2 DNFs. My fastest lap was not much quicker than qualifying. Will need to try harder next time.
Because of delays (people crashing mostly) the Newbie race got pushed back to the first race on the Sunday morning. So I had tonight to think about the track and try ride a bit faster. Good news was the weather was meant to be nicer on the Sunday.
Race Newbie – Sunday morning was dry and sunny. Good times. We had randomly assigned grid positions. After the warm up lap and start there was a tangle between 2 bikes going through the Gooseneck down into Mansfield and the race had to be red flagged. We were kept for a while on the grid then the race started with 2 warm-up laps and a 4 lap race. The lights went out and it was again into the last corner. I got a better start this time, realising i should be on the biting point rather than just dumping the clutch, but again my race craft was poor going into Coppice and Charlies 1 and 2 as I could have made up some positions but just stayed behind the bike in front. The pace was ok but I was being held up by a rider on a ZX6-R. I would catch him through the corners but he would pull away on the straights. I thought to myself I’m not racing these bikes so don’t try anything stupid, just work on putting together good laps. Again faster as the race went on with my fastest time on the last lap of 2:02:99. I set my goal of breaking 2m for the weekend.
Now back in the pits I noticed I had a wee issue. My exhaust was falling apart. So we bodged a fix by taping it back together for the next race.
Race 2 – This race was just before lunch with the sun high in the sky and the track nice and warm. I was started 19th of grid and the plan was to try get on the back of some quicker riders and try to pull my times up. It didn’t go to plan. On the first corner Duncan, starting from the back of the grid after the off in the first race, came by me on the inside. I realised very quickly that I am rubbish at the first corner melee! I did manage to get onto the back of a group and was making good speed through some of the corners catching them up but there was another crash, again at Mansfield. Giles Hepworth had a pretty big off and had gone into the tires. The race was red flagged and we were sent for lunch. Brian had also been involved in a bit of an incident and his exhaust was hanging off and had gone to the pits. When I got it i noticed our bodge repair was not holding. Frantically all hands on deck to fix Brian’s and my exhausts. Unfortunately they called for the restart of the race before I could get my exhaust sorted. Gutter. I felt like that was my race when I was confident and pushing hard. Now I had to wait till the end of the day to go in Race 3.
Race 3 – The exhaust now fixed but starting at the back of the grid. It was a bit of a quieter grid this time with only 20 bikes taking the start. I had similar problems into the first corner getting stuck behind people. I passed one of the Class B bikes on the back straight then another coming out of Barn. I could see a group of bikes about 200 yards ahead but I was riding poorly and they soon disappeared into the distance. I couldn’t get into a rhythm or find my speed or confidence constantly going through the corners much slower than I know I could. I wasn’t the only one with Steve pulling in, he also couldn’t get into the race or enjoy it. I did set my fastest lap of the weekend at 2:01.74 but i felt a bit disappointed with that performance.
Lessons learned and a great first weekend in the Desmo Due paddock and with the Scottish guys too. After every race I had a huge smile on my face. Cant wait till Oulton Park now!!!
Also big thanks to Steve Mason for driving me down with my bike and taking it back up the road and all the help with the spannering. Brian Alexander for help with the spannering too. Duncan Bailey for trying to help me get better starts. Debbie for the awesome cooked breakfasts. And Finally Mark Hamilton for taking me back up the road.