Been to Donington Park.
Never have I ever finished in the top 5 of a race.
I can no longer say either of those things. YYYYYYAAAAAAASSSSSSS!!!!!!
I would also like to say a big thank you to EDP Photo News for the awesome picture! For more pics from all the weekends racing click here
Before heading to Donington I had a bit of confidence that this would be a track I could go well at. Looking at my strengths and weaknesses, I am quick on the fast corners and slow on the slow corners. I started doing my race prep for Donington and watching onboard videos. I thought there are no slow corners at this circuit. The Old Hairpin is pretty open and more than a 90 degree corner. The other slower bit is the chicane (we do the national circuit missing out the Melbourne loop) but that is a heavy braking area. I am pretty good with the late braking so confidence was high. Another advantage was that there was no testing day before hand. The majority of the grid, except a few cheaters (looking at you Matt and Alan!) would be turning up on the Saturday to race just as I am.
I continued my prep and watched a tonne of onboard footage, BSB rounds to see where is good to overtake and what lines to take. So was all ready when we turned up on Friday to get set up. I decided to avoid doing a track walk as I had a lot of info in my head and didn’t want to second guess myself. The weather was looking interesting. Showing dry Saturday and possibly dry Sunday. Luckily it stayed dry both days and we had dry tracks to race on.
The Saturday warm up all went fine. Didn’t really get into a rhythm or feel like I knew the track well. Wasn’t able to really put down a clean quick lap due to all the traffic. After the session I felt a little uneasy about the race. I didn’t feel like I knew the track well enough, no real braking points or the speed of the corners. I felt slow and uncomfortable. When I collected the time sheet and saw that I had lapped at 1:32.054 I was quite shocked. It was a fairly comparative time to everyone else and how slow I felt it instantly gave me confidence. I knew in the race we would all go a lot faster and I had a lot of areas I could go quicker.
For the qualifying race I got off the line well, through the first corner which always seems to be a problem for me, and found myself on the back of championship leader Matt Lawson. I tagged onto the back of him and was hoping he was able to pull me round and get a great result. That was not meant to be. Trying to click top gear on the back straight I hit a false neutral. Matt left me and I lost 3 more positions. I then got into a bit of a 3 way dice with Phil Murden, and David Young. I’d dive up the inside at McLean’s but Phil always carried the speed to cut me off and keep me behind him. I felt I had the speed but not the race craft to get my way and frustration built. Then on the last lap going into the chicane the green and white bike of Giles appeared on my inside. Jack Younge gave one of the mini-twins the elbow so he was laying legs akimbo on the inside of the chicane with his bike on the outside. Yellow flags everywhere meaning no chance to try and out drag Giles for the line. What a frustrating race! If I hadn’t missed that gear it could have been totally different. My speed was good with my fastest lap 1:26.993 but finishing 9th when I was 6th fastest was not what I wanted. Still a great fight with Phil and I think I learned a lot in race craft by him not giving me the easy pass.
The second race in the day was the championship race so I was looking to get a better result than earlier. That was not going to happen as disaster struck early. The lights seem to hold on red for an incredibly long period of time. David Young was in front of me on the grid and he started creeping forward. This caused me to wind on the throttle to 7000 revs. Not where I want to be for a start. When the lights went out I dropped the clutch and nothing happened. The clutch made a pretty horrible noise and I wasn’t going anywhere quickly. I slowly managed to get the bike moving off the line but I had already lost a tonne of places. The fight was on to try and get a good result and work my way through the field. Being so far behind seemed to help me as I could carry the quicker speed through the corners and was able to make a lot of good quick passes. I also made a few dodgy passes. A notable one on Alan Ball, parking it on McLean’s in a sketchy as hell move. Once past Alan I then tried to chase down my adversary from the first race Phil Murden who was battling with Dan James. I fought hard but could only get onto the back wheel as we crossed the line with less than 0.2s separating the three of us. 9th place finish seemed to be a good salvage from a horrible start but my lap times were still falling and this time my fastest lap was 1:25.813 4th quickest of the A bikes. If I can just cut out the stupid errors I might actually be able to challenge near the front!
For the Sunday I went out for a practice session and really just pottered round at a slow pace. Was more looking at the lines I take than looking for speed. Redgate was still damp from the overnight rain but it was nice to get out without worrying about going fast. The track would easily dry up before our qualifying race.
I knew I had to get through the first corner well to have a good race. I got off the line this time and managed to get a good inside line through Redgate which set me up well. I found myself behind Phil Murden again but this time I was able to put a move on him through the Old Hairpin then past David Young on the drag up to McLeans where I found Scott “Badger” Wilson. I managed to get past him on the brakes going into the chicane. Badger fought back next lap doing the same as I did to him going into the chicane but I was able to get back past him going round the outside coming out of Redgate. We were trapped in a duel with one of the mini-twins. I was clearly faster than the mini-twin but the extra power made it impossible to get away from him. I’d carry the speed through old hairpin and up the hill to McLean’s then he would pass me on the back straight. There was no way to lose him but I had no idea where Badger was. Luckily for me he was also having trouble with the mini-twin and on the last lap held him up and stopped him for trying a last corner lunge to pass me. I finished just 0.1s ahead of Badger to take 4th. It was my first top 5 finish. My first victory over a race winner. I felt I was riding well, riding fast, if I could have got away from the mini-twin I could have put in even faster laps. I only managed to shave 0.1 off my fastest time now down to 1:25.732 but I knew that was due to being held up in the corners. I was so over the moon with that result. I had finally put together a good race with no stupid mistakes and come 4th. Yyyyyeeeeaaaaassssss!!!!
With the qualifying race result I was now nervous as hell for the championship race. All I could think of was dicing at the front and the chance to win and starting so high up the grid I knew that was a possibility. If I could get off the line with the top 3 guys I knew I could hang with them. That was not quite what happened. I got off the line well, but then going into Redgate I seemed to just zone out and instead of picking my line I just followed the bikes in front. They seemed to all be running wide and I had to shut off the power to avoid grass tracking. What a twat. I lost a tonne of places and the red mist came down. I knew I had to get on it to get the result I wanted. So much so that I ran wide coming out of the chicane and onto the grass. I kept the throttle pinned and slowly edged back to the black stuff. I managed to rejoin without losing much time and only one place. I was now behind Giles, after him beating me in race 1 and vandalising my bike with wildly inappropriate stickers (they don’t match the colour scheme!) I wasn’t going to show him any kindness. I knew I was fast going through Craner Curves, could carry the speed, get inside position for the old hairpin and then gun it up the hill. That’s exactly what I managed to do. Carrying the speed through the old hairpin I was able to slip past Phil Murden on the first left going up the hill, then catch and pass David Young on the brakes going into the chicane. Jack Younge and Alan Ball were next. Jack moved past Alan at Craner Curves, so behind Alan I was able to get a great drive out of McLean’s and overtake Alan on the outside on the short straight before Coppice. I dragged past Jack over the line but he fought back to pass me on the brakes going into the chicane but I could out drag him again on the start finish straight. Now we had caught up to our mini-twin friend from the earlier race. The battle was a repeat of before, me passing on the corners to get out gunned on the straight. I finished 5th and posted my best time of the weekend 1:25.363. A good result from my first corner troubles and I felt I could go faster. Just need to cut out these mistakes!
Overall it was an amazing weekend racing. I had such a high from the battle with Scott in the 3rd race and pulled some aggressive riding and overtake moves in the 4th race as well as being frustrated by losing the duel with Phil Murden in the 1st race. I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to make those moves before but hopefully I can keep progressing. I’ve now moved into 6th pace in the championship too. Cadwell Park is a different prospect, it was my first ever race last year and it terrified me a little. Let’s hope I have the confidence to have a great race and maybe get a better result.