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
Cadwell Park is one of the tracks I have raced at before. I consider it my first ever race last year and the place terrified me a lot. It’s a bit of a wild rollercoaster like track. All twists and turns, ups and downs, blind corners and super narrow. It’s like a B-road having a fit. The reason it scares me is I was never a very quick rider on the road, always worried about blind bends and oncoming traffic. So Cadwell is a track I think is amazing but one I’m not entirely comfortable with. It feels like an age since I have last been there and I was unable to get my usual prep work done before hand due to finishing some uni coursework. Brian Alexander and I had a fairly leisurely drive down, stopping for some dinner before going to the circuit meant that there was no way I would get to do any laps on the Friday testing day. The weather was looking ominous for the weekend which also didn’t help my confidence. Last thing I wanted was a wet track.
Arriving on Friday and the getting set up with Duncan and Dan who had arrived earlier in the day, then the heavens opened and chucked it down all night till morning. Luckily the rain had stopped quite early and the track was now drying. Got the bike scruitineered and signed on and there was a little confusion as I was out in practice group 3 with the 600s. While mine is a 620 it has half the power of the normal 600s. I felt like Ricky Bobby getting back out on track – what were those other things? Where those the other bikes? As a few of them blasted past me on the damp but drying track. I was taking it fairly easy just trying to get into the rhythm of the circuit, knowing a crash in the damp conditions would be a major downer on my weekend. The sun was now out so I knew we would have dry racing. When I came in and checked the times I was quite happy with my 2:02.666 time knowing I had a lot in reserve.
I started 7th on the grid due to the qualifying championship. That put me on the outside of the first corner, Coppice, so my plan was round the outside of Coppice and have inside position for the double right hander of Charlies. I got off the line well but was quickly passed by the tiny Pete Pritchard who seemed to have the same plan as me. His plan went a bit sketchier than mine as he crossed the white line on the straight throwing stones and grass at me as he had the hairy moment. It kind of transfixed me and I was fighting my instinct to follow him onto the grass. I managed to pass Kev Elise and Tom Roberts round the outside and one of the other 400s we were sharing the grid with but I hesitated to stick it up the inside of another 400 as I came into Charlies. I knew it was the KTM RC390 so knew I could out drag him down the straight but that meant I fell further behind the next group of riders. This is definitely something I am going to need to work on if I am going to race at the front. I managed to pass Jack Younge going into Park corner at the end of the straight. This put me 5th and within touching distance of the lead group. That was about as close as I was to get. I was stuck behind a tiny female on a ZXR400 who took really defensive lines into the corners meaning I struggled to get past. I was soon given a lesson on how to tackle this by Phil Murden. He passed me going through park and then the tiny ZXR400 girl going into the downward left of Mansfield. Then later in the same lap David Young passed me going into the hairpin dropping me to 7th. Jack Younge also came passed but I was able to use the power of my bike to pass him back on the straight. That was pretty much it for the first race except for being out dragged to the line by Tim Pritchard who dropped me to 8th. I knew I was quicker than the people in front from Park all the way to the chicane but it’s just so difficult to pass there. I was struggling a little with getting Charlies right too and the Hairpin and Barn. Things I’ll need to work on to get a better result for the championship race. My fastest lap was 1:52.785. I knew I could go a lot quicker than this and set my goal for the weekend of cracking 1:50.
Now the important race if I want to move up the table. Just 14 points behind Martin Cox I knew a good result would see me move to 5th after the weekend. I got off the line well and was going with a similar plan to the first race. Again going through the uphill left at Coppice I hesitated to run up the inside of the 400 and get right onto the back of the lead group. I need to be more ruthless in the first couple of corners when everyone is still a bit tentative. I could have been on the back of championship leader Matt Lawson if I just had the guts to do so. Another lesson was dished out when Dallas Hornblow passed me on the inside round Charlies. That is what I should be doing! The tiny ZXR400 passed me going into Park but I had learned from Phil in the first race and put myself on the inside for Mansfield to take the place back. I had another 400 to content with but it looked like the other Desmo riders were also being held up by a 400 so I wasn’t losing too much time on them. That 400 moved past Duncan Baillie and cleared off. I was now on the back wheel of Duncan, who was riding Brian Alexander’s bike after his had engine trouble. I could see he was not as comfortable as he would be on his own so I knew this was my opportunity to pass him and be top Scot. I was lining Duncan up for an overtake down into Mansfield but as I pulled out Dallas was now cruising. I was back following behind Duncan, knowing I had the speed through the gooseneck to close up and pass going into Mansfield. I just needed to make sure I got good drive through to make it an easy pass. I had timed it wrong and was too close to get the drive, going to have to try again next lap. I was much closer over the start finish this lap and thought about trying something crazy going into the first corner but I thought better of it. Driving down to park the tiny ZXR400 passed me again but I crossed them up to get back in front. I carried the speed through the next corner to get back in touch with Duncan and put my move into action. YES!!! I now had a clear track in front, hopefully I could now pull away to secure my place. That was not to be as both Duncan and the tiny ZXR400 came past on Park straight. I must have been so slow there. I managed to take Duncan again going into Mansfield but the ZXR400 had pulled enough of a gap. I tried to close for a last ditch attempt at the last two corners but I couldn’t close enough to try. I finished 5th which was a great result for me but my lap time was slower than before at 1:53.616. I knew where I was quick I now needed to work on where I was slow to crack the 1:50.
It rained overnight but the track had dried out for morning practice. I set about working on a few things to get my speed up. I wanted to concentrate on Charlies, getting the speed out of there for the long park straight would be vital. And I was struggling with being too busy between Mansfield and chicane. I felt like I had improved a lot on those areas so hopefully I will be able to go faster in the next two races. My time was 1:53.282 which I was really happy about considering how I was taking it easy on some corners. Bring on the race!
I was going to stick to my plan for the first corner off the line but I was quickly passed by some people who have significantly less ballast than me, first Duncan, then Jack Younge then Tom Roberts. I was able to get Jack and Tom back. I now had a 400 between me and Duncan I was able to come from a long way back and out brake him going into Park, now Duncan have moved past Phil Murden. I knew I must be sitting about 5th so was quite happy with that on the 1st lap. My ambition was not happy to stay there though and I got a good run through Mansfield to pass Phil going into the chicane. Up to 4th. Now Duncan was in my sights, he was looking a lot more comfortable on Brian’s bike now but I knew I had the speed through the gooseneck to try the same pass on him as the previous race. Putting in my best lap of the weekend I was able to catch and pass him going into Mansfield. Now I just needed to hope the changes I made to Charlies would keep me in front. The last lap flag was out. I was trying so hard to keep my concentration and get a good final lap to keep me in front but a 400 was doing some very strange things. I could almost have passed them going into Mansfield then a strange line and almost stopping at the chicane made me start to worry. Was this enough for Duncan to close and pass me. I needed to get passed them soon. Following them up the mountain they seemed to stop half way up. I took avoiding action and was finally by. I knew if I got the next section right I’d hold onto 4th and I did. YES!!! So happy with the result and my riding at a track I didn’t think I would go well at. My lap was 1:50.058, so so close to cracking the 1:50 but I think I still have a little more speed to come.
I seem to get nervous at the thought of running at the front. It happened at Donington Park and it was happening now. The lead group of Matt Lawson, Andy Blomfield and Pete Pritchard were about 3 seconds a lap quicker but I felt if I could get away with them at the start I could run with them so the nerves began to build. I knew getting off the line Duncan was going to come past but if I could just stay in touch with Matt (a fully grown human unlike the rest of the people I race) I would have a chance. I got the bike off the line as best I could and as expected Duncan came past. Phil put the move on me going into the first corner, which I was not expecting, I was able to get good drive out of Charlies and pass him going into Park. Now on the back of one of the 400s with Duncan and the rest just up ahead, I swept through the right of the gooseneck thinking if I get good drive here I can take him and Duncan on the brakes going into Mansfield. I flipped the bike back to the left and the 400 (actually a KR1-S 250 2 stroke) was coming towards me at an alarming rate. There was nothing I could do, nowhere I could go and I hit him. I remember sliding down the track, feet first on my front looking up to make sure I wasn’t about to be run over. No idea what I would have tried to do if I was though as I was still sliding down the road like a hockey puck. Race over. So frustrating, I don’t know why the guy went so slowly through the left, there was another bike who slide out ahead, that might have caused it but I don’t know. I didn’t feel I was in the right frame of mind to speak to anyone. Everyone was uninjured so I just kept myself to myself till the race finished. Loaded the bike up and set off home.
It was a great weekend racing. I really was not expecting to go well at this circuit but was really happy I was. I am a little disappointed I didn’t get the chance to crack 1:50. I definitely think I have the speed to do so but will now have to wait till next year. Because I scored zero points in the last race I now fall to 7th in the championship. Hopefully I can rectify that at the next round. The bike isn’t badly damaged so should get it fixed and be out at Castle Combe on the 8th/9th of July.