ThundersportGB Formula 600
Race 1 - DNF
Race 2 - 12th
Race 3 - 11th
Championship Position - 8th
After Rockingham, I made the difficult decision to miss the Anglesey round, simply down to funding after having had to do 2 engine rebuilds this season. We took the time to do some further work on the bike, and so I was confident we would be all set for the second visit of the year to Donington Park, this time on the shorter National Circuit; and I couldn't wait to get back out on the bike.
First session of the weekend was Qualifying. Almost immediately I was aware that the bike was not performing as I would expect. The handling was great, but it was seriously lacking in power, and so I was really struggling to put down any really good times. I finished the session in 29th (of a nearly full grid of 38) so not where I wanted to be at all. The handling changes we had made during the season had obviously worked, though as I had gone a couple of seconds quicker than my previous best at the beginning of the season.
As we got it back into the garage, it became apparent that the battery was almost completely flat. A surprise, as it had started up all OK, and we became suspicious of the condition of the lithium race battery the bike has installed. The bike was also running very hot, and this was also a concern.
Before the next race, we charged the battery, which reported as being well, and also worked to try and eliminate any airlocks that may have been in the cooling system.
As soon as I went out for the grid for the first race, I knew the bike was running much better, and I made use of the much increased power and started making overtakes. Within half a lap though, I was having drive issues in 4th gear.....not a good feeling as I came through Craner Curves for the 2nd time. By the time I got to the Dunlop Straight I struggled to engage 4th at all, and across the start/finish line I lost the gear completely. I pulled in at Redgate and that was the end of Race 1 for me, and a very frustrating day.
That evening, we had the joy of a gearbox change, to put in the spare we thankfully carry with us! We also checked the water pump and coolant system as best we could, as the bike was still overheating. I went to bed looking forward to the Sunday, and keen to make up for the poor results and race my way back up the grid!
Warm Up went well, and I managed to match the previous day's laptimes fairly easily.
Race 2 of the weekend started well, and the bike was working pretty well. The gearbox at least was all good, although I wasn't entirely sure we were running at full power again. I had enough, though, to have a great race with 2 riders, swapping positions multiple times per lap, before I finally broke away from them and managed to drop my laptime down to a 1:14.1. I finished the race in 12th place. Nothing spectacular but solid points from a difficult starting place, and a fantastic 5 seconds off my PB from the visit earlier in the year.
We still had issues with the overheating, so we spent some time trying to find a radiator we could borrow, as we had come to the conclusion that the only thing left was a blocked radiator. None was forthcoming, however, so we had to just work to ensure we had no airlocks at all, and get ready for the last race.
I was keen to get out and try and reclaim some more points, and felt I could knock a good chunk more off my laptime. I got an OK start, but again felt the bike wasn't quite running at full power, even though we had charged the battery again. I didn't seem to be able to keep the pace I had in the last race, although I was pushing hard. On around lap 6, the overheating clearly got to a critical point, as the bike started missing massively; presumably the fuel so hot it couldn't get through the lines without evaporating. I started having to not only deal with no top end power due to the misfiring, but at the same time trying to short shift to cool the bike as much as I could.
Although I managed to pick the pace up a little on the last lap, it was nowhere near the pace I wanted and felt was possible, and I continued on only to salvage whatever points I could. Due to a couple of DNFs further up on the last laps, I actually finished 11th. Very frustrating again, but still some points at least.
The salvaged points have actually put me into 8th position in the Formula 600 Championship, which considering I have missed 2 rounds due to engine failure, 1 due to funding and such mechanical difficulties at Donington Park, I feel is something I can be proud of at the moment!
I now cannot wait for Mallory Park, before which we are determined to solve the issues, where I can improve or cement my Championship position to finish off what has been a tricky season, but one through which I have made huge progress and really brought down my laptimes.