Great Start Leads to Disappointment at Donington Park
ThundersportGB Formula 600
Race 1 - 5th
Race 2 - DNS
Race 3 - DNS
Race 1 - DNF
Race 2 - DNS
Race 3 - DNS
Going in to the second meeting of 2014 ThundersportGB, I was very keen to keep the momentum going after the fantastic first round at Brands Hatch.
I had opted to compete in the Sportsman Elite 600 and also, in order to gain some extra track time and race experience, the Thundersport GP1 class.
Having raced at Donington Park GP near the end of last season, I was well aware of what times I wanted to be aiming for, and was looking to better the great times I had achieved last October.
Qualifying for the 600 Elite was first, and although everything went to plan in the session, I wasn't really happy with the feel of the bike. It just didn't feel planted or stable, but despite that, I set a qualifying time that was 1/10th of a second off my previous best lap. This gave me 8th place in a larger Formula 600 field than normal, and 22nd on the full Sportsman Elite grid of 40 riders; a grid peppered with some top talent getting in some last minute track time before the start of the BSB season next weekend!
We made a geometry change at the front of the bike for the GP1 Qualifying, and this made a massive difference. I immediately felt more confident and the bike went exactly where I wanted it to. The GP1 Qualifying session was a very scrappy one as there were 2 bikes leaking oil at separate points during the session, so I didn't quite better my time, but I was the only 600cc bike on the track amongst the big 1000cc, and I qualified 28th, again out of 40.
I was all set for the 6 races ahead over the weekend, and the Sportsman Elite 600 race was first. I got a good start, and aimed for the inside of Redgate corner - I had made up places but got a little boxed in at the apex. No matter, I had a good position and was well in the pack and close to the riders ahead. The race was a good fun attack, and I took the places from all 3 of the riders directly ahead of me over the course of the race. This left me with a gap of around 2 seconds to the next rider, and although I put in some good times up to a second faster than my previous best lap, I couldn't reel him in before the race was run. I had come back 5th place Formula 600 and 19th overall. A very pleasing and solid result.
Shortly after that was the first GP1 race. I stayed further outside on the first corner this time, and it helped hold the places, although against the big bikes I hadn't made quite so many gains off the line! I was still fighting in the pack though, and very close to riders ahead. Riding against the big bikes is always fun, but tricky, as I have the advantage in the corners, but have to try to keep close enough down the straights to use it! I made a bold move up into McLeans, and the rider concerned didn't see me in time - I had to bail out of the move so we didn't come together, unfortunately, but it was good fun and I was ready to give it another go. At the next corner, however, the red flags were out for a separate incident.
At the restart, I made the outside line work even better, made some more places and this time found myself in some space, chasing the next rider. All was going well, although I was never really close enough to attack. However, as I crossed the line a couple of laps from the end, I was suddenly without power, and the bike made it very clear it was not well. My race was most certainly over.
When we got it back to the paddock, it was clear something was not right at all, and further inspection led us to the diagnosis that the engine had dropped a valve.
We had to make the decision to call it a weekend, as there was no way we could fix it there. The Sunday, therefore, was spent stripping the engine and making a shopping list. We are still in the process of organising all the required parts and repairs; and thinking of novel ways in which I can fund the rebuild!
We are working flat out, though, to get back on the grid at Snetterton, on the 4th/5th May!