Pirelli National Superstock 1000 - 24th
The last round of the 2016 season saw us return to Brands Hatch GP. At the last visit, in July, I had smashed my PB and had a fantastic race so was keen to repeat that success.
As it was October, we knew the weather was likely to play a part, but Friday at least it seemed would be dry.
Free Practice went well, and we were able to use the session to settle in and also make some good setup changes. It was a solid session and I was looking forward to Quali 1 later in the day.
The changes had helped, and we were working to get a better feel from the front end in the heavy braking areas. Some more changes through the session helped, and despite a small amount of drizzle at one point the weather was kind; even if it was very cold! I finished the session in 29th place, which was great, and I couldn't wait to get back out for Quali 2 on Saturday.
We put some heavier front springs in for the Saturday session, and also decided to go for a rear wheel change during the session to make the most of the fresh rubber.
After a few laps to check the front end changes had worked, I headed into the pits and we made a couple of tweaks and changed over the rear wheel. Immediately I knocked a chunk of time off, putting together 3 flying laps and getting within 2/10ths of my PB - not bad considering the difference in weather from July when I had set it.
The extra pace kept me in 29th, although closer to the rider ahead who had also gone quicker, but not by quite such a margin.
Sunday morning I woke up to heavy rain. It had been forecast, but seemed earlier than suggested. It had stopped, mostly, by 9.30 so we hoped that it would dry out before the race at 1235. However, it was not to be, and we agonised over what tyre choice to make as the race drew nearer, We decided, as a bit of a dry line was appearing, that we would go for wet front and dry rear.
As we went round for the sighting lap, I was happy with the tyre choice. There were enough dry areas to make me believe a wet rear tyre would not last the race (even though it had been reduced by 2 laps due to delays in earlier classes) and there were still some very wet areas where the wet front was going to be much more suited.
The other riders had a mix of everything - some on full wets, some on full dries. It was going to be an interesting race! Most around me had full wets, so on the first few laps I had to be very careful in the wets bits and accept that I was not going to keep with them - although I knew that soon the track would dry and my tyres would come into their own.
The track didn't dry as quick as we had thought, but even so, by about lap 4 I was able to hunt down and pass the next 2 riders ahead, who were beginning to slow. The first rider had to be passed twice, mind, as when we got back to the wetter sections he had the advantage! All was well, though, and there was then a fairly large gap to the next rider, but it didn't take long to close up and pass. I had only around 2 laps left, then, due to the shortened race, but as I rounded Surtees on the final lap I saw James White heading into Hawthorn's. I caught him quickly down Dingle Dell, and realised that his wet tyres must have given up completely. I closed again as we came into Clearways, and I worked to get a really good drive out onto the start finish straight. However, it was not quite to be, and I crossed the line just behind him. It was frustrating, as I was so close, and had the race been full distance I would have been past - and I am almost certain I would have made up a couple more places, too, as the riders just up the road were lapping around 5 secs a lap slower by that time!
However, it was still a solid result, in a very tricky race due to the very mixed conditions - a scenario I have had very little experience of, certainly on the 1000cc bike. It was a race that was a lot of fun, and a great way to end the season.
Preparations for 2017 are already underway and I cannot wait to get back out on track again next year.
That just leaves me to say a MASSIVE thank you to all my sponsors and every one who supports me, in any way. I really would not be able to do it without you all. And, if I haven't been in touch already regarding 2017, I will be! :-D