Pirelli National Superstock 1000 - DNF
After the success of the fork upgrade at Silverstone, I was keen to get to Brands Hatch to continue the progress and start to really get the best out of the forks and the bike.
However, the weather had other ideas, and Friday morning Free Practice was dank, cold, misty. All of which conspired together to create one very wet and greasy track! Not quite what I was hoping for to go out and attack with the new forks!
I used the session to try and get the feel in the wet, although the suspension was all a bit hard and wasn't really giving me much feedback. We made some changes for Quali 1 that afternoon, where although drier the session was still performed by all on Wet tyres. I finished Quali 1 in 37th, so was pretty pleased considering the conditions.
Quali 2 was Saturday morning, and the track was by that time mostly dry on the line, but still with many damp sections. It was dry tyres all the way, though, so I was still a little circumspect, not wishing to be caught out by the damp sections around the circuit. I qualified in 39th, (with 42 entered) so was pleased to have made it onto the 40 place grid, and realised after studying the times that there was clearly more grip available than I had been riding to - despite the fact that many areas, even on the racing line, were still quite damp, the leaders were setting times only a couple of tenths off the laptimes they set in July - when the weather was great! Incredible!
Our 'Warm-Up', that we normally get to settle every thing on the morning of the race had been rebranded a 10 minute free practice and was held at 1735.... which this time of year made it a little late!
I did manage to get a bit of video, from that session, however, that you can view here!
We used the session, as it was pretty much dry by then, to get a setup sorted for Sunday's race. We finished the day happy with the setup, and felt really ready for the race ahead.
We woke up Sunday to find that the rain had once more returned. It was again misty and damp, and my hopes for a nice dry race seemed to have been dashed. No matter, we still had a race, it just meant we now had to work out a tricky tyre decision and suspension setup choices.
The damp didn't seem to be lifting, and I felt we would probably end up on wets. However, as the action on track built up, the sun started to come out, and we were leaning towards a dry rear and wet front. About 15 minutes before we had to head up to the grid, though, we decided it had dried enough, on the line, to have to go for full dry tyres. I headed out for the sighting lap to get round to the grid, and was glad we had chosen dry tyres - although it was still very damp in places, by the end of the race it would be dry, and that would be when it would be won or lost - or so I thought!
I got a great start, and on the first lap after it had all settled down, made a move and gained a place. I got straight back on to the main pack, and was looking for where I could make a move on the next rider! The bike felt great and I was right in the hunt. As we came down to the last corner, the pack braked a lot earlier than I was expecting. Luckily I left myself space, so I braked hard, scrubbed off the speed and felt I had got away with it, and probably even gained a couple of places. However, it had caused me to end up off the racing line - and with the pack so closely packed still there wasn't really anywhere to get back in. I didn't see this as an issue, though, and tucked in close as we rounded Clearways. I was looking ahead, for where I could rejoin into the pack and get onto the drive down the straight, but suddenly, the bike went away from under me! I bounced through the gravel and as I got back to my feet I looked back and realised that the entire outside of Clearways was still damp - not much, but damp enough to spit me out into the kitty litter. Dammit.
Despite the fact I hadn't been able to finish the race, I was bizarrely happy about the little amount of racing I had been able to do. The bike felt great, I was able to really push it where I needed to and was right in the hunt for a great race in the pack. A really positive way to end the season - just a shame I couldn't convert it into a result. However, it was a racing crash, and crashes are part of racing.
It has given me a huge desire to get back out and work hard to secure the funding I need to compete again in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 in 2016. My first year in this incredibly competitive class has been a huge learning curve, but I feel I can be proud of the fact I have qualified for every single race I have entered (except where the engine blew up!) and I have had only one DNF.
I could not have done any of this without the amazing support of all my sponsors. I am so grateful to each and every one of them, and to everyone else who has helped me in anyway throughout the year.
So, to all my current sponsors, I will be in touch very soon about 2016, and to anyone else who is just wondering about motorsport sponsorship, please do get in touch!