Pirelli National Superstock 1000 - DNF
This was to be my first visit to Donington Park this season, and the first since the World Superbike round in May last year.
Heavy rain put pay to any chance of useful track time in Free Practice, although a quarter of those who did partake ended up crashing out, so I was glad to have not done the same!
Quali 1, then, was to be the first opportunity to make some progress. The session was a good starting point, and although I didn't quite match my PB it gave us direction for the setup and we made some changes ready for Saturday.
We were working on trying to improve the feel under braking, and also try to gain a little more rear grip. The changes made halfway through the session helped the braking, but the rear end changes caused a little bit of instability in the corners and made it run a little wide. However, I still managed to beat my PB by around 4/10ths, and it turned out was also the second closest time to the leader in qualifying I had ever done. Still, it had only put me 31st on the grid, and a second off the rider ahead, although due to the limited entry list this weekend, the rider ahead was usually the start of the mid pack - and I was closer than usual, so it was positive.
After a lengthy delay for the cleanup of a massive oil spill at McLeans on Sunday morning, we only got a 5 minute warmup; with one newly scrubbed and very damp corner! But the further setup changes we had made were working and the bike felt well setup for the race.
The race turned out to be a very dramatic affair! I got a reasonable start, and my plan for the race was to tag onto the back of James White who was, after qualifying, a second a lap faster. I felt sure that I could make up the difference now the bike was working as I wanted it to, and with my race-face on!
The plan was working well, and I was able to keep close. A large crash out of Redgate ahead, where a rider had been hit by a following one after a highside, brought the Safety Car out for a lap, and although, again, I lost a little bit of time on the restart, I was closing the gap back up and it was all going well. Another crash shortly after the restart at the Melbourne Loop provided another obstacle to avoid, but nothing like what I then encountered as I rounded the Old Hairpin and up towards Starkeys. Yet another crash had resulted in a rider being ridden over, and this time the Red Flag came out.
We all peeled into the Pit Lane to await news on a restart, and I was feeling confident that I would be able to put my plan into action in round 2.
I got a much better start this time round, and headed into Craner Curves right on the tail. I was starting to work out where I was faster, and as we came through for Lap 2, I was closing up into Starkeys and felt I could gain even more on the run up to McLeans. As I changed down from 5th to 3rd, however, I ended up in a false neutral. The bike fairly quickly fell back into 4th gear, and although it wasn't what I had intended, it would do. I had inevitably drifted off line, as I hadn't had the engine braking to bring me into the apex, but I was happy all would be well and I was thinking of how much I would lose to James White ahead.
However, the next thing I knew was the rear tyre had lost grip as I turned in, and suddenly I was sliding on the tarmac. That was that, a one way ticket to the kitty litter. I can only assume the intensive cleanup for the oil spill on the corner earlier in the day had meant that the track was still slippery/green/dirty offline, but whatever the reason, my missed gear had brought an early end to my race.
Very frustrating, but that is racing. We will now work hard to get the bike repaired and ready for the last round of this season, at Brands Hatch GP on the 15th - 16th of October!