Pirelli National Superstock 1000 - DNQ
I had been very much looking forward to Oulton Park, as although I feel I am yet to master the circuit on the ZX-10R, I absolutely love the place! I had done a lot of research and watched a number of old races to try and learn the elusive last tricks to get my laptimes down and was excited to get out and put them into practice.
The weather, once again, did not want to lend a helping hand, and a downpour just before Free Practice meant a delay to the session and then a very very wet track to play on. I went out steady but even so, on the 2nd lap I locked the front brake coming down to Lodge corner. Somehow I managed to keep it upright, and headed straight into the pits to try and adjust the suspension to help prevent it happening again. However, as I pulled to a stop in the pits, I could hear a worrying rattle from the engine, even through my helmet and earplugs. It seemed, also, so could anyone nearby as we had many a comment from others in the pit lane! We decided that, after the engine destruction of our last visit to Oulton Park, it was best not to continue and try and sort the issue. So, once again, I lost my Free Practice time.
We tracked down the issue to the Cam Chain Tensioner not automatically adjusting as it should, so with a little help from Nick at MSS we gave it a manual tweak, and it was set so that it would be OK for the rest of the weekend, and could be replaced after.
So, we set about preparing for Qualifying. The track had dried almost completely by the qualifying session, so with a new set of brake discs and pads that needed bedding in, I headed out on track. Everything was feeling good, but whilst on my outlap another rider got a bit keen to overtake through Druids - not a good overtaking spot at any time - and we clashed right at the apex with coming up the inside. We made some hefty contact, but both stayed aboard, and I carried on with my planned 2 laps of warming the new brakes. I came into the pits as planned to let the brakes cool, aware my hand was hurting a bit. I pulled my glove off to see what had happened and was presented with a nasty cut and an egg shaped lump on the back of my right hand. I then realised that the glove was in tatters...the leather and kevlar lining ripped open, and the knuckle guard hanging off. I couldn't safely continue with it, so I then had to wait while a new set of gloves was retrieved from my kit bag back in the paddock! It turned out later that it was his footpeg that had ripped through my glove, and made such an impact that it ended up breaking off, also ending his qualifying session, but after he had managed to set a time.
The new gloves arrived, and although my hand by then didn't really fit back in them, the adrenaline was still going so I just made it fit, and headed back out. I had lost a chunk of time, and it left me with only around 12 mins of qualfying session to go. I worked hard and my times were coming good, but I the rear suspension was too soft and the bike was very bouncy on drive and over the many crests of Oulton Park; particularly over the start/finish line and Deer Leap, much to the entertainment/concern of my team on the pit wall!
I hadn't enough time to come in and make the required changes so I had to just do the best with what I had. Unfortunately, with that and a hand that really wasn't keen on braking, I couldn't quite post a good enough time. Although not last, I was 42nd, so on the 40 slot grid, not qualified.
A visiit to the Medical Centre and an X-ray confirmed that although very swollen and very sore my hand wasn't broken, so I could continue the weekend.
My only hope to get to race, though, was that the forecasted rain on Sunday would finish early and the track would dry up in time for me to get chance to rectify the poor qualifying. We set the bike ready for a dry track, and waited. The start of the session suggested a dry line may appear, but with few riders on track and most people 10 seconds off their previous times it became clear as the session went on that there was no hope of improving my time in those conditions.
That, then, was that. With no improvement possible I had encountered my first race weekend where I had not qualified for the grid. Even with the extenuating circumstances, it was not a good feeling.
However, we shall put that weekend behind us, fix the cam chain tensioner, allow my hand to heal, and come back fighting at Brands Hatch Indy on 21st - 22nd May!