Thundersport GB – Rockingham Race Report
After a month’s break the latest round of the Thundersport GB championship headed to Rockingham in Northamptonshire. As normal Ann, Jo and Ted travelled down towing the caravan and I followed down after work on the night before the meeting, turning up late in my mega-star way! My journey down wasn’t great, a closed A14 followed by another road closure on my hastily amended route left me taking a detour around the county and arriving an hour later than planned. Jo and I walked the circuit on my arrival as I had never raced at the track before. To be honest by the end of the lap it had pretty much gone dark so getting an impression of the circuit layout was difficult, although if we were racing at night I would be on it!
I had entered the test day on the Friday, which is abnormal for me. The expense and time off work usually outweighs the benefit of the track time on a circuit which I know, having not been to Rockingham before I figured some testing would be in order rather than going straight into qualifying. The track is pretty good with a bit of everything, a fast chicane starts the lap when turning off the banking followed by a really fast bumpy left hander leading into a hairpin onto the infield. A couple of short, sharp, right handers follow with a long bumpy 3rd gear left hander through which speed is increased throughout but then tightening up and into a hairpin right, through a slow chicane and back onto the banking to finish. I got on well throughout the morning changing the gearing and a fork spring to improve the feel of the bike. By early afternoon I was happy with my lap times and felt that I was just adding mileage rather than learning much more so parked the bike up rather than wear things out for the sake of it.
Qualifying went well on Saturday morning, I used a good set of part worn tyres with a slightly softer compound rear than I would normally use. The tyre performed well and I qualified second, only 0.03 of a second from pole behind Pete Baker.
Race one got underway and I led for the first 8 laps of the race getting passed by Baker at the hairpin before the final chicane with 3 laps to go. I followed him for a lap and decided on my best spot for a comeback. With 2 laps to go I got a good run through the 5th gear left hander and drew level on the run into the hairpin onto the infield, making my move on the brakes and through into the lead. I rode defensively for the last lap to take my first ThundersportGB win of the season.
A relaxing evening followed walking the circuit, and flipping Ted’s stabilizer clad push bike whilst showing off wheelying, then sitting to watch the Olympic opening ceremony.
No changes to the bike except for a new pair of tyres, in the softer compound as tested, for the following day’s races. I got really boxed in off the startline in the first race, having to close the throttle on the run to the first corner as the two bikes either side of me came across towards each other. This dropped me back to eighth in lap one, not a good start. Battling my way through the field I got to fourth place with 5 laps to go and a 2 second gap to the leading three. I pushed, harder than I have done all season, decking out the gear lever through the fast third gear right, slowly I could see the group coming towards me and this spurred me on even more! Exiting the final chicane for the penultimate time I was on the rear tyre of Alex Heaton as my bike got it legs down the pit straight I got alongside and passed on the brakes into the first chicane. Now on the rear tyre of Pete Baker I wasn’t hopeful of making a move but stuck with him. Getting better drive out of the final hairpin and passing on the brakes into the final chicane, put me through to second place at the flag. A great result given my poor start and probably the best I’ve ridden this Kawasaki yet. Lapping nearly half a second faster than anyone, rumours started that this time was only a few tenths off Kagayama’s lap record (obviously set a few years ago).
The second race got underway and I got the hole shot into the first turn, determined not to have the same issue again! I planned to get my head down and try and break the pack. How wrong was I? By mid distance I hit the bump in the long left hander which kicked me out of the seat and let Mike Dickinson through to the lead. I stuck with him but found myself not in a position to pass until the last lap into the hairpin where I bottled it, kicking myself for the drive home that I didn’t take the opportunity! Crossing the line in second place, I was happy enough with the weekend’s work. I had recovered 13 points on Pete Baker, who leads the series, unfortunately having missed a round (whilst at the TT) this still leaves me 56 points back in second place with 3 rounds of the championship to go. The fat lady isn’t in the room yet though!!
The next round is at my “home” circuit of Anglesey over the August bank holiday weekend. Fingers crossed for some decent weather once again.
See you there.