2016 Season Review
My first time to this tight bumpy track, but the welcome was great. A non championship race with a small grid, but we had lots of fun. Easily the fastest crew there, and in one race we waited til the entire field had reached the first corner before we left the line, just for a challenge. 3 wins out of 3 starts, and a good weekend was finished off by the short walk to the beach for a quick dip in the somewhat chilly sea.
The NGRRC season kicked off with a trip to Brands Hatch and a new passenger, Mark Lintott. Taking it steady, we got a couple of decent points scoring finishes in the championship races with a 7th and 5th.
The NG series moved to my "home" track, but not my favourite. The tight technical nature of the circuit doesn't suit my wilder style of riding, i guess? Mark had some personal issues to deal with, which meant i had a a stand in passenger for the weekend, who did a good job for the first time on a F1 bike. A pair of 7th places in the points scoring rounds meant we were still keeping up in the championship.
With Mark still taking time off, we headed to Donington with no regular passenger. It was an interesting weekend, with no less than 3 different passengers trying their luck, two of which had never been on an outfit before. Tom Bryant did a game job, having previously had a couple of outings on a F2 outfit, but a snapped chain put us out of Saturday's points race while in 4th place.
Qualifying 7th from the back of the grid on sunday, we made up places to 4th in the first half of the opening lap before brake failure put us into the gravel trap. Not to be thwarted, we rejoined and made our way through the field from last place, with no brakes....Our reward was 9th place and a few valuable championship points.
Not a championship round, we headed to Darley to get some track time for Tom. The rear tyre was shot, but we still managed to qualify 2nd, and won both of Saturday's races. Up against one of the BSB championship teams on Sunday, an electrical fault put us out of 2nd place in the opening race, and we fought our way through the field on a damp track to finish 3rd to round off a good weekend.
Back to the NG championship, and we had some cracking racing all weekend. Four outfits were covered by less than a second in qualifying, and we had great battles in all 3 races, but managed on each occasion to come out on top. 3 wins from 3 starts moved us up from 5th in the NG points to leading the championship chase.
A non-championship weekend up to one of the friendliest circuits in the country, and one i always enjoy going to. Qualifying on pole, we won the opening race on Saturday, but the second was put back to Sunday after delays involving 4 solos and a seagull! More outfits appeared for Sunday, and we resumed our winning ways in the postponed race. The next one was the Andrew Couper memorial race, and one i desperately wanted to win. With heavy rain and little experience on a F1 in the wet, we won, but only thanks to the leader getting delayed on the last lap by backmarkers. We couldn't repeat it in the final race, having to settle for 2nd after a local crew scampered off and we just couldn't find the traction to catch them.
A wildcard outing with the big boys at the RKB-F1 British Championship round at Mallory. New paintwork for the occasion, and we somehow ended up qualifying 10th for the first race before i had to rush off to the medical centre to get treatment for a badly blistered leg caused by some errant heat shielding. Race 1, and some hard charging, and we'd made it up to 7th place before it all went pear shaped. Entering the 140mph Gerrards bend, i went down from 6th to 5th gear and hit a false neutral, causing the bike to spin round and flip over. Starting the 2nd race from the back row, we made up places and were chasing the pack when the brakes started to fade off, air in the system from our little upside down moment to blame. We pulled out, disappointed not to finish but knowing we were not far off the pace of some of the world's top crews.
A lights to flag victory in the qualifying race, but we had a battle on our hands against one of the top British F2 crews in race 2. We got the better of them on lap 1, and held a small gap to the flag. Sunday's qualifier saw us again pull out a lead, but a sensor failure put us out and meant we started from the back row of the points race. We were up to 3rd on the first lap, but already a couple of seconds down on the two lead crews. It took a couple of laps, but we pegged them back, and we were really pushing. The leading F2 of Crawford set a new F2 club lap record trying to keep in front, but we were still quicker, getting within a second of the outright sidecar lap record on our way to the win. The best racing we've had all season.
After a lights to flag win in Saturday's qualifier, it all went pear shaped before the points race. Removing the real wheel during pre-race checks, we found 3 of the 4 drive pins sheared. Tom's brother gamely offered to collect replacement pins from a crew at the BSB Championship meeting at Donington, driving overnight to get them to us in time for Sunday's racing.
Coming from the back of the grid, we qualified second for a front row start for the points race. A cautious start and we picked our way through the field collecting 25 points for the win, and the 2016 NG Sidecar Championship!
With the title wrapped up and the pressure off, we enjoyed the final round of the weekend at the fastest circuit in the country. Up against the 2013 British Champions on their home circuit, we were never likely to keep up but we gave it a go. We scampered off for the first few laps while they played catch up, but when they came past with a couple of laps to go in each race, we had no answer, settling for a couple of safe second places to end a successful NG championship season.
Brands Hatch GP
Our first appearance in the BSB circus, and our second as a wildcard at the British Championships. I'd only ever done one lap of the GP circuit, and Tom had never done it, but we were still disappointed to qualify in 17th in class, 23rd overall for Race 1.
The lights went out for Race 1, and we gained several places in the first corner after going high and waiting for the other teams to fall over themselves, before swooping down into a gap and shooting through. Another place around the outside at Graham Hill, and yet another was picked off on the back section before completing lap 1 in 15th overall, 11th in class. Another place gained at the first corner, up to 14th overall, 11th in class, and the team were looking for a way past a pack of F2 outfits squabbling amongst themselves. Several times #78 got the run on the smaller bikes but found the way through blocked as the F2 crews were having a 2, or sometimes 3, bike fight into each corner. Despite this, we were able to set a lap 3 seconds faster than their qualifying time. This continued for 2 more laps, taking tentative looks up the inside but still unsure of the circuit, unable to make a decisive overtake. Then disaster. The front wheel had started to come loose, and unknown to me, the slight vibration from this had pushed the pads back. As we approached Clearways at over 160mph, there were no brakes.....Sailing in far too fast, I knocked it down a couple of gears and dumped the clutch, causing the outfit to skew sideways and scrubbing off speed. We just about got it under control as we mounted the rumble strip on the outside of the track.....and that was it for the first race, as we retired to the pits to check what was wrong.
Race 2 was held over to the following day, the delays caused by red flags and restarts on a damp track in the preceding BSB Superbike race meant it was dark before we could start.
The team were concerned at the hardness of their wet tyres, their age unknown as they had come with the bike when it was bought. And the doubts were proved to be right, having no grip right from the start. Despite pushing to the limits of adhesion throughout the race, things didn't improve. Usually good in the wet conditions, we had to content themselves with a finish at the back of the field, coming home a disappointing 25th, 15th in class.