2017 RKB-F1 British Championship Season Review
Round 1: Brands Hatch Indy
Wow, what a start to the season! In our first meeting as series regulars, we qualified in our fastest time ever around the short Indy circuit, but still only managed 14th on the grid in a quality field.
Race 1 saw a short sharp shower just before the start, and with other crews being somewhat circumspect on the opening lap, we made the most of our wet weather abilities and shot through the pack to 5th position by the end of lap 1. By the end of lap 2, we were past Chris Walker, and hot on the heels of British Champions Stevens & Charlwood and a lot of spectators, and other teams, were frantically trying to figure out who the hell we were....?
Lap 3, and the damp track was already starting to dry out, and our progress was halted, and the series regulars were starting to use their power advantage to pull away. Within a couple of laps, we'd been passed by both Walker and Holland and we were frantically trying to keep up. We'd been up to 8 seconds a lap faster than some of the usual top runners on the opening laps, and had been quicker than everyone except the Reeves brothers, but now the rest of the field were making inroads into our lead and towards the end of the race, we were just hanging on and waiting to be passed. But we had enough of a lead to take an awesome 6th place. We'd arrived with a bang! I couldn't wait to jump off the bike and hug everyone. Amazing!
Race 2, and with the reverse grid, we were on row 3 for the start. No pressure! Gulp! We didn't fluff it, and were up to 4th on the opening lap when we were punted from behind, sending Tom into the outfit and shaking the outfit nearly off the track. All momentum lost, we dropped 7 places in one corner. A lap later, we were relegated to spectators as we cruised to a halt with a fried clutch.
It didn't matter. The elation of Race 1 lasted well into the following week!
Round 2: Oulton Park
Over to Cheshire for the next round, and after qualifying, we were 15th on the grid, 10th in class. We were quite happy with the pace, knowing i don't qualify very well and knowing there'd be better times in the race.
On the way to the grid on the sighting lap, it all went wrong, a snapped chain putting us out before we'd even got to the start line. The attrition rate was high, and it was with enormous frustration that we sat and watched crews who we knew were slower than us take good points scoring finishes.
Round 3: Knockhill
A long trip north and our first trip to Scotland's Knockhill circuit. We managed 16th overall in qualifying, 12th F1.
Race 1, and oil from the previous solo race hadn't been cleared up properly, and the first corner carnage saw us take avoiding action across the gravel before rejoining. Red-flagged, and restarted, we struggled in the latter stages with overheating, and having to shortshift to keep temperatures down, we lost a place towards the end after running in a comfortable 10th. But 11th on our first time there was a nice return to the points scoring places.
Race 2 was a short affair, retiring to the pits at the end of lap 1 with a fried clutch.
Race 3 from the back row after our DNF, 25th on the grid turned into 17th by the end of lap 1. On very worn tyres, we were power sliding out of every corner and having great fun making up places. We battled with a group of 600's for a couple of laps, eventually pulling clear and ending up 13th overall, 12th F1 and more valuable points after an entertaining race.
Round 4: Snetterton
Another new circuit for the team, and after replacing almost the entire brake system at Knockhill to try to get rid of a niggly overheating problem that had plagued the team for almost a year, something wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on it, but the brakes were not as sharp as usual and i couldn't get confidence in them. A very disappointing 23rd in qualifying, and i wasn't confident i could go much faster.
We had a busy first couple of laps in Race 1, climbing to 16th by the end of lap 2, but we were out with an electrical fault on lap 4, and yet another DNF on the board.
25th on the grid for Race 2, and we were through to 21st by the end of lap 1. A snapped gear linkage on lap 3 saw another retirement for the team, and while the bike was cooling down, a brake disc shattered, leaving the bike immobile and the team despondant.
Tom suggests we miss the next round at Mallory to regroup and strip and prepare the bike to try to overcome the reliability issues.
Round 6: Brands Hatch GP
Brands Hatch, and we have a stand in passenger. Tom's decided to use the time off to find another ride, and has gone to the well funded Santander team, which runs 5 outfits. Looks like i have a point to prove.... Jody James, last on with me on a F2 outfit in 2015, jumps on to help out at Brands Hatch.
23rd fastest, 17th F1, we're starting from fairly well down in Race 1after more mechanical problems.
It's a wet race, but i'm confident it will dry up. Without intermediate tyres, I gamble on running full slicks, the only team to do so. Most of the field choose to run wets all round.
There's a stream of water running across Paddock Hill, and everyone is sliding around. But even with so much water on track, i push. I have to, it's the only way to put heat into the tyres and if you go slow, you end up going even slower. It's a fine line, if you go too fast, you crash.
We're up to 13th at the end of lap 1, but i can't try to keep up with the crews on wets. I have to run my own race and be patient. They'll come back to me.....
And they do. At the end of lap 4, we're still in 13th, but it's drying out (except for Paddock Hill which has a river across it for the whole race) and we're going faster. Soon, the wet tyres will shred and they'll go slower....Patience....and then they come back to us. P12, P10, P8, P7.
At the end, we'd equalled the team's best result of 6th F1, 7th overall. We'd beaten every one of the Santander team's 5 outfits and were one corner away from lapping Tom's outfit. It's safe to say i was chuffed.....Point proved, time to move on.
Race 2 didn't go so well, with brake problems on the sighting lap, and we were sitting ducks all race long. Unable to defend against any passing moves, we dropped through the field, but at least managed to score in both races, finishing a lowly 14th F1, 17th overall at the flag.
Round 8: Cadwell Park
After missing Round 7 at Thruxton after being messed about by a passenger, we head to my local track, but one i've not been comfortable on since my 350 days.
With Jody back on, and a new style fairing to settle into, we manage 17th fastest with a mediocre time. It was a wet qualifying, which should have been good for us, but the new fairing has caused problems with gear selection.
Despite modifications, i remained less than comfortable in the new fairing, and after moving up to 15th, i struggled more as the laps went on, and eventually forced to retire when i couldn't feel my legs. Unable to brake or change gear doesn't inspire confidence...Thanks to my brother for making the journey home overnight to get the old fairing for us to use.
It was all in vain, as a good start from the back of the grid was at the cost of another clutch, forcing us to retire on the opening lap.
Next stop, Assen!
Round 9: Assen
First trip to the iconic Assen circuit, and this time, David Hainsworth stepped up to passenger a Formula 1 outfit for the first time. It was a long journey, and we were glad to finally get there and get unpacked for the weekend. Plagued by electrical problems all weekend, we completed just one lap in in Q1, and worked frantically to just get to the track in time for Q2, managing just a handful of laps and ending the session 22nd fastest, 10th F1.
A quickshifter failure on the warm-up lap meant we missed the first race, which was a wet one. I couldn't believe just how much bad luck we could have!
Without a quickshifter for Race 2, we made a decent start, but after avoiding a collision at the first corner, we battled to regain our position. I was missing gears throughout each lap, dropping time and places. As my arms pumped up from fighting the bike, we had a couple of big moments before we came into the final chicane too hot. Unable to find the strength to wrestle the outfit back on course, we dropped into the gravel trap and were beached. Massively disappointed, we made the long trip home empty handed.
Round 10: Brands Hatch GP
With another new passenger, Rob Child, stepping in to the passenger role, we set a time within half a second of our best on very old rubber. 25th on the grid for the first race, 16th F1, we had a lot to do....
All ready to set off for the grid, the bike inexplicably died as we put it in gear to leave the awning. I nearly cried. We eventually traced the fault to a bad earth connection between the battery lead and the chassis, something that could have happened at any time since the outfit was made but chose this moment to do it....
Cleaned connection, and we were ready to start from P28 for Race 2, and we at least got to the grid this time.
A good start, and we made up places, up to 20th by the end of the opening lap. Another two positions gained on lap 2, and we made another place on lap 4 and were settling nicely into the race when the motor cried enough and let go on the long straight. Can't complain about it's reliability, as it had done 2 full seasons at that point without anything except some oil and filter changes. It had certainly done us proud, but not exactly an ideal end to the season.