2017 RKB-F1 British Championship Season Review
Round 1: Brands Hatch Indy
Brands Hatch hosted the opening round of the RKB-F1 British Sidecar Championship at the British Superbike meeting, with the team's LCR Yamaha performing faultlessly throughout the weekend. The new pairing of Jones and Child are still gelling, but together managed to qualify in 18th place after a red flag scuppered their plans to put some fast laps towards the end of the session after bedding in a new rear tyre for the opening race.
Race 1 was pretty uneventful, making our way past a few outfits to finish 13th, but a technical infringement (running standard road fuel instead of the "control" race fuel) meant we were excluded from the results. It was frustrating to know we'd been denied the result after gaining no advantage, but rules are rules....
Race 2 was put back to the end of the day after another team's engine blew up within seconds of the original start, leaving several outfits sliding on the resulting oil, and beached in the first corner's gravel trap, and we were lucky not to follow them in.
The restart was held on a wet track, and after a good start from the rear of the grid, we worked our way from P25 up to P8 before we encountered problems with the chair wheel being probably 1-2psi under-inflated for the conditions, resulting in it gripping instead of sliding, pushing us in a straight line and forcing us to shut off the throttle to get round the corner.
Struggling to get out of Clearways, we were losing all the ground we were making up in the rest of the lap, and eventually came under pressure from behind. Trying too hard to make up for the problem, we spun with a couple of laps to go, and slipped to 13th. We made one place back, but were unable to gain further ground in the remaining laps.
Round 2: Oulton Park
With just one race, and one chance to score points, at Oulton Park, we had to make the most of the absence of several teams who had chosen to go to the next World Championship round instead of competing at the Cheshire circuit.
We were delighted to start it off by welcoming new sponsors Setmour Sign and Print to the team, and they surprised us by presenting us with some amazing teamwear.
The weekend's on track action began well, starting with a few sighting laps before winding it up in the second half of the session, as we set our fastest ever time around the circuit during the free practice session to go into qualifying in P8.
Qualifying didn't go so well. The quickshifter packed up almost immediately (later found to be caused by a trapped wire that had broken) and the sidecar tyre had gone past its best and led to erratic grip through right handers. Over a second slower than our practice time, we could only manage to qualify P11 for the grid.
Taking advice from another crew, we made a few suspension adjutments prior to the race, and it was a total disaster.
We made a good start, moving into 8th place on the run to the first corner, but as we dropped down the hill to enter the fast left hander, the outfit began to shake uncontrollably, sending us off track and across the grass. Rejoining the circuit, with all other teams out of sight. Giving chase, we approached the next left hander and the same thing happened but this time i was more prepard for the errant handling and managed to negotiate the corner.
From that point, it was damage limitation, and we settled into a pace, albeit a slow one, that would allow us to safely chase the teams in front, pushing in rights, going steadily in lefts. We overhauled the first outfit within a couple of laps, but although we could see a pack ahead of us, around 15 seconds in front, we couldn't make any headway into their lead. With a few laps to go, a red flag incident prematurely ended the race, and we were promoted to 12th place.
All in all, we were glad to salvage a few points after a disappointing end to the weekend.
Round 3: Snetterton
After last year's disappointing time at Snetterton, the team were keen to score points at the Norfolk circuit, and with Rob not having competed at this track before, we built up slowly in free practice, setting 12th fastest time. Qualifying saw us take a further second off, but drop to 14th on the grid for the first race.
Making a good start, we jumped into 10th place by the end of lap 1, but were relegated to 12th as a couple of the 200bhp Kawasaki powered teams came past us. Late in the race, courtesy of a couple of retirements, we rose back to 10th and stayed there to take the chequered flag and record our first finish at Snetterton.
With the reverse grid format, we had pole position for the second race, but were outdragged into the first corner, and stuck behind a slower outfit with a faster engine, and being overtaken by the quicker outfits. We eventually forged a way through, battling to stay in touch with the quicker teams, dropping from a lap 1 position of 6th to 8th. A couple of laps later, the chain came off the sprocket, locking the rear wheel, and causing our retirement from the race.
Round 4: Cadwell Park
Back at our home circuit, but away from the BSB circus, the Sidecar Revival meeting featured no less than four opportunities to score points, with two races on each of the days. The weekend began well with us posting the 9th fastest time in free practice, and going two seconds quicker in qualifying but dropping to P14. We went for a quicker session towards the end, but disaster struck when the rear tyre cried enoug as we exited Mansfiled corner, spinning the outfit around, ejecting Rob from the bike and trapping me underneath the overturned machine.
Rob was taken to hospital, and after being declared fit, we went on the search for a stand-in passengerwith the relevant licence and ability. Adam Nix stepped up, not used to the pace we were capable of, but willing to try.
Without a qualifying time with Adam on board, we were required to (and would have opted for) start from the back of the grid. We took it very easy on the opening few laps before slowly quickening the pace, lap by lap, to a level Adam was able to deal with, which he did admirably. We managed to overtake a couple of other teams, and grabbed a valuable point for 15th place at the flag.
Race 2 was a somewhat shortened affair held over to Sunday morning, after an incident involving half a dozen outfits resulted in several other crews being taken to hospital. Making a good start, the team moved through the field and had just taken 8th place with a lap to go, when the brakes faded going into Mansfield and we had to take to the slip road. Rejoining half a lap down, we completed the race in last place.
A gearbox problem meant we were unable to keep up with the rest of the field in the remaining two races, but with so many crews unable to take part, we kept up as high a pace as we could with only 4 gears, taking a handful of points for last place in each of the remaining outings.
Round 5: Knockhill
With Irish passenger Mark Gash deputising for Rob, the team made the trip north to Scotland's Knockhill circuit, and with many teams absent due to injury, we were keen to maximise our points haul in all three races. 11th fastest in free practice, we built up to P10 in qualifying.
Race 1 was quite processional, with us in tenth, just a second or so off the outfit in front but unable to close the gap. But going into the hairpin for the penultimate time, they were tiring and made a mistake, and we pounced, sliding up the inside and taking the place. P9 at the flag!
Race 2, and with the reverse grid format, we were on the front row. It was a short lived affair, however, as a coming together with two other outfits damaged the radiator cowling and bodywork and led to our retirement at the end of lap 1.
Race 3, and starting from the back of the grid, we made up a couple of places in the first two corners but had to take evasive action as another outfit spun across the circuit. Four seconds down on the pack, we set about chasing them down. Chipping away, we finally caught a pair of outfits battling for position, but just as we were set to tackle them, another outfit rejoined in front of us, after spinning out, and we lost time going around them. They then caught and past us with two laps to go, but made a mistake on the last lap, allowing us to steal a place and grab 8th place, moving us to 12th in the points table.