Well it was Oulton Park and I was very excited to get to race there. It’s a cracker of a circuit – no respite here, it’s a very physical track. The big negative was the prospect of only a single day of racing as Oulton have very strict noise restrictions. So the format was Friday AM ACU practice (3 sessions), Friday PM qualifying, Saturday 1 x practice and 2 x race. Or that was the plan… First session was junk. Proper junk. Whose bike is this? What way does the track go? Where is the gear stick? Oh…. Yes everything felt foreign and I was just not having fun. It felt impossible to go fast and I was looking stupid – was glad to come in. Not what I had been hoping for. Reset brain, try again.
This time was better, the track felt familiar again, I changed my gearing to something sensible and I was comfortable. Session three was better again and I was enjoying myself, times were dropping by seconds but still slow. The afternoon was a bit of a balls, one of two Doctors didn’t turn up and you cannot have competitive riding without two Drs trackside. So our one session was a practice session in the sun. Frustrating but not much anyone can do in those circumstances.
5AM and the caravan is rocking. This is not due to any passionate love-making or indeed a drink-fuelled bust-up, rather it is a gale. The rain is pounding off the roof and the wind is threatening to blow the caravan over. So much for the great weather. Qualifying was now to be in the wet (with a significant dry line but very wet under the trees), I felt like I was riding very slowly but qualified 11th. This was the highlight of the weekend…
The wind lifted the water and the sun dried the track for a dry day after that. Race 1 started well enough (trying new technique off the line which works) and then the world came past me. I was on new tyres front and back and I couldn’t allow myself to fully commit on lap 1 – I really need to shake off these road rider/trackday foibles! And from almost the back of the pack, I just couldn’t pull back up. I was off the pace by a second or two and it was a depressing race, eventually getting lapped (yes, really) just before the line. The shame. It was also bloody windy on track. One section lifts the front and by the time it comes back down the bike had been blown away from underneath. I landed with the forks on the stop twice and scared the bejesus out of myself. That left me running very timidly over the back of the circuit, dropping my times even more.
Second race was another fair start but again I was a second too slow and came two from last. For the first few laps I was keeping the main pack in view and actually started to close on them, but it wasn’t enough. Most of the race I was completely on my own. By the end of it I was having fun and dropped to the best lap times of the weekend, but too little too late. The wind had dropped for race two so was much less of a factor.
There were a number of problems with my performance. Firstly, I take far too long to build up my pace. I need to learn how to rock up at a track and pull the pin. Secondly I need to get over my issues with new tyres, it’s frankly ridiculous. Thirdly – and I only discovered this later – was that I was having significant problems with my back. The photographs from the race showed me to be very upright and rigid on the bike, visiting the physio she told me that my whole thoracic region was locked solid, probably due to too many long drives in my S4. She inflicted serious pain and things got better – it’ll take a while to get things right but I have 5 weeks before I race again.
By the end of Saturday I was enjoying myself, but overall it was very disappointing. 1 point from two races isn’t great and not where I want to be. It leaves me 14th in the series. Donington next, this is somewhere I ought to do well – it is fast and if there is one thing my bike is, it is fast. I know the circuit well and while I won’t be doing the practice day, I will do a trackday there in a couple of weeks time.
Oh – and I’m doing the 6 hour endurance race there just for a wee bit of extra practice…
Many thanks to Dennis and Danielle for coming to watch, their support and enthusiasm for the event as a whole was great!