Donington race weekend was an education, in many ways…
The plan was to join as third man in an Endurance team to compete in the Novice 1000 6-hour race at Donington as well as my own four solo races in No Limits Cup 1000. It was going to be a big ask from a physical stamina point of view, but I reckoned it was worth a crack – many thanks to ‘Livin The Dream’ for the kind invite. The round at Donington is a favourite and most classes were sold out, so it was going to be very competitive.
The itinerary has one solo race from each category run on Saturday morning, then endurance runs from Saturday lunch time through to 8PM and the remainder of sprint races are on Sunday. I ran my first solo race on a sunny and dry Saturday AM, qualifying 17th and finishing in 15th in a fairly unremarkable performance. 33 entries, so I was happy enough to know I was mid-pack in my first year in the open class – more importantly I knocked two seconds off my personal best time.
Unfortunately our endurance team lead, Darren, came off at turn one in his solo race and cracked the frame of his bike, putting it beyond repair. He jumped in a van and went to pick up a spare bike 90 mins away whilst myself and Josh – a veteran of four trackdays and two races – started the 6-hour marathon. We were told that we had no hope of completing the race with two riders, but decided to play it by ear. Josh rode really well, especially considering he was carrying a badly injured hand. I was happy with consistent lap times and the hours passed with no drama.
I’ll pause at this point to acknowledge just what a learning experience this was. To be able to ride round a sunny Donington running the bike from full to empty tank repeatedly is probably the best practice you can have on a bike. You experience changes in handling as the tank gets lighter, you learn just how different a new tyre is to a worn one, you learn to adjust braking points and you are constantly passing other riders due to the mix of abilities and classes. I had spent some time the previous week reading up on how to improve my technique and was able to practice all the tips one by one while on track. I learned so much about the track and my bike, I can’t think of a more effective training opportunity.
I was ready to head out for the last session when the red flag came out and I was fairly relieved that the blisters didn’t have to get squeezed into my gloves again. Darren had arrived back empty handed during the race and had to relinquish all riding duties. We managed a 5th in class and 17th overall from a field of 40 – not bad considering our combined experience and the fact we were a man down I’d say! This puts ‘Livin the Dream’ fourth in class.
Saturday night was fun without being crazy – three races left to do… Safe to say I didn’t exactly ‘leap’ out of bed on Sunday morning, rather it was a gradual 15 minute process of creaks and groans – but after breakfast and a warm shower I was vaguely human. I skipped free practice, considering the laps completed on Saturday.
Solo race two and I had qualified 16th. A horrendous start saw me entering corner one in about 30th place, the race was spent clawing my way back to 15th before the rear tyre gave up all grip and I handed my point back in the last lap and finished 16th. But I felt good, fit and confident and was keen to race again.
Solo race three was the only one I considered skipping because of the aches, but I had a word with myself and was on the grid. Starting from 16th, this time I got a good start and brought it home in 11th. I was starting to feel really confident on track and was really up for the competition. Despite having completed 116 laps of Donington at this point, I was very keen to get back out.
Solo race four – I worked out that a simple adjustment of the clutch lever was most of what was needed to transform my starts. I got away well and gave nothing away into turn one. It dawned on me that there were a lot more riders behind me than in front and from what I could figure out, I was top ten. That was it, hammer down – more determined than I remember ever being on a bike. I took two more places and brought it home in 6th – my best position ever. Chuffed!
What was all the more remarkable was that out of 125 laps of Donington over two days, my fastest lap? Lap 125!! Just proves there is more in the tank and my training regime over the winter has paid off in a big way. A superb result all round and one of the best weekends I have spent on a bike.
I was proudly displaying logos from www.LacadaBrewery.com and www.FilthyVelvet.com and once again would like to extend a huge ‘Thank You!’ to Phil, Mandy, Perky and of course the endlessly loyal Heidi for their support.
Bring on Brands!