It was a long old trundle up from Berkshire with the van and caravan, but we left early Thursday morning so it was novel to be set up in sunshine and be able to enjoy a BBQ and beer before getting our heads down. Ewe wouldn’t believe how much more relaxing an extra day to get set up is.
Friday was practice day and I felt good on the bike in the dry. Times were nothing special, sheepishly rattling round in the 1.15s, but then I had decided to run in the novice group. All in all things felt fine and I felt well prepared for race weekend. Couple of cheeky ciders and head down before joining the flock in the morning.
Saturday morning and that good old Welsh wetness was all around. Qualifying was full wets and to my surprise I rammed myself onto 7th on the grid – from memory I am pretty sure that is my best grid position. Can’t remember a great deal about the race other than a lot of adrenaline and a good tyre choice meaning I landed a 7th place – only one off my best ever finish. Thirteen laps round Anglesey Coastal actually feels like a long race, was chuffed to finish where I did.
Race two start position was back a bit based on best lap time from race one. Starting from 10th I ended up in 11th, fairly disappointing after my first result. But no point in bleating – time to regroup and think of tomorrow.
An unusual perk was being finished by early afternoon as we were not in the Endurance race for a change – cue a quick run out to Holyhead for provisions and a late afternoon BBQ with paddock friends. Wales did as Wales does and dumped some cold, fresh water on our burger buns and whipped up a fresh breeze to keep the awnings billowing, but it didn’t spoil the fun. I did suspect that the O’Connor burgers were mutton dressed as lamb, but everyone left happy and as far as I know nobody was talking to god on the big white telephone afterwards. Then it was off to the evening prize giving, flocking to see Danny Shaw pick up his trophy for second in Novice 1000 race one and then don the fleeces to join Alex James for a BBQ in the Welsh wetness. Ciders imbibed, charcoal burgers crunched it was a dander back to the caravan for some high brow entertainment in the form of Last Night of the Proms. And you thought us racers were all mindless thugs..?
Sunday morning and another liberal dump of rain overnight left the track soaked but without standing water. Free practice was on wets but I pulled in early as the tyres started to feel a bit wooly – inters would have done the job. But being 4th fastest was reassuring. Buoyed by this, a relatively good showing on Saturday and the prospect of friends coming to watch I was looking forward to another good day on a track layout that was definitely growing on me – I had only ever ridden the International layout previously.
From tenth on the grid I made another average start but found myself chasing Leslie O’Connor – not something I am used to. This presented a real target for me as it felt like I was playing with the big boys for the first time. I worked hard and eventually took the place, bringing it home in 9th. To be fair I don’t think Leslie was on his usual form, but it was a bit of an inspiration to be mixing it with the infamous O’Connor brothers. Unfortunately on the last lap I spotted Liam trackside, so his DNF meant I beat two O’Connors in one race! I’d rather see the O’Connors on the podium frankly, but I enjoyed the novelty of having a play – 9th place result and dipped marginally into the 1.12s.
Race four and I managed to get myself ahead of Matt Rawlings and Leslie O’Connor after another average start but good first lap. The remainder of the race was spent trying to hold them both off, but they both got the better of me. I clawed my way back to close to Leslie, but he had the beating of me. Another very enjoyable race and a credible 7th place finish thanks to Matt Rawlings being hit with a 10 second jump start penalty. Not how I like to win places – but I’ll take the points.
So there it is – I could have spun you a yarn about the rain and the wind making the weekend a misery but the fact is that it was a great weekend of competitive racing and great craic. Everyone arrived home safe, intact and happy as Larry the Lamb.
Big thanks to Dennis, Emma-Jane, Danielle, Greg and Katie, as well as Tony, Angela, John and Laura from Team Shaw, for the support. Always good to set up camp with Liam Murtagh (missed you Stacey) and Danny, Steph and Travis Shaw, along with Derek et al. Big up No Limits Racing for a great weekend. And as always very special thanks to Heidi for making a good weekend great.
Big shout out to my sponsors – Lacada Brewery who will be releasing their first beers in the next few weeks and to Filthy Velvet, selling the best scented candles on the planet!
One more round to go – Donington, a favourite track. Should be a great finale to what has been a fantastic year of racing. My aim? Try to secure a top ten championship finish. Not an easy task but theoretically possible if I pull the pin and pick up some decent points. Bring it!