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Shoulder the Burden

On a whim and in response to a Facebook request, I offered my services to JDV Racing this weekend in the No Limits Racing eight hour endurance race at Snetterton. Eight hours is a long time, but Jason entered a team of four so I wasn’t too worried as last year Danny and I had no problems with 50-minutes stints and 3-hour races with a team of two.

Snetterton was where I broke my collarbone and is also the track I have booked my coaching session on, so I had good reason to want to bang in some laps there – following Anglesey I was pretty convinced my shoulder was back to a reasonable level of strength. Had I understood what it was really capable of, I would have stuck to my original plan of watching Danny Shaw at Oulton Park Thundersport races instead.

I rocked up early evening on Friday, couple of ciders and watched Wales win some ball sport competition or something. Stayed in Jason’s bus and I reckon I managed about 2 hours sleep – not the best preparation. This isn’t a reflection of the comfort of the bus, rather my inability to sleep in strange beds.

Woke bleary-eyed but gradually felt more human as the morning wore on. The garages were cosy for a team of four bikes, but we managed. Qualifying was a non-event for me, wasn’t feeling it but we had two fast riders in the form of Steve Frizzell and Steve Li. Steve Li put us on 19th in qualifying with a 2.01, that’s out of 45 teams.

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Running order was Steve Li, Jase, me then Steve Frizzell. Steve Li got a great start and for the first while we were looking like fighting for a class podium. Steve came in with no fuel after 17 laps, Jason put 22 laps in to keep us in the running. Then it was me. I took a while to get the feel of the circuit, but as I started to get comfortable with riding my shoulder started to complain. Bitterly.

Up to this point I hadn’t taken anything more than anti-inflammatory tablets but that wasn’t nearly enough. By the time I had to ask to come in, I had lost feeling in my arm and could hardly activate the clutch. The problem was braking into left hand corners and if you know Snetterton, you’ll know that that’s a bad problem to have there. I managed 12 laps at a very pedestrian pace, not bettering 2.07. I did ride the last two laps under a Code 80, a new version of the safety car but with no car – essentially everyone drops to 80km per hour until the problem is dealt with by track staff. We had two of those during the day and they worked well.

Steve Frizzell went out and did a consistent and fast 26 good laps before coming in and handing over to Steve Li who contributed another 19 before his fuel ran out (thirsty bike!). Jase threw in another 23 laps on a slowing track, very consistent and then handed back to me. At this point I had double-dosed on Naproxen to try to keep the pain at bay and it worked for the session. Between the drugs, trying to ride in a way that minimised the pain and sheer determination not to be a big girl’s blouse, I managed 19 laps before having to give up. I wasn’t happy with my pace, but did what I could. A few of the laps were ‘interesting’ in that the heavens opened and soaked the track. It wasn’t worth pitting because the shower lasted two minutes, but there were four laps when I was basically back on the Snetterton ice-rink, this time on slicks. Even coasting round the corners I could feel the back sliding, but stayed out to keep putting in laps.

Steve was ready when I arrived in pit lane and was straight out, up until this point all pit stops had worked perfectly.

In an 8-hour race, things go wrong. It isn’t called endurance for nothing. My lack of fitness was the first thing to hold us back, then on Steve’s first lap out we had our first mechanical when his foot peg sheared off. This was compounded by the fact nobody was on pit wall at the time, so when Steve arrived in the pits nobody was ready. Steve Li was out as quick as he could, but we lost over two minutes. Steve managed 13 laps before we had our next issue – Steve rode three laps with a puncture! As he signalled to come in, Steve F had gone to powder his nose, so I went out but I was still in a lot of pain. I did four laps, including managing a PB of 2.05, but I wasn’t going to be able to stay out and I was brought in to let the now-relieved Steve F out. He donated another 25 metronomical laps to the kitty.

Another slick pit stop saw Jason go out and add another 21 laps to the total, we agreed we would keep him out until we had one stint left and then let Steve Li out to finish in style. Steve did another 10 laps to cross the line in 14th overall of a field of 45 – not bad considering the challenges we had. We completed 213 laps, my contribution was a measly 35 and I can only apologise to the team for thinking I was more capable than I currently am. But it was fun and we saved Team JDV having a zero-points round.

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No Limits ran an excellent day, we had two Code 80s and one safety car the whole day. We had one significant rain shower that lasted two minutes and dried within 3 laps. There were minimal accidents, no stoppages. The only gripe I heard – and I heard it from a few – was that not only was there no food laid on, but the canteen and the bar were shut. After an 8-hour race, everyone wanted to chew the fat and share a beer but we ended up spread across the paddock. A bit disappointing, luckily Jase had a supply of burgers to keep us fed.

The lesson I came away with is you can’t expect an endurance team to run smoothly without dedicated pit wall crew. Sharing the responsibility between the riders is always a compromise and we probably lost 4-5 minutes through surprise pit stops. But we did our best, had a great weekend. Thanks to Jase for having me and thanks to Julian Ricketts for all his pit crew work – the man is a machine.

Qualified 19th
Finished 14/45, 6th in class
213 laps

PS – commiserations to the two teams who rode for over 7 hours and 50 minutes and DNFed. Now THAT is the definition of sickening…

 

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