If it wasn’t for bad luck,
I wouldn’t have no luck at all.
So sayeth the great Albert King – and so sayeth I.
Once more my sorry carcass has been tossed asunder, flung to the ground in a manner befitting a faeces-stained wet wipe found clinging doggedly to the pristine evening gown of a Hollywood star on the red carpet. Shoved headlong from my once-magnificent motorcycle onto a passing stretch of John Loudon McAdam’s wonderful road surface, to end up lying as a discarded, crumpled potato crisp packet left to tumble forlornly in freshly displaced Lincolnshire soil.
An angry crisp packet. A crisp packet that had some very loud and unsavoury words for the portly gent who displaced it from said motorcycle.
I went to Cadwell very unprepared relative to my normal approach. I drove up myself, Heidi followed on Friday evening. Friday practice was difficult to start but I made big improvements and found a bit of a rhythm by the end of the day – but no pace. I was relying on the race to pull me along.
Saturday qualifying and it started raining just before we went out – I banged in a set of wets and qualified 16th which pleased me greatly considering the competition. But looking at the grid, I knew a lot of the riders behind would be past me on lap one. And thus it was so.
Race one saw me forget how to race. It sounds daft, but I have a habit of riding round thinking about my own riding and ignoring everyone else. Thats nice, but when everyone else is in an orderly line passing you, it isn’t a good race strategy. Mid-race my mind wandered, I started thinking about lap times and photographs and it cost me three places. It also put me on 25th for race two.
Race two saw a different approach. Whoever was in front of me would be pursued should it result in injury or death. And indeed, rather than watch half-arsed as the bikes in front edged away, I refused to let go. What I found was a new level of aggression – harsher throttle in short bits of track where before it wasn’t worth the bother. Clinging on until the last lap when I was able to get better drive onto the start-finish and managed to claw back one position. I was racing again. And a new PB. And having fun!
Times were still two seconds off where I wanted to be, but at no point had I felt uncomfortable with what I was doing so I was determined to find a faster bike to cling to in race three and Danny Shaw and I had a long chat about where I could find extra time – in fact Liam Murtagh and Bobby Steel were both very helpful in trying to find me time. So I was ready for some progress in Race Three.
First lap, down the hill and about to tip into Mansfield and all of a sudden there is someone coming up my inside with a snowball’s chance of stopping for the corner. We collided, I was sent flying while his more significant mass and not inconsiderable momentum carried him up the grass and back onto the track. My footpeg had a go at drilling through my leg, I hurt my one working thumb, wrecked another brand new Arai helmet, collected a smattering of whiplash and watched my bike barrel roll. And then I said some very bad words. Out loud. Very loud. And punched the grass like a tempestuous prick.
On surveying the scene it was apparent that it wasn’t a dream lap for some of my colleagues either. Dai Beynon was lying in a heap at the gooseneck and Booby Steel’s bike was on its side approaching the chicane. Which explained the red flags…
My fellow competitor did come to find me and apologised, which was very decent of him – he also checked I was alive before rejoining the race so no complaints. These things happen, I would just rather the joy of being ridden into was shared around a little more because I am genuinely becoming convinced that my bike has somehow developed a magnetic field and is attracting wayward bikes. Three times in one season? It’s simply not fair. Not fair at all. Humph.
I patched things up and went out in race four, made my way from 36th to 22nd on lap one but gave up – the forks are twisted in the yokes and I hadn’t realised how badly – I was pinning it up the back straight in 6th with my right bar almost back to the tank! Time to call it a day…
I think there are two reasons why it is more likely these things happen this year than before.
- Firstly, I am not as competitive at the minute as I have been – if you are going to kick around in 25th spot you’re going to find riders who have less ability. So being further up the grid will help my chances.
- Secondly I think things have gone wrong in No Limits Racing due to the Pirelli control tyre. A lot of the fast guys who would normally race in the ‘National’ race (currently a single make Pirelli race) are now in Clubman (open tyre). This means you have everyone from someone who has just left novices through to guys who could qualify for British Superstock on the same full grid. That puts people further back on the grid, makes them more desperate to get away with the pack on the first lap – this includes me. So everyone is desperate to stay with the fast guys because we know as soon as we are dropped it’s over. It’s like mixing Inters and Fast at a trackday. The Pirelli race is empty – it obviously isn’t a format that works. Here’s hoping they have a rethink about control tyres – as the single biggest cost associated with any race weekend, it doesn’t seem right to take away the choice to use cheaper tyres. Especially when even the discounted control tyres are significantly more expensive than street-price other brand (many would say better) tyres.
But all’s well that ends well. My biggest frustration was losing the chance to better myself at a fantastic track in glorious sunshine, but I had decent track time and beat my PB, the bike is ok and so am I.
Thanks to everyone for the support – to Heidi for getting the train to Peterborough, to Stacey for bringing Heidi and the kids up on Friday night, to everyone for the advice and coaching and the many people who made the effort to check on me after my spill and offer help. It’s easy to forget that a race weekend is a time when it is very easy – and sometimes necessary – to be quite self-absorbed, so for people to walk the length of the paddock to check on you is a very decent thing.
It may be quite a while before I race again – I may have to miss the next two rounds – but Dony is a definite. Stay tuned!