Pit bike racing - Clay Pigeon raceway 18th November
Following a great session of pit bike practice on the 4th of November I was incredibly motivated to head to another race day.
When I say motivated don't mistake that for prepared, the week leading up to the race I had approximately 14 hours of working on my and my girlfriend's bike to prepare them for the race. This is in addition to my normal working week which resulted in a Tom that wasn't exactly in the best mental or physical state arriving on the Saturday morning.
There had been spots of rain but nothing serious and with the way the wind whips across the rolling Dorset hills, combined with the go karts in between the pit bike sessions means that whenever the ground is damp. It certainly doesn't stay that way for long.
Practice 1 - In the morning and I managed to go out after yet again having issues starting the bike, it was a steady start with it being the first of the day but instantly felt more comfortable and the speed and knee down antics I had built on the practice day were easily reachable without pushing hard, a very nice surprise!
Practice 2 - In short I spent the 6 minute practice, cursing, shouting, kicking the bike over, running up and down trying to bump it before chucking it on the floor in a huff. It is oh so horrendously frustrating to pay money to ride your bike only to end up having to fix it. Paying to fix your own bike becomes boring very quickly.
Practice 3 - Having spoken kindly to a few souls around the paddock I had the help of the gent, John, next to me with regards to carb set up meaning we had it much closer to where it needed to be but it only liked to start when it had been running very recently and was warm. I.e. a quick restart. Which started pointing me down the route of valve clearances which I think are long overdue a check and adjustment.
Heat 1 - On the grid in 12th position and the lights go out. A pretty crappy start with showing the front wheel to the sky slightly, then back to the floor, a bit to the sky before making real forward progress dampened the beginning of the race. A couple of laps in and the gap between myself and the 8th place rider started to close giving me a much needed motivation to push a little harder. Braking later, carrying more speed in and getting on the gas earlier let me get onto the back of him, yet with doing so the Moto GP wannabe decided to start weaving left and right on the way into the braking areas attempting to defend.
Managing to carry more speed through the final corner and heading towards the chequered flag, fully tucked in let me get a run along side and ultimately passed him over the line. Confusingly once I pulled into the pits and despite the yellows being waved on the slow down lap, he carried on. I later learnt somehow I ended up a lap down and despite seeing the end of the race it actually wasn't. D'oh. Lesson learnt but at least my times had come down to a best of 44.8 and finish in 9th place mainly due to crashers and non-finishers.
Heat 2 - Spurred on by the previous race I was determined to go one better in the next race. A better start and I'm heading towards the first corner with the pack, I lost a position being polite into the first corner.
Working hard to get the position back and not drop out of touch with the pack I started huffing and puffing... on a cold day in November there is only so much a pin-lock can do thus meaning my visor started to steam up. It's incredibly difficult to push on when it looks like you are riding into fog and even lifting the visor slightly didn't make it clear.
Dropping the pace off not wanting to crash allowed everyone to ride away from me somewhat and I came home in a lonely 10th position. On the final lap I was passed by the leader, Ryan Tyres who on spotting the photographer pulled a great victory wheelie. It was fantastic to watch on the slow down lap and photographed even better!
I really must learn to wheelie well.
B final - With the new format in place for the first time, in the heat the top 6 went automatically through to the A final, leaving 8 riders to battle it out for the remaining 4 places in a B final.
Learning my lessons from the second heat, some anti-fog spray was sourced and sprayed liberally all over the visor.
Launching off the start in 4th position I had the best start of the day but it was quickly diminished into insignificance when a faster rider came up the inside into the first corner and dropped me to 5th. Only then I was mugged through the chicance and dropped back to 6th!
I remember thinking "Bloody hell this is going to be hard work if I want to get into the A final". Promptly burying my head as close to the head stock and getting on with it I dispatched Simon to re-claim 5th place and set about aiming for 4th.
It wasn't to be as my pace wasn't there and the leading pack pulled each other around almost in unison, sadly when overtaking a back marker a collision was caused that led to Paul, the back marker, being KO'd.
The race was red flagged and although only a few laps had been completed in the interest of fairness to the rest of the paddock a result was claimed.
It was not the way I intended to end my day and certainly put a dampener on the mood but I was impressed that being tired only led to 0.3 of a second difference having not found a rhythm in the final.
Packing the van away and watching the final to realise only 3 out of the 4 qualified riders actually joined the A final was mildly frustrating as being 5th place I would have moved up but as they say, "C'est la vie".
A huge thank you for Focus82 photography & Greg Stretch Photography for use of the photos.