So the final round in this years race calendar took us to deepest
darkest Norfolk and
Snetterton race track. Going into it I was 19 points adrift of 1st
place in the championship with a possible 40 points left to play for.
Realistically I didn't expect to catch Pete - I had to beat him and so
all he had to do was follow me arround. Even if he only got 3rd places
and I won all the races he'd still beat me.
I'd never ridden here before so apart from 100 laps on the Play
Station on the touring car game, I also booked myself in for a test
session on the Friday. Thursday night I loaded up the pikey van, hitched
up the new caravan and headed off for a 3.5 hour journey - it was a
nightmare as the van isn't the quietest of things, especially with the
manifold blowing and sounding like a bombing raid over Germany. Still,
it was worth it at Snetterton - parked up, dropped the legs down on the
caravan and then sat in a nice warm comfort. Miles better than the tent.
Friday dawned with dry weather,
although quite cold. First impressions of Snett - fast, very fast, but
not that difficult to learn and nothing really complex about it. The
only thing to work on was the entry into the esses from the Revit
straight - 150mph down to 30-40 mph to flick left right, all in the
space of 300 yards. Certainly got the old heart pumping, and only went
straight on there a few times (no issues as there's loads of concrete
run off). The other problem was tyre wear - it was eating my rear tyre
on the right hand side. There was an inch wide area all the way around
the tyre that had been ripped up, so much so that the tyre was actually
concave in this area instead of being convex. Hmm.
Played around with the suspension (rebound was near maximum, which
could explain why the bike was horrible over the bumps, and compression
was almost non existent) setting them all back to half way and going out
again. Seemed to work OK but the bike was a little floaty at the rear so
upped the rebound some more which seemed to fix it. Finally, I got my
main sponsor this year, Mr Visa, to buy me a new rear tyre and that was
Spent Friday night having a few beers with Pete (the guy I was
chasing in the championship) plus a few other lads in the steelies
and keeping out of the rain that had started to fall.
Saturday dawned dry but the track
was still slightly damp but drying fast. Due to the tyre wear I decided
not to do the allcomers races to save the rear for the steelies (and
anyway, anything over 600cc would just eat you down the Revit straight
only for you to catch them in the corners and then they went away again
on the straight).
My first race was after lunch, the track was dry, and I was
starting in 15th, Pete in 13th. I got a crap start - 14th into the
first corner and Pete was 6th. Got my head down and started working my
way through the pack and on lap 2 I was in 7th and Pete in 5th, but I
was closing on him. On lap three I was in 6th and reeling him in fast,
getting right onto his back wheel going into the esses and sticking with
him all the way arround to the chicane at the start finish straight. As
we exited the chicane and got on the power, Pete missed a gear.
Panicking, he stabbed for a gear and looked frantically over his
shoulder to see who was close to him only to be met by me screwing on
the power and driving past him - the look on his face through his clear
visor was priceless. I got my head down and started to reel in the
4th place guy but disaster happened at the Esses. The guy in 4th
took a wide line into it and I tried to go underneath him but he cut
across in front of me, I hit the brakes and had the back end in the air
trying to stop but I couldn't avoid clipping his back wheel with my
engine case knocking us both off the track and onto the grass. He fell
off but I kept mine upright and rejoined the track now back in 12th.
With three laps to go my confidence had been knocked slightly, to say
the least, but I got my head down and worked my way back to 9th. Pete
actually finished 3rd but fortunately I still came second novice, but he
now had one hand firmly on the title.
I was annoyed with this mistake as I could have waited a little
longer before passing the guy in 4th (I was quicker than him) but I
wanted to put as much ground and people between me and Pete as quickly
as possible. Still nobody got hurt.
So, onto the second race, Pete on the front row and me on the
3rd row. I got a better start and I think I went into the first corner
in 8th, with Pete in 5th. Again I worked my way up to Pete and on lap
4 I was right with him. However, I had another 3 laps to go so this
time I sat behind him for a lap to see where I was quicker and on the
5th lap I passed him on the brakes entering the corner leading onto the
Revit Straight. I knew this would have annoyed him because all he had to
do was beat me and the title was his so I got my head down and went for
it keeping him behind me. I knew he was with me though because I could
see the shadow of his bike as we tipped into the Esses. Then on the last
lap we came across some back markers at the end of the start/finish
straight and so I braked late to pass these guys and try and put them in
between me and Pete so he lost the drive out of the corner. I later
found out though that as I went underneath the back markers he went
around the outside of them and so was still with me. Then entering the
fast, long Coram curve I messed up the entrance and went wide, but also
off the power allowing him to close the 20 yard lead I had pulled out.
As we went into the chicane Pete came up the inside of me on a real late
braking mission but the guy behind him also came down the outside of me
and across my nose, stopping me from getting on the tail of Pete for the
drag to the line. So Pete took 4th and 1st novice and the championship,
whilst I got good drive out of the chicane and managed to out drag the
other guy to claim 5th and also second in the novice championship.
It was a fantastic race - to ride and watch. Back in the pits
everyone who watched it was raving about it because it was true nail
biting stuff. Both Pete and I were hyper about the whole thing and as
soon as we got the bikes on the stands it was time to brake out the
beers and party. Needless to say Pete and I, a few of the other
steelies, plus all our helpers got absolutely hammered that night and
just partied away.
Sunday was a very hungover affair
and also wet. I wandered over to Pete's caravan and he was worse than I
was and we quickly decided that we weren't bothering to race - we'd got
our championship results, we were in no fit state, plus we thought
we'd let some of the other novices who hadn't got trophies battle
away for them. It was strange watching the steel frame race go out,
particularly as some of the lads finished 3rd yet I had been beating
them all weekend. Very strange feeling.
So that's it for this year. From back of the pack nobber to top five
finisher and second in the novice championship. If you'd said I'd be
that at the start of the year I'd have laughed at you. Infact my
goals were to be finishing in the top 15 by the end of the year, with a
possibility of 10th place at the very last race. I completed those goals
about halfway through the season and so had to reset them. Infact, I was
aiming for a top 3 finish this weekend which I know I'd have got in the
first race if I hadn't been a little hot headed.
Never mind, it's been a cracking year - I didn't fall off, I'm
competitive, and I've made some really good friends and we've already
decided to have a steel frame community in the paddock next year. There
was of course a few downers, the state of my bike at the start of the
year which made me wonder whether to carry on, Tony's accident was just
plain horrible, and John's decision to retire - I fully understand and
respect why he made his decision but it's still strange him not being
What next? More Steel Frame championship next year no longer as a
novice. This time I'm going for a top 5 finish in the championship ( I
actually got 12th this year with 28 points when I didn't start scoring
properly until very late on) and I want some podium places, and at the
right track who knows, maybe a win. It's going to be tough though as
there are at least 3 new riders coming in, and very quick riders too so
I'll have that to contend with but if I get my entries in early and get
some front row grid positions I'll be able to get away with them and so
start to up my pace again.
Thanks to all those that have supported me this year and Rob, we're
going to Oulton Park next year so a local circuit for you to visit.
Just the dinner and dance in November where I'll be presented with my
trophy, but what am I going to do over the winter?