Donington Park 8th-10th April
Testday on Friday didn’t go according to plan.
I had only ridden at Donington Park once before, when the Minitwins were a guest class at the World Superbike (SBK) event back in 2012.
The plan was to re-learn the circuit on the Fireblade 900RRT and figure out where to change gear.
My first session came to an end after only three laps, as we entered the circuit on slick tyres the spits of rain began to fall, on lap two the Melbourne hairpin was sketchy, on lap three Melbourne seemed ok, but Goddards was slippery, the lack of adhesion flag was displayed on the start finish straight. I slowed significantly on the entry to Redgate, that didn’t stop the front trying to tuck, having saved the slide I ran on into the gravel, keeping the bike upright and powering through to the fence.
Having changed the bike onto wet tyres by the time session two came around the track was again bone dry. Instead of wrecking the wet tyres I sat the session out. Having changed back onto slick I was ready for session three. As we sat in the assembly area it again began to rain. So I sat that final session out also.
This is why I desperately need to get the second bike built so that I have a wet and a dry bike.
So the important testing yielded three sketchy laps.
Qualifying on Saturday was dry. I spent the session still learning gear changes and braking markers.
I managed a lap time of 1:56.5 which was two seconds quicker than my minitwin lap and gave me a start position of 20th. Not too bad, and around about where I usually qualify. Also for the first time I had outdone my minitwin time at a track at the first time of asking.
There were many delays on Saturday due to several nasty incidents in the races. We were last on the program and when our race finally came around it had been raining. There were still spits in the air.
The track was very slippery from the Old hairpin right through until coppice and the back straight.
I got a good start from 20th place and made many positions on the run to Redgate, and overtook a few more throughout the lap and finished lap one in 11th, by Lap three I had got two more and was in 9th. This is where I finished the race which also gave me 7th in class.
Due to the many incidents the rest of the program was called off for the day.
Sunday dawned and the weather was Sunny. Again we had a long wait as we were race 12 and 24 on the program. I was nervous for the race as I would be starting in 9th my highest grid position ever.
I could actually see the lights. I was truly expecting for some of the fast guys who had struggled in the wet to come storming through and that I was probably looking at a top 15 finish. But if I could get away with a quick group I may learn something.
I got away reasonably well and was I in large group, Going down Craner curves Talan Skeels-Piggins lost the front right in front of me and I had to take avoiding action, at the end of lap one I had dropped to 11th, the group was battling hard and positions were changing almost every corner, on lap three I was back up to 10th, lap 4 I got mugged under flashing yellow lights at the Foggy esses and was back to 13th.By this time one of the bikes in front of me was smoking significantly and I was a little cautious as I didn’t want it to blow up crash on his oil. Lap five back to 12th, Lap six up to 11th. And on the final lap 10th. Fabulous result in the dry for me, and also great to be in that group battling and only missing out due to a dubious overtake at the esses. It was another 7th in class.
What is more I had learned the track and my lap time was down to 1:50:5 six seconds better than qualifying and eight seconds better than my minitwin time.
We had to wait until the last race of the day for our final outing and I was starting tenth
Once again my focus was to get off with the quick guys and see where I could go from there.
Lap one there was some toing and froing but I maintained 10th. By lap three I was up to 9th and I was in a group that went up to 7th, throughout the remaining laps we swapped positions on numerous occasions but small mistakes and good overtakes were in evidence from all three of us. I came across the line on the final lap still in 9th, 7th in class again. It had been a fantastic battle and I took another couple of tenths off my best lap time.
This completed what has been my best and most consistent weekend of racing. I have had top ten results before. But I have never been able to deliver three at the same meeting and particularly when the conditions are dry. We are really looking forwards to Silverstone at the end of the month now with a high level of confidence. I finally feel as comfortable on the Honda Fireblade as I did on the minitwin and look to continue racing with the confidence that this brings.