Brands was always going to be difficult wasn’t it, i mean i’d come from Snetterton where race weekends literally can’t get any better, had a brilliant couple of weeks off, i had a test on the Tuesday before Brands where i’d gone really fast really comfortably and now it’s time for the Big Brands Bash, the halfway point of the Championship at my home track as it’s so often called, no pressure then lol!!
For the Big Brands Bash BSB turn a three day race weekend into a four with free entry on the Thursday, i had quite a bit to do with TV stuff and meet and greets etc so i got all that done and dusted then settled into preparing everything for the start of the proper weekend starting Friday morning.
The weekend got off to a good start, for pretty much the first time ever we started the weekend with the bike exactly as it had left Cadwell park a few days before in terms of chassis settings which was great as literally immediately we went P1 in free practice one, the bike was definitely in it’s operating window, ok the window needed cleaning but it was a good place to start and allowed me to concentrate on refining something that was good from the out lap rather than trying to find the window itself, that window for example we never even found at Knockhill so this was a great start to a race weekend!!
We ended up with a clean sweep on Friday, fastest in both sessions, chipping away at little details on the bike to make it as manageable as possible over race duration and the thing i was happiest about was we managed to maintain my lap time advantage over everyone even though obviously they improved too, we ended Friday half a second a lap faster than everyone so it was a good first day, especially as that was done on a motor that was up to mileage and needed changing for a new one at the end of the first day!!
Saturday morning’s session we improved again lap time wise, the new motor felt good, not quite the step i’d hoped for but good nonetheless, we got the fuelling and engine braking etc all sorted and once again ended the session P1 maintaining our advantage over the rest of the pack, in fact i set the outright lap record and fastest ever 2 wheeled lap of the GP circuit at the end of the session so i guess you could say things were going to plan!!!
Qualifying unfortunately had a little bit of interference from Mother Nature which was a bit of a bummer, Q1 was proper wet and the bike was set way too stiff so i couldn’t get a feeling for the tyres at all, fortunately you only need to be in the top 20 in Q1 and we managed that comfortably so i pulled in so we had time to soften off the bike for Q2.
For Q2 i’d say we made some progress, the track was i slightly better condition and the setting of the bike gave me much more feel, in Q2 we were fastest so we went through to the final Q3 session.
With the ambient and track temperatures being quite high i confess i got a little bit caught out, we put in a new wet rear tyre for Q3 but when i went for my lap the track had some considerable drying sections and with the bike being set full wet I destroyed the rear tyre and simply wasn’t fast enough so I ended up P6 on the grid for Sundays first race..
The weather forecast wasn’t looking overly promising for Sunday and it poured hard Saturday night but morning warm up was dry ish and we ended that fastest so i guess it was just a case of sit and wait to see what the weather brung then make a decision settings wise.
Race 1 was dry, starting on the inside of row 2 is never ideal as the track is really cambered on the inside there, that combined with my usual not so great starts on the Ducati meant turn 1 could be tricky, i was relatively calm as i knew we had great race pace so if i just got a good start….
As the lights came on to prepare us for the start I slipped the bike into gear, built up to my usual start rpm but luckily i hold on the front brake lever when I'm sat on the line as the clutch immediately started to slightly drag and the bike just wanted to go, the lights went out and i reckon i moved the clutch lever a 1000th of a millimetre and it sort of disengaged and launched me forward, it ended up being not to terrible a start and i pretty much maintained position for the first couple of turns, one thing that was slightly concerning pretty much immediately was the drops of rain that were starting to come down, not enough to stop the race but certainly enough to make you think.
About 6 or 7 laps in i was sat behind Leon in about 5th or 6th and could see his rear tyre starting to ever so slightly move about, i knew i had good pace for the end of the race but knew i had to pass just in case the guys in front started pulling away, i got a great run through Graham hill bend and lined up a move into Surtees, it was one of those I'm not braking until he does but the problem was he went way deep and me being on the inside i went way deeper!!!, so deep in fact i nearly ended up going up the indy circuit, bo****ks, what an idiot, sometimes though when you commit you commit, now i had some work on my hands as i was down to 10th or something with only 8 or so laps left and the rain getting ever so slightly heavier, i made a couple of passes then the course car came up, things were going to get proper tricky now!! After a couple of laps the car went in and i maintained 5th place, with laps running out i started making passes, it was tricky though as the spots of rain were continuing to drop, with 3 laps to go i got passed Dan Linfoot who’d been leading and with two laps to go as i crossed the line i put my leg out as the rain was coming harder, i thought the race would probably run it’s distance as there were only two laps to go unless it poured hard however it’s the lead riders discretion to indicate to race direction when we think the conditions are becoming unsafe so i indicated anyway, a few other riders did the same and the marshalls up at turn two reported more rain up at turn two so the race got red flagged and we won, i was chuffed to bits!!!!!!!
Somewhat unbelievably if you’d seen the weather forecasts beforehand race two was completely dry and warmer than race one, conditions that would hopefully play right into my hands. After race ones lap times i was P2 on the grid for race 2 so in the middle of the front row. This time as the lights went out i got a great start and slotted straight in P2 through the first few turns, i lined up Dan Linfoot on the run down towards Hawthorn at the end of the back straight but he was pretty fast on the run down the hill so it ended up being another one of those once you’re committed you’re committed lunges and through i went, as strange or funny as it sounds as soon as i pulled that move i was like right that's it, I'm going for it, i made a real conscious thought, i knew i needed to hit my marks but i also knew that i didn’t want to destroy the tyres smashing lap record lap after lap record laps, i settled straight in to a real fast rhythm but was doing it without pushing the rear tyre too hard, i started building a little bit of a lead then about 4 or 5 laps in i saw Josh had got to P2, he was from looking at the sheets over the course of the weekend probably the fastest most consistent rider behind me so i continued my rhythm and maintained my gap of just over half a second or so, after 8 or 9 laps though i came around to see +3.5 on my pit board to James Ellison, i wondered what had happened to Josh then saw him and his bike being pushed away at Surtees, i eased off by a couple of tenths over the next few laps as the gap was edging up slightly and basically just rode the bike home for back to back doubles, if i was happy after race one i was definitely happy now, on the slow down lap I felt like turning out of the circuit and heading straight down to Thruxton, that’s the trouble with me, i never dwell on what's just happened and enjoy it, i dwell on it and thrive on doing it all over again at the next track and that next track is Thruxton, one of my favourites, last year we were really strong there but had a technical issue in race two that prevented us from doing our first double with the Panigale, hopefully that’s something i’ll be able to put right this year!!
Until then, take it east guys and girls, Shakey #67