An unhappy weekend at Thruxton
This meeting marked the halfway point in the season, with the sixth race of the year visiting the very quick Thruxton circuit in Southern England, -regarded by many riders as the fastest circuit in the country. Last year the round here was a complete washout as mechanical problems after just six minutes meant that we were sidelined for the entire meeting. I was hoping for better luck this meeting but it seems the jinx has continued…
Friday started well enough in free practice, as I was unfamiliar with the track I decided to take things easy and get used to the best lines before pushing the pace. I was lapping well and getting in some good times when unfortunately the session was red-flagged due to a crash after around 15 minutes. This gave us time to consider the setup of the bike but in the end we decided not to make any adjustments to the settings. The rest of the laps went well and I was able to produce some good times and I was more than happy to finish the session in 12th place.
For the afternoon’s first qualification session we made a few small changes to the front end as previously the steering did not feel quite right. When the session started I was one of the first on track but unfortunately I got held up behind one of the KTM machines in the field and overtaking proved difficult. The changes we made had not helped at all and the front end did not feel good so I ended up pitting briefly to go back to the original settings. Despite this I was soon back out on the track and found myself lapping with Elliot Lodge, -given that Eliot is usually in the top seven positions I was quite pleased with this. I was actually sat right behind him when he had a big highside, which meant I had to back off quickly to avoiding hitting him. Despite a heavy crash fortunately he was okay. I completed the session with a couple of almost solo laps, eventually ending up in 15th place. That evening Jerry and I studied the data from the session and we could see that my times slipped as the laps progressed. Obviously this was cause for some concern but I was not too downhearted as the data showed how quick I could potentially go.
The second qualification session commenced at 11.40 on Saturday in glorious conditions; the temperature was a warm 32 degrees and the track temperature was reported in at a sweltering 45. Given these conditions we decided to run with a hard compound front tire to ensure more stability in the series of fast corners around the track. This was a bit of a gamble as this particular grade of tyre will not grip if the track temperature is anything less than 35 degrees, -fortunately the elements were with us and the track stayed hot throughout the session. I started well and the opening lap times matched those from the previous days. I did not go all out but after a few more laps really opened up and pushed, resulting in some quick times and a move to 10th place, -despite being held up by a back-marker. All was well but on a flying lap until I approached the fastest corner of the circuit. This is taken pretty much flat out except for a little roll off the throttle mid-corner before pinning back on the way out, meaning that you are travelling about 200 km/h on the exit. As I entered the corner I hit a bump and lost the front end and despite my best efforts to hold on both me and the machine went down quite heavily. Despite being knocked around fortunately I was okay, the machine however took some serious damage.
Race time was only three hours away so it was essential that some quick repairs were made. It took about two hours to get the bike in raceworthy condition and another hour to complete all the finishing touches, so we just made it to the line in time. I would like to say here and now a massive thank you to my father, Jerry and Bert Deroue for all their hard work and efforts in getting the bike ready for the first race.
The race itself was one to forget; although the start was solid enough my confidence must have been rocked a bit by my earlier get off as I lost quite a few places as the race progressed. This dropped me right into the middle of the pack and I had to fight hard to get through the field. As a consequence of this I found it hard to settle into a steady pace and struggled to lap at a decent pace. After a very tough race where I really did struggle to feel comfortable, I came home in a hard-fought but ultimately disappointing 14th place. Due to the problems in race one I would be starting race two from a lowly 22nd place on the grid, -a very long way from the 11th place that I had aimed for in the morning’s practice. However, the important thing was not to be disheartened, try to regain some confidence and to prepare both myself and the bike to get the best result possible in the next race.
With this in mind Sunday’s warm up went quite well, and without pushing too hard I finished the session in a quite satisfactory 14th place.
Rain was threatening before the start of the second race but fortunately as we went to the line the track remained dry. Once again a solid start was somewhat marred by getting held up in the pack and slipping a few places as a consequence. However over the opening laps I progressed well and making some passes through a very crowded field, at one point being part of a 12-rider battle for 12th place! This was a highly enjoyable exchange and I felt comfortable both as part of this pack and of how I was lapping. I was confident that I could make the necessary moves to secure at least 12th place over the line and had a plan in mind of how to do so, but unfortunately, as is so often the case in racing it was not to be. On the very last lap the engine started misfiring badly and eventually cut out altogether, meaning that I had to retire at the side of the track. This was a massive disappointment as I had been sure that I could secure 11th place. As it turned out both an electrical problem and a broken fuel pump were to blame. A very frustrating conclusion to a race that I had been really enjoying and was confident of getting a good result in.
It is now a case of getting the bike sorted as quickly as possible as it is quick turnaround until the Brands Hatch round this week. This is a great circuit with a lot of variation and I am looking forward to some close battles and hopefully some better results.