It wasn’t quite the perfect end to a perfect season, but it was damn close. After the chequered flag was waved for the final race of the MRO Powerbike season last Sunday at Brands, I lost the championship to worthy winner and fellow BMW rider, Rob McNealy, by a hundredth of a second – less than a bike length.
I’m not too sore about it - the ex-supermoto rider has ridden brilliantly all year and I managed to take the fight with him down to the wire. I made it up to joint championship lead after winning the first of Sunday’s two races, so it was all down to whoever finished ahead of the other for the final race of the year. It was tense stuff.
I surprised myself, putting in the fastest lap of the race - 47.5 seconds, which is quicker than I’ve ever been around my home track. I battled through the field to make up for my customary crap start and found the bravery from somewhere to overtake in places I’d never dreamt of. Racing is certainly the biggest supplier of red mist there is. John Waghorn, McNealy and me crossed the line, in that order at the end of the 15 lap race so close, I could read the clocks on their bikes.
It’s my second season riding my S1000RR and to be honest, last year I didn’t click with it and I was slower than I was on my ‘screamer’ Yamaha R1 from the year before. But this year has been a revelation. The Ohlins suspension (fitted and set-up by Kais Suspension), Dunlop Ntec slicks, SBS Dual Sinter brake pads and the BMW HP Power and Calibration kit have completely transformed the bike into something truly special.
It doesn’t actually feel too different from Haslam’s bike I rode at Monza in the summer – the main difference is his factory bike is much, much lighter and a bit more powerful. Neil Hodgson rode my bike earlier in the year and said it’s the best BMW S1000RR he’s ever been on.
I’ve also worked my butt off to train hard and lose three stone, all for the love of racing, which has helped me go faster too. I’ve been using Garnell Nutrition Enrage energy drink and As One 40 protein shakes to help me train and race, which have been brilliant.
I also owe a lot of my new-found speed to advice given by Simon Crafar – things like gears, body position and loads more. I’m at Aragon as we speak, helping him with his track riding DVD and book, called Motovudu, which will be an absolute must if you’re serious about going fast on-track. It’s out this November.
I’m literally seconds faster than I’ve ever been at every circuit I’ve been to this year and had some great races with Waghorn, McNealy, Danny Fowler, Byron Beckett and Mike Goodfellow, picked-up four race wins and loads of podiums.
It’s been a fun year and none of it would be possible without Bruce Charman at BMW Park Lane, who let me ride the bike and to Paul Cooper for setting it up and servicing it. I’m also surrounded by a great bunch of friends, whose support makes all the difference to this fragile racer’s brain, so a massive thanks is due to Rookie, Creature, brother Ben, Jim, Lloyd, Spencer, Mark and Keith.
It’s typical I should have my best ever season at the ripe old age of 41, but the truth is I just love riding my bike, relish the competitive side of racing and it’s not bad practice for the day job either. I know I’m never going to be good enough to be a top national racer, but I do ok. So, all the time I’m still fit enough and can still make-out the braking markers I’ll keep on going. Bring on 2012!
Pictures by Bryan Lancaster