MRO Powerbike championship. Round 4 – Brands Hatch 12/13th May 2007.
Superpole race: 6th
Race 1: 1st
Race 2: 4th
They say the best things come to those who wait and I’ve been waiting 14 years for this one: my first race win since 1993.
Yep, the last time I saw the chequered flag first was on my old Yamaha FZR600 at Lydden Hill circuit! When I was 23!
I haven’t actually been trying for 14 years, of course. I stopped racing in ’94 after I smashed up both my legs when I collided with a car on my Suzuki RGV250 road bike.
I didn’t start again properly until last year when I did a season of the Forza Extreme championship on my long term test Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5.
To win a race after all this time is such an incredible feeling, but to do it at a MRO Powerbike race at my local track, Brands Hatch, in front of my friends and family is just unbelievable.
But it could’ve been very different as we nearly had the wrong tyres on for the race. All day leading up to my first race on Sunday it was miserable, wet and windy – wets were the only option.
I had a few laps practice in the rain earlier in the day but I’d never ridden my bike in anger at Brands in the wet and didn’t have a set-up or a clue how I’d do.
I wobbled around in practice and thought I was doomed.
I had a brilliant qualifying in the dry on Saturday holding third position for a session until dropping down to fourth - with my personal best ever lap of 49.4 - but still on the front row for the race, but now I was sure I’d finish last.
But about half an hour before the race the rain stopped and the track started to dry out. From where we could see in the paddock the track still looked wet, but I peddled my pushbike around to the opposite side of the track and saw that there was a dry line around Clearways and most of the rest of the track.
I pegged it back to the paddock and decided to run with slicks, even though they were still brand new and not scrubbed in. We fitted them in double quick time and stuck on the tyre warmers to get a little heat in them in the little time we had left.
The Clubmans Minitwins race was before our Powerbike race and it was starting to dry right out and I knew I’d made the right decision - but seconds later it started to pee down again. Bugger.
Lucky for me their race was delayed, which gave us just enough time to stick the wets back on. Thanks to my mates Rookie, Andy, Lloyd and my brother Ben; they changed the wheels in about three minutes flat, just in time to get out into the collecting area for my race in time...
We got two sighting laps to suss out the dodgy conditions and I still felt wobbly. I was scared to lean the bike over and couldn’t even stay with the leaders at warm-up lap speed.
The start of the race wasn’t much better, getting boxed in at Paddock and Druids and ending up eighth after the first of our 12 laps.
But then it clicked. With the red mist down and confidence building I could feel the Dunlop wets were giving the most incredible grip and the changes to the Maxton suspension were allowing me to feel the tyres really dig into the wet tarmac.
Suddenly my lap times were getting quicker and I was reeling in and passing the star names in the championship like Ducati-mounted John Paul Scott, and Suzuki man Rob Elsmere, and found myself in second with a handful of laps to go.
To be honest I was happy to settle for second at that point but my lap times were getting better as the confidence was building.
I started to close in on the leader and Superpole race winner Danny Imberg, setting a fastest lap of the race at a 52.016 (I could barely do that in the dry until recently).
With two laps to go Danny slipped off at Graham Hill bend, thankfully uninjured, and leaving me with the eerie sensation of an empty track in front of me.
With nobody in front it’s like the race has been stopped and you’re just out there on your own – I had to keep checking for red flags!
Not knowing if there was anyone behind me or not I just kept on at full chat until half way around the last lap (I made the mistake of looking behind me while leading at Croix last year and went to pieces when I saw Steve Mercer behind me. I mucked up so many times I let him into the lead) when I had a sneaky look behind to see nobody there!
After cocking up the last few corners in my excitement I still managed to win by five seconds.
To be honest the bike was easy to ride. The Dunlop wets gave so much grip it was like riding in the dry, and was scraping my knee, toes and standard footrests at each corner.
A full Micron race exhaust system to match my end cans has released a whole heap of extra mid-range power making the drive out of corners that much quicker, ably aided and abetted by a lower-geared rear Renthal sprocket.
The next round is at Pembrey on 26th/27th May, which is a circuit I went really well at last year and should suit my sweet handling R1. Hopefully I can get another good result – I can’t wait another 14 years, I’m on a roll!
Next round: Pembrey 26th/27th May
B & C Express
R & G
Rod Harwin Racing
Ben, Rookie, Alison, Mark, Tony, Bruce, Creature, Fatty Franklin
2007 Yamaha YZF-R1
Engine: Std motor with Micron full race exhaust, set up with a Power Commander (and quick shifter) by BSD. 169bhp at the rear wheel. Regina chain and Renthal sprockets.
Maxton rear shock and fork re-valve. Ohlins steering damper.
Standard 17-inch wheels shod with Dunlop slicks (195/65 x 17 rear, 125/80 x 17 front).
Standard brake calipers and Galfer wavy discs, SBS Dual Carbon brake pads and HEL braided lines. Standard levers and Gilles footrests.
Pattern fairing and tail unit by ANR UK – paintwork done courtesy of Halfords spray cans done by me and my mate Rookie. Graphics, including Edwards-style numbers by V2Mal. Stomp tank pads.
R & G crash protection.