Lap four of the final race of the weekend and I’m vainly trying to hunt down race leader Danny Fowler. Up to second place from the third row of the grid and I’m on a good lap.
The little green light on my BMW’s dash is telling me I’m faster than the lap before and it’s all the carrot I need to keep on pushing. I’ve hit every apex on the lap so far, a big shock as my visor is thick with red mist.
Up and over The Mountain, along the wiggly bit through the trees and up to the first gear Hairpin - the slowest corner on the track.
It’s so slow I’m giving it little respect, thinking instead of Barn - the corner that leads onto the start/finish straight and one which I’ve been too slow getting out of all weekend. Get it stopped, turn-in and I’m already thinking about the exit of Barn, but I’m too tight and my engine case bumps over the Hairpin’s raised kerb. Down I go.
30 seconds ago my heart was in my mouth and my eyes on stalks trying to get a 200kg S1000RR through the Gooseneck at what felt like warp speed, but now I’m standing next to a marshal, with my brain and pulse racing to keep up with each other.
It’s such a minor get-off that the bike and me are ok, but I’m pissed-off with myself and should’ve just settled for second. I mucked up the earlier race of the day too.
Lining up on a half wet track, I used wets, like everyone else, but inexplicably I went mad with softening-off the suspension – way more than I usually do and couldn’t get the bike stopped or turned properly. Or accelerate.
After making a nuisance of myself and leading for a bit of that race (and nearly knocking Fowler off at Mansfield – sorry!), I made an impressive retreat down through the pack and ended up 8th - which is what gave me the third row grid position for the final race.
Away from the racing, I won’t even talk about the realities of living in the back of a Sprinter for the fifth meeting in the rain and cold, or else I’ll cry. Then there’s the lack of hard-standing to set-up on, meaning you’ve got to turn up during Thursday day to get a spot, or else you’re on the grass (having to turn-up two days before a club race is plain madness).
There’s no power, so your ears are filled with the clatter of generators for four days and there’s nothing to do in the evenings, because it’s raining and we’re not allowed to cycle the track, for health and safety reasons – someone recently cycled into one of the barriers they put across the track at night and injured themselves…
On the plus side, Saturday’s race was a good ‘un, though. A nice long 14-lapper made the triceps burn and after trying to eject myself at the Gooseneck on a cold tyre, I lead for most of it before Michael O’Brian and Danny Fowler pipped me on the last two laps.
The middle of a season can always be a bit gritty, the weather this year hasn’t helped and I had to do my own spanners, so it’s dampened my usual high spirits – but I’m sure I’ll miss it all by the time the winter comes.
A big well done to Danny Fowler for his impressive rides, my brother Ben for his first win and Tony Hoare of Bike magazine for his fist ever win in the YPM Past Masters race. Well done all.
Next meeting: Snetterton 200, 7th/8th July (and it had better be warm!)
Pictures by Bryan Lancaster