Michael Neeves MRO Powerbike blog: Brands Hatch GP

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It’s been a busy old May. I rode my GSX-R750 to Le Mans to watch the MotoGP, tested a Taiwanese 50cc supermoto, carried out a Tuono group test, spent four days at Brands Hatch instructing and racing and then back to the Kent track to test Keith Flint’s new Moto2 bike. It’s back on the 750 for my first ever trip to the TT in a few weeks too, so you can safely say I’m living the dream. Here’s a few bits on the highlight of my month so far: my four-day stint at Brands.

Thursday 19th May

Up early to travel to Brands to ride my S1000RR race bike on a trackday. It’s a Focussed Events day and BMW Park Lane have booked some slots for their customers, including Charlie Boorman, who’s riding their superstock S1000RR demo bike, a replica of my race bike.

I’m bowled over with how good Boorman is on track, but I guess he’s done a few miles on two wheels, so shouldn’t have been too surprised. We had a good day and when it was over I moved over from the pits to the paddock to set up for the race weekend.

My brother Ben turned up to do an evening trackday to test his R1 for the first time since he bashed it up at the Cadwell MRO meeting. We already had his bike there waited for him, so he bowled up like Rossi, rode the bike and swanned off home again. Git.

Friday 20th May

Practice day for the race weekend on the Brands Indy circuit, although the actual racing will take place on the magnificent GP layout. I used my 750 to instruct two Bemsee Rookies: Gowan Wooley on an R6 and Giles Olley on his GSX-R1000.

They’re both thoroughly nice lads and made excellent progress throughout the day. I also took my brother’s R1 out to set it up for him. The forks were far too hard so I took a lot of compression damping off them and it transformed the handling. In fact it worked so well I immediately tried the same adjustment on my Beemer and it improved it massively too. 

Saturday 21st May

Race weekend is here and my BMW Park Lane S1000RR is ready to go. Despite not having ridden the GP layout track for a year, within two laps I’d already beat my personal best time and within another handful beat it by two seconds and ended the first qualifying in 3rd spot, out of 36 riders.

There’s a number of factors I can attribute to my newly-found speed: I’ve got my Ohlins suspension spot-on, my Dunlop slicks are phenomenal and the HP Power and Calibration kit have given me even more power, smoothed out the delivery and allowed me to lean on the traction control more. It’s amazing to ride.

Most of all, I’ve shed more than two stone in the last few months, so I feel much better on the bike and it’s given me better acceleration out of the corners. I’m now more S1000RR than R1200GS shaped now!

I didn’t improve on my time in second qualifying and slipped to 5th spot, but was chuffed to start ahead of the legendary Peter Baker on his GSX-R1000, something I don’t think I’ve done for years!

Saturday’s sprint race didn’t go too well as I jumped the start and then while with the leading pack, pulled out on the third lap after monster slide at Clearways and Paddock, which I realised was a rear puncture. I think the traction control allowed me to race with just 7psi in the tyre without the thing launching me off completely, so that was a godsend. Dunlop Ntech slicks have a very hard construction, so believe it or not, it’s quite hard to detect a puncture at first.

I was just pleased not to crash on the flat tyre, or the oil/cement dust combo created by a sidecar. The amount of times those things spill their guts and we have to ride through their oil annoys me intensely. I’ll accept a crash of my own doing, but throwing twenty-plus grand’s-worth of bike down the road because of that just isn’t acceptable. It delays the race program too.

I know that solos occasionally have the odd blow up, but not with the regularity, or the amount, I’ve seen from the sidecars in the 20-odd years I’ve been racing.

Sunday 22nd May

Scored a 7th and 8th in our feature races. Not sure where I actually finished in my MRO Powerbike class as there were some superstock bikes in front of me and some BSB riders, who don’t score points. I managed to improve my times even more and did a best of 1:32.3 which I was well chuffed with. Best of all was the chance to ride on the super-fast GP circuit, which I think is one of the best in the world.

The sense of speed as you thread up and down through the trees is phenomenal and having such an incredible bike to do it on made the weekend one to remember and I left with a big smile on my face.

A big well done has to go to Mike Goodfellow and Barry Chapman who did all the winning and to Bemsee who the meeting like clockwork. A big thanks is due to Bruce, Paul and Nick from BMW Park Lane and all my friends and family for their support.

Next MRO Powerbike round: Silverstone 18/19th July