Club racer report: 5

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We’re covering the fortunes of club racer Nigel Baines as he competes in both the New Era and Wirral 100 championships, and his latest outing was the New Era Superclub round three at Oulton Park:

“This was one of two meetings at Oulton Park with New Era this year and I was looking forward to some good results due to this being the only track in the Championship that I had previous experience of. However, I’d only ever raced at Oulton in the Dry on three occasions and the forecast for Saturdays racing was heavy rain! True to form and following the wet start to the season, race day was a washout, but at least it was consistently wet with none of that damp rubbish. Qualifying was wet, Race 1 was wet and race 2 was wet, just.
After racing the spare/wet bike at Snetterton, I decided to change the wet wheels over and fit them to my No.1 bike for this meeting. Previous outings in the wet on this bike had not been good, but with a couple of tweeks to the rear suspension, I thought I’d give it a go in qualifying. For this, the 3rd round of the New Era Superclub Championship, we were again mixed in with the Honda Hornets and after just 4 laps in qualifying and only one half clear lap without traffic, I somehow qualified as 3rd F400 and 14th overall with a lap time of 2m19.91s (no wonder I only got 4 laps in at that pace!). The bike actually felt o.k, so I decided to stick with it as it’s a bit quicker than the spare bike.

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Race 1 and the Red Lights were lit! As they went out I dropped the clutch, careful not to wheelspin, but bogged down a bit instead and didn’t make the best getaway. I arrived at Old Hall in the middle of a frantic pack, with water spray everywhere, to find myself on the inside of Mick Gooding who was the 2nd 400. I thought about pushing through on the inside but there was a huge puddle at the apex of the first turn, so I decided to hold station only to have Mick sweep across, causing me to shut-off to avoid his rear wheel, which cost me drive out of the corner. I got passed by a couple of other 400’s including Paul Hobson before Richie Welsh also passed me on the run down to Island bend. It took me a couple of laps to really get into it, but by the end of lap 3 I had moved back up to 3rd and was closing on Paul Hobson who was in 2nd, but we were split by 3 Hornet riders. A couple of the Hornets got passed Paul before I passed both the other Hornet and then Paul at Shell Oils Hairpin on lap 5. By the end of this lap I had also caught the F400 race leader, Mick Gooding, who seemed to be slowing quite quickly as I passed him into the last corner, Lodge. I thought this was the last lap and I was going to cross the line to take the win, only to realise we had 1 more lap to go. I just kept my head down and pushed as hard as I dared, taking a quick look back out of Fulston’s Chicane to see a clear gap behind. Rode the last half a lap steadily and crossed the line for the win, punching the air with delight. Paul Hobson finished 2nd, Ian Cooper 3rd and Mick Gooding ended up in 4th.
As our second race approached, the rain stopped falling and with the stiff breeze, the track was drying rapidly. At this rate the track was going to be fully dry by the time we were due out so we decided to take the wets off and fit the dry wheels. Just as we’d managed this, the clouds started to gather again and within 5 minutes, the heavens opened and completely soaked the track again. We rushed to get the wets back on and then put the tyre warmers on to give them as much time as we could before the race. A frantic 30 minutes that we could have spent drinking tea! At least we got a wet race as opposed to a damp one though, so we knew the conditions well enough after race 1.

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I got off the line better for race 2 and slotted into 3rd early on, only to have the Championship leader, Nick Chadwick, pass me on the run down to Island bend, before he then passed Mick and another 400 to lead on lap 1. From then on, he just pulled away, leaving me to battle with Mick for 2nd place. For 3 laps I tried to pass him before eventually outbraking him at Lodge corner on lap 4 and making it stick over the start/finish. I then found myself battling with 3 Honda Hornets in a bid to pull away from Mick and was constantly changing positions with them but couldn’t get clear. Luckily, I’d managed to pull out enough of a gap to finish a comfortable 2nd, picking up good points for the Championship.
Oulton turned out to be a much better meeting than Snetterton and was probably the best meeting I’ve had since I started racing in 2002. I set a best lap of 2m10.95s (some 9 seconds faster than my qualifying lap), won a set of Pirelli/Metzeler tyres for winning race 1 and another set of tyres for being the first 400 home in race 2 on Pirelli/Metzeler tyres (Nick was running a different make of tyre) and also won a £50 voucher from A&R Racing for winning overall on the day. The 45 points I scored has moved me up from 5th to 3rd in the Championship and I have closed the gap on the leader, Nick Chadwick, from 45 points, to 35. Paul Hobson is 2nd, just 2 points ahead of me.

My next meeting will take me back to Anglesey for round 3 of the Wirral 100 Championship on Bank Holiday Monday, May 29th, where I will be hoping to increase my lead in the series. If the weather is good (you never know), then I will be pushing to challenge the existing Lap and Race Records at the circuit.”

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff