Henderson R1 Cup: What a brilliant weekend at Donington Park's MotoGP

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Wow, what a weekend that was!

Scott Redding gave us something to cheer about, winning the 125cc Grand Prix and the Yamaha R1 Cup got to follow the still-warm tyre tracks of Valentino Rossi, as the Henderson Yamaha R1 Cup showed up at the British Grand Prix to appear in two support races.

There was something different about the atmosphere in the Yamaha R1 Cup this weekend. Our two races were a bit of fun, really, as they don’t count towards the main championship, so everyone was more relaxed and chatty than normal.

Instead of living in our big, pristine white awning like we do in British Superbikes we were crammed into one end of the big shed that serves as Donington Park’s Exhibition Centre, so the unfamiliar environment and the fact that we were packed in like sardines, literally brought everyone together and it was the best atmosphere I’ve experienced all year, especially as lots of the rider weren’t going off to race other classes.

We also saw four new riders join us for Donington: Tony Rainford, Jim Hodson, Co-Ordit Racing’s Pete Bradshaw and Psycho Racing’s Tom Luton, who all brought an extra spark to the Yamaha R1 Cup circus.

Instead of being under the control of MSVR, the BSB organisers, all of the support races were run by Dave and Bernie Stewart from the new Thundersport GB club.

They used to run Bemsee and their organisation was as brilliant as ever, given the tight schedule we had fitting in around Rossi and his mates.

We even got four MotoGP tickets each and a race program, which is a lot more than we get at British Superbikes, which makes a big difference.

I’ve raced at Bemsee for the last few years as well as for a long stint during the late 80s/early 90s and it was like coming home again.

For our Friday evening practice we rode our Yamaha R1s in the sunshine, which I’m sure is the first time this year!

We shared the track with the GSX-R Cup and I got to have a couple of laps playing with fellow road tester, Chad (Adam Child) who stuck his GSX-R600 on pole. Good boy!

But then as seems to be the norm on Yamaha R1 Cup race days, it pissed it down.

I lined up in 12th spot on the grid out of 21 starters and proceeded to wobble around in the first of the two races. Donington Park has zero grip in the wet, as James Toseland will testify.

It’s hard to single out the worst corner because they’re all a slippery as ice, suffice it to say riding in these conditions was awful and it was just a case of holding your breath for the entire race and hope you come out of the other side in one piece.

Race one, which kicked off at 5.30pm on Saturday night, was dominated by local John Kirkham, ahead of ex-supermoto ace Sam Warren and Sean Emmett.

It was also good to see regulars Steven Cusick, Neal Garside and Kyle Kentish relish the conditions and score decent top 15 points too. I ended up finishing in 10th spot, my best result of the year to date.

Race two was run in equally poor conditions and it was getting dark too, just to add to it, since it wasn’t until 7.30pm on Saturday night until we hit the starting grid.

It was another case of just staying upright and I finished in ninth in a race dominated again by Kirkham. The slippery track caught out the best of them too, like ex-BSB rider Gary Mason and Sam Warren.

Despite the race day weather this was easily the best Henderson Yamaha R1 Cup for me so far for results and all-round enjoyment.

Next weekend’s Mallory race will signify the half-way point in our season and the finale of the Spring Cup.

After that we get stuck into the Autumn Cup for the final six rounds of the championship, so it’s not too late to get in touch with Rob McElnae if you fancy a go yourself.

See you at Mallory.

Race 1 result:

1. Kirkham 2. Warren, 3. Emmett, 4. J Kennedy 5.Etheridge, 6. Mason, 7. Coates, 8. Nutt, 9. Bishop 10. Neeves

Race 2 result:

1. Cooper 2. J Kennedy 3. Emmett 4. Etherdige 5. Coates 6. Wilson 7. Nutt 8. Shoesmith 9. Neeves 10. Cusick.