Pouty's Bemsee Minitwins Racing Adventure Blog 3 - Brands With A Bump
I had a week or so to relax and let it all digest before I had to focus on getting everything ready for the next race meeting. I tried to switch off from racing but it was buzzing in my head. I had learnt more about me and riding a bike in one race meeting than 10 years of trackdays; this was another level.
My starts were good, I had a good system for learning the circuit, nailed some corners well and understood my weak points to work on. I could keep pushing all the way through the race fitness wise and I’d improved 5 seconds a lap over the weekend on my Friday practice times. I’d been bitten by the racing bug good and proper and now like everyone else was asking the age old question, “how do I go quicker?”
Matt at OMC pulled the leaking shock out of Haggis and I went to see Rob Witty at PDQ with it so a massive thank you to him for rebuilding my shock at such short notice. I rebuilt the forks with Putoline oil as they were losing rebound damping when hot, Rob suggested trying this oil before anything else as he’d had good results previously. To ensure top braking (and to complete exhaust the budget) I ordered some performance friction brake pads at £80 a set. Well why not?
I am humbled now to write that Rich bought a generator for us to use, PJ bought me a 46 tooth rear sprocket and some exhaust gaskets, Simon at OMC bought me a pair of tyres, 40 litres of super unleaded, some food and some entry fees and we were off racing again!
Friends and support like this means more than words can convey.
Before I knew it I was packing the van again and had a much smoother journey this time. My van was still broken from the Snetterton trip which meant lifting the bonnet and hot wiring it to get it running, very embarrassing when you stall in traffic because you’re daydreaming about podiums! The money for fixing the van was going into racing. The weather for the weekend was changeable and I was convinced I’d need a rubber ring and arm bands for the races!
I set up just before it rained that evening at 11pm. I dined extravagantly on a bowl of cereal for dinner before spending another minus-something degrees sleep in the back of the van with my clothes on. Mental note to self: need someway of heating the van at night!
Friday morning practice delayed due to thick fog and I feared the worse for the weekend’s weather but since I was only doing the afternoon sessions to save money this situation didn’t affect me.
It was great to be in the paddock again, the travelling family you were now a part of, familiar faces to chat to and the non-stop swapping, borrowing and lending that goes on to get everyone by.
Seb Kelly, my instructor from the ACU day agreed to tutor me on a couple of sessions and said everything was going great; I was smooth and a joy to watch. Excellent ego boost!
“Seb, don’t spare my feelings”, I said, “I NEED to go quicker.”
“OK Paul, you’re a pussy at Paddock and you’re gonna get eaten alive at Clearways”!
There it was, my lap diagnosed simply. Least I knew what to focus on!
Friday night we walked the track, first time in my life I’d done it and it was a revelation, all the things you thought you knew looked so different! Anyone who’s never walked down paddock hill and up to druids needs to do it one day, it’ll make you puff!
Saturday morning dawned with clouds and wind but sunshine, we were lucky and dodged the showers all day. Qualifying went ‘bandy’ because the running schedule had changed but I didn’t know. There I was sitting relaxing when a head poked in the awning saying we were out in 10 minutes and I didn’t even have wheels in my bike!
Rich, & Bonkie (on the team for brands) got me fuelled and wheeled out in no time while I jumped into my leathers. Then we rushed to the session but were late and I wobbled round for 4 laps on brand new, cold tyres.
I was now 8th on the grid. The dummy flew out the pram and the organisers let me out in another practice session to get track time but they wouldn't change the grid I would stay 8th.
8th was a pain but not the end of the world; I’d be to the far right on the track (not bad for a falling right handed turn 1), second row out of a grid of 23. The start line at Brands is on a slope facing uphill which added another dimension to the mix.
I was determined to get away well as I knew Brands and was confident of a good finish. I got a good start into 4th, then spent a couple of laps to pass for 3rd but the leading two were well away. I got my head down and pushed and crossed the line side by side with 2nd, I missed out by 100ths of a second: I couldn’t believe it after the shoddy preparation there’s second place, a gnat’s whisker, and then me!
Brian Nicholson (track day instructor, owner of BN Race Science and ex-racer) was along for moral support Saturday which was brilliant. He has a wealth of knowledge with his years of racing experience and I was chuffed to bits that he was there to help me!
We made a little change to the rear shock for race 2 and nattered about race-craft (which looked a lot like me standing there agog and him being polite listening to my old pony).
Race 2 went in the blink of an eye; I started 3rd and finished 3rd which was good day’s work, smooth as you like and 2 trophies! The front 2 were a second a lap quicker than me so I’d have to risk pushing on a bit more to be up with them tomorrow.
In stark contrast to Saturday, Sunday went to shit with some haste.
First lap of morning warm up I crashed at Graham Hill bend. I hadn’t done anything differently, first left hand bend of the circuit cold tyre and plonk, I was dumped on my ear.
This made a mess of Haggis and we had a 3 hour rush to get it ready for the race. While I was annoyed at the time it was another great learning curve for me and racing. I now knew exactly how another rider feels in this situation - in case you’re wondering they want to be left alone! They’ll come to you when they feel like it.
Rich & Bonkie did me proud and got the bike ready for the race while we continued to dodge the showers all around us and got out on the grid.
The sighting lap was a shake down and I pulled up on my spot with a bike that steered better to the right than it did left! Not an ideal thing to have in your mind! I tried to focus on the lights and racing, got a bit bullied on the first lap while I gained confidence, got my head down to finish 4th. When I got back Rich asked how the clutch was, yeah ok, it was dragging on the line, not surprised he said and he had the whole mount bracket in his hand, the mount bolt had snapped and it had fell off!
In Race 2 I started 4th and finished 6th. I held 4th until a last lap mistake, at my new least favourite corner Graham Hill, let 2 guys by.
“Let’s put it in the van a go home” I thought and be glad we’re all in one piece.
The drive home in the van with 2 trophies on the dash and a smashed up bike in the back was a mixed bag of emotions. I had high hopes for a win at Brands but it wasn’t to be, and the wise racers I spoke to said that everyone has their weekend, this just wasn’t mine.
The amazing support I’ve received at race meetings has taken me completely by surprise, lots of people said they’d come and see how I was getting on but I never for a moment thought they actually would!
A massive thank you to everyone who helped and supported at Brands and comtinues to help fund-raising to keep the dream alive, if I list them here I’m in real danger of missing someone out!!
I’m sure you all know who you are and should know how grateful I am.
Next round for me is Oulton Park; a circuit I have dreamt about racing at for as long as I can remember.
If you fancy supporting you’re always welcome, it’s the 4th & 5th June in the beautiful Cheshire countryside and crossed-fingers the sun will have his hat on.