Brands Hatch GP race report
Talan Skeels-Piggins #83 (Thunderbike Sport)
There is something special about Brands Hatch, even more so when you have the chance to ride the GP circuit. Dropping down through Dingle Dell on a sweeping arc then heading back up to its blind crest and right hander is one of my favourite sections of any track. We are fortunate to race with BMCRC as it is the only motorcycle racing club that gets to race the iconic GP circuit.
Test day meant instructor duties for myself. I enjoy the demands and the rewards of instructing, it also makes me think about what I actually do and improves my own riding. As the test day was on the Indy circuit, we focused mainly on the first three corners.
The race weekend was accompanied by muggy and close weather. A number of times it began to rain, but not hard enough to make the circuit wet, but enough to cause the surface to get slippery for a short period of time. There were lots of ‘cloud watchers’ popping out from the garages as race time came closer.
I was again on ‘Doris’, my 1997CBR600FV, as the GSXR600L1 was still at the mechanics waiting for the newly purchased engine to be fitted. Having raced the previous weekend and had gear shifting issues, we had changed the main control unit and electronic gearshift, hoping that was the main cause of gear selecting problems. There had been no issues during the test day, so we were hoping that the fault had been cleared.
In three of the four races I managed to get excellent starts and made eleven places on the first lap. I would then get past one or two more for the next three laps before ending up with a battle during the final laps with a rider that was nearly the same pace. The third race of the weekend began as the best one, a great start, straight into fast laps, catching and passing other races, then the gear selecting problems appeared. For a third of one lap I could not get out of 3rd gear, all the racers I had passed caught me up and overtook me. The next lap the same thing happened and on the final lap I couldn't get out of 5th gear. Up to that point I had shown that I was getting used to the handling characteristics of the bike whilst learning to trust the tyres and brakes. It seemed the shifter was getting very hot, so we drilled holes in the firing around the unit to increase airflow and hopefully get it cooler. The fourth race began as the third had finished, stuck once again in 3rd gear at the same corner, however, it did clear itself up and behaved for the remaining five laps, during which I was able to battle may way forwards through the traffic.
All in all an enjoyable weekend. Having had more time on the bike I am beginning to trust it and am able to push harder during the race. We will be looking into the electronics and finding ways to keep the shifter cooler with increased airflow. Next up is Oulton Park at the beginning of August, so hopefully both bikes will be ready and working perfectly.
Big thanks to the team who did an excellent job with myself and all the racers on the Talan Racing Team. Thanks again to our sponsors who allow us to get out there and compete on equal terms with the able bodied racers.
Race 1 Start 40th Finish 26th Overall (18th in class)
Race 2 Start 40th Finish 27th Overall (18th in class)
Race 3 Start 40th Finish 29th Overall (19th in class)
Race 4 Start 40th Finish 26th Overall (17th in class)
Andy Houghton #333 (Thunderbike Extreme)
The weather was kind to us this weekend and all the Thunderbike Extreme races took place on a dry, if not that warm, track.
The dry weather didn't stop there being an extraordinary number of crashes in my class this weekend. I got great value for money though as I managed to be a part of 6 race starts over the weekend instead of the normal 4 due to the number of red flags and race restarts.
The Brands Hatch GP circuit is a difficult one for me to get my head around. It's the only race of the year where the test day is on a different layout to the race days. This meant that the first time I got a look at the full GP track was in qualifying. Lucky for me my qualifying doesn't count for anything as I will always start from the back of the grid. Even so I built up my speed and over 8 laps of qualifying was circulating in the 1.44s which I was quite happy with.
When it came down to racing it was the biggest field that I have seen so far this year, probably partly due to the fact that we are now in mid summer and partly because everyone wants to race this track. The large field caused a lot of frustration for me as it was taking me a long time to get past some of the guys at the back of the field to get up to where I wanted to be. In fact I don't think I ever got quite up to where I wanted to be in any race over the weekend. This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy myself, battling through the pack for the whole race duration, I was having a fantastic time. I was very proud of some of my overtakes, whether it was going the long way round the outside of Druids or slipping up the inside on the last inch of tarmac going up the hill after Surtees, it was all rather exciting.
Although slightly frustrated that I never got a clear lap in all weekend due to battling the whole time and even on the last laps of the last race I still felt I could carry more corner speed through the high speed turns out the back of the circuit, I actually didn't fair too badly on my lap times showing an improvement to hit a 1.42.0 in the final race of the weekend.
It was great to see sponsors and friends turn out this weekend to watch us race and cheer us on. There was a fantastic atmosphere in the garage and the pit crew were awesome! Biggest respect of the weekend from my point of view goes to my team mate, Will, who picked himself up after a huge crash in testing and still made it on to the start line for every race.
Race 1 Start 40th Finish 29th Overall (7th in class)
Race 2 Start 39th Finish 28th Overall (6th in class)
Race 3 Start 39th Finish 22nd Overall (4th in class)
Race 4 Start 35th Finish 20th Overall (6th in class)
William Swift #117 (Thunderbike Extreme)
After the success of Castle Combe I arrived at Brands Hatch in Kent, a track I know well, with a spring in my step. We'd found a great setting for the bike and I felt extremely comfortable and I had a plan. Unfortunately that plan went completely out of the window at the start of the Fridays test day. A cold morning mixed with cooling tyres, and a steadier than normal pace on the last lap of the first session resulted in a heart breaking high-side at Clearways. I tried to cling on as I did at Snetterton but the forces involved were too violent. In doing so I broke two bones in my right hand and wrenched all the tendons and muscles in the wrist. Once the lovely Dr Rosie (back for a special one time appearance) had finished her tests in the med center I was shown the CCTV footage of the 'off'. It was quite spectacular to say the least. I luckily, landed flat on my back once I'd flown through the air and slid into the gravel. My Shark Race R Pro helmet and Held leathers did exactly what they were supposed to do and absorbed most of the impact. I escaped with a badly bruised hip and elbow and nothing else of note except for the hand. This was a serious problem as the right hand is quite important in motorcycle racing!
I immediately put my hand on Ice and set about working with the team to get the bike fixed. The plan was for me to qualifying on the Saturday morning if I was fit. Surprisingly bike was in rough but 'ok' shape. Considering it had gone end over end and slid for some considerable distance the R&G crash protection had completely saved its life. The carbon tail unit was badly smashed but with lashings of fiber glass repair agent it regained some of its strength. The bodywork was swapped for the spare set but the biggest problem was the smashed brake and clutch master cylinders. However, a quick distress call to Mike Burnside (BDS Bikers Discount store) later and the weekend was saved with the supply of a gorgeous pair of Accossato master cylinders. The other problem was my badly damaged leathers . As they wouldn't pass scrutineering I resolved to visit the fantastic and friendly, Get Geared in Leatherhead and purchase up a second race suit. Both of these companies helped me a great deal so I owe them both my thanks.
The bike was stripped and re-built by the Friday afternoon. A truly fantastic effort by the Talan racing team (Gareth, Les, Darren and Danny). It would therefore be down to my fitness come Saturday. After careful consideration I decided to test the waters during the qualifying session. I posited I'd know by the exit of the first corner if my hand would hold up and I'd be safe. Happily, despite the discomfort, it seemed I'd be able to 'ride around' this. I wouldn't be setting any records sadly but I could still participate and not be a danger to myself and others.
Race 1 and 2 on Saturday were extremely difficult and an exercise in endurance. The beacon at the end of my right arm continually demanding I stop. But despite this I finished both races and obtained my rookie signature for the day (my ultimate goal). I used both sessions to evaluate the bikes performance status and my own aches and pains and how they would hinder me going forward. After a good rest Sunday's races 3 was a far better showing. I one again had confidence in my bike & abilities and started to push from the moment the lights went out. My Honda SP2 is absolutely no slouch of the line and I got a lightning start and battled hard through the pack making up a handful of places. I was able to settled into a rhythm and began to set about the next group of riders. Sadly a 'Red flag' incident brought the race to a halt. Once sorted a full re-run was decided upon. This re-run followed a similar pattern but happily I got an even better start and managed to fend off my direct competition. Once again however a rider went down bringing out the red flags. It was however past 3/4 race distance so it was declared a result and I obtained my 10th and final Rookie signature. I didn't start race 4 due to a mechanical issue but rode back to the garages from the grid.
Considering the massive low point at the start of the weekend and to walk away with a completed Rookie licence and a half decent performance in race 3 I couldn't be more relieved. I must say massive thank you to the marshals and medics that helped scrape me off the track on Friday morning and got me back on track for Saturday morning. You're all absolutely fantastic and I/we couldn't do it without you. A special thank you to all our sponsors who make this possible.
Race 1 Start 36th Finish 39th Overall (11th in class)
Race 2 Start 38th Finish 38th Overall (11th in class)
Race 3 Start 37th Finish 28th Overall (8th in class)
Race 4 DNS