Cadwell Park Race report.
Talan Racing - Cadwell Park Race Report
NEWS: Andy Houghton secures 3rd place in overall standings for the 2017 Rookie Thunderbike Extreme Championship
Talan Skeels-Piggins #83 Thunderbike Sport
This weekend I was only competing on Saturday due to a commitment to the Land Speed Record attempt at Elvington in the Sunday. The record attempt was rained off so in hindsight I should have stayed at Cadwell.
The Friday ‘test day’ was spent instructing four pupils, one of whom was none other than my team-mate William. There were numerous spills (by other riders) due to the wet weather, so I focused on smooth riding and vision skills with the pupils.
Saturday was also a wet day, which is fine with me because I actually really enjoy wet races. Qualifying was quiet as I had a brand new set of wet tyres on, and the releasing agent used on the tyres can make them slippery to begin with. Building up the pace throughout the session I was able to find the areas that had grip and the areas that didn’t. Cadwell is a track which has different grip levels in different parts of the track, so you have to be very aware of where you are.
Starting at the back of the grid in the wet is fairly tricky. The spray from all the bikes creates a mist that you can barely see through, so caution is always the best option. Knowing the grip levels meant I was able to pick my way through the pack, and in the first lap I had weaved past 15 riders. I then got involved in a race long battle with #93. As a rookie he was doing really well, but after he overtook me on double waved yellow flags I decided to back off from the battle. If he couldn’t see those, he was obviously too tunnel visioned and who knows what he would do next. After the race he found out what he had done at the race office and was mortified to realise he had missed the flags. He apologised to me and learnt a valuable lesson. In the next race I managed a similar start but this time got past #93 and gapped him. This race was nip and tuck with #23 instead. We swapped places a few times before he got the better of me on the drive to the line. It was great racing and hugely enjoyable.
Many thanks to the crew and to all who support the team. Big congratulations to my team mates for their results as well.
Race 1 Start 42 Finish 18 (In class 12)
Race 2 Start 42 Finish 20 (In class 13)
Andy Houghton #333 Rookie 1000 Cadwell Park brought with it the final race in the Thunderbike Extreme championship. The points situation looked fairly settled in that I was likely to finish 3rd in the rookie championship. With this in mind I approached this race with a focus on preparation for next season, I planned to race in 2 classes, my normal Thunderbike extreme race and the Rookie 1000 race, which would give me some bike time on the bike I will be riding next year (my newly acquired Kawasaki ZX10r). This plan was scuppered somewhat when less than a week before the race weekend BMCRC changed the schedule to mean that both of my classes would be combined and would race at the same time on a split grid. Some important mathematics were performed and I worked out that unless the competitor sitting behind me in the championship won 3 out of the 4 races and finished 3rd in the other then I would not be caught for 3rd spot. As the two run-away championship leaders were well out of touch too, I decided that I could take the risk and not enter Thunderbike Extreme race. this would allow me, as I'd originally planned, to focus on getting some bike time on next year's machine.
After a steady build up getting to grips with the new bike on the test day, race day came on Saturday and so did the rain. By the bucket load! Lining up for the first race I had to crack open my visor as I was steaming up, the rain was that hard that it immediately soaked the inside of my visor! This made the race quite interesting as it added an extra dimension of not being able to see where I was going too well. In terms of results, Saturday was a day to forget for me, a combination of a new bike and the wet conditions meant that my confidence was not where it should have been but to put a positive spin on it it was all a valuable learning curve ahead of next season. The other positive that came out of Saturday was that my challenger for 3rd place in the Thunderbike Extreme Rookie Championship only picked up a 3rd in the 1st race, with me not racing in this category this weekend it meant that he would have to win all the other races in order to steal my podium position. After race 2 on Saturday I eagerly looked at the results, he had finished 4th! My 3rd place was confirmed!!!! I was absolutely elated to have achieved this and it completely brightened up an otherwise very dark day.
I enjoyed the racing on Sunday much more than Saturday. My lap times improved lap on lap through both races and by the very last lap of the last race I put in my fastest lap time which put me on par with a time similar to that I was doing on my old GSXR750, even though theoretically my new machine is much faster I was pleased with the progress I had made on the new steed over the weekend. There is certainly a great deal more speed to come.
This was my last race of the season. A very successful season which has seen me land a podium position in the championship. I am very grateful to all of the Talan Racing Team, our supporters and of course all of our awesome sponsors!
William Swift #117 Thunderbike Extreme
Having left the last round at Brands Hatch in a very good mental space I was itching to arrive at the legendary Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire. However, since then the challenge had been to restore my sick Honda SP2 to fighting fit condition. Having confirmed that both head gaskets were ruptured many questions were left unanswered. Chiefly, was the engine damaged beyond repair? If it could be saved, were the parts even available for the old girl? Could it be repaired in time? And, if it was 'dead' what was plan 'B'?... After a few stressful days however it turned out to be mostly good news. Importantly the engines two cylinder heads weren't warped from the overheating damage and could be fixed. With the help of the fantastic Honda SP1/2 forums, replacements parts were found hidden in sheds and workshops around the country. Huge thanks must be given to @Dave Higgins, Roger Ditchfield and all those who helped get the old girl back on track with, what felt like, moments to spare.
Cadwell Park is a favourite of many riders and for good reason. It's situated partly in a small, narrow valley, seemingly hidden away from the rest of the world, with a tiny ribbon of tarmac threading and undulating its way through overhanging tree lines at one end and up and over rolling green fields at the other. It's spectacularly fast, fiercely challenging and technical culminating in the famous 'Mountain leap'. A section where the best riders fly though the air as if able to break free from their earthly bonds. It's a truly spectacular sight and a must for all racing fans.
The weather forecast for the weekend was absolutely horrendous. The UK suffering gale force winds and torrential rain as a distant consequence of two Atlantic hurricanes. This was a problem..... for the other riders. Perversely, I couldn't have been happier with the conditions as throughout the season I've shown my best pace in wet/damp conditions. My riding style and machine characteristics seem sympathetic when the grip level deteriorates. It forces me to slow down, be smooth, relaxed and flow from corner to corner, always taking care not to startle the bike with my usual ham-fisted inputs. Modern wet tyres also offer an insane amount of grip and, providing you stay within their performance envelope, move around very predictably whilst communicating the amount of traction available. I'd consistently find myself powering out of corners with the throttle pinned to the stop and the front wheel clawing at the sky laughing like an idiot at the absurdness of the situation where a boat should have been more practical.
Practice went well on the Friday. The conditions allowing me to work on my lines and refresh myself on the course whilst taking care not to over stress the rebuilt engine. Everything was going to plan when, in the final session out on the back straight, the bike suddenly cut out under heavy load. My heart sunk, fearing that the engine had finally given up the ghost, and that our repairs hadn't been thorough enough. I managed to get off track and to the barrier without launching myself on the wet grass and glumly awaited the recovery van. Happily however once back in pits I discovered that the torrential amount of rain had made its way into the bikes electrics and had caused a short on the fuel pump relay. Once cleaned and dried the bike fired up first time. All was well... or so I thought.
Saturday morning started the same as Friday, Whilst everyone was checking the forecast for signs of improvement I was doing the exact opposite, hoping it would worsen. Qualifying went quickly and smoothly. All my work in practice culminating in 9th overall fastest time with room in the tank for a faster race pace.
I was very happy and relaxed knowing everything was set for race one. The bike, it turned out, had other ideas. As a I sat on the bike ready for the first race I thumbed the button to start the warm up process, the engine spun, but didn't bark into life. Dismayed and with only minutes until the start, we frantically started to pull the bike apart. Thinking it was a repeat of the water problem from Friday I immediately checked the fuel pump solenoid but it was bone dry having water proofed it the day before. I then started checking all the other connections. All were dry and with a sinking heart I could do nothing but watch my competitors start filing out onto the grid. It turned out that the fuel pump switch, although dry, had simply given up the ghost. A slight bulge in the plastic case being the only sign that something was amiss. The team then sprung into action trying to locate a replacement resulting in one closely matching part found in Honda dealer in Grimsby 45 minutes away. Now started a very different kind of race. To locate this part and get back to the track before race two. Thankfully with only minutes to spare Gareth and Gio came rushing back to the pits with the part in hand. It was rudely jammed into the bike and I was immediately sent out to form up on the Grid.
Race two was again in horrendous conditions but it was absolutely fantastic fun. It was possibly my best race experience to date. From my demoted grid position (having missed race one) I got an absolutely lightning start taking a number of places before the first corner. Any worries I may have had about the conditions melted away and were replaced with the urge to hunt down the other seemingly floundering competitors. It appeared that everyone else was moving in slow motion and I could pass anywhere pretty much with impunity. This felt absolutely amazing! The new super soft Continental Tires biting into the Tarmac seemingly oblivious to the water providing me with all the confidence I needed to attack. As the laps ticked by I got faster and faster. The track seeming to come to me. In the excitement I almost didn't see the checkered flag. I wasn't sure of my final position but I felt I'd ridden well and almost to my limit. When I returned to the pits and the team were applauding and I knew I'd got my first trophy. As it turned out I was 3rd Rookie. I was absolutely overjoyed. It was a great end to a difficult season and validation of the speed I believed I had. Interestingly, my lap times would have put me 2nd in class had I have started from my original qualification spot! Not starting that first race was a pain but this showed I could do it and set me up perfectly for race 3 on Sunday.
Sunday morning was damp but showed signs of drying up. There was a lot of discussion going on in the paddock about the correct tyre choice as the track was dry in places and wet in others. We decided that it would be better to destroy a set of wets as opposed to going out on slicks and risk dropping the bike. The likelihood would be that the track would come to those on slicks late in the race but hopefully by that point the guys on wets would have made up an insurmountable lead. The sighting lap proved this to be the correct choice and settled me for the start of the race. I got another blinding start from my now correct grid position. The Honda hooking up and drove off like an angry hippo. I could see that others were spinning and sliding and this was great news. I set about picking my way through the pack and it was almost relaxing as I knew I could pass pretty much unopposed. The mixture of ridiculously late braking and massive stomp out of the corners made any counter attack impossible. I picked my way back to 3rd position and found myself with some clear space ahead. I could however see 2nd place on the horizon. I could also see he was having a tricky time. He was faster than me in some sections but was sliding far too much in others, and with the dry line forming and the laps ticking off I pushed my tyres and set off in hot pursuit. With two laps to go I out-broke him on the downhill run into the Mansfield corner and immediately tried to put in a hot lap to put him out of range of a counter attack. Unfortunately, on the wet section under the trees, I went a foot off-line and on to the damp. My tyres were totally destroyed having been chewed up on the dry line around the track and offered practically no grip. I had a massive two wheel slide and I expected the bike to spin out from underneath me. I happily managed to hold it upright, but I did have to roll off the throttle. This allowed the competitor I'd just passed to retake 2nd place. Annoyed but relieved I set about catching him but with only the final lap to go and my tyres shot I begrudgingly had to settle for another 3rd place (which was still an excellent result).
Race four was dry and as I didn't have a setting for the conditions, having never done any dry laps around Cadwell I just had to try and chip away and get faster. Sadly my slick tyres weren't at their best and, if I'm honest, with my lack of confidence I just wanted to bring the bike back in one piece. I've lots of work to do to rebuild my dry pace because I should have been much faster. That's work for the off session for sure.
I was overjoyed to secure the team two trophies from the meeting and my first ever racing silverware. It was a massive team effort to get to this point with highs and lows along the way. It's also validation of my pace in this racing class. It's a boost I definitely needed. A massive thanks must be given to my mechanics, Gareth and Gio, who kept me level when it was all getting a little hectic on Saturday. So, I have to look at this weekend as a fantastic success overall. All three of the Talan Racing riders posted personal fastest times and had some great battles and if I'd not had the technical problem I could have possibly picked up three trophies. This is an excellent place to be going into the off season and a credit to everyone involved. I can't wait for 2018 season to begin.
It's with great thanks to McMillan Williams, Helen Clifford, Talan Skeels-Piggins and Talan Motorsport Racing for all their continued support throughout our 2017season. Without them we simply couldn't do what we do. This also goes for all our sponsors, Derek Rogers, GetGeared Surrey, Loz Staples Held, Motul, R&G, BDS Racing, Mike Burnside, and all my friends and family who support me. Love you all.