Bonhams Lansdowne British Historic Championship
Round 4 - Castle Combe - 21st & 22nd June 2014

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It isn't very often I get the chance to race at Castle Combe in fact I've only ever raced there about six times in 33 years of racing, and as a result I didn't feel as confident as I normally would have done, this together with knowing that it's Duncan's favourite and local circuit so he was the man to beat here.

 

It was also a two day meeting which is rare at Castle Combe but additionaly there was no test day on the Friday which I could have really done with.

However we were to get three races, two on Sunday and one on Saturday together with free practice and qualifying.

We arrived on Friday evening, the team were set up and all ready to go in the morning, the weather was forecast was looking good so I felt a bit more confident for a result.

The circuit used to be very quick but over the years they've placed three chicanes in to slow you down approaching the very quick corners but there are still some quick sections there.

 

Going out in our free practice on Saturday morning I quickly got into the grove and put in some respectable times, I had forgotten quite how bumpy the place was and the classic machines don't have very good suspension compared to the modern bikes.

I softened the rebound damping on the rear units but having no adjustment on the front forks had to settle for whatever feel I ended up with and as it turned out, it wasn't too bad in the end.

Qualifying soon came around, and I went out mid pack so that as I got up to full pace I would be towards the front of the main group and hopefully get some clear track.

 

What I hadn't taken in to account was just how quickly I would catch the back of the group again resulting in almost constant traffic.

 

Luckily I managed to do just enough to get second quickest with Duncan on pole and Mike Russell third then Alex Sinclair in fourth completing the front row.

 

All four of us were over a second under the lap record, in fact Duncan later in the weekend mentioned that he could normally win round here on a 1:23 but now a 1:21 was needed just to make the front row.

It was very warm as we lined up for the first race in the afternoon and it was having an effect on the carburation, as it gets warm Millie tends to be a bit 'woolly' as you come on and off the throttle, but it wasn't worth the gamble on jetting down without any practice at this temperature.

 

Lights out and we all roared away towards turn one, it's a long way there and Duncan was out of the trap like a hare being chased by a pack of dogs.

 

Mike and Alex also passed me before the braking point.

 

Knowing I couldn't let Duncan get a lead I did a bit of danger braking to get up behind him before the first chicane.

It worked and we soon broke the group and opened up a reasonable lead as we battled it out at the front.

Swapping the lead several times each lap the race was shaping up to be a real gem.

Duncan would be able to pass me on the long straight sections and I would bag him in the slower sections.

I kept an eye on my pit board and as we started the penultimate lap I pushed hard and passed him towards the end of the lap hoping to gap him before the long start/finish straight and then hold him off until the line.

It was all going to plan until we came to the final chicane were we caught a couple of back markers, managing to pass one of them before the chicane I didn't realise how close the corner was and almost ran into the back of the second rider.

With everything squeezed as hard as I could and rattling down through the gears I just scrubbed off enough speed not to hit the back marker.

However, as I did it stalled the motor so as I exited the chicane the engine was dead.

 

Duncan almost ran into the back of me and had to take to the grass to avoid me but I had to bump start my engine and when the dust settled I was a couple of seconds behind him as we crossed the line to start our last lap.

 

I broke the lap record trying to close him down but ran out of time before we crossed the line to take the flag.

A great race and it had the large crowd on their feet, Mike Russell came over the line in third place but on the rundown lap his engine seized and put him out of contention for the rest of the weekend.

 

Over night Steve and Rob fitted a new front tyre so I had a few laps in the morning to bed the tyre in before race two, when they are new the leading edge of the tyre roll up and it gives a 'loose' feeling so I cut the tyre 'rolls' off with a shape knife.

 

Race two came around and we all lined up again on the grid, I was determined to get Millie off the line better than race one, hold her at 7,000, lights out – full throttle and slip the clutch away, yes I know the theory but once again I was passed by several riders on the run to turn one. "Don't get mad get even" I thought and lunged under a few riders to get on the rear of Duncan and Mike before the first chicane.

 Mike was flying on a borrowed machine but it was ineligible for the class so I didn't have to worry about his points tally but he was racing and I didn't want him to get in the way of me chasing Duncan down. I soon bagged him into Tower corner and set off in pursuit of Duncan.

 

Duncan was riding really well and I had to pull out all the stops to catch him, this time when I passed him he stayed behind me so assumed he was watching my lines etc. I pushed hard and opened up a small lead but as we started lap four I looked back and Duncan wasn't there, in fact I could see someone but it wasn't Duncan and was way back, I had almost seven seconds lead!

As it transpired his drive belt snapped and he was out of the race. I eased back on the throttle and strolled home with a comfortable lead.

 

With Duncan's belt snapping and Mike's engine going this helped my points advantage no end, and I stretched my lead even more, in a way it made up for my crash at Silverstone where I missed two races.

 

Race three Duncan got his drive belt sorted, Mike had got to grips with his borrowed machine and young Alex was now getting to grips with the circuit too, it looked like a real showdown.

Lights out and I bu$$ed the start up completely, the engine bogged and I was down in fifth or sixth as we arrived at the first corner, I decided to go up the inside of everyone and make sure I passed as many people as possible before turning in.

It worked but as a result I was slow going round and out of the corner knowing this I drifted wide making anyone trying to go round the outside have to throttle back.

 

Duncan once again had the hole shot and was off and running but I was uber determined to catch him asap.

In fact I caught him before the end of the lap and passed him into turn one for the second time. Millie was going great, I felt loads more confident of running at a quicker early pace and we both opened up a small gap from the chasing pack.

Coming to end of lap four I had a bit of luck with a back marker and managed to open a gap between Duncan and myself.

A couple of laps later and Duncan couldn't bridge the gap and as a result Alex caught him and set a new lap record in the process, he was dogging him, which left me to run my own race and tick off the laps before taking a second win for the weekend.

The team were all chuffed my included, I had come to Castle Combe with some doubts about how the weekend would map out, not 100% sure of the circuit, knowing Duncan was so quick round here, but it all came good on the day.

 

A terrific weekend, great weather, great racing and a bit of luck Oh did I mention some really nice cider…

Thanks to everyone at Ripley Land Racing for putting a great machine under me and supporting me 100%. Next round of the Lansdowne Championship is at Cadwell Park July 19th and 20th, love to see everyone there.

Jul 19/20 Cadwell Park BMCRC

Aug 8-10 Donington Park CRMC - Classic Motorcycle Festival
Oct 4/5    Brands Hatch Indy BMCRC - Last race double points

I hadn't seen this old girl for some 20yrs, not sure whether she recognised me or not!