Bonhams Lansdowne British Historic Championship
Round 1 - Pembrey - 19th / 20th April 2014

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Pembrey was the first round of the 2014 Lansdowne series, run with the CRMC it was going to be interesting to see where I would fit in with the regular runners in the field. I' tested the bike at Donington a few weeks before and come away with a good feeling and felt I would be on the pace but until you're surrounded by your peer group I had no real idea how I would get on. There was a test day on the Friday so we could carry on with the changes we had started at Donington and more importantly measure myself directly with the competition.

Arriving Friday morning at the circuit the team was all set up and ready to go, Ian (team owner) together with his grandson Oliver and both Steve & Rob (mechanics) all made us fell very welcome.

The weather was good so right from the off I could push hard and see what was possible on the bike, it was juddering round the long left hand bend where you cross the track to get in to the paddock and again into the next right hander, I've experienced this before here but it was limiting how quick I could enter these sections and if we could find a solution - happy days!

The day went well, Steve and Rob worked hard on the bike swapping and changing settings until I found a setting that worked best. The lap times were good too as I was close to the lap record on several laps and there was still more to come.

 

It was great to see so many old friends and having the time to wander round and chat.

The forecast for the weekend was good for Saturday but colder on Sunday with the chance of rain in the afternoon so I was looking forward to the first race in the morning.

All action photos: Russell Lee

Originally there was no qualifying just a 10 minute practice session first thing however things changed and the session was now timed, ironically this suited me as I could directly compare my times against the competition.

Things went well and I followed Mike Russell round for a few laps early in the session to gauge the pace, I passed him after a couple of laps and pushed on to see where it took me. The team were suited as I managed to secure pole for the first race.

 

Race one was always going to be interesting because I had no idea how I was going to get the bike off the line not have practiced a race start yet. I wasn't too bothered as I didn't want to lead the race for a few laps so I could see how the other guys actually raced.

Anyway, flag down and off we roared into the hairpin for the first time. Looking at the time sheet it looked like it was going to be a four horse race between Mike Russell, Alex Sinclair, Duncan Fitchett and myself - and so it was to be.

 Lap one Alex was first with Duncan on his heals and Mike in pursuit with me taking a watching brief in fourth.

I felt very comfortable following them round for a few laps but as it was on a six lap event I couldn't waste too much time simply watching.

These guys were flying so I made my move round the long left hander passing Alex and passed Mike into the next right hander.

Duncan was next and I passed him on the brakes into the hairpin however he fought back passing me so I once again passed him on the brakes into the hairpin.

This time I pushed hard for a couple of laps and broke the tow and help on to take the win. A great start to the weekend but we had another race later in the afternoon so prepared the bike for that. Everyone in the team was made up with the result and to be honest, I was too!

 

Race two - flag down again and this time I was third behind Duncan with Alex leading. I wanted to get to the front and try to pull away from the off and control the race from there.

However coming onto the back straight I had a massive highside almost crashing, this allowed the group to pass and pull away. It took me a couple of laps to get my confidence back and catch the group.

I caught Mike first who was having issues with a loose handlebar, then as I caught Duncan going through the flat out Woodlands curve the bike wouldn't go into top gear.

I tried several times and initially thought the primary belt had snapped but then it went in gear, but I lost a huge amount of ground. I saw my pit board and I had two laps to close the gap and make my pass, as we started the last lap I was up behind Duncan so passed him round the outside round the long left hander and was now up behind Alex. I had only one chance so lunged under him as we went into the Brooklands Hairpin for the last time, to his credit he let the brakes off and tried to lean on me but years and years of Supersport racing have sharpened my elbows well.

Head down and I ran over the line to take the race two win, it was closer this time but in my hard charging had meant I had broken the class lap record.

Ian and the team once again were chuffed, me too, and at the prize giving later that evening I was described as 'the new comer' - it's been a long time since I heard that for sure!

 

Sunday brought a weather change, the sun had gone, the wind was up and it was very cold. I had a new rear tyre fitted as the old one wouldn't have made another two races at the pace we were running plus now it looked like it would rain a new tyre would work much better, I had the chance for a couple of laps to bed it in and then we were ready for race three.

Flag down on race three and I made a poor start ending up in fourth place coming out the hairpin for the first time, I knew I was learning about how the other riders were riding but they were learning where I was making my time up too. This time I wanted to get to the front quickly and try to clear off so far the plan wasn't working but I passed Mike into Esses for the first time and then passed Alex going into Honda for the first time, this left me right on the heals of a hard charging Duncan.

The next lap I dove under Duncan into Brooklands to take the lead but he re passed me as we went down to the hairpin again. Duncan was really trying but this time I got a terrific drive out of Brooklands and out dragged him into Woodlands.

He had another go into the hairpin but I held him off this time and I pushed very hard for a couple of laps and managed to break the tow to take another win! My efforts to break away helped me once again to break my own lap record - result.

 

As lunch time approached the heavens opened and it was clear our last race would be wet for sure, as I had won all the races so far I had built up a healthy points lead so I discussed with Ian about settling for a lower place without the worry of crashing out, he agreed so as we started race four I was prepared to let everyone fight it out in front of me and let me pick the pieces up at the flag. But I made my best start yet leading into the hairpin so I quickly decided to try and stay there and make myself as big as possible in the corner and make everyone work really hard to pass me. I expected as I had little wet practice on these tyres that the group would soon pass and pull away but they didn't.

I knew they were close as I repeatedly saw front wheels appear alongside me but my tactics of arriving at the corner first, then slowing the pace and driving out of the corner hard seemed to be working. As we were about to start the last lap Mike passed me into Honda but I out braked him into the hairpin, then Duncan came round the outside into Brooklands, he was right on the edge and had a big twitch mid corner.

I backed off a little thinking it could all go wrong if I was too close if he went down but he managed to keep it all together so I followed him into Honda and hoped to get a good drive onto the start straight and out drag him to the line.

It almost worked but I ran out of time as we ran to the line, he won be a few hundredths of a second but hey I was second and it was still a great result as I initially was going to settle for fourth place to start off with!

A fabulous weekends racing, pole position, three wins and a second place plus a new lap record it doesn't get much better than that. I will not be sitting on my Laurels however I fully understand it's a long series with 28 races and only 4 gone so far, its going to be 'points make prizes' kind of year.

 

Next race Silverstone 10/11th May, see you there?

May 10/11   Silverstone Int. BMCRC
May 24-26  Oulton Park BMCRC
                    - Sunday - no track action
Jun 21/22     Castle Combe NG Racing
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