Donington Park - Classic Festival
7th - 9th August 2015

 if you are visiting this page via a search engine, please click here for the full website.

The Donington round of the Lansdowne was with the CRMC, it was their biggest meeting of the year with the feature race of the weekend being the Tom Wheatcroft Trophy, a invitation event open to any pre 86 machines.

Martin Jones had approached me to race one of his Honda RS500 GP machines in the Wheatcroft Trophy event. I had long yearned to ride such a machine, so I couldn't say no to his offer. Martin has two RS500's and Richard Parker was onboard the second; I had tested it a couple of weeks before and found after spending the last few years on display and being paraded there were some things that needed looking at before it wou'ld really be race ready, and I would be able to 'push' on it.

In the Lansdowne series I had a very comfortable championship points lead but if things went well this weekend I could potentially wrap up the title. But never one to count his chickens I thought I'd approach the meeting like any other until mathematically it was all over.

Friday was practice and first race for the Lansdowne with qualifying for the Wheatcroft at the end of the day. The weather was looking good for the weekend and by the time the Lansdowne qualifying was being called it was getting quite hot.

An uneventful qualifying saw me on pole with Duncan second and Mike Russell third, business as usual then. For this weekend we had decided to use Millie and save Mork for Goodwood in a few weeks time, the logic Mork is slightly quicker and has a fresher motor as Ian would like to try and get a good result at the Revival.

Before we knew it, race one was called, flag down and off down to Redgate for the first time, I felt confident of my pace but also knew I had to break away from the group so I could ride my own race and not get caught up in a brawl.

However it didn't go to plan as Duncan did his normal lightening start and led down towards Craner Curves for the first time, I wasn't messing about and passed him into the Old Hairpin as I knew his machine was mega quick and would get me on the straights. Now the plan worked and I led over the line for the first time, keeping my pace up I pushed hard and opened a 3 second gap by the end of lap 3. What helped me was the chasing pack were taking lumps out of each other, which is exactly what I hadn't wanted to get caught up in. By the end of the race I had almost 5 seconds over the line and a new lap record with a 1:22.06 also Chris Fermin finished second in front of Alex which helped the points tally.

Next up was qualifying on Martin's RS500 in the Wheatcroft, I was quite anxious as Martin wanted a good result plus the fact the bike was worth a fortune and was technically on paper, the best machine out there. No pressure then.

I wandered up to the garage and met up with Martin's team and discussed what was what with the bikes etc just as they called us up for the qualifying session. They started my machine first and it became clear something was wrong, fuel was pouring out of the bottom of the fairing and it was only running on two cylinders. Panic set in, fairings off, plugs out, float bowls off but they couldn't stop it flooding! Richard jumped in and said he would qualify on his 350 Yamaha and I could use the other RS, so there was a frantic scramble to swap transponders and make some numbers up, however the session was well underway by the time we made our way out on track.

'No pressure get some heat in the tyres and bang in a quick lap' I thought which is exactly what I did, thankfully I found some clear track and put it on Pole with a 1:14.39 with Ian Simpson second and George Hogton-Rustling third.

Ultimately, it turned out to be a small flake of paint from the inside of the tank jamming open the float needle valve and Martin's mechanic George soon had my RS running again but we needed to test it before the race on Sunday so booked it in for morning warm up on Saturday.

Next Day after early morning practice having a run round on the RS to check the issue was resolved, I could concentrate 100% on the Lansdowne with two races to play with. Race two was for me a carbon copy of the first race with the exception it was Mike Russell who was giving me a hard time for the first part of the lap but I managed to pull away again and control things with a smaller gap than race one crossing the line 2.4 seconds ahead of Mike and Alex third again. Something had gone amiss with the timing however, although I was quickest the sheets said I did a 1:18. 1 some four seconds quicker than race one, who knows that record will stand forever most people joked, more points but no big lady was singing just yet.

Later in the afternoon the sun was out and it was getting really hot for race three, also there had been a huge engine blow up in the classic sidecar race and Redgate was totally covered in cement dust with further oil trails at other corners. The sun was starting to get low in the sky and as we roared down into Redgate for the first time it was very difficult to see where the oil was. I struggled for a couple of laps to get my confidence and this resulted in me being enveloped by the chasing pack, Glen English was having a good race and Alex too was on the case, I felt like a wounded antelope being mauled by a pack of hyenas. I managed to shake Glen off on the last lap and was right on Alex's back wheel as we approached the final chicane for the last time, I out braked him but run slightly deep into the chicane forcing me to run wide on the exit.

I made a school boy error and didn't slow up mid corner, shift back another gear and make Alex run round the outside and he did a great job pulling a tighter exit and out dragged me to the line. He was shaking his head and jumping about even before he go to the line as he knew he had beaten me, I couldn't do anything about it other than laugh and enjoy the moment for him, he did really deserve it! Sunday brought a slight change in the weather, overcast and windy, no rain but it looked like it could at anytime in the morning. There was nothing to do until after the lunch break when it was the feature Wheatcroft Trophy race, then a one event gap and then the Lansdowne. This gave me a great opportunity to wander about and chat and see some of the fabulous machines that where on display at the event.

Martin was more nervous than I was as I rolled up in the garage before the main race, the bikes looked fabulous and sounded superb too. Then I thought about the race and the start and remembered the fact I hadn't practiced a start yet, getting a GP machine off the line isn't as easy as you might think and I needed a good start because the tyres on the bike without warmers would need a couple of laps to get any heat in them.

I managed a reasonable practice start on the warm up lap but I didn't want to give the clutch a hard life so it was going to be the race start for my first real go at it.

 

Flag down, loads of throttle, millions of revs and off we screamed down to Redgate and I managed to hole shot the start, it didn't last however as I bumbled round turn one Ian Simpson and Ant Hart screamed past me. Then into the old hairpin Dean Stimpson and George came by, then into McLean's Phil Atkins and a few more riders came passed, by the time I crossed the line I was in 8th or 9th place a long way behind the leaders.

'Calm down' I said to myself I knew I had the quickest bike out there but using the extra pace wasn't easy at this stage, I waited another lap to get more heat into the tyres, I had a few scary moments early on but by lap three I had gained my confidence I had enough grip to crack on but by now I was the whole length of the start/finish straight behind Ian and George who were battling it out for the lead. A few laps later I had them in my sights having passed the other riders in the chasing group but I had to time my pass on Ian and George carefully, as I didn't want to get caught up in their battle. Three laps to go I out braked George into Redgate then blasted passed Ian exiting Coppice, this gave me two straights to stretch a small gap before Craner etc where Ian was quicker than I was.

It worked out just right because the next lap we started to run into back markers this could have changed the outlook of the race if I was still battling with Ian. I hadn't actually ridden the bike for this length of time before, and was surprised by the brake lever coming back to the bar but I stayed out and crossed the line 2.5 second clear of Ian with George third.

 

I hadn't got much time before the final Lansdowne race so the prize presentation was a bit hurried and I had to run down to the awning where the Ripley boys where waiting patiently with Millie. I was a little knackered and my right arm was pumped up from the brake, so I didn't know quite how it was going to go in the last race.

I needed a good start and try and repeat race one or two, Millie was so up for it and roared off the line like a rocket, I think she knew I needed a helping hand in this one. I quickly opened up a nice gap and could see the chasing group knocking lumps out of each other, all I had to do now was to keep up the pace and remain nice and consistent to the flag. As I started the last lap Rob who is my lap board signaller put P1 2015 which told me I had won the Championship if I stayed where I was 'no pressure Rob' I told him as I passed the board.
I kept going and crossed the line 2.5 seconds clear of Alex, Duncan and Mike having their own battle. We were all naturally elated at the result, 76 points lead, and mathematically only 75 points up for grabs at Snetterton - Alex who is currently in second place in the Championship can't beat me even if he wins all the remaining races and I don't score any, so the large lady is singing and how lovely she sounds!

Actions shots: Sport-Pics.co.uk

The final event for the weekend was great; Richard and I paraded round behind multi World Champion Freddie Spencer on another RS500 Honda, it doesn't get much better surely?

 

A massive thanks to the Ripley Land team and Ian Garbutt for a great weekend's racing and a fabulous year - oh I forgot, see everyone at Snetterton.

 

Also a big thanks to Martin Jones for the chance to race a great machine, one I have wanted to ride for years now, well that's another box ticked.

Upcoming Lansdowne Events:

October 2/3/4 Snetterton 300 4 races CRMC