European Classic Endurance
Motorland Aragon 28th October 2017

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Aragon was the last round of the Championship and to date this season we had experienced terrible luck with engine reliability so everyone had their fingers crossed we would end the year on a high.

 

Alf and Terry had rebuilt the engines and were experimenting with a new idea, top secret apparently but as long as it worked I wasn't too worried. Alf also had a 'surprise for the riders' as he described it but we would have to wait to see it, there was the clue.

We arrived at the circuit late on Thursday afternoon and set up in the garage we were sharing with Team Neate and SCERT, what a great big family style.

 

John Neate had arranged for the series photographer Jonathan to take some photos of all the British teams in the event, so we all wheeled out the various machines and lined them up in the pit lane.

Quite an impressive line up it was too.

After that we got on with the setup. The signalling box is always an important thing to get right and this was our, the riders, surprise.

Alf had splashed out and bought an all singing all dancing illuminated board that the signalling staff could communicate with the riders.

Being new kit we were a bit fingers and thumbs working out how to set it up, there was the issue of erecting it. Well after much head scratching we sorted it out and it looked very smart, let's see how it would work though!

 

Technical inspection next, bikes clothing and finally signing on riders and collection our arm bands.

It was forecast to get windy around lunchtime but at least it wasn't raining, however in the wind it was quite cold so we hoped it wouldn't affect the bikes too much. Me and Johnny took both bikes out for the first 15 minutes then Mick finished off the session. Alf had done his normal terrific job and the bikes were bob on.

I thought I would go out in my session first on the T bike then pit and have a run on the race bike as I hadn't tried that yet.

I settled in to a quick pace within a couple of laps but the wind was tricky, in certain sections of the track you would blown out wide off line then others it would help the bike round the turns, it was the fact it was so blustery, not being constant that was causing the biggest problem and everyone was whining about it.

The race bike felt good but I preferred the T bike and posted a reasonable time, however Gregory Fastre was flying and on provisional pole.

Johnny and Mick did a great job in their sessions but the wind was definitely causing issues but we were looking good for the start.

For the second session later that afternoon the wind was still blowing hard but I decided to get out and see what I could do. Even though I didn't feel 100% confident with the conditions I managed to bang in a stonking time of 2:06.13 half a second quicker than Fastre's time to grab pole. The team were chuffed, me too TBH.

Mick and Johnny both improved and when the combined sheet came out we were confirmed on pole, then Team Edgley and Phase One third.

As I was feeling by now, very suited with the bike and happy with the settings I decided not to go out in morning warm up and leave the available time for Mick and Johnny to practice and get their eye in for the race.

For me it can almost be a negative if I go out in warm up and encounter a problem or have a moment, I know what I can do on the bike after qualifying so sometimes if there is nothing to test I'm happy to leave the bike in the garage.

There was a small issue with the charging system on the bike so Alf made the decision to fit the old generator instead of the new compact/light weight one we had being using in practice. No big problem as we had used the previous generator many times and it would be fine.

We thought it would be the best strategy to get me out on the bike first and get a good position with a decent length session. Then hand over to Johnny then Mick and see where we were at that point in the race.

Slighting lap done we all formed up on the grid and waited for the warm up lap and the race start. It's always a great time on the grid to wish each other well for the race and have a giggle, somehow to settle our nerves.

5 minute then 1 minute boards went up, green flag and off we ran across the track for our warm up lap. The bike fired up instantly and my practice start was a flyer. Re-forming on the grid again we were soon running back over to the bikes again, this time the engine wouldn't fire up, after what seemed like an age I noticed the kill button was in the off position, bu$$er. Blasting off into turn one I was almost mid pack, not that great from securing pole position.

'Keep calm' I thought as I knew I had pace on my side and the race is four hours not four laps.

It's a good time in the early laps to bag some slower riders or find riders taking their time warming tyres etc so I did a lot of passing coming from 15th  to 4th on the opening lap but the two Phase one bikes had a big lead with Team Force in third, the following lap I passed the Force bike and could see Simmo way in the distance. Keeping my head down I took another two laps to catch Ian and then set off after Mike Dickinson on the #3 bike, two more laps and I was on his tail quickly passing him. I could see my signal board showing I was leading but by then we were amongst the back markers and maintaining consistency was a problem.

I had also been having gear-changing issues with it jumping out of gear and jumping though from 3rd to 5th, which unsettled me somewhat.

There was oil on the gear lever too all of which meant I couldn't match my qualifying times but I was still fastest on track and by the end of my session I had a decent lead to pass on to Johnny. He did a great job handing over a good second place to Mick.

Rupert was on timing and had worked out our strategy, he thought Team Neate who where leading would pull away if we continued with our rider schedule. So he asked me would I be prepared to do more sessions than normal as I was lapping quicker than Johnny or Mick.

Both  Phase One machines went out ironically on the same lap and Team Force as well, these old Endurance machines can be fickle, but we know that anyway, and simply getting them to the end of the race is an achievement.

So I did another session then Johnny with me again to get the bike to the finish. Johnny pushed hard and we were still in second place when I got on the bike to take it to the finish but well over a minute down, Team Neate had to do a 'splash and go' so they would loose time but they were also lapping at a similar pace. I saw on my signal board -78 seconds, when I first got on the bike, then when they pitted it dropped to -35. It was a huge gap to close in one session and I pushed as hard as possible yet wanting to finish for Alf, but second was where we finished. And very happy we were to finish.