International Classic Grand Prix
Almeria 15th October 2017

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Almeria was the final round of the ICGP Championship and as I'd already won the Championship there was no pressure; it was now more about getting a clean sweep with 11 race wins for team TBR.

 

We arrived Thursday evening to find Ally setting up in the garage shared with Eric Saul the series organiser, he was pretty much sorted so after checking if he needed anything we cleared off back to our apartment for the evening.

There was a practice day on Friday with qualifying Saturday and two races on the Sunday, the weather looked like it was going to be kind to us, as Almeria is up in the mountains and can be quite grim if it was going to be poor conditions.

Thankfully the sun was out and not a cloud in the sky as we rolled out onto track for our first session, the bike hadn't been changed since Rijeka so it was more about finding a carburetion setup with the circuit being high in the hills. The gearing was a complete guess so we left Rijeka gearing on and it seemed spot on for most of the track however (as ever) there is always a slight compromise in the odd place. The bike felt good but was a little slow picking up out of a couple of turns, we were undecided whether it was gearing or carburetion so Eddie leaned off the needle and dropped in a smaller main jet for our second session.

Although the bike was quick in the mid range it was still not working, I didn't want to start using the clutch to pick up the revs I much preferred the drive I knew it could have so it was more head scratching for session three. Against most of what we would normally do this time we went up the other way on the main jet but left the needle where it was.

This time it was miles better (to everyone's surprise) pulling from just under 8000 rpm strong right up to maximum rpm. Almeria is also renowned for it's wind and in the afternoon the wind got up and so we settled for our setup and called it a day.

Saturday the weather was cooler so we wondered if the carburetion set up would work but I felt comfortable we had a good time advantage on track even if it wasn't perfect. I got out early on track and quickly dropped down to some quick times ending up with a pole time of 1:46.9 some 6 seconds quicker than second place man.

 

The carburetion was ok as long as I rode hard, however if I eased back on the pace it would bog slightly out of the slower corners, it looked like I would just have to ride it like I stole it!

 

In the second session we concentrated on the carburetion and although we improved it the mid range was not as good as the day before, a bit frustrating.

 

A couple of the French riders missed the Friday test day due to delayed flights, and the Spanish organisers wouldn't let them have only the afternoon session on track even if they paid for the full day anyway, very odd!

So I asked Vincent and Guillaume if they would like to go through some footage of the track I had recorded during practice. They jumped at the chance so we spent half an hour or so discussing lines, braking point etc, very cordial.

Race day was much nicer, cool in the morning but with the temperature coming up to 28 degrees and little wind by lunchtime it was going to be a much nicer experience on track.

 

I didn't bother going out in morning warm up as we had a good set up, new tyres were in the bike ready for the race, and to be honest I just didn't feel it was necessary as I had such a large time margin in hand.

 

Most of the riders gathered in the pit lane out side our garage as we were sharing with Eric and the atmosphere was great, everyone chatting over the sound of the bikes warming up.

Warm up lap done and the red light went out for race one and we all screamed away down the hill to turn one. The bike initially made good progress the just before the clutch was full home it bogged slightly allowing Renaud Binoche to grab the hole shot, he had qualified in second place and living in Spain he was not only the local hero but a complete unknown to me, so I decided to follow him round for a while to check him out.

He was riding very well but I could tell I he wasn't comfortable with me on his tail constantly looking behind to see what I was up to. After a lap and half I felt the tyres were up to working temperature and breezed by him and picked up the pace quickly opening up a decent lead.

Just like I thought in the practice if I pushed hard the carburetion was fine but at a slower pace not reaching enough corner exit speed, it would bog slightly out of the corners.

However, I was comfortably pulling away so sucked it in and got on with the job in hand taking the race one win. The team were suitably pleased and warmly greeted me back at the garage, it was in fact a full team outing with all the major sponsor being there so it couldn't have gone better.

Race two soon came around after lunch and a similar start but this time not only Renaud but Vincent and Guillaume out dragged me to the first corner.

"Don't panic Edwards" I thought you've got this so followed the group round turn one picking off Guillaume out of the corner and Vincent halfway round the lap, this however gave Renaud a small lead but I was confident with my pace I could afford to settle in then pull back his lead.

A couple of laps latter I out braked him into the last corner and started to open up a lead again, this time though Ranaud had to retire.

This left a hard charging Don Gilbert to eventually pull through to second place overall and winning his 250 class race.

 

Once again the team were delighted with the result and as Eddie immediately pointed out we had won eleven out of eleven races and a 100% win record in the class.

Later after the podium presentation the FIM representative was there to give out the overall European Championship medals, it is my first European title and I'm very proud to put it alongside my six British titles.

 

Everyone pulled together packing up the van for Ally to get off back home as it's a long old 'schlep' driving on his own to Blighty and he wanted to make a move.

 

It's been a great year with Team TBR, good racing, plenty of laughs and good spirits all the way and with any luck we'll repeat it again next year.

 
Qualifying - pole position