Here are some photos from the BEMSEE Brands Hatch GP meeting, taken by official BEMSEE photographers John Manclark and Karen Burrows at Kent Bad Boyz Photography...
At the start of the season, the BEMSEE Thunderbikes Brands Hatch GP round was noted to be the highlight of our 2016 season. With the GP layout rarely used due to noise complaints, it had been 18 years since we had raced on this particular circuit layout (back in 1998 - when Dave Jnr was 18 himself!).
Leaving from our Northwich base, the 220+ mile journey took us over 5.5 hours due to a crashed Toyota Yaris and, later on, a fireball of a Luton box van! We arrived at the circuit around 7pm on the Thursday evening. All of the parking spaces next to the mains power outlets had already been taken but we managed to park close to where we were based at the BEMSEE Brands Indy meeting, so all was good.
The Friday morning test day provided a damp start. When we signed on, we were informed that the Brands Indy circuit (rather than Brands GP circuit) was to be used for the Friday test day, which was a surprise. With a different circuit layout being used and the race day weather forecast looking dry, we were not sure how much value would be gained from going out, so decided to let the track dry a bit before heading out on track.
As little Lucy was already bored of being contained in the caravan, Dave Jnr took her for a walk to the grasslands on the inside of Druids corner. Whilst over there, they witnessed cement dust being laid at Graham Hill corner, followed by the water truck washing the track clean. With this new info, we decided to fit the wet tyres and do a shakedown test on our Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin (just to make sure everything was OK). After doing approx 7 laps in the session, we pulled in as the track was starting to get a dry line and we didn't want to ruin the wet rear tyre.
Next, the rain fell again, so... with the bike and rider feeling great, we decided to take an early finish - we scruitineered the bike and signed on early (around 3pm), then tidied and packed away and we treated the girls to a trip to the Bluewater shopping mall (and earned some brownie points in the process!), before stopping at The Green Man pub in Longfield for a nice meal on the way back to the circuit.
On Saturday, we were out for qualifying in the very first session at 09:00. The track conditions were damp but quickly drying so we went out on dry tyres (the correct choice!) and were reducing our lap times in chunks of 2 or 3 seconds at a time. We managed to complete seven laps in the session, with the final lap being our quickest. We qualified in 13th position for the first race, which was the head of the fifth row with the three-riders-per-row format being used on the narrow start/finish straight.
Before we could get our first race completed the heavy rain landed, around an hour before we were due out on track, so a change to wets was required. The track conditions were nasty and slippy, with hardly any feedback. The first attempt at running the race was red-flagged on lap one and then restarted after a ten-minute delay. After the restart we managed to find a rhythm and kept to it. There were 9 fallers in the race but we kept it upright and came across the finishing line in 9th place! Shortly after we finished our first race, the sunshine came out and started quickly drying the track. There was no more rain forecasted so it looked like we'd have a dry weekend from hereon :-)
With a long break until the second race of the day, the "Two Daves" went for a walk around the circuit, through the woods, got lost, then eventually popped out by Dingle Dell at the back of the circuit. After watching a couple of races, we headed back to the paddock to change the bike onto dry tyres.
When we got back to the paddock, we had a visit from a very efficient photographer who provided the following printed (yes, actually physically printed!) photos from our first race earlier in the day.
Saturday race two was dry as expected. After getting a good start and initially being involved in a large battle spanning from 8th to 15th places, we slowly lost touch of the group. Throughout the battle we managed to take 2.5 seconds off our personal best lap time and finished the race in 13th place - 0.095 ahead of 14th and 0.759 ahead of 15th!
With the day over we cleaned up then headed to the Saturday awards presentation in the Kentagon pub. To our surprise, we were awarded a Special Spot Prize!
We awoke on Sunday to find that someone had left us a gift by our caravan. Unfortunately, they didn't let us keep it ;-)
Due to delays in Saturday's schedule, four races were carried onto the Sunday programme - so as we were supposed to be the first race out, we were now the fifth race out on track. This worked in our favour as by the time our race had been called up, the sunshine was out in full force but there were still strong gusty winds around the circuit. We managed to get a good start and made a few places - which we slowly lost over the next few laps. The battle for 6th place was just ahead of us, but we couldn't hang on! Another new personal best was set during the race - 1.529 seconds faster than our previous personal best lap - and we captured another 13th place finish at the flag.
In the last race of the weekend, we managed to take a further 1.265 seconds off our personal best lap (which was a whopping 5.5 seconds faster than our qualifying time) and finished the race in 11th place. This was our best race of the weekend as we were feeling comfortable on the bike and running quickly without making mistakes. In the second half of the race we were even catching the guys in the battle for 8th place. Overall, it's been a fantastic weekend and definitely lived up to its expectation of being a season highlight!
Our next race meeting is Darley Moor Round 7 on Sunday 4th September, where we have a chance of being crowned as a 2016 Darley Moor champion! Wish us luck!!
Here are some photos from the sixth Darley Moor meeting of 2016, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
With no karts racing at Darley Moor Round 6, all races were increased in length to 10 laps (from the usual 8 laps). This appeared to entice back some previous class runners as Ross Richards and reigning class champion Brad Vicars were in attendance at this meeting. With the weather being dry but windy, we took the opportunity to fit some new Brembo brake pads (SC compound rather than the existing HH compound) and bed them in during the qualifying sessions.
A good run during the Formula Darley qualifying session secured us with 2nd position on the Formula Darley grid. The Sound Of Thunder qualifying session was red flagged early due to an oil spill but we managed to obtain 7th position on the Sound Of Thunder grid (3rd in class).
In Formula Darley Race 1, we managed to get a good start and held 2nd position into the chicane, before Brad Vicars passed us on the first lap and put us back to 3rd. We managed to loosely hold onto the lead battle, then when Ross Richards pulled out of the race with a flat front tyre, we did our best to cling onto race leader Brad Vicars until we made a couple of mistakes on the last lap. We crossed the finishing line in 2nd place, 3.29 seconds behind Brad.
Mini Sound Of Thunder Race 1 was up next. After another good start we settled into 3rd place from early on in the race. We managed to hold onto the battling duo of Brad Vicars and Ross Richards for a few laps but once we became involved in a battle with Triumph 675 Sound Of Thunder racers Jamie Horner, Mark Scott and Michael Gloster we decided to settle for our 3rd place finish.
After the lunch break was Formula Darley Race 2. Off the line we got another good start but upshifting from 1st to 2nd gear we caught neutral, which put us back into 5th position at the first chicane. After moving up to 3rd position by passing Stephen Taylor and Kaine Sheriff, Ross Richards pulled out of the race at the end of the main straight, promoting us to 2nd position. We pushed hard to chase down race leader Brad Vicars - and set a new personal best lap time of 1'01.91 in the process - but we couldn't close the gap and crossed the line to take 2nd place.
The final race of the day was Mini Sound Of Thunder Race 2. Another good start placed us 2nd in class going into the first chicane, but a quick-learning Kaine Sheriff prompted a good battle for 2nd position that went on for a few laps - before we overshot on the brakes attempting to make a pass at the end of the main straight. From there we had a lonely ride to a 3rd place finish.
With only two rounds left and a maximum of 54 championship points available (in each championship), we now lead the Formula Darley championship by 48 points and lead the Mini Sound Of Thunder championship by 40 points.
Round 7 of the Darley Moor championships takes place on Sunday 4th September. But before then, we have our next race meeting at Brands GP for BEMSEE Thunderbikes Round 7 on 20th/21st August.
Arriving at Cadwell Park on Thursday night for Round 6 of the BEMSEE Thunderbikes championship - a 3.5 hour drive from our Northwich base - we decided to go for a walk of the track (and Lucy showed me the correct racing lines!) before retiring to the caravan and watching Paddington on DVD!
The Friday test day was mainly dry with occasional showers throughout the morning. We managed to re-learn the track, then swap over the fuel tank to test the spare tank/pump on track, before finally fitting some new dry tyres and spending a session scrubbing them in. With all that done, and with us knocking 3 seconds off our previous personal best lap time (to a 1'50.0), we decided to call it a day - which was a good decision as just then the rain really started falling! So, we got scruitineering and signing on out of the way and had a brew in the restaurant whilst watching some poor souls enjoying the remaining track time. The weather forecast for the rest of the weekend looked dry, so we didn't see the need to test in the wet conditions.
After 90 minutes of stoppages to clean up a couple of oil spillages on Saturday morning, the sun came out for our qualifying session. We managed to take another 2.6 seconds off our personal best (to a 1'47.4 - and we were another 0.7 faster on the following lap but were held up by traffic) and qualified 7th on the grid for the afternoon's only (9 lap) race. With a lot of time to spare, we enjoyed some of the facilities that Cadwell Park has to offer! :-)
When the lights went out for our Saturday race, we got a cracking start and were running in 4th place when the red flag came out to look after a fallen rider. On the race restart (which was now reduced to 7 laps), we got another decent start and were running in 6th place before making a couple of mistakes and dropping a couple of places. We managed to take a further 2.2 seconds off our personal best lap time (now a 1'45.2) and finished the race in 7th position - a fantastic result for us! Our ideal lap comparison showed that there was a possibility of a high 1'44 lap in us, so we aimed to do our best to break into the 1'44s in Sunday's race.
When attending the BEMSEE meetings, we always attend the awards presentation in the bar on the Saturday night. This time, as a nice surprise to us, we were awarded with a trophy for "Solo Best Turned Out" by Bill Barrowcliff. We thought that this was a fantastic reward for all the hours we put into preparing the bike, so gladly received the award with a big smile! :-)
Then on the Sunday morning, Bill Barrowcliff visited us to take some "more official" photos of the bike, rider and trophy!
Fabulous sunshine shone down on the circuit on Sunday, but further oil spills meant that our race was delayed until after the lunch break. When we finally got underway we got a good start and immediately put the hammer down to momentarily move into 4th place, before being relegated back to 5th place a few corners later. From there, we tagged onto the battle for 3rd place and knocked another second off our personal lap time - to set a 1'44.2 on the final lap, crossing the line in a fantastic 5th position (4 seconds off the 3rd place finisher).
When inspecting the bike after the race, we discovered that the fairing had been touching down during the race - the first ground clearance problem we have ever experienced in four seasons of running our Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin.
After our first Sunday race there were then even more oil spills and delays, so we decided to call it a day and head home for an early bath! To illustrate how much oil was already down at the point we went out for the first Sunday race, we decided to highlight the spillages on the circuit map below.
With our next race meeting only a week away, at Darley Moor Round 6 on Sunday 7th August, we don't have long to wait until our next ride out.
David Carson Jnr,