Here are some photos from the final Darley Moor meeting of 2018, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
"Late afternoon in October, and a solitary rider waits patiently for his fellow competitors in the "Stars" race 2. He sits there awaiting for TT legend John McGuinness, BSB rider Richard Cooper, and hosts of Superstock 600 and 1000 riders. Derek Box ensures the rider won't seek unfair advantage by starting before the others arrive on the grid."
Our biggest moment of the 2018 season had finally arrived... As mentioned in our race preview, our optimistic entry into the prestigious "Stars at Darley" event had been accepted (subject to meeting the qualification criteria in order to race), so we had some extra sessions alongside the final races for each of our club championships.
With a Saturday test day lined up, the 'Two Daves' headed across to the circuit on Friday evening and setup whilst it was still dry, before having a brew with 2017 Stars winner (2018 British Superstock 1000 racer and 2009 Darley Moor Formula 125 championship contender) Ben Godfrey.
Around 7pm on Friday it started raining and didn't stop until around noon on Saturday. There was an hour set aside for untimed Stars practice on Saturday which we took part in. The track was damp but it was a useful session to bed in brake pads and to blow away some cobwebs, ready for Sunday race day.
On Saturday evening, we took the opportunity to do a track walk with British Superstock 1000 racer James Henry who had never raced at Darley Moor before.
Onto Sunday morning and it was cold and frosty - but dry! We had fitted a new rear tyre to the Kawasaki Supersport machine in preparation for the many, many racing laps that were to come... We were entered into 7 of the 14 races which had a combined total of 85 racing laps (excluding sighting laps, cooldown laps & qualifying sessions!). Fearing this may be too many, we decided not to compete in the Allcomers racers nor the Peak Cup race - which left us with the Formula 600 race, then Stars at Darley Race 1, then the Mini Sound of Thunder race, then Stars At Darley Race 2 - which meant "only" 50 racing laps plus four morning qualifying sessions.
The first qualifying session was also the first of the day, for the Mini Sound of Thunder class. As usual it was tricky to find a clear lap, but we managed to qualify in pole position in our class, which put us 5th on the combined starting grid.
Next up was the untimed Stars practice session, where we managed to go faster than we've ever been before to reduce our Personal Best lap from 59.73 to 59.44.
After that was the Formula 600 session which had two red flags within the 12-minute session. Fortunately no-one was seriously hurt (the sessions were stopped to move the crashed bikes) but as we had only managed to register a lap of 1'00.33, we would start from 8th position on the grid.
Now it was time for the main event... We were advised that we would need to lap within 110% of the pole sitter's time in order to qualify to race - after some consideration, we expected that a laptime of around 53.5 seconds would be set for pole position based upon last year's times. A 53.5 second pole time meant that we would need to do a 58.85 laptime - over half a second quicker than we'd ever gone before!
We went out and immediately pushed hard to put in a 58.70 (which is a full second quicker than our old Personal Best lap coming into the meeting) but on return to the pit lane we learned that Richard Cooper had set a lap time of 52.97 and was 1.33 seconds quicker than everyone else in the field. This meant that the 110% laptime that was now required was 58.27...
So we headed back out for a final monumental push and set a qualifying laptime of 58.13 (a massive 1.60 seconds quicker than our previous Personal Best!). This qualified us in 17th place on the grid of 21. As it turns out, we were the final entrant to actually qualify within the 110% bracket, but the organisers decided to allow all entrants to race anyway. For those of you interested in seeing our quickest-ever lap around Darley Moor, you can watch it below...
Formula 600 Race
The first race of the day was the Formula 600. We had an OK start and then started slowly moving our way through the field (up to 5th place) until we reached Rich Baker on lap 5. Despite lapping at around the same pace, Rich was quicker in different places than us, so it was very difficult to attempt a pass. We followed Rich for 10 laps (enjoy the footage Rich!) and on the final lap got a decent drive from the hairpin, so attempted a move at the final corner. After starting the move we could see that it would probably cause a close encounter at the apex, so aborted the move and ran wide. After coming back on track, we were nipped at the line by Richard Stubbs by 0.001 of a second and crossed the line in 6th place. Looking at the final point standings, finishing in 5th or 6th place in the race had no impact to our championship position so it was worth having a go! :-)
"Stars" Race 1
It was now time for the first of the big races, which also happened to be John McGuiness's first ever race on the Norton! From the start we were at the rear of the pack and tried to gain a few positions into the chicane - but we were pushed onto the grass which meant that we were not only dead last on the exit but also several seconds from the next rider along!
Over the course of the race we managed to catch the pack and a 3-way battle between Richard Stubbs, Andy Taylor and ourselves emerged, which restricted laptimes to the 59-second range. On our penultimate lap, race leader Richard Cooper caught and passed us all. At the chequered flag we finished 19th, 0.26 of a second behind the rider ahead.
Mini Sound of Thunder Race
Prior to the Mini Sound of Thunder race, our championship opponent Elliot Williams had discovered that he had engine issues. We loaned Elliot some parts and his team managed to get his bike up and running for the race.
When the race started, we moved into the lead at Park corner on the opening lap. During the race we registered 12 laps in a row that were in the 1'01-bracket. At the end of lap 4 Richard Stubbs took the lead and we followed close behind, never more than a second behind. With just two laps to go, we were just 0.22 of a second behind Richard but unsure whether we would be able to make an overtake.
But then Richard managed to get passed backmarker Adam Salt and we didn't, which allowed Richard to take the win by over 5 seconds at the flag.
Some good news was that we managed to secure a new Personal Best of 1'01.08 (previously a 1'01.22) during the race. Elliot Williams finished a further 24 seconds back but secured 3rd place in class which was enough to secure the championship for him - congratulations Elliot on securing the title!
Before our next race there was an accident in the Steel Frame and Pre-Injection 600 race, where Joe Walton had an oil spillage and crash - we hope Joe recovers quickly and has some better luck come his way in 2019! There was a delay in proceedings to clear up the oil spillage and during the delay the temperature took a considerable drop.
"Stars" Race 2
Out for the final time of the day (and the year!) and this time we had a very lonely race. We started from 17th place on the grid and maintained that position, trying to keep hold of the group that was just ahead of us - but they were lapping around a second a lap quicker than us during the first half of the race (and then approx 1.5 seconds a lap quicker in the second half of the race).
Heading onto the Pope straight on the penultimate lap, we thought we had done enough to keep Richard Cooper at bay but then he whizzed passed us with just one corner to go, securing himself the Stars at Darley crown for a fourth time - well done Richard Cooper! At least we got a great view of him mono-wheeling across the finishing line...
Following our race finish we were then officially awarded a 17th position finish in the aggregated results - not earth-shattering but it feels fantastic to have had a 'Stars at Darley' entry accepted, then to meet the official race-start criteria and then to finish both races to be officially classified as a race finisher in the prestigious 'Stars at Darley' event :-)
After the final round, the championship point tables look as follows:
MINI SOUND OF THUNDER CHAMPIONSHIP (TOP 5)
Elliott Williams 101
David Carson 87
Richard Stubbs 48
Ian Robinson 37
Jason Wilkes 12
FORMULA 600 CHAMPIONSHIP (TOP 10)
Lloyd Shelley 81
Rich Baker 54
Jamie Pearson 43
Stephen Parsons 42
Matt Zschiesche 30
Carl Booth 28
Chris Sammons 27
David Carson 20
Richard Stubbs 13
David Shallcross 12
Our 2019 plans are still yet to be decided, but we are very please and proud with what we have accomplished during the 2018 season...
* 2018 Darley Moor "Mini Sound of Thunder" Championship Runner-Up
* A further 0.14 of a second knocked off our Kawasaki Supertwin Darley Moor personal best lap (now a 1'01.08)
* A new Kawasaki Supersport Darley Moor personal best lap of 58.13 achieved
* Accepted into the "Stars at Darley" event and qualified within 110% of the pole time (set by a British Superbike rider on a pukka Superbike)
* Confirmed finisher in the "Stars at Darley" results
And last but not least I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my supporters (if you're reading this - then that's you!), Dave Carson Snr, Steph Carson, Lorna Carson, Tim Poole of the Poole Performance Centre & I would particularly like to thank Michael Mulvaney from Frankton, Pomerol Partners, Rock Oil and Eazi-Grip for their support.
Stars at Darley Entry
We'll start with some great news - our entry to the “Stars at Darley” event has officially been accepted! In this race is an IOM TT legend, numerous BSB-level racers and several former “Stars at Darley” winners. See the full entry list below...
Those of you with incredible long-term memories may recall our 2018 aims set out at the start of the year, but for the rest of us here is a recap. Our aims for the 2018 race season were:
* To achieve a sub-1'00 lap of Darley Moor on the Kawasaki Supersport 600 machine - completed!
* To score a championship point in the Formula 600 class - completed!
* Be able to complete 9 laps of Darley Moor before the "Stars" complete 10 laps (to avoid us being lapped!) - hopefully achievable!
BSB Superstock 1000 racer Josh Daley had also requested to run #88 in the Stars race, so we have graciously stepped aside and let him use it for the event. This means that we will use #188 on the Kawasaki Supersport 600 machine (for all races) this coming weekend. Both bikes are now prepped and ready to go - now all we need to do is lap within 110% of pole position to officially qualify for the Stars races...
Championship Trophy Return
Following our double-championship success last year, we will be returning the championship trophies to Darley Moor this weekend.
Due to a change of eligible machinery in the Formula Darley class, that trophy will either go to Martin Robbins or Tony Griffiths.
The Mini Sound of Thunder trophy has an outside chance of being retained by us this year - but if we don't win it then it will go to Elliot Williams who has ridden very strongly all season.
ER650 Rain Light Relocation
The rain light on our Kawasaki Supertwin has been relocated from on the top of the rear seat to the underside of the seat for a couple of reasons: It will make removal of the seat slightly easier and will also reduce complexity if the seat unit needed to be replaced following an incident.
New Brake Pads and Tyres (Supersport 600)
With our "Stars at Darley" entry confirmed, we thought it was time for some early servicing on the Kawasaki Supersport 600 machine. The pile of part-worn Brembo Z04 pads that came with the bike's purchase has now expired, so we have replaced them with some EBC GPFAX pads for this upcoming meeting. We have also ordered in a spare wet rear and a spare dry rear tyre just in case fresh rubber is needed.
New Camera and AiM Solo Mount (Supersport 600)
The biggest change for the season finale is the introduction of an onboard camera to the Kawasaki Supersport machine! We ordered a steering-damper-level GoPro mount from KelFab, which was a great piece of kit, but unfortunately would probably have come into contact with our helmet during a racing crouch - so a bespoke solution was devised...
Once we started building the bespoke mount, we decided to increase the scope of the mount to also include a home for our AiM Solo GPS laptimer. Fingers crossed that everything works out as planned and we can bring you some additional footage from the weekends racing :-)
Here are some photos from the penultimate Darley Moor meeting of 2018, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
Before we could set off to Darley Moor Round 6, a few minor jobs were needed - to repair a couple of GoPro cameras and to fit some new captive wheel spacers to our Kawasaki Supertwin front wheels (due to the old ones being compressed by 0.6mm each after 4 seasons of use). For the cameras, it was just a matter of filing down the mating surfaces of the camera underside and replacement mounts before bonding them back together. This has allowed us to run onboard cameras once again!
On the Saturday afternoon the "Two Daves" travelled to the circuit and took part on a track walk with some of our fellow competitors.
The race programme showed that there would be a limited number of riders for the Mini Sound of Thunder races - with championship regulars like Ian Robinson being on holiday and Jason Wilkes moving to a 600cc machine after crashing his supertwin machine at the previous meeting.
Waking on Sunday morning, the forecasts showed a constant risk of rain showers throughout the day and during the qualifying sessions we suffered from the first of many showers that would arrive during the day.
Despite riding strong at Castle Combe, things were not flowing during the qualifying sessions and we struggled to put in decent times. Fortunately it appeared that we were not the only team struggling and we managed to qualify 2nd in the Mini Sound of Thunder class (3rd on the combined grid) and 10th in the Formula 600 class.
When the races started, so did the rain. With the track being damp - and too dry for wets and too wet to safely use drys - we chose to skip the Allcomers race to allow the weather some time to decide what it was doing, and it decided to dry out.
Our first race of the day was the Peak Cup. With each passing lap, we were starting to get more and more comfortable and settled into a mini-battle with Matt Zschiesche before we finished in 9th place.
On the sighting lap of the first Formula 600 race, a light rain shower fell. Then on the opening lap of the race, we witnessed other riders having moments at Park corner and saw fallers at the hairpin. Not feeling comfortable, we decided to retire from the race on lap 3.
We were then straight out into the Mini Sound of Thunder race. Feeling more comfortable, we pushed as hard as we could but finished in 2nd position, just over 4 seconds behind race winner Elliot Williams.
Our next race was Formula 600 race 2, where due to our earlier retirement we started from the back of the grid. We managed to find our groove and had a good ride. After an average start we made our way through pack and into 5th place (setting a fastest lap of 59.74 - only 0.01 of a second from our Personal Best lap).
On the last lap we made an attempted move on Jed Bird for 4th place into the back esses - but we didn't quite make it passed Jed so backed off, as did Jed, which cost us both a couple of seconds as we fumbled through the corner. With yellow flags being shown at Townleys and the hairpin, we never managed another attempt and crossed the line in 5th place, just 0.13 of a second behind Jed at the chequered flag.
A quick rush around the cooling down lap and we headed straight back onto track for Mini Sound of Thunder race 2. Like earlier in the day, a rain shower started to fall on the sighting lap - but this time the rainfall got much heavier. The race start was abandoned and we returned to the paddock to swap to wet tyres. On the sighting lap, Elliot Williams had discovered some machine issues so decided not to race. This left us as the only bike in our class entering the race - meaning that after a fairly lonely 8 laps we took the win!
With the racing day over, the rain got even heavier which made packing up just that little bit more miserable! But one thing that brighten our day was the realisation that we have secured a Top 2 finish in the Mini Sound of Thunder championship.
We still have an outside chance of retaining the Mini Sound of Thunder championship - being 22 points behind Elliot Williams with 36 points available at the final round - but the odds are against us. A couple of extra points in the Formula 600 championship mean that we have moved up to 8th place in the Formula 600 championship.
FORMULA 600 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (AFTER 6 OF 7 ROUNDS) - TOP 10
Lloyd Shelley 45
Jamie Pearson 39
Rich Baker 38
Matt Zschiesche 30
Carl Booth 28
Chris Sammons 27
Stephen Parsons 18
David Carson 12
David Shallcross 12
Scott Stevens 11
MINI SOUND OF THUNDER CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (AFTER 6 OF 7 ROUNDS) - TOP 5
Elliott Williams 85
David Carson 63
Ian Robinson 21
Jason Wilkes 12
Richard Stubbs 12
Our next race meeting is the last of the season - Darley Moor Round 7 and the prestigious "Stars at Darley" event on Sunday 7th October. We have submitted an entry into the prestigious "Stars at Darley" event itself, on our Kawasaki Supersport machine, but even if our entry is accepted our participation in the races will be subject to meeting the qualifying criteria. As always, we'll let you know how we get on! :-)
A selected number of photos from the NG Castle Combe meeting have been added to the website photos page. If you need more, then you will find the full set of 88 photos on our Facebook page, within the Photos from 2018 album.
As a taster here are some of our favourite photos from the weekend - 4 on the Supersport machine and 4 on the Supertwin machine...
David Carson Jnr,