Rounds 1 & 2 of the Darley Moor club championships took place this weekend in what can only be described as grim conditions. The club spent days clearing the 3-4 feet of snow that lay on the circuit in the week leading up to the event, but there was still plenty of the white stuff remaining trackside.
We arrived at the circuit on (a sunny!) Saturday afternoon and setup the caravan & awning, successfully got the bike through the scruitineering safety checks and then completed all necessary paperwork (including the authorisation to carry an onboard camera during the races - videos to follow!).
Fellow Northwich racer Tim Poole was in attendance at the meeting and had a caravan equipped with a TV - so much to (future wife) Lorna's relief, she got to watch the new series of Doctor Who on Saturday night, which gave me some good grace! Overnight, the temperature dropped to -4 degrees & the gas inside the gas bottle froze, which meant that we went the night without any heating, and that lost me the good grace!
Round 1 kicked off with the sun shining brightly and with little/no wind, but the air temperature only managed to peak at 5 degrees during the day. During the 10-minute Formula Darley qualifying session, I needed to bed in new brake pads which took several laps, but I managed to qualify 5th in class. In the following 10-minute Mini Sound Of Thunder qualifying session, I qualified in 3rd position.
During the qualifying sessions, we identified a couple of minor issues; the quickshifter was not working and the back wheel was chattering on downshifts during heavy braking. We increased the engine tickover speed which helped to reduce the engine braking/chattering under braking, but the lack of quickshifting appeared to be a configuration issue that would need a manual workaround this weekend (i.e. backing off the throttle between each upshift).
The first race of the Darley Moor season was a 6-lap Formula Darley race. After a decidely average start, I managed to make my way up to 3rd place by the end of the lap 2. On lap 3, Tim Poole ran wide on the final corner, ran into the snow and then crashed (spectacularly according to the spectators!) leaving snow & motorcycle debris on the track which brought out the red flag. We lined up on the grid for the restart, but the restarted race was then red flagged on the opening lap due to another crash. The first Formula Darley race result was declared based track position held at the end of lap 2, which awarded me with 3rd place.
In the first 6-lap Mini Sound Of Thunder race, I managed to get a decent start and quickly made my way into 3rd place, which became 2nd place when Phil Johnson crashed at the hairpin on the opening lap, but I was 1.4 seconds behind the leader (Gary Dangerfield). I slowly closed the gap and then passed Gary on lap 5 to take the race lead - but Gary fought back and eventually beat me to the line by 0.4 of a second (but I
put in the fastest lap of the race).
In the second races of the day, Gary Dangerfield took early leads and then went on to take victory. I managed to take 2nd place in the Formula Darley class, after a good battle with Brad Vicars and Ricky Tarren, with Joshua Dransfield closely following me across the line. I then managed to take 3rd place in the Mini Sound Of Thunder race; I was running in 2nd place for the majority of the race - but a lack of aggression when passing a backmarker on the last corner of the last lap left the door open for Joshua Dransfield to make the pass.
So, after Round 1, I was holding 2nd place in both championships.
Monday 1st April - Darley Moor Round 2
The temperature overnight was "slightly warmer" at -1 degree, but the gas bottle still froze which left us huddled under the covers for as long as possible on the Monday morning. Though the day, the air temperature peaked at 5 degrees again, but due to a lack of sunshine and some bitter winds, it felt a lot colder.
In the Formula Darley qualifying session, I managed to quickly settled into the conditions and claimed 3rd position (0.3 of a second from pole) but due to the cold winds when travelling 130+mph, after 4 laps I couldn't feel my fingers! In the Mini Sound Of Thunder qualifying session, I claimed 4th position by lapping in a similar time to the Formula Darley session, but other riders managed to find improvements and lap quicker.
The bitter conditions through the day seemed to affect me more than some of my competitors, as I struggled to get the necessary confidence to increase corner entry speed in the cold conditions. I ended the first Formula Darley race in 4th place (0.94 of a second behind the 3rd place rider). The first Mini Sound Of Thunder was a lonely affair with me settling into 4th place, but I eventually managed to reduce my lap times by around a second a lap into the 1'05s (for reference; my personal best, set on a hot sunny dry day, is 1'03.29).
The second Formula Darley race was also a lonely race for me, bringing the bike home in 4th place again. However, on returning to the paddock, we noticed that the engine sounded different and had a distinct rattling sound from the top end of the engine. Knowing that there was a engine problem, we were unable to start the second Mini Sound of Thunder race. The engine will now need to be removed from the bike and stripped down to find and cure the problem(s) in preparation for the third round of the Darley Moor
championships on Monday 6th May.
As it stands, I am currently holding 3rd place in the Formula Darley championship & 4th place in the Mini Sound Of Thunder championship.
FORMULA DARLEY CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1st - Gary Dangerfield 27
2nd - Brad Vicars 23
3rd - David Carson 16
4th - Joshua Dransfield 15
5th - Phil Johnson 9
6th - Jordan Rushby 6
7th - Craig Kelly 1
MINI SOUND OF THUNDER CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1st - Gary Dangerfield 30
2nd - Brad Vicars 25
3rd - Joshua Dransfield 17
4th - David Carson 13
5th - Jordan Rushby 7