After steadily ticking items off an unfeasibly large "to do list" in the weeks leading up to the start of our 2016 season, by the Thursday afternoon we were all loaded up and ready to head off to Brands Hatch for the first race meeting of our 2016 season! After a trouble-free 230 mile journey (completed in 4.5 hours) we managed to bag our ideal spot in the paddock.
On the Friday test day, we went out for the first test session of the day and discovered that we were still having issues with 3rd gear with the black engine (despite replacing the majority of gearbox internals over the winter!), so decided to perform an engine swap in the paddock (to our spare silver engine) in the hope that we would be able to complete the rest of the weekend without any issues.
3.5 hours after starting work, the silver engine was in and running. 4 hours after starting work, our Kawasaki Supertwin was ready to hit the track! We somehow managed to only miss two track sessions whilst swapping the engine, so we were able to take part in the two afternoon sessions. Whilst waiting for our afternoon sessions to start, we decided to take some photos in our new leathers :-)
The bike (with the silver engine) felt great and we felt very comfortable on it, gradually dropping our lap times down to 56.2 in the last session, with the sun setting and the temperature dropping (there was steam coming out of your mouth when breathing!). Our personal best at Brands Indy is 54.28, so we were quite happy that after only 30 minutes of track time we were feeling comfortable.
A cool, clear morning welcomed us for our first competitive day of the 2016 season. In our Saturday qualifying session, we knocked another second off our best time from the Friday test day and put in a 55.28. This qualified us in 9th position out of the 35 entrants in our class but there were a lot of competitors around us doing similar lap times, so this indicated that there will probably be some close racing!
Following a change of rear sprocket (from 14-46 to 14-45) to extend the gears to avoid hitting the rev limiter in a couple of places, we headed out for our delayed first race. An average start, combined with being a bit over-cautious in the first few corners, placed us in around 13th position at the end of the first lap. Our lap times dropped every lap until we put in a 54.517 on lap 8 (another 0.7 faster!). We were in a group of seven riders (from 6th to 12th) all covered by 3.8 seconds when the red flag was brought out on lap 9 of 11 - so we were awarded 11th place on the timesheet. Our fastest race lap was the 7th fastest in the race, which bode well for the coming races.
After further delays through the day, it was decided that two races would be carried over to Sunday's programme - but as our race was third-last in the programme, our second race was started after sun-down at 17:45 on the Saturday! With the cold conditions causing the bike to move around, it wasn't the most enjoyable race - but we consistently lapped in the 56-second barrier and we took a 10th place finish!
With our first day of racing finished, we headed off to the Kentagon bar (it's a hexagonal bar in Kent!) to attend the awards presentation and hoped for more good weather and good racing on the Sunday!
Due to the races carried over from Saturday and some further stoppages on the Sunday morning, we didn't get onto track until 13:20 on Sunday. But the weather was good! In our first race of the day, we got a good start, got into a good rhythm, passed a few people and set a new PB of 54.25 (0.03 faster than our old PB!) and crossed the finishing line in 7th place!! :-D
We think there could be more speed to be found by extending the gearing again (for the same track conditions), but with our final race of the weekend due to take place around 16:00, we thought that the track would have cooled and that we would probably not be carrying as much corner speed, so chose to leave the gearing set as it was!
The final race of the weekend was completed in cold but dry conditions. We finished in 9th position after a good battle (and a VERY close encounter with a backmarker on the penultimate lap!).
Overall, we had a great weekend with a great bunch of racers! It is fair to say that we are Thunderbike converts and are surprised that our Kawasaki ER6 Supertwin is more competitive than we thought it would be!
Our next BEMSEE Thunderbike meeting will be at Donington Park on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th April.
Before then, we will be attending Darley Moor Round 1 on Sunday 3rd April.
David Carson Jnr,