Here are some photos from the fourth Darley Moor meeting of 2017, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
At Darley Moor Round 4, we were only 0.10 of a second away from the perfect weekend! We got pole position in both classes, all 4x fastest laps, 3x wins and a 2nd place (only 0.10 of a second behind the winner).
It was only a week ago that we were black flagged in the final race at Castle Combe. With David Jnr working away in London all week it was a busy Saturday morning preparing our Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin for the Darley Moor meeting (alongside the usual domestic chores like clothes washing and mowing the lawns!)
After we refitted the top-yoke mounted front camera, reparied the rear exhaust mount, cleaned the brakes (which involved popping a piston out by accident - Doh!) and giving the bike a good clean, we were good to go.
We arrived at Darley slightly later than usual but still managed to bag our usual spot. After setting up and signing on, we went for a wander around the paddock and spent some time with Jorge Halliday (and dad) and then with Stuart Hall and Mike Gittings - who had spent the Saturday racing at Aintree.
Raceday Sunday started bright but a short rain shower arrived at 08:45 and then (fortunately) quickly went away, with a dry day to follow.
Heading out into qualifying, we were not feeling 100% comfortable on the bike, which resulted in a lack of commitment in the braking areas and a reduced corner entry speed. We only got two clear laps and put in a 1'03.51, which it turned out was good enough to put us in pole position for the morning races.
Our first race of the weekend was Formula Darley race 1, where we lined up on grid with British Superbike star Richard Cooper who was racing a CB500 for a bit of fun (and he managed to lap in the low 1.04s!). We got a good start and entered the first chicane in 2nd position, behind Joe Walton. On lap 2 we managed to take the overall race lead and then at the start of lap 3 Chris Moore (in the Lightweight class) passed us on his Yamaha 250GP machine. We tried to keep hold of Chris throughout the race but couldn't quite hang on, and we finished just under a couple of seconds behind him at the chequered flag. But we won our class, with Joe Walton finishing 5 seconds behind us in 2nd position and Elliott Williams taking 3rd position a further 20 seconds behind Joe.
Mini Sound of Thunder race 1 was the next race up, where we were sharing the track with the larger-capacity Sound of Thunder machines. Starting from 7th on the combined grid, we were also 7th into the first chicane behind Joe Walton who had got a great start. We followed Joe until the end of lap 3, where we made a move on the brakes at the final corner to take the lead of the race. From there we tried hard to put in a series of quick laps (with our fastest official time being a 1'01.68, close to our Personal Best lap time of 1'01.49) and managed to keep the lead until the flag to take the win from Joe Walton, with Jack Petrie taking the final podium position. As you can see in the video below, a couple of the Sound of Thunder riders had an interesting end to the race - with two riders returning to the track after running onto the grass.
After the lunch break we headed out for Formula Darley race 2. Another good start saw us enter the first chicane in 2nd position. We were hot on the heels of Joe Walton for the first half of the race - but with the speed of his Suzuki SV650 Supertwin matching the speed of our Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin - we had to take every passing opportunity that was available, including a daring overtake into the fast back esses on lap 5, which allowed us to take the lead. With some clear track ahead we were able to put in some consistent fast laps and we won the race with a 8.5 second margin by the end of lap 8. Joe Walton came home in second position, with Jack Petrie coming home in third.
Our final race, Mini Sound of Thunder Race 2, was the most challenging race of the day. We got a fantastic start and entered the first chicane in 4th position overall from our 7th position combined-grid starting spot. Into Park corner, we were passed by one of the larger-capacity Sound of Thunder machines, who then tried to crash in front of us on the exit from the corner! Not knowing what would happen, we momentarily backed off the throttle, which meant that two more of the Sound of Thunder class riders were able to overtake us on the straight leading up to the back esses.
For the next few laps, we unfortunately became locked in a battle with Sound of Thunder rider Ian Robinson - which was entertaining but allowed Joe Walton to extend a 4-second lead by the time our battle with Ian ended and we had got into some clear track on lap 4. The rest of the race was spent attempting to close down Joe, which we almost managed to do - crossing the finishing line just 0.10 of a second behind him, taking second place, with Jack Petrie taking another third place. On the last lap of the race we also managed to match our Personal Best lap of 1'01.49 - proving how hard we were pushing!
Overall we would need to summarise Darley Moor Round 4 as a great weekend! We left the meeting with a working bike, the lead in two championships, a couple of trophies and we lapped as fast as we have ever been!
At the halfway point in the Darley Moor season, the current championship positions are as follows:
FORMULA DARLEY - TOP 5
David Carson 52
Chris Moore 38
Joe Walton 22
Jamie Hodson 18
Jack Petrie 16
MINI SOUND OF THUNDER - TOP 5
David Carson 49
Joe Walton 33
Jack Petrie 22
Stuart Hall 18
Jamie Hodson 18
Our next event will be Darley Moor Round 5 on Sunday 13th August.
The scheduled highlight of our 2017 season was NG's fifth meeting of 2017 - the Grand National held at Castle Combe - which didn't fail to disappoint! With fantastic weather and a proper 'show' put on within the paddock, this was a great race meeting to be a part of.
Having struggled to find paddock space at the 2014 event we were eager to arrive early on the Friday to setup. But as there were trackdays on both the Thursday and Friday the paddock was rammed full. We were fortunate to find a little space of grass near the scrutineering bay - and then even more fortunate to find that our paddock neighbours were willing to move around their vans so that we could setup as usual. How very friendly! :-)
Having setup, we successfully went through scrutineering and noise testing - but NG once again had an issue with our onboard cameras - so we removed the front camera and then modified the rear camera. So unfortunately the onboard cameras were on "butt cam" mode again.
Since we last raced at Castle Combe (in 2014), the track had been resurfaced. Our PB lap was 1'20.129, which we were hoping to beat over the weekend. We went out on the Saturday morning for a free practice session and remembered how fantastic the circuit is and then waited for hours and hours whilst the day's scheduled programme was delayed by numerous red flagged races.
Eventually, around 3pm, we headed out for our Qualifying race. Our Supertwin race shared the track with the Supermono and Sound of Thunder classes, and we started 34th on grid. When the race started it was mayhem and we witnessed many close calls on the first lap. By lap two things had settled down but our conservative start to the race meant that we had lost a lot of ground to the frontrunners in our class. Nevertheless, we pushed on and set a best lap of 1'21.341 and finished 8th in Supertwin class.
With the first race over, there was another long gap until the points race - so we took turns entertaining Lucy!
Just after 6pm the second race of the weekend started. Our race one finish put us on the 24th grid position. After a better start and more consistent lap times we finished 5th in Supertwin class. In this race we put in what would be our best lap of weekend, with a 1'20.195 being very close to our personal best lap. We also saw the highest top speed we have ever recorded on our Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin - 136.6mph.
Sunday morning brought another clear, dry and hot day. An estimated 20,000 spectators flocked to the circuit for the close racing, numerous parades and superstar appearances - including Freddie Spencer, Guy Martin, Stuart Graham and John McGuinness.
The big crowdpleaser was ‘Mike’s Bikes’ parade - a tribute to Mike Hailwood, who is still seen by many as the greatest rider of all time. And the prospect of seeing, and hearing, the 297cc Honda six on which he set that incredible TT lap record of 107mph from a standing start in 1967. Around the paddock there were also a variety of attractions and machines on show.
The Sunday race schedule ran a lot smoother than Saturdays and we started our third race of the weekend - the Sunday qualifying race - around noon. Our Saturday race 2 finish put us up to 17th on the combined starting grid. A consistent race meant we finished 6th in Supertwin class. Our lap times were good enough to run with the podium finishers so we aimed to get a better start in the Sunday final race to see whether we could capture a good finishing position.
For the final race of the weekend, we started 22nd on grid. After a decent first few laps, we finally managed to join the group that was battling for 3rd place. And then, just when we were starting lap 6, we saw the 'black and orange' flag with our number shown. We immediately pulled up and were advised that we were stopped due to "signs of smoke". The rear exhaust hanger rubber had began to melt on the titanium exhaust can and was smoking. It was a shame as the issue did not pose any safety concern to us or any other riders - but the organisers were not to know that from the trackside. Regardless, the issue will need to be resolved before our next race meeting at Darley Moor Round 4 on Sunday 16th July.
David Carson Jnr,