Here are some photos from the second round of the Darley Moor championships, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
We travelled to Darley Moor straight from the NG Donington Park meeting. Arriving late we were expecting to scrabble for some paddock space, but were able to setup nearby our usual spot, which was great.
The evening weather was lovely - warm and calm - but as we were too late for scrutineering we leisurely setup and made sure that the bikes were ready to be inspected first thing in the morning. It certainly was nice to have a night's sleep uninterrupted by overnight aircraft take-offs!
The weather forecast for the Sunday (both for Donington and Darley) was constantly changing - so we were unsure whether it would be wet, dry, damp - or anywhere inbetween! Around 3am, the rain started falling on the caravan and when we woke, the paddock and track were wet... It didn't take long for most of the wet surfaces to dry, but it looked like there were still wet patches on the track so we walked to the circuit to take a better look - and it was then that Andy Barber invited us to a lap in the course car (our first ever car lap around Darley!) and we saw that the majority of the course was dry... So dry tyres it was then!
When we headed out into the qualifying sessions, the only wet patches were along the Pope Straight. Not wanting to do anything silly we decided to take it relatively easy and to try for a front-row start on each bike. It looks like our approach wasn't too different from everyone else - as we managed to secure pole position in the Twins class and 2nd position on the Formula 600 grid.
Onto the races, and for the Allcomers race we picked the #3 peg for the race which gave us a front-row start. Getting the RS660 Trofeo off the line was still a mixed bag - especially with some added punch from the revised gearing ratio. Albert Walker initially led the race and we followed closely, the pair of us making a large gap from the chasing pack. Our initial pace was a lot slower than what we achieved at Round 1, yet we didn't feel like we had enough extra speed to immediately pass Albert and make a gap on him, so planned to wait until we warmed into the race - hoping that our pace would increase - and then try to make a move. Unexpectedly, Albert's race came to an end at Paddock corner on lap 3, which left us to manage the rest of the race - we took the win by 22 seconds in the end, setting the fastest lap of the race along the way.
It was only a short wait until we headed out for Formula 600 Race 1. Albert Walker didn't start the race due to an overheating bike, so was unfortunately having an unlucky day! A good start saw us enter the Wilson's Chicane in 2nd place, where we remained until the chequered flag. The new rear tyre that we fitted for Donington Park had seen a lot of use/abuse over the weekend and was starting to protest, but we managed to put in a series of laps within the 59 second barrier. We were just hoping that we would be able to be competitive in the "points" race...
Next up was Twins Race 1. Albert had not been able to repair his machine, so it looked like it was unlikely we would have a battle on track in this race. We started from pole position but had a bad start - managing to pop a wheelie in the first four gears by using the fronts forks like a pogo stick! Despite this, we managed to take the race lead by the end of the first lap, then put in a series of clean laps - the best of which was the race fastest lap of 1:01.59. Unfortunately, the race was red-flagged on lap 7 (of 8) and the result was called. We were classified as the winner.
After the lunch break we were back to racing! Somehow... despite bringing a combined 97L of fuel (in tanks and jerry cans), we were running low on fuel for the generator. James Ford came to the rescue with a couple of litres of unleaded to make sure that we could complete the day - cheers James!
A quite poor Formula 600 Race 2 start saw us enter the chicane in 3rd position, before moving up to 2nd position at Park corner on the opening lap. From this point we should have been chasing down Ben Dale to challenge for the win, but it seemed that we didn't have either the tyre nor the enthusiasm to push beyond the limits that we were encountering - so circulated as fast as we could without making any mistakes. That plan worked fine until lap 5 when we missed a gear coming out of the hairpin, which allowed Albert Walker to come passed. This mistake, plus a couple of the following lap, allowed him to established a gap... With a new race-face on, we got our head down and closed the gap back up. We were close enough to attempt a pass at the hairpin at the final lap, but decided to wait until Paddock corner for a last-corner last-lap manoeuvre - but unfortunately the opportunity wasn't there. We crossed the line in 3rd place!
Prior to Twins Race 2, we spent some time adjusting the clutch to see if we could improve the biting point - and therefore improve our race starts. We got a relatively good launch (compared to some of our others), but shifted up to neutral instead of 2nd gear, which halted our progress and put us back to 4th place.
This race was tricky as we knew we had speed, but needed to make sure that we secured some decent championship points, so we took our time to make careful overtakes. Putting in some quicker laps the traction control was kicking in, meaning that we couldn't lap as quick as we wanted to. After doing some calculations after the race it turns out that the tyres had done almost 300 laps - so we had certainly got our money's worth!
After taking the race lead on lap 3, we set the fastest lap of the race on lap 5 - but again didn't manage to see the chequered flag as the red flag was shown on lap 9 (of 10). Winning the race was a relief after what had become a long and exhausting weekend. Some new rubber will be fit to both machines for the next race meeting!
After 2 (of 8 rounds) of the Darley Moor championships, the standings look as follows:
Twins Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st - David Carson 30
2nd - Chris Barton 16
3rd - Jim Barnett 12
4th - Josh Froggatt 12
5th - Richard Saville 10
Formula 600 Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st - Albert Walker 22
2nd - Ben Dale 19
3rd - David Carson 18
4th - Richard Cooper 15
5th - Stephen Parsons 12
Our next race meeting will be NG Pembrey on 11th/12th June - meaning that we will be voluntarily missing our first ever Darley Moor meeting since March 2009! It is an unfortunate situation, but we need to attend Pembrey in order to capture some more NG championship points to stay in the battle for the Supertwin championship with Steve Moody and Edward Giles.
It was time for us to visit "one of the world's foremost race circuits". Dave Snr had arrived back from USA on the Thursday morning, so we waited until the Thursday evening to head across to the circuit. After a quick setup, we settled in to watch the NW200 coverage on Daniel Nurrish's iPad.
Friday Test Day
The Friday test day was bright and dry, but very windy! We fit a brand new rear tyre onto the Kawasaki Supersport machine for the event, but after only three sessions it started chewing up due to the hard corner exits at Redgate/Hollywood and Coppice. So for the afternoon sessions we went out on the RS660 Trofeo (and were black-flagged for ride-by noise in one of the sessions), where we found that the new final-drive gearing ratio of 16/46 seemed to be a lot more suitable. By the end of the day we had got close to our Supertwin PB time set back in 2019, which was encouraging.
As we learned at Brands Hatch, we would not be able to carry the Supersport onboard camera on the race days - so took the opportunity to capture some footage on the test day instead. For your viewing pleasure, here is a lap of the wonderful Donington Park circuit - which includes an unfortunate crash for another rider around 1:10.
Following a lengthy queue for scruitineering, we signed on and then headed to Garage 39 - the Donington Paddock bar - for a few well-received drinks.
Saturday Race Day
Saturday turned out to be a hot one - the mercury said that it was 20C but it felt a lot hotter! We were given a practice session on each machine, which allowed us to get into the groove before we went out into qualifying.
In the Open 600 qualifying we managed to qualify 12th in class (15th on combined grid with Sound of Thunder) and in the Supertwin class we qualified in 3rd place in class (5th on combined grid with PreInjection 600 and Formula 400 machines).
We got a good start in the Open 600 race and managed to get involved in a battle for 7th-10th places. Despite pushing as hard as we could, we remained 0.4 of a second from our 2019 Personal Best laptime, but got our first ever NG Open 600 Top 10 finish with a 10th place at the flag! A great result!!
We had a lengthy wait for the Supertwin race due to an oil spillage, but the wait was worth it... An average start put us in an epic battle with two other Aprilia RS660s as well as some of the PreInjection 600 front-runners. During the race we made our way through the pack, encountered some backmarkers in less than ideal locations, and crossed the line in 2nd place on track to pick up some silverware! We also managed to set a new Supertwin PB of 1:17.194, which was an improvement of 0.8 of a second. The onboard race video is probably one of the most interesting that we've captured :-)
After a great couple of days, it was time to leave Donington Park. The race event continued onto the Sunday but we had different plans already lined up...
We packed up and headed across to Darley Moor for Round 2 of their championships - the race report for this will be available very soon! But once the Sunday races had run, the current standings for each of the NG championships are as follows:
NG Supertwin Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st - David Carson 106
2nd - Steve Moody 101
3rd - Edward Giles 82
4th - Craig Neve 50
5th - Louis Dawson 50
NG Open 600 Championship Standings (Nearest)
14th - Tom Weeden 29
15th - Owen Hunt 24
16th - David Carson 22
17th - Will Lathrope 19
18th - Mark Walker 16
Here are some photos from the Brands Hatch round of the NG Road Racing championships, taken by official photographer Colin Hill...
Next up on our calendar was a trip to the iconic Brands Hatch circuit, with a three-day weekend consisting of Friday practice and Saturday/Sunday racing. We travelled down on the Thursday (which was Dave Snr's birthday!) and a clear run saw us arrive just over 4 hours later. By this point, all spots located near power points had already been taken, so we took the opportunity to setup in a central spot close to everything we needed.
In the week leading up to the event, sections of the track had been re-laid - so we had some fresh tarmac to enjoy!
Friday Test Day
First things first, we unloaded the van and then got setup. We were only testing on the RS660 Trofeo today, which meant that we could focus our efforts on the one machine. The morning started quite cold, so we used the track time to get reacquainted with the circuit layout. Contrary to what we expected, the fresh tarmac was lovely to ride on - but Druids and Clearways were covered in dust/dirt and was a bit sketchy until a clean line appeared.
Unlike at the previous Darley Moor event, the suspension felt extremely stiff at this circuit - so we proceeded to make changes to soften the front suspension setup (preload and compression damping changes). At Brands Hatch there is not a lot of braking done whilst the machine is upright, which may be why there is such a pronounced difference.
In the third session, we saw smoke on the entrance to Druids and on the exit saw a rider going around Graham Hill Bend with smoke pouring out of the exhaust - which turned into flames down the Cooper Straight. Not knowing what slippery stuff may be on the circuit, we pulled aside and then saw what looked like the "Ghostrider" in the distance - flames had engulfed the machine and the rider ended up in the gravel at Clark Curve. You can see the rider flash by at 0:28 in the video below.
With the lunch break arriving - and with free WiFi available in the paddock - we decided to watch some MotoGP practice sessions in-between our sessions :-)
We then focused on taking more notice of our braking/turning markers out on track and then made a few further suspension changes in Session 5, which again made a positive improvement. In order to validate that the changes were actually an improvement, for the final session we reverted to our "initial/default" settings. Out on track, the original settings did feel more "vague" than our new settings, but as we somehow managed to get 20 laps of track time in before the chequered flag was shown, we went even faster and managed to set a new PB of 53.31 which was great news!
Our final task of the day was scrutineering & signing on - where the technical team were unhappy with the Kawasaki Supersport camera mounting (as we expected as it was on the top yoke), but allowed us to carry a camera in the Supertwins races. With that done, it was time to nip to the Kentagon for a beer!
Saturday Race Day
We were the first out onto track in the 9am Supertwins practice session, where we didn't learn much due to the cold temperatures - but it woke us up and got us in the mood for the day ahead.
About half an hour later we took the Kawasaki Supersport out for the first time (after making some equivalent front suspension changes to the RS660 Trofeo). The Pirelli Supercorsa tyres fit to this machine felt nicer to ride on in the low temperatures than the Metzeler TD slicks, but that might just be because I have had so much prior experience with them... Out on track we were using the wrong gears in the wrong places - but that was resolved when we went faster later in the day.
Shortly after the Formula 600 practice we went out into the Formula 600 qualifying session - and went as fast as we could comfortably go - but some guys out in the session were flying! We qualified in 12th position (13th on the combined grid) with a lap time of 51.95.
Our final qualifying session was for the Supertwins, where we struggled to get a clear lap, but qualified in 3rd position in class with a 53.73 lap. This put us 7th on the combined grid.
It was now onto the races, starting with the Formula 600 race. When the lights went out we got a decent start, then settled in and got quicker. We managed to pass one rider to move up to 12th place, which is where we finished at the end of the 12-lap race. We set a New Personal Best lap time of 51.81 on the Supersport machine and had got our best-ever finishing position in the NG Formula 600 class!
Our final race of the day was the Supertwins Race. The mixed grids meant that we got to have a battle, albeit not with riders in our class. During the race we set a New Personal Best Supertwin lap time of 52.97 and finished in 3rd place! This was despite the quickshifter not working - a configuration issue fixed after the race - and the Traction Control kicking in at several points around the circuit. But once we reduced it from level 3 to level 2 the intervention went away!
Saturday night signalled the end of the weekend for Dave Snr, as he had to return home for some pre-flight COVID tests. We collected our trophy and then ventured back into the Kentagon!
Sunday Race Day
Sleeping in a caravan with two young children is not recommended! But despite our youngest doing her best impression of an Octopus overnight, along with some of the heaviest rain we've heard for a while - playing an impressively loud tune on the caravan roof - we did manage to get some decent sleep in! Little Kate turned 4 years old on the Sunday, so was treated to breakfast in "Hailwoods" cafe.
Our first job was to take the RS660 Trofeo rear wheel to A&R Racing to get the Metzeler TD Slick rear tyre flipped, due to it starting to show wear on the right-hand side. We should probably not be surprised after 50ish laps of Darley Moor, then 81 laps of Brands Hatch on the Friday test day and a further 30+ qualifying/racing laps on Saturday - but we do like to get value from our tyres!
We made a last-minute decision to take part in the Sunday practice session on the Supersport machine, which got us up to speed with a 52.73 lap. We had four races on the Sunday and had been burning through so much fuel (70+ litres) that we were risking running out - but fortunately Darley Moor marshals Jason & Joanne kindly took our gerry can and filled it up with Shell's finest V-Power so that we could get through the final day on track!
Onto the races and into Formula 600 Race 2. We got a good start and were straight up to speed - but there must have been less wind than on the Saturday, as our braking marker for Paddock Hill was no longer sufficient to pull up the bike in time for the corner. After running wide a few laps in a row we decided to pull back our marker which resolved the issue. The rear tyre started to move around during this race, particularly at Clark Curve and Paddock Hill, but we managed to set another New Personal Best lap time of 51.81 and finished the race in a best-ever 11th position! :-)
Onto Supertwins Race 2... Despite flipping the rear tyre, the Traction Control was still coming on at level 3 so we turned it back down to level 2 which allowed a much smoother ride. We again had a battle with riders from the other classes and when we got some clear space on track managed to set a New Personal Best lap time on the Supertwin machine of a 52.82 (over a second faster than we managed on the Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin) and finished the race in 3rd position.
A sunny lunchtime allowed us to grab a bite to eat, dish out some birthday cake and then let the girls play in the glorious sunshine!
In Formula 600 Race 3 we rode consistently and put in a series of fast lap times (very close to our PB). Despite the rear tyre now appearing heavily used on the right side, it wasn't massively an issue and seemed to be moving around slightly less than in the previous race. Another 11th place finish was a great result for us - but this rear tyre has seen its best...
Following lengthy delays in the Minitwin (an oil spill) and 125/250GP (an injury) races, we managed to get out for Supertwin Race 3, which was the penultimate race of the weekend's schedule. When we arrived on the starting grid we noticed that the "Top 2" from the earlier races were not on the grid... We got a decent start and became involved in an on-track battle until the red flag came out on lap 7. After a short break the organisers decided to call it a result - meaning that we had won our first NG Supertwin race of the 2022 season! This also meant that we have taken the lead in the NG Supertwins championship standings!
Back in the paddock, former Darley Moor champion Richard Wardle (who got a hat trick of Formula 600 3rd places this weekend) gave his hat to Kate as a birthday gift - which she adored! :-)
Another couple of honourable mentions must go to...
* Joe Connolly, who managed to get on the podium in the Powerbike race!
* Stuart Fitton, who was debuting his new Triumph 765 bike - but unfortunately suffered a head gasket failure during the weekend :-(
So with the fun and excitement over, we packed up, headed home and watched MotoGP until the early hours!
It has been a very busy start to the season for us, but we now have a couple of weekends off until a two-event weekend at Donington Park and Darley Moor on the weekend of 13th-15th May.
Other than our usual preparation, the Supersport machine will receive a new rear tyre and some new EBC GPFAX front brake pads - we'll see you on track soon!
Here are some photos from the opening round of the Darley Moor championships, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
David Carson Jnr,