So immediately after finishing work we headed across to the circuit. As we approached the sky got darker and the road got wetter... When we arrived at the circuit, the paddock was an inch deep in water! Regardless, we unpacked what we needed so that we could get the scrutineering and sign-on tasks out of the way for the weekend.
Saturday - Round 7
We got up early and spent around half an hour brushing out the "private pool" from our awning, then setup for the weekend ahead. We knew we would have long days ahead, with a possible 10 sessions on track on Saturday and 9 sessions on the Sunday. In the end we decided to do "just" the essentials, which removed one session per day.
The Formula 600 Qualifying session was the first session of the day. With no further rain forecast for the weekend and the ground drying quickly, we thought that by the time the 10am session arrived that only damp spots would have remained on track - we were wrong! We headed out and the circuit was more wet than dry - but we were on dry tyres. We were passed by riders on wet tyres and let them go, then passed by riders on dry tyres and considered trying to hang onto them, but we just weren't "feeling it" - we went as fast as we were prepared to go, but qualified poorly in 14th out of 23.
There was a wait of over an hour before out next session, Twins Qualifying, and the track was now almost dry. We still weren't feeling it but hoped that putting in a decent number of laps would help - especially as directly after Twins qualifying was the Stars qualifying (and then we had a race immediately after that - three sessions in a row!). We headed out and put in a time that we thought should be good enough for the front row. It was and we qualified 2nd on the grid behind Andy Whale.
Out into Stars Qualifying and our head still wasn't really in it, but we put in a reasonable lap time of 59.49 which put us 18th of the 29 qualifiers. Our lap time was 112% of Richard Cooper's pole time, but fortunately we were given permission to start the race. On return to the paddock we discovered that the camera batteries had both expired - it looks like our old 2014 GoPro cameras didn't like being charged a week prior to the event, so they were removed and popped on charge...
We were now into the races and the first was Allcomers. We drew position 22 'out of the hat', which was possibly a blessing in disguise - as it gave us a bit of a kick up the ass! We managed to finish the opening lap in 3rd position, before moving past Ian Robinson on lap 2. By the end of lap 5 we overtook Albert Walker and took the lead. From there we put in some consistent laps and won the race, just 0.30 of a second outside of the race record! Andy Whale didn't manage to finish the race but did set the fastest lap - with a fantastic lap time of 1:00.35!
With a clear run we managed to set a new Twins Personal Best lap time of 1:00.35, followed by a fantastic record-breaking 59.86 lap time on the final lap! We won the race and became the first-ever "Twins" racer to lap Darley Moor in under a minute! We were finally back in the groove!! :-)
Sunday - Round 8
Sunday morning was very relaxing (due to no sound testing, scrutineering, etc) and the sun even made an appearance! Once again we were the first qualifying session of the day, in the Formula 600 class, but this time we were able to 'get straight on it' and we qualified 2nd on the grid. The same was true in the Twins qualifying where we managed to set pole position!
Out into the Allcomers Race we managed to get a better pick 'out of the hat' and started from 12th on the grid. We got a great start and entered the Wilsons chicane in 4th position. Albert Walker got the holeshot but entered a little too hot and ran across the grass, which slowed down the pack enough for us to move into the lead into Park corner on the opening lap. From there we had a clear race and didn't meet any backmarkers in the chicanes, which meant that when we crossed the line to take the win we had broken the race record by nearly 7 seconds (6.98 seconds to be precise)!
We managed to pass Ian and Albert on the opening lap to move up to 3rd position and then set after Jim. By lap 3 were had caught up to Jim, so we made a move into Park corner - the pass was successful but on corner exit the Traction Control kicked in and limited our drive (a problem which would plague us later in the day), allowing Jim to repass us on the approach to the back esses. We made another move at Townleys exit/Haripin entry and managed to stay ahead until the end of the lap.
At this point, there was a 4.04 second gap to race-leader Andy and only 5 laps remaining... By the hairpin on the final lap we managed to catch Andy, but were unable to beat him to the line. Andy took a fine win, we finished in 2nd place just 0.21 behind at the flag, with Albert Walker taking third place. During the race we managed to put in another lap under the 1-minute, with a 59.87.
Our race was slower than the Saturday Stars race, meaning that leaders Richard Cooper and Leon Jeacock came past earlier in the race, but third placed John McGuinness still didn't lap us. One final flap we managed to nip past David Glossop and finished the race in 11th position. This gave us a Personal Best finish of 10th in the aggregate standings (and also some prize money!).
We managed to retain the lead for the second lap too, but on lap 3 Jake Hopper came past into Paddock corner - despite our best efforts to outbrake him. From here until the end of the race, Jake retained a lead of around a second over us and Richard was continually glued to our rear wheel! At the end of the race, Jake took another win, we took another 2nd place and Richard took another 3rd place.
Throughout the race we tried to play with onboard settings in an attempt to workaround the issue, but the situation became so bad that we decided to retire from the race - and suffer our first "DNF" for many seasons!
Initially we thought that the heavily-worn rear tyre may have been slipping too much for the TC algorithms to deal with - but looking at the data capture it appears that the issue may instead lie with the front wheel speed (or front wheel speed sensor/ring - but there is no visible damage to those).
The screenshot of the data capture below shows a normal (red) lap versus a lap (blue) when the issue occurred. Despite a similar GPS Speed, Throttle opening and Rear Wheel Speed - the Front Wheel Speed registered as low as 1 mph. We believe that the difference in wheel speeds is what provoked the Traction Control to intervene and to result in the behaviour that we were experiencing. More investigation will be required...
Twins Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st - David Carson 90
2nd - Ian Robinson 50
3rd - Patrick Lord 40
4th - Ben Wilkinson 35
5th - Jim Hodson 32
Formula 600 Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st - Ben Dale 73
2nd - David Carson 63
3rd - Jake Hopper 50
4th - Liam Weston 31
5th - Richard Cooper 30