We were once again graced with dry (but cold) weather conditions for the two days on track, with a Saturday test day and Sunday race day making up the weekend's activities.
We pulled the bikes out of the van and gasped in horror when we saw the water temperature reading on the Aprilia RS660 show just 1C! Fortunately, the water in both bikes resisted the almost freeing temperatures and they escaped unscathed. Our first job of the day was to put the RS660 through the noise test (as it was the only machine being used on the test day), so we switched on the bike and pressed the starter button and... nothing happened! No starter motor whizzed into life, no noises were heard and nothing changed on the dashboard... After switching the machine off and on a few times Dave Snr coaxed the machine into life! Since then everything has run smoothly, so we're not sure what happened there - but we hope it never returns!
On the approach to the circuit exit we learned that the relevant menu cannot be accessed when the machine is moving - so briefly stopped on the return road, found the menu, kicked off the procedure, held the bike at the required speed, then immediately turned off the bike (whilst still moving) and waited for the stated 60+ seconds before restarting the machine. This gap left just enough time for us to be told off for stopping in a precarious location! Oops!! With all of messing around (or rather, necessary configuration) we performed, we only managed to put in a single flying lap - so didn't learned much more about the new bike except that the quickshifter worked and all of the levers were in an acceptable location.
Prior to our final session we double-checked that the "out of the box" suspension settings matched Aprilia's recommendation sheet, which they did except for on the fork rebound. For anyone interested, we ended up with the Engine Map set to level 2, the Engine Braking set to level 2, the Traction Control set to level 4 (reduced to level 3 by the end of the weekend) and the Wheelie Control switched off. With no big changes or configurations to test, we used this session to just ride and get used to the bike. By the end of the session we put in a 1:01.66 lap, which was just over half a second slower than our PB lap on the Kawasaki Supertwin which we've run for the past 9 seasons - which was a great indication of the bike's potential, especially as the sprocket ratio was so high that we were only able to run 5 gears down the half-kilometre-long Pope Straight!
Sunday Race Day
The Sunday started cold but the sun was occasionally shining! Our first qualifying session, for the Twins, was the second session on track. The air temperature was 6C so we didn't want to do anything too silly on a cold track. Once out on track we found there was a lot of traffic, so when we came across some free space we put in a decent lap of 1:02.09 to qualify 2nd on the grid. 2021 Darley Moor Formula 600 champion Albert Walker acquired the 2018 Darley Moor Twins championship winning machine over the winter break and was running very well on it. He took pole position with a 1:01.71 lap. Darley Moor regular Ian Robinson was also running an Aprilia RS660 for the first time at this meeting and qualified with a 1:06.01.
Next up was the first race of the Darley Moor season (and our first ever race on the Aprilia Racing RS660 Trofeo). We picked a 19th grid position "out of the hat" and then had shocking start! All weekend we had been warned that the RS660 can be difficult to launch, but we'd had some spirited launches on the test day so thought that it wouldn't be a problem... We now know differently! As the Allcomers contains a variety of machines - and most are slower than a brand new Factory-built racer - despite the awful start we were able to move up to 5th position by the end of the opening lap, then into 3rd position at the end of lap 2 (of 10 laps). Unfortunately, by this point the race leaders were 5.16 seconds up the road - so we decided to use the race to get some more seat-time and become more familiar with the bike.
On lap 5 (of 8), we took a look behind to see whether we had created a gap but Albert Walker was right on our back wheel! With this knowledge we then increased the pace and reduced our lap times, putting in a race fastest lap of 1:00.50, which was enough to take the win! After crossing the line and arriving to Park corner on the cooldown lap, we saw Albert waving at us from behind the fence - it turned out that he had unfortunately fallen on lap 7 whilst chasing us. The pace was so hot that we won the race by 34.83 seconds and broke the Twins race record which has been in place since 2014!