When we arrived at the circuit, the weather was beautiful and the mountains of snow that were present at the first round(s) had melted away. Better still, the forecast for the Monday race day was even better at 21 degrees and dry!
On the Sunday evening, we connected Tim Poole's laptop to the Power Commander on the Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin in an attempt to see why the quickshifter was not working. An error message of "Configuration error: Minimum RPM not set" (or similar!) was stored in the memory, so this software configuration issue was resolved but we had to wait until the qualifying session to see whether everything was working correctly.
As usual, I was entered into 3 race classes (Formula Darley, Mini Sound of Thunder & the 'open capacity' Peak Cup class) which gave me 3 qualifying sessions on the Monday. By (bad) luck, these qualifying sessions were back-to-back-to-back, so a pitstop strategy was devised and agreed with Lorna stepping up to the plate (as Dave Carson Snr was busy being collected from east midlands airport after spending the weekend watching the MotoGP races in spain, before joining us later on in the day).
The first qualifying session was for the Formula Darley class. From the start it was clear that the quickshifter was still not correctly configured; the expected full-throttle clutchless upshifts were not possible as the ignition was not being cut at the correct time, meaning that the clutch needed to be used for upshifts. But when the 'clutched upshift' had been made, the quickshifter would cut the ignition after the successful gearchange had been made, making for a very jerky ride! During the session, the bike (with the new radiator fitted) was running at 55 degrees, which is a little too cool. So there were a few issues, but at the end of the session I had put in a time good enough to put me 4th on the grid for the two Formula Darley races.
I has pulled off the track slightly early in order to make some quick changes before the Peak Cup qualifying session. Two strips of duct tape were applied to the radiator to reduce the efficiency of the radiator and a quick change to the gear change mechanism was made before heading back out on track. The bike was now running at 74 degrees (ideal!) but the same gearchange issues were being experienced, so after a few laps I pulled in to make some more changes.
Before the Mini Sound of Thunder qualifying session, we quickly added 2 litres of fuel and unplugged the quickshifter. Out on circuit, the bike felt much better to ride and soon my lap times started to tumble. At the end of the session I had managed to qualify 3rd in class (7th on the combined grid) with a respectable time of 1'04.1. Due to the race scheduling, I took the decision to only complete in the Formula Darley and Mini Sound of Thunder races.
Mini Sound of Thunder Race 1 - After another poor start (which was the unfortunate recurring theme for the day & is now a primary area of focus for improvement!), I ended up spending most of the race battling with Paul Martin on his Aprilia 1000 (who is in a different championship class); which although entertaining & made some good video footage, was not conducive to setting fast laps. At the end of the race, I'd picked up another 4th place.
Formula Darley Race 2 - The race started with an average start, but was then similar to the first race with me catching and passing Graham Oakley and Tim Sayers, but due to lost time caused by catching a backmarker at the back esses on lap 4, I was not able to catch Keenan Armstrong despite putting in some faster laps. At the end of the race, I had another 4th place to my credit.
Mini Sound of Thunder Race 2 - Onto the final race of the day & cue my worst race start of the day! I like to think that I am a calm & patient man, but even I was pissed off with myself for the mess I'd made of the race start... I had my work cut out for me but after a few laps I caught Keenan Armstrong and Paul Martin and, after a few more laps, I managed to pass both of them and break free in 2nd place. In the final 3 laps, I was able to put in some good and (fairly) clean laps which, on the final lap, resulted in me setting a new personal best lap of 1'03.19 - which was also the fastest lap of the race!
This race meeting has highlighted some important areas of improvement that I will try to address over the coming months, but has also provided a lot of positive aspects that I will also gladly take away! As it currently stands, I am sitting in 3rd place in both of the 650cc championship classes after 3 of 8 championship rounds.
FORMULA DARLEY CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1st - Brad Vicars 33
2nd - Gary Dangerfield 27
3rd - David Carson 22
4th= - Joshua Dransfield 15
4th= - Tim Poole 15
6th= - Phil Johnson 9
6th= - Ross Richards 9
8th= - Jordan Rushby 6
8th= - Keenan Armstrong 6
10th - Tim Sayers 3
MINI SOUND OF THUNDER CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1st - Brad Vicars 40
2nd - Gary Dangerfield 30
3rd - David Carson 22
4th - Joshua Dransfield 17
5th - Ross Richards 9
6th - Keenan Armstrong 8
7th - Jordan Rushby 7
8th= - Tim Sayers 2
8th= - Lewis Beamwell 2