We had watched British Superbike (and more recently British Touring Car) races at Croft on the television but had never attended the circuit in person, so this was a truly new experience for us. Our intention for the weekend was just to ride the circuit we had seen so many times before. This weekend there was a Friday test day, followed by Saturday and Sunday race days. After careful consideration we decided to sign up for the Friday test day (to learn and ride the circuit) and the Saturday race day (to experience a race at the circuit).
On the Thursday morning our trusty yellow Vauxhall Vivaro returned from the mechanic and was loaded with just our Kawasaki ZX6R - leaving the van looking spookily spacious compared to usual!
Friday Practice Day
The weather for our two days at the track had been forecast to be dry but it didn't work out like that, with constant "wetness" in the air at all times and some very light showers thrown in for good measure.
When it was time for Test Session 1, the day was dry-ish but there was a bit of damp on the track, so we decided to keep dry tyres on - especially when the sun made a cheeky appearance shortly before our first session. We didn’t want to hang around, so waited until just before our session started to head to assembly area for noise-testing. There was no queue so we got swiftly through then went onto pit lane where the red flag was already being shown. Unfortunately, a rider had crashed out of the chicane on the sighting lap… So we went back to the paddock and popped the tyre warmers back on. The session restarted so we headed back out onto track, sprinkles of rain now falling on our visor, with new brake pads to bed in. We were very cautious on our out-lap but learned that the track was a lot tighter than expected and there was a lots of damp track at both Tower corner and at the Jim Clark esses. After we completed just a single flying lap the chequered flag was shown!
With the weather improving and the track drying further, we swapped to a dry rear tyre. Then a rain shower landed, so we swapped back to wet tyres! In Test Session 3 we managed to complete another 5 laps in wet conditions - but our lap time of 1:56 was not worrying any lap records... :-)
Test Session 4 was our final session of the day. It was our first full session and we managed to complete 7 laps in the full wet conditions. In this session we were putting in consistent laps (around the 1:50s) and starting to focus more on gear selection, braking points and racing lines - which was encouraging. The rear wet tyre was now showing as very worn, so we were hoping that the Saturday race day would be dry - but overall were just happy that we were becoming comfortable with the circuit.
As is customary with a race meeting - we then performed the required sign-on, scrutineering and noise test tasks (along with a lot of back-and-forth to allow the use of our onboard camera), before prepping the bike for race day (including downloading Friday's videos and data & charging everything up) and then we watched Friday's MotoGP practice from Argentina.
Saturday Race Day
It was a relaxed start to the day as we weren't out on track for qualifying until noon-ish. The day was cold and the circuit was damp (but had little standing water), so we decided to run the wet tyres. After 7 laps we had put in a best lap time of 1:44.2 - our quickest lap yet, but only good enough for 19th in class.
We made the decision to play safe and run wets, for the following reasons:
- Our wets were due for replacement anyway
- If the showers continue then it will be the correct choice
- We aren't racing for position/points so if the choice is wrong then we lose very little
The positive is that by the end of the race we had knocked off a load of excess time and were starting to get quicker - and with the Sunday race day being dry we have no doubt that (using dry tyres!) we would have been able to knock another chunk off our lap times and become more competitive. Still, there's always next time... :-)
Our next race meeting will take us back to the NG Road Racing championship. We missed the opening round of the championship as it clashed with Darley Moor Round 1, but are looking forward to returning to Castle Combe on Friday-Sunday 21st-23rd April.