We arrived to the circuit around 8pm on the Thursday evening and setup in exactly the same spot as we did last year. For this meeting we also setup our first-ever set of awning lights - and they certainly did the job!
Friday Practice Day
We awoke on the test day, which was also Dave Snr's birthday, to a lovely dry paddock - but it didn't take long for that to change when the rain arrived and then settled in for the day. We were booked into Session 5 of the afternoon test session (due to restrictions at Castle Combe it means NG run half-day test days), but in the opening afternoon session a bike spilled oil around the entire circuit - which necessitated a lengthy clean-up. The end result was that we only took part in a single session and completed 4 flying laps on the wet track - so not much was learned there!
Saturday Race Day
Onto race day and delightfully the ground was dry, but the lingering fog meant that there was a delay to the planned 8:40am start to track action. This delay was gratefully received, as it allowed the air temperature to rise from 3C to a massive 6C before we ventured out onto circuit.
Our first race was Supertwins Race 1. We got a bad start and were swallowed by the pack, but managed to regain most of the positions back on the opening lap. We then started to put in solid laps but just made too many small mistakes, like at 7:54 on the video below where a big handful of throttle on corner exit lifted the front wheel so much that we couldn't steer the bike - meaning we had to get off the gas to turn, which cost over half a second in lap time! A final big push on the last lap meant that we reduced the gap to 2nd-placed William Holland to just 0.2 of a second at the chequered flag. We finished in 3rd place, whilst the race was won (by a country mile) by Isle of Man TT racer Jamie Coward.
After a few laps we felt comfortable and thought that we could push on a bit more, so managed to overtake Michael to move into 3rd position. We then pushed as hard as we could for the rest of the race, managing to work our way through the backmarkers cleanly too. After what seemed like one of the longest races of all time we crossed the line to take our first-ever NG Open 600 podium with a 3rd place finish!
We then got both bikes ready for Sunday, had a nice warm shower, headed to bar for some dinner and then got back to the caravan (just in time for the evening rainfall to get heavier) for an early night.
Sunday Race Day
With all of the overnight rain, the circuit was wet but was continually drying with the occasional bursts of sunshine and bikes on track. We decided to get a practice pass but in the end we didn't go out for a warm-up session due to the in-between conditions on track.
Our start of Supertwins Race 2 was truly awful! The initial launch was as poor as the first race, but a lack of aggression on the opening couple of laps made for a much more difficult recovery through the race. To compound our misery, we felt that the traction control was holding us back so attempted to reduce the setting. It was then that we noticed that an alarm had appeared on the dashboard - "Alarm ATC Disabled". We did what we could, made a few passes, but crossed the finishing line in 5th position. Not where we wanted to be but these things happen! A glimmer of hope what that we managed to set a new Personal Best lap time of 1:16.188 during the race.
In Open 600 Race 2 we managed to get another good start and managed to stay in 3rd position. We were surprised to stay within touching distance of the leading pair for a few laps, before they began to disappear into the distance. Not knowing who was behind us, we kept our head down and went as fast as we could, setting a new Personal Best lap time of 1:14.262 along the way. We were on for an even quicker lap when the red flag was shown and the race was called - giving us another 3rd place finish!
Before Supertwins Race 3 we decided to make a number of changes to the Aprilia RS660:
- Changed the ATC setting to 1 (to reduce traction control intervention)
- Changed the AEM setting to 3 (to soften the throttle response)
- Added one turn of slack to the clutch lever
This resulted in a much better start where we retained our 5th place starting position throughout the opening lap, before passing Dave Hewson and William Holland to move behind 2nd-placed Brody Crockford. We sat behind Brody for a few laps and were having a think about where to attempt a pass when the red flag was shown and the race was called - giving us another 3rd place finish. We later found out that the red flag was due to Darley-regular Andy Whale crashing on the final corner and sustaining a pelvis injury - fingers crossed that Andy makes a full recovery soon.
We were held on the grid for 10-12 minutes and then given 2 warm-up laps followed by a 6-lap race. Just before the race start we glanced down at our dashboard and saw that the fuel warning light was flashing, so we were hoping that we would make the finish!
An even better start saw us secure 3rd position on the opening lap once again, but this time it became a 3-rider battle for 2nd place between (championship leader) Ricky Elder, ourselves and Sam Laidlow. The battle was broken up at the end of lap 5 when backmarkers came into play - but we finished in 3rd position to finish off a great weekend, with 5 podium finishes from 6 races!
Open 600 Championship Standings (Top 10)
Ricky Elder 126
George Edwards 116
Michael Rees 69
Jed Bird 62
David Carson 48
Tom Weeden 40
Sam Laidlow 37
Robert Cresswell 36
Paul Messenger 22
Justin Collins 20
Supertwins Championship Standings (Top 10)
Jamie Coward 75
Steve Moody 74
Brody Crockford 73
Jamie Ingham 63
William Holland 49
Tony Parker 46
Paul Williams 45
David Carson 43
Edward Giles 42
Shaun Wynne 41
There is a couple of weeks until our next race meeting, which will be at NG Road Racing's visit to Donington Park on Friday-Sunday 12th-14th May. The gap in proceedings should provide enough time for Dave Snr to clean up his jumper... ;-)