The Friday test day before the Saturday race day started off with a wet track but with the sun breaking through, so we decided to skip the first session to allow the track to dry. After skipping the first session, we spoke to some of the competitors who were out in our group who advised that it would probably be several more sessions before a dry line would appear, so we fitted the wet tyres and ventured out onto the damp track (which would later dry for the afternoon sessions). For whatever reason, the organisers had decided to place us in a group that contained Formula 600 machines rather than with the 650cc MiniTwin machines. This wasn't too much of an issue - except for when the Formula 600 class lived up to their 'axe murderers' reputation when four out of the six sessions were red flagged early due to crashes!
After lunchtime on the Friday, the dry tyres were once again fitted and we slowly chipped away with improvements to our laptimes, finally setting a new personal best laptime of 1'55.68 on our Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin in the final session (an almighty 3.3 seconds off the previous best laptime). Things were looking good for the Saturday race day!
With the championship leader not present at this round, we would be starting from pole position for my class for the qualifying race. With the heavy morning rain and a collection of delays throughout the morning (from crashes to oil spills and even a power cut at the circuit), our first race did not start until 2.40pm (six hours after the free practice session!). We headed out for the qualifying race on brand new wet tyres but with the constant delays, the track was now mainly dry with occasional damp patches. The majority of our class had also chosen wet tyres, but there were a few that had changed to dry tyres. On the warm-up lap it was obvious that we were going to struggle on the wets, so 'damage control' was now the aim of the race. Knowing that the wets would overheat before long, we quickly got up to speed and moved into 2nd place by the second corner. With the wet tyres starting to overheat after only a single lap, the bike started moving around on the tyres. Despite this, the bike continued to feel comfortable to ride and we managed to put in a string of laps in the 2'01 second bracket - later we would find out that what felt like 'the bike moving around on the tyres', appeared to our fellow competitors as "sliding all over the place". As the race went on, we knew that the pace that was being achieved on the wet tyres wouldn't be good enough to stay in 2nd place and sure enough, as the race went on we were passed by Peter Boast, then Brad Vicars and then Ben Rea. But with Peter Boast crashing on lap four which brought out the red flags, the race results were moved back one lap which meant that we finished 3rd overall - behind Kevin Davies and Brad Vicars - and would start the Final race from 3rd place on the grid.
In between the qualifying race, a rotation of sunshine then rain shower ensued. This constantly changing weather was starting to irritate David Jnr but Dave Snr seemed to enjoy it, merrily quoting "wet on, wets off" whilst performing the "wax on, wax off" motions found in the original Karate Kid movie.
When the Final race finally started (at 6.15pm!) the track was 99% dry and we had our dry tyres fitted. From our 3rd place grid position, an OK start meant that we exited the first corner in 4th place. After watching Jason Turner run off track and crash at Druids corner on lap 1, consistent laps in the 1'56 second bracket (with a best lap of 1'56.04) meant that we were able to catch and pass Former MCE British Superbike rider James Edmeades to take 3rd place in the race, before becoming involved in a battle with the Triumph 675 of Tom Parkes (who was in the separate Sound of Thunder class). The race was won by (2013 NG MiniTwin champion) Kevin Davies by 2.5 seconds from (2013 Formula Darley champion) Brad Vicars.
We were please with our performance at this event!
The next NG meeting will take place at Cadwell Park on 10th/11th May. Before then, we have Round 2 of the Darley Moor championships on Bank Holiday Monday 21st April (Dave Snr's birthday)
And last but not least, for the data-lovers amongst us, here is a section of the Oulton Park Ideal Lap, formed from 9 different racing laps :-)