Checking out the entry list for the Stars race was interesting, as we spotted our name on the entry list despite not officially entering - but we were happy with the opportunity to try and beat our previous best finishing result of 17th place achieved in 2018.
Saturday Race Day
We arose from our bed and ventured out at 7am to find the ground wet and fog lingering. The weather forecast leading up to the weekend was for two beautifully dry days, so our initial thought was that this would burn off, so we decided to just leave the dry tyres in. We had a run of sessions where we were out in 5 out of 6 sessions, which would end with the Allcomers Race. Eventually, about 30 minutes before our first session, some light rain arrived - so we had no option but to quickly swap over to wets.
After a quick set of wheel swaps we were left in a hot, sweaty, steaming mess - just check out the video below for an unusual sight!
In our haste, we had neglected to change the suspension settings - which were still in dry mode - and as a result the front end felt extremely stiff and vague. We tried to push through it as best we could and managed to qualify in 6th position.
With some changes made to the front suspension, we were immediately out into the "Stars at Darley" qualifying session and immediately went 4 seconds a lap quicker! We qualified in 11th place and were actually the last rider within the 110% barrier (just 0.04 of a second within!), which lined us up on the 3rd row of the Stars at Darley grid... :-)
As per previous years, the season-closing meetings at Darley Moor had just one race per club class per day, which were all an extended length of 15 laps (except the Allcomers which was still 10 laps).
The Allcomers was our first race and we picked grid position 7 out of the hat. A poor start and relaxed first lap meant that we ended the opening lap in 6th position. After working our way up to 3rd position by the end of lap 4, we remained there for the rest of the race - finishing the race in 3rd position.
By the time of the Formula 600 race, the track conditions were now half-wet/half-dry - but almost everyone on the grid opted for wet tyres, which were overheating by lap 4! We spent almost the entire race in 3rd position, until being beaten to the line on the final lap by Reece Cashman, crossing the line in 4th position.
Next up was the Twins race. By now the track conditions had improved sufficiently enough for us to swap both bikes back to dry tyres. However, from the start of the race, our Kawasaki Supertwin was sounding noisy and there were unusual vibrations. We ended the opening lap down in 7th position and slowly made our way up to 3rd position by the end of lap 4. By this point, race leader Jim Hodson was over 12 seconds up the road.
As we were riding around (attempting to mentally diagnose the issue), we realised that in our rush to swap to dry tyres we hadn't checked the tyre pressures on any of the dry tyres - this wasn't too much of an issue with the Supertwin as it was wearing the same tyres as the previous meeting, but the Supersport machine had brand new tyres fitted. With that revelation realised, we brought the bike home to a "safe" 3rd place and returned to the paddock where the Supertwin engine was making a variety of nasty noises... This meant the end of the weekend/season for the twin, but the 3rd place result meant that we managed to secure 2nd position in the championship!
Stars at Darley Race 1 was immediately after the Twins race. Time spent checking and altering the tyre pressures (which were 38psi in the rear & 34psi in the front - they should be 26 & 32) meant that we just missed the start of the warm-up lap, so had to start the race from the back of the grid. After a fast and furious race through the pack we managed to finish in 10th place, just in front of 'BSB Junior Superstock rider' Jake Hopper and 'Fast Bikes magazine columnist' Broderick Whitmore-Wilson.
Of particular note on the onboard footage was Richard Cooper's overtake of us into the back esses - which woke us both up!
With our day of racing over, we gave both bikes a clean before heading out on a coach to the Darley Moor fundraiser organised by G&S Racing team owner Mark Fisher. It was a great night, and it was great to share in the celebrations of Albert Walker who wrapped up the Formula 600 championship a round early - well done Albert!
Sunday Race Day
The forecast good weather finally arrived! We were first out in the Stars warm-up session and immediately felt good on the bike, but our lap times were slower than expected - and the "Stars" appeared to like the drier conditions, as we finished the session in 18th position. Something was telling us that today's Stars race would be a tough one!
We then had the Formula 600 qualifying, where we forced ourselves to relax on the bike and after a few steady laps we felt good again - but the onboard laptimer was showing spurious times. We pushed on as hard as we dared in the windy conditions and the laptimer showed us a best time of 1'00.08, which we were disappointed in. When the official results were published we had actually posted a 59.45 which was good enough for 2nd position on the grid!
Our first race of the day was the 15-lap Formula 600 Race, where we needed to finish in the Top 7 in order to secure runner-up spot in the Formula 600 championship. We got a great start (and even pulled some wheelies!) and entered the Wilsons chicane in 3rd position in class. From there we tried to put in solid laps, which were only thwarted when catching backmarkers at unfortunate track positions - and managed to set our fastest lap of 59.05 on the penultimate lap. When we crossed the finishing line in 3rd place we just couldn't help but to punch the air in excitement after securing runner-up position in the Formula 600 championship! :-)
With the pressure of the club championships now gone, we were able to relax and enjoy Stars at Darley Race 2. Arriving to the assembly area on time (this time!) we started from our 11th place grid spot. We got a decent start, then got involved in some battles and ran the race between 12th-14th places. At the end of the 15-lap race, we crossed the chequered flag in 14th position - which gave us an aggregate result of 11th place in the overall Stars results, which we think is a fantastic result for us!
At the end of the 2021 Darley Moor season, the championship tables look as follows.
FORMULA 600 - FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (TOP 5)
Albert Walker 76
David Carson 47
Richard Wardle 37
Tom Fisher 30
Reece Cashman 26
TWINS - FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (TOP 5)
Jim Hodson 75
David Carson 59
Richard Hunt 46
Anthony Thane 37
Sean Seddon 24
Big congratulations to both Albert and Jim on putting together really solid seasons! We were never really within touching point of either this year. Looking back at the season, this has been a fantastic year for us and we met our targets for the season, so we're not disappointed! So we couldn't help but have a little celebration... :-)
Our 2022 plans are still yet to be decided (and our Kawasaki Supertwin issues are yet to be investigated), but we are very pleased and proud with what we have accomplished during the 2021 season...
* 2021 Darley Moor "Formula 600" Championship Runner-Up
* 2021 Darley Moor "Twins" Championship Runner-Up
* Classified 11th overall in the Stars at Darley (with a Top 10 race finish)
* Increased our "career race win total" to 111 race wins