On the Thursday before the meeting we attended the wedding celebrations of former Darley-regular Stuart Hall (congratulations to you and Zoe!) and decided to take a half-day off work on the Friday afternoon, which allowed us to setup in our usual spot in what became a very busy paddock.
Saturday - Round 6
We were the first out on track, with the Formula 600 and Darley Cup qualifying session opening the weekend action. There was a lot of traffic and we struggled to get in a clear lap which resulted in a best lap time of 1'01.23 which put us 6th on each grid.
After a short break we went out into the Stars Untimed session, which was red-flagged early after Chris Stuart took avoiding action into Townleys and unfortunately crashed. After the session restarted we managed to improve our time down to a 59.16 - which put us 8th fastest (of 21 riders) in this session full of superstars! Being this high up in the timesheets was unlikely to persist - but it was nice to shine brightly, even if just for a little while... :-)
We then got to take the Aprilia for a spin in the Twins qualifying session. During the session we experienced unusual behaviour from the bike - it felt like it had blown up - but after coasting to a stop and finding the engine still running, we checked that the chain hadn't broken, then checked that we hadn't broken any gears before setting off again. You can see this moment in the video below. Once we were going again, we needed to validate that the bike was OK so pushed hard for a lap time and put in a 1'00.72 which was good enough for pole position. The bike ran fine during the remainder of the session, so it was deemed ready to race.
It was now time for the first of our races - Darley Cup Race 1. With all of the track action planned for the weekend, our approach was to try and conserve our energy for the Stars and afternoon Points races. A good start saw us enter the Wilsons chicane in 3rd place and we moved passed Adam Green into Park corner on the opening lap to take 2nd place behind Stars-rider Grant Thomson. Putting in laps as quick as 58.74 we kept 2nd-place until the chequered flag, finishing 2.97 behind the heat-race winner.
Despite the message, forward drive was still being impeded, but after fiddling around with the handlebar buttons we managed to fully deactivate it. With the time spent resolving the issue we were unable to challenge for the win - despite setting the fastest lap of 1'00.64 - and finished in 2nd place behind ManxGP podium finisher Dan Ingham.
From the second start (shown in the video below) there developed a battle for the final three finishing positions between 1000cc-mounted David Glossop, 600cc-mounted multiple-British-champion (and one of our competitors from back in the 1990s) Steve Brogan and ourselves. At the chequered flag just 0.79 of a second covered our trio, with us being classified in 14th place.
After prepping the bikes for Sunday and charging the laptimes/cameras, we got cleaned up and headed to the onsite disco - before retiring to bed early for some much-needed rest.
Sunday - Round 7
Once again we were first out on track with the Formula 600 and Darley Cup qualifying session. There was a lot of traffic again but we managed to get one clean-ish lap of 1'00.57 which qualified us 4th on the Darley Cup grid and 6th on the Formula 600 grid.
We decided to use the Stars Free Practice session to get further up to speed and reduced our lap time to a 59.16, which was much more "in the ballpark".
In the Twins qualifying we continued to push and set a 1:00.26 lap time that set pole position and gave us encouragement for the day ahead.
New for 2023, the top-7 "Stars at Darley" competitors then took part in a Superpole session - where each rider gets the track to themselves and has just one lap to set their qualifying time. It was a great spectacle and hinted that pole-sitter (and Stars Race 1 winner) Charlie Nesbitt might just set a new outright lap record today...
Our onboard laptimer showed that we were on for a possible new Personal Best lap time, but coming out of the final corner we had a rear wheel slide that the data shows cost us 0.18 of a second - across the line it turned out that we had equalled our Personal Best lap time to the hundredth of a second with a 59.77 lap... Still, we were happy to take the win!
But then at the hairpin on lap 5, one of the PreElectronic racers took an optimistic dive for their class lead and knocked backmarker Dave Graham off his bike. As little to no regards was being shown by this rider, we decided to focus on the job in hand and brought the bike home in 2nd place in class - and were able to celebrate that we had won the 2023 Twins championship!
At the end of the season, the points tables look as follows. We think that winning two championship and finishing 2nd in another is a fabulous result, so we're not too disappointed!
Darley Cup - Final Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st: David Carson 84
2nd: Adam Green 57
3rd: Stephen England 52
4th: Matthew Rostron 35
5th: Grant Thomson 30
700cc Twins - Final Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st: David Carson 84
2nd: Ben Wilkinson 56
3rd: Anthony Thane 37
4th: Daniel Ingham 30
5th: Andy Whale 24
Formula 600 - Final Championship Standings (Top 5)
1st: Mark Goodings 64
2nd: David Carson 55
3rd: Jack Worth 43
4th: Adam Green 40
5th: Matthew Rostron 36
But in the meantime we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters (if you're reading this - then that's you!), Dave Carson Snr, Steph Carson, Lorna Carson & I would particularly like to thank Pomerol Partners, Palletways and Rock Oil for their support. Thank you all for making 2023 another very special year! :-)