Croft Race Report – First win for Team SLUK! | SPORT
The first race meeting of the 2016 season loomed through a bright and sunny week in northeast England. Only for the sun to take his hat off and stay in bed on Saturday leaving a very cold, windy and wet start to the weekend. A bit of rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the hardened racers eager to get down and get on with it after a long winter lay off. It did however add to my anxiety slightly.
I was returning to racing after a break of around eight years. I did go for a ride around at Cadwell at the end of the 2015 season for a bit of fun but this season I am riding in the new LCGB Production Class. After scrounging around for some sponsorship, I suddenly realised the pressure was on to actually take it seriously and give the sponsors something back for their money.
Wet tyres? What wet tyres
In the frenzy to actually get the thing built in time (more on that in a separate feature) I had overlooked the most basic, but one of the most essential requirements to riding fast; a decent set of tyres. More specifically, a set of wet tyres. I had elected to ride on the Continental race tyres which had been supplied to all Production Class riders free of charge, the option is there to use Mitas race and wet tyres but free is what I’m all about. Ignoring the rain I pressed on and went out for morning practice. To be fair the Continental’s would be fine in the wet if I was riding to the seaside, trying to go as fast as possible around a race track on them had me hanging off the side of the scooter like a monkey trying to keep it as upright as possible and sliding all over. Time for Plan B, which consisted of borrowing a set of well-worn wets from Daz Westgarth, splitting my rims (no spare rims in my team) and swapping the tyres.
Race one on Saturday and after the warm up lap the lights changed and I was off leading the class for the first lap until the rear tyre overheated and tried to kill me by forcible ejection. Bugger. It got so bad that the rear wheel was sliding about in a straight line and my underpants were ruined by the time the chequered flag came out. Plan C involved me approaching the more professional teams wearing my best smile and scrounging a couple of wet tyres, big thanks to Steve Conneelly and Paul Baker for helping me out with that one.
I couldn’t believe how good the wet tyres are compared to when I last raced properly. Rather than a cautious procession we were actually racing hard and swapping places, with Zak Tingle putting in a great ride to take the Production Class honours in both Saturday races.
Sunday race one
Sunday dawned and the rain had stopped and the sun even made an appearance so it was rims apart again and back to the Continentals for the first race. The call to the assembly area went out over the tannoy and after dutifully arriving the riders were stopped while stickers denoting grid positions were added to everyone’s scooter.
While we were queuing up to be told where we were on the grid, (which we already knew as Jayne Morris had been around the paddock and told everyone) the gate marshal let those in the assembly area out on track then closed the gate and wouldn’t let anyone else out! When those left behind did manage to get past checkpoint Charlie we didn’t get a warm up lap and the start lights had stopped working. From my grid position I was just able to see the start marshal on the lighting rig waving in a ‘come and have go’ way which seemed to have been deemed a suitable way to start the race in the absence of lights! Anyway I won that race so I’m not complaining…
Race two and Zak was feeling the effects of having a blowout and dropping the scooter in the first race, leaving him with a battered wrist but he still pushed hard. Steve Hamilton was getting right back into the swing of it after an absence of 20 years but this time the honours went to James Lancaster who pulled away from me in the third lap and put in a very impressive performance to take the chequered flag.
A new class, three different race winners over the weekend and with a lot more riders entered for the coming rounds it is only going to get better. One thing, which has become apparent, is just how close the racing is. That was always the idea with everyone using the same parts but it really is neck and neck, it might not be as fast as some of the other classes but it’s just as exciting. Another thing I have realised is that I need to get fitter, its one thing losing weight but I wish I could lose 20 years!
The next meeting is at Mallory Park this coming weekend (9/10 April) where I hope to have settled the nerves down a bit and have a walk around the paddock to get some stories of what happened in the other classes. I’m afraid I was just too excitable at Croft to take much notice of what everyone else was doing!