The Bank Holiday Weekend saw the Team’s first incursion over the Border into Bonnie Scotland with the NEMCRC meeting at East Fortune. Unfortunately, due to the imminent arrival of a little girl for Team main man Richy, it was only Jan and I that trod the long path to this very picturesque little circuit about 15 miles East of Edinburgh. The circuit is part of an old airfield that also accommodates Scotland’s “Museum of Flight”. An excellent Museum that has one of the icons of passenger aircraft, Concorde, on display in its own dedicated hanger. Very well worth a visit!
Friday’s arrival at the circuit saw blustery winds whilst erecting the gazebo and fettling our little encampment for the weekend. East Fortune is well organised with free electrical supply from silent generators, good showers, Cafe, Bar all topped with a short but very quick 1.5 mile circuit. Fast corners prevail here, and the little CB would have to get used to high geared, high speed work, as well as the poor old rider! (me).
Time to sign on and put the bike through Technical Inspection and have a bit of craic with some of the other riders. Only a small field of CB500’s, running within the Post Classic Senior and Junior Class. These bikes vary from older, large capacity “superbikes” like Suzuki GSXR1100’s and 750’s, down to TZ 250/350 Yamahas (very quick in their day and still quick now!). Throw in a few 400’s and you just know the racing will be “interesting!”
A nice hot home made stew (thanks Jan) followed by a couple of beers, saw us settled down for the night in the back of the van. A cold night hinted at a clear bright morning, which eventually arrived after a restless nights’ sleep.
The weather on Saturday was perfect for racing, sunny,warm and not a hint of a breeze! (Are we sure this is East Scotland?). Unfortunately, there is no warm up or practice with the NEMCRC, its straight into qualifying so no time to get to know the circuit and its braking points, gearing etc. However, the night before I was fortunate enough to walk the track with fellow rider Alan Brookbanks (cheers Alan) who advised me on his gears, braking etc, so at least I had a base setting in my head to start from!
Powering through the final Chicane
Before I knew it, I was blasting down the start/finish straight into the very rapid first corner (Pates) in qualifying. Trying to take it steady for a couple of laps is difficult when you see a lovely set of sweeping bends rapidly coming towards you, let alone the limited qualifying time of 15 minutes! A lovely little track. Two top gear, flat out straights, (well, one a bit bendy), a breathtaking flat in 5th right / left esses, followed by hard on the brakes hairpin! First corner is just a touch on the brake, then wide open throttle in 4th up to 6th as the road opens up down Railway Straight. Momentum must be kept through here as the big bikes I’ll be up against will be gone when they hit the straight! Anyway, the upshot of qualifying was a very pleasing 13th overall on the grid (from a grid of about 26 bikes), and 3rd CB500. Thats a 3rd row start which was as good as I could have hoped for, leaving me well pleased in readiness for my first race.
The Grid at East Fortune is very congested in the way it is laid out. Five bikes on the front row, four on the second row then another five on the third row etc. This makes it difficult to get a pass in before the first corner, (assuming you make a good start!) However, thats just what I did do! In every race over the weekend my starts were probably the best I’ve made. The first race saw me actually backing off through the first corner as there was no way through and nowhere to go as I found myself mixing it with the two rows in front of me! This meant me losing momentum though and the big bikes could stretch their legs down the long straight, leaving me to try and catch slipstreams and make up gaps on the corners! I managed to make up a couple of places then settled down to an excellent scrap with Howard Cross on his Suzuki GSXR750. It’s so frustrating to catch and pass on the brakes, only to be left trailing down the fast straights. I had a great dice most of the race with the big Suzuki just getting the better of me on the last lap! Was very pleased with my result though-overall 11th and 3rd CB500!
Flat out through the Esses. No time to look at the view!
The rest of the day was badly interrupted with crashes and other delays, that culminated in the Club not being able to complete the programme of racing intended for Saturday. This meant my 2nd “Saturday” race was postponed till Sunday, leaving the prospect of a very busy day as 3 races would have to be run for each Class on Sunday. Still, thats racing. There is a lot of hanging around between races, unless you have repairs to the bike to be attended to – and then there isn’t enough time of course!
With the Sun still shining, Jan and I settled down for a barbeque and the usual beers. The bike was running well so just a few checks and the addition of fuel was needed in readiness for Sunday. The evening was rounded off with some banter in the “Bar” with our friendly Scottish hosts!
A better nights sleep was had, with the sound of rain on the roof of the van (oh dear). However, by morning, although a bit blowy, the weather was dry and fine.
Not long before I was sat on the grid for my second race, determined to get the better of that pesky Suzuki! Another excellent start saw me again struggling down the straight with one or two big bikes passing me. However, I managed to stay in touch and also for a couple of laps hang on to Alan Brookbanks, a veteran of CB500’s and a very quick rider. “That” Suzuki came past me down the straight again, with another bike in its slipstream, bugger! Head down I stayed with them, the three of us having a great time passing/repassing for the remainder of the race. On the 7th lap I managed to get in front and pull a little gap on them. Last lap flag out, fast through the first corner and I expected to be passed on the straight, but I must have had enough of a gap to hold them off! I knew then that I could keep them behind me if I protected my lines and focused on the job. I saw a front wheel out the corner of my eye through the hairpin, but no way was anybody going to pass! I took the chequered flag in 11th position overall, knocking half a second or so off my lap time. Dead chuffed!
Soon up again for my third race. This was to be a 10 lapper, to give the riders more track time as we were supposed to have 3 races on the Sunday anyway, but this had been revised as we were running a race from Saturday, that would have meant 4 races on Sunday. Complicated?
Staying ahead of a selection of Post Classic bikes
I had set myself a target lap time of getting in the 1 min 13’s (fastest up to now was 1. 14.1), so it was do-able. Another excellent start left me dicing again with some of the Post Classics. Pushing harder to get my lap time down left me making some silly mistakes, losing me time. A big front end slide on the entrance to the first corner certainly made me think, followed by a similar slide on the exit of the double apex Station Bends. Trying too hard leads to mistakes, not being as smooth and ultimately loosing lap time. Another decent result though, 9th place but still not in the 1min 13s bracket!
Couple of mementos from the weekend’s racing
I got to thinking about the setup of the bike before my last race, as this circuit is bumpy and fast so perhaps a little tweek of my suspension and tyre pressures may help. Whats to lose? Couple of PSI drop in pressure and tightening rear suspension compression and rebound damping was duly fettled and away we went again for my last race of the weekend! The bike felt much better and easier to ride, with more grip and compliance over the bumps.
Good starts were one of the weekend’s highlights!
The other bikes I had been up against this weekend seemed to have upped their game as well, but another excellent dice with Howard Cross and others, had me finish in a very creditable 8th place, and finally getting the bike into the 1 min 13 secs lap times!
I was happy with that and also collected a couple of 3rd place medals for my podium finishes in the CB500 Class along the way!
Great weather, great racing, magical little track and the bike running well! What more could be hoped for! Roll on July when the team are back at East Fortune, with Team Leader Richy Boy back in the saddle.
Jan chilling out between races
Thanks to Jan for her help with the bike, the lovely food she prepared and the support over the weekend.
Oh, nearly forgot, we are now proud grandparents with a little girl Sienna for daughter Sarah and son in law Joe, and another little girl Skye, for Richy and Ally! Welcome additions to the team!
Gerry #55 CB500, Team RBRacing/Labman