The team, this weekend consisting of Gerry, Richy and Jan, set off to the huge facility that is Rockingham Motor Speedway near Peterborough on Friday evening. On arriving at the circuit ( that resembles an American NASCAR circuit), with the main track being an oval shape with massive grandstands lining half its circumference. The garage was set up in beautiful sunshine and Richy went off to get some new tyres on his wheels ready for the racing on the Saturday. Gerry in the meantime decided to use scrubbed tyres on the Saturday and change them to new ones Saturday night.
Richy climbing onto the banking at the last corner
The race meetings this year have been blessed with good weather and Rockingham followed this trend by being the hottest weekend of racing the team had encountered so far. Richy and Gerry rose early (about 6.30am) on Saturday morning to get the bikes scrutineered and put Richy’s new tyres on. The bikes went through scrutineering no problem again and the team were soon back in the garage talking tyre pressures ready for the qualifying session. Tyres are the most critical aspect of the bike, but due to the high temperatures we were recommended by the tyre fitter to set the temperatures hot after qualifying.
It was discovered at this point that Richy had won an award (from Thundersport) of a brand new rear tyre worth £100! He was one of the riders to receive this award, given for “competitiveness, sportsmanship and turnout of machinery” over the season, amongst other things. Cool! Well done Richy Boy!
Qualifying soon came and the conditions were already hot. Gerry had the advantage of coming to the track last year, so Richy used the first few laps in qualifying to follow him to see where the track went and gain some valuable quick learning of lines and braking points. Gerry was setting a very good pace as he starts to lean off the bike a bit more which allows him to carry extra corner speed. With the temperatures rising both riders were struggling with grip, Richy having a massive highside moment coming out of the hairpin which had his legs straddling the tank, and Gerry having a similar incident coming out of the second gear right hander “Yentwood”. This however didn’t strike fear into the team and both riders pushed for a good lap times, quickly learning and re-learning the track, despite most teams doing the test day on the Friday having an advantage. Both riders pulled into the garage telling tales of their moments and near scrapes and this was was only qualifying! After receiving their times both riders were chuffed with their efforts. Richy qualifying high up in 5th and Gerry 28th. This held the team in good stead for Richy to continue decent results at the sharp end and for Gerry to achieve his goal of finishing in the top twenty.
First lap action with Richy up at the front again, and Gerry only a short straight behind him!
The team decided to check the tyres temperature hot, which is not something they normally do and set them to the recommended pressures. The team was soon lined up on the grid for the first race. After again making a note of where the lights were on the warm up lap and doing a practice start, the bikes lined up ready for the lights to go out. Both riders seem to have the starts routines sorted and the revs were up ready for the off. Richy got a great start as he made it to 4th barrelling down to the first corner, which is a very fast 5th gear chicane. Gerry again got a good start aggressively gaining a couple of spots heading down to the first chicane. Following the chicane there is a huge straight following by a double apex hairpin at Deene, where it’s a case of who brakes latest (whilst changing down 4 gears) that sends the bike into a weave and the rear wheel kissing the tarmac! Richy consolidated his position in fourth for the first lap whilst Gerry, using his wise (old) head settled into his rhythm. Into the second lap Richy made a mistake running wide at Yentwood and taking to the kerb, losing critical momentum for the three fast left handers up the hill (as you go from 3rd to 4th to 5th gear up to about 100mph), allowing 3 bikes through, dropping him down to 7th. Gerry in the meantime was storming up the field as he overtook using good drive onto the straights and late braking to consolidate 22nd. The reminder of the race continued with some sliding around especially when getting on the power coming out of the slower corners. Richy was able to hang onto the group which was battling from 2nd to 6th and made a pass up to 5th place on the brakes into Deene on the final lap, after setting his fastest lap of the race and ultimately the weekend. A few corners later, on the brakes into “tarzan” (a slow second gear hairpin), Richy lost the front end and slid off into the gravel. It’s his first spill of the season which left him disappointed but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Gerry in the meantime benefited from the spills at the front, getting him up to 20th, his first top 20th finish!! Great results for the oldest man in the field beating some lads a third of his age, and missing out on a Seniors podium finish by just 3 seconds!
The team worked in the sweltering heat to get Richy’s bike ready for the second race. Tyre pressures were put back to what the team knew and they were soon back out for round 2. Gerry was particularly confident going into the next one after his top 20. Richy wanted a solid race but knew he had to push it to stay with the front group. Both got good starts again with Richy sitting in 8th after the first lap, and Gerry inside the top 25! Both riders benefited from two crashes at the sharp end boosting Richy up to 6th and Gerry 23rd with two to go. Richy could just about stay with the front group but didn’t want to risk another spill and after taking a long look behind with no riders in sight, he decided to bring it home for a very satisfying 6th in his first full race at the track. Gerry, unknowingly was up to 22nd overall and 3rd in the Senior race, but with 4th place Stephen Petrie right on his back wheel. Stephen sneaked through on the last lap, with Gerry trying his hardest to out drag him to the line, eventually missing out on the third step of the podium by just 3 tenths of a second!! Gerry was gutted so close to another podium but was please at his pace knocking, 5 seconds off his last year’s lap times
After a very hot day in the saddle the team were pleased with the days racing and looked forward to another good day on Sunday. After having a bbq and eating far too many burgers, the team found refuge at the circuit bar for a couple of well earned beers and a chat with the fellow racers.
“That” corner, the lap before the “off”
Sunday morning soon came and it was a slightly fresher day to the relief of the team. Morning warm up came and went well, with the cooler temperature helping the tyres grip better. After fuelling up and having that horrible waiting around time before being called to the assembly area ready for round 3. The grid for Sundays racing is always dictated by the times from the Saturday, so Richy was 8th on the grid and Gerry was 26th. Both riders were in determined mood now they had a day of racing under their belts. The thunder of 40 cb 500s lined up on the grip waiting to drop the clutch when the lights go out. Gerry was off like lightning as he wanted to finish on the podium and knew he was capable of beating his rival this weekend, Steven Petrie. Richy made a clean getaway holding 7th down to Deene’s for the first time. Gerry was in confident mood, as his experience and race craft starting now to show as he outfoxed a few more riders with well timed overtaking moves, taking him inside the top 25 and continuing to push hard. Richy, again on the fringes of the front group found himself engaged in a battle with No. 108 and no.70 who were riding well this weekend. Positions were swapped for the next three or four laps, the group being joined by championship leader Carl Smalley, who was suffering some minor top speed issues with his bike. Gerry in the meantime was on a charge and was gaining on the guys inside the top 20th as he was definitely in the groove for this one! Yet another crash at the front followed by another crash by Carl Smalley just in front of Richy boosted the riders a couple of places. Then suddenly the red flags were out and the race was stopped after 6 laps.
After returning to Park Ferme, Richy was told that his Dad had fallen off on the fastest corner on the track, a 90mph left hander. Richy left his bike and found Mum Jan to go and see what had happened to Gerry. The Marshall’s advised us he had been knocked out for a few minutes and was a bit confused of where he was (he thought he was on his hols and didn’t know he was racing bikes!). He came back to the medical centre on oxygen and on a stretcher which was not nice to see, but at least he was now conscious after taking a serious blow to the head. The doctors had to cut Gerry’s leathers off as a precaution and was advised he had to go to A&E with Jan. The medical staff at the track were excellent but the same cannot be said of the staff at Kettering Hospital, who sent Gerry on his way even though he was still very knocked about and confused. Richy packed the gear up with much appreciated help of friends Gary Barnes, Paul Cobb and fellow racer Sam Smith, ready for the return of his Dad. On return to the circuit Gerry was still understandably shaken by the crash and the medical staff checked him over again and asked him to see a GP first thing Monday. The team agreed they had had enough fun this particular weekend and to make the journey home before the end of the meeting as Gerry needed some rest.
On conclusion there are many high and lows of racing, we have had some great weekends this year but all of them have been really fun. The team is now assessing their options for the end of the season once Gerry has made a full recovery, but I’m sure they’ll be out again soon for some more track action!!!
Thanks to all at Labman for the ongoing support, without this would not be possible.
Thanks to the racers and Thundersport team for their concern, and the medical team at the track for their care.
(Gerry #157, Richy #156, Jan, Ally, Sarah & Joe)