Gerry and Richy set off for Oulton Park on the Thursday evening as this meeting is traditionally Friday testing / qualifying followed by two races on Saturday only. Just taking the one van jam packed full of everything that goes with racing bikes, they trundled off to the picturesque venue that’s not far from Chester.
Upon arrival in glorious sunshine they proceeded erecting the “garage” (Gala tent) whilst slurping a couple of beers and listening to England get beat in the World Cup! A quick review of the track map before bed left them both reasonably nervous as neither had ridden the circuit before. Gerry had only been to watch previously, so the team really were the underdogs this weekend.
Arising early Friday morning to get the bikes through Technical Inspection presented no problems, ready for the first testing session at 9.15am. The team had decided to do the test morning at this meeting to provide some precious track time ready for qualifying in the afternoon. After a cup of tea and some energy drink they found themselves in the very hot holding bay ready to stretch the bikes’ legs on the circuit.
When learning a new circuit you can approach it one of two ways, build your speed up slowly getting quicker and quicker, or try and find the limit straight away by taking a few risks. Richy was on the kerbs and grass a few times as he chose the latter option whereas Gerry (as usual) using his wise shoulders built up speed nicely and both riders had more or less figured out the gearing by the end of the first session. By the last session Gerry and Richy were satisfied with gearing and braking points but found it difficult to tell how fast they were going. The track is very fast and wide but the corners tighten on exit causing much debate in the garage about lines, apexes and braking points. No more time to figure it out as lunch was scoffed and then out for qualifying.
Leading the pack through the fantastic “Cascades” bend
There was a delay to qualifying so everyone was held (41 bikes) in the holding bay for 15mins in the searing heat. All were relieved to get going. The session was, as ever, frantic and all the bikes jostled for position in an attempt to get a fast time. Both riders safely came back into the garage with Gerry getting quicker by the lap and Richy pushing as hard as he dare in qualifying, both managing to find some much needed space on track. There are two particularly fast corners at Oulton, the first, Island bend, is a 6th gear full lean left hander. The second is a fifth gear double apex right hander call Druids, which was causing both riders some hassle in trying to get the right line. Both felt more speed was to come in this part of the track. Anyway, after waiting anxiously for the grid positions, they found that Richy had qualified 5th which he was over the moon with, and just outside the magic 2 minute barrier, while Gerry qualified a very respectable 27th, out-qualifying many of his much more experienced main rivals. Both riders were content and ready for the racing.
Trying to get the power on early dropping down through Cascades
After some chain adjusting, topping up of oil, clutch adjusting, changing brake pads (again!) we settled down for a BBQ, and a few beers in the bar discussing starts and gearing again!
Morning came and another sunny one with blue skies. It was going to be a dry days racing which was a relief to both riders. Morning warm up came and went with no problems and it was time to re-fuel in time for race one.
It was good to see Rob from Labman who arrived just in time for the first race with his dad and brother-in-law. The nerves start to grow before the race and it’s often Richy telling his dad to stay focused and stop worrying! (You would think it would be the other way round!) Gerry’s grid position found him on the inside against the wall and the first corner being a right hander, had to ensure he got the best start possible and not to get boxed in at the start. After his bad start in the last race at Cadwell he was keen to make amends.
After doing a practice start on the warm up lap (and also remembering to make a note of where the lights were), both bikes lined up on the grid ready for lights out! After some creeping on the grid the lights went out and the roar of 40 CB500’s went round the paddock. Richy made a good start, barrelling down to the first corner but had to stand the bike up on the apex as another rider made a very late move for position causing him to take to the kerb on the exit losing crucial yards and positions on the drive down to the second corner. Gerry also made a good start and forced his way up the inside of the first corner to gain some positions on his rivals. Richy made a mistake on the fast island bend running very wide and nearly taking to the grass but managed just to keep it on the black stuff but dropping down to 9th in doing so. Gerry used the speed on his “new” engine to slipstream down the back straight to keep the early pressure on the guys around him. Richy, wanting to make amends for his bad first half lap dived up the inside on the last corner to try to overtake rival Rob Mawbey but just ran out of road on the exit, taking to the grass but not losing too much time by keeping the throttle pinned wide open. Gerry, focused on improving his braking, was starting to pull the lever that bit harder and managed to tag onto the guys who started on the row in front of him by keeping his riding neat and tidy with no mistakes. After the mistakes of the first lap Richy got his head together and got down to try and bridge the gap of around 2 seconds to the three riders in front. Such was the pace of the race it took nearly four laps to get on to the back wheel of the group. Richy dispatched one into the 4th gear left hander Cascades then forced a “late but fair” overtake up the inside into the chicane. Richy then got good drive up Clay Hill to get alongside his rival Rob Mawbey and go up the inside into the 5th gear right hander, Druids, up to 6th place.
Gerry in the meantime was keeping a solid consistent pace having a race long battle with No. 91 who started just ahead of him on the grid. Gerry showing his wheel at the chicane and the Shell Oil’s corner but just couldn’t let the brakes off enough to take the place. The remaining 3 laps passed with some very fast laps from both riders, enough for Richy to hold his position and Gerry to stay within inches of the wheel of No. 91. Richy crossed the line in a hard earned 6th and Gerry trying one of his famous slipstreams to take no 91 on the line but just couldn’t before the chequered flag, still taking a well-deserved 25th and 6th in the seniors class. A fine race for both riders in a very competitive field as well as the track to learn.
The temperature started to pick up again later in the afternoon ready for race two. We topped up the petrol as much as we dare, nipped up the clutch on the 156 bike (the pizza bike clutches are not up to the punishment of racing!) and tried to stay relaxed for the next race. Gerry would really like to finish in the top twenty in the main race and this will come if the improvements still continue. Richy would like to keep challenging the top five for the remainder of the season. As both riders lined up on the grid for the final race, Gerry was keen to keep up his fast starts and Richy wanted to be more aggressive into the first corner as he got “hung out to dry” in the first race on the outside. The lights went onto red and seemed to stay on for an eternity, catching some riders out as they made some jump starts. And they’re off!!
The deceptively long run to the first corner means the speeds are already close to 100mph in 5th gear. Richy missed a gear, losing a bit of crucial time on the run to the first corner but braking late, taking a wide line held off challenges from the riders on the inside whilst carrying speed down to “cascades”. Gerry again made an excellent start and tried to be more aggressive into the first corner holding his position around the first few bends. Richy thought he was in for a quiet race as he tried to hang on to the 4th place rider in front for 4 laps, and then had a quick look behind only to find 4 riders within striking distance! Time to get his head down again! Gerry was again impressing with no mistakes having a good battle with no. 91 who started alongside him on the grid.
Gerry continued to hang on to No.91 who was setting some very good lap times, but as the race drew on the “old man” got a bit tired and was happy to bring it home safe whilst still trying his best to the chequered flag. Another very solid result and 7th in the seniors beating some riders less than half his age! Gerry knows where to improve his riding by adjusting his upright old school style by hanging off the bike a bit more, this way more corner speed can be carried which is essential when racing this type of bike. All part of racing a motorcycle which is very different to riding on the road. For the next 4 laps Richy had a titanic battle with those 4 riders around him. He had the speed on the latter part of the lap but a couple of the other riders were quicker through the first half of the lap. On the last lap Richy was lying 7th as backmarkers appeared ahead as they approached the fast right hander druids. They were soon mauled by 5 bikes and Richy came out the other side in 6th! Some very late braking into the last corner to consolidate his position. After pulling into to Parc Ferme Richy lost his front brake completely as his brake fluid had boiled! How lucky was that! Dot 5 required for next time.
Flat out in top gear through Island bend!
Another day of fun, action packed racing, backed up by some results which the team can be proud of being the first time out at Oulton Park. Congratulations must go to Richy, being one of a very small club of riders this weekend to break the existing lap record, set just last year. Not bad for a first visit to this track!
The circuit and facilities were excellent and the team left with big smiles on their faces.
We’d like to take the opportunity to once again thank Labman for their ongoing support, the team colours were well represented again and let’s hope they get some TV good coverage and mentions on the videos like they did at Cadwell.
Bring on Rockingham at the end of July.
(Gerry, Richy, Jan, Ally, Sarah and Joe – RBRacing/Labman)
Check out the racing on the Club I Player – see link below!