The team (consisting this weekend of only Gerry and Richy) arrived at Cadwell Park on Saturday teatime, ready for the races on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. The weather was atrocious but the forecast was an improving one as the weekend went on. Fingers crossed!
New tyres were needed and as these were fitted the bikes went through Technical Inspection with the usual clean bill of health.
With awnings to erect, tyres to change, food to prepare etc, Richy and Gerry were kept busy till quite late before eventually retiring to the bar for a well-deserved beer and a bit of banter with fellow competitors.
Race winner Carl Smalley (#69 in background) checking out the guy that made him work for his win!
Sunday morning arrived with a damp but quickly drying track which meant qualifying on the new (dry) tyres. Nerves were jangling for both riders but especially Gerry as it had been a while since Croft and a year since riding a very technical Cadwell Park circuit. Even Richy was a bit twitchy as qualifying meant all 56 (yes! 56) entered bikes trying to find the fastest way around a very crowded circuit!
The massive entry meant that the bottom 18 qualifiers would race separately from the main race in what was called the “Thundersport Cup” This was to be given equal status to the main event with regard to trophies and podium presentations etc.
Unfortunately, Gerry didn’t have the best of qualifying, missing out on the “main” event by just one qualifying position, leaving him very disappointed.
However, Gerry’s disappointment was balanced out by a magnificent effort by Richy that put him 3rd on the grid and on the front row! Best qualifying by Richy to date on a very fast and competitive grid. This went to confirm Richie’s ability to match the fastest riders in the country.
First up with regard to races proper, was Gerry in the “Thundersport Cup”. 18 CB500’s on the grid, mixed with the “Streetfighters” and 400’s to make up a crowded grid of about 34 bikes.
The holding bay before a race is the busiest yet loneliest place – – –
As Gerry was 2nd on the “Thundersport Cup” grid, he was hoping for a good result and got a reasonable start. 34 bikes charging into the first (uphill) corner that is the ultra-fast Coppice. On a flying lap this corner is taken flat out in 5th (about 100 mph) with the uphill section helping the rider to wash off speed for the next double apex right of Charlies. Off the start it is flat in 4th gear with bikes clamouring for position to carry speed on to the main straight.
Park straight is of course flat in top with the “punch” of the new engine in Gerry’s bike enabling slipstreaming and out braking at the end of the straight to get past 2 or 3 of the streetfighters. In the blur that was the next 3 or 4 laps while things settled down, Gerry found himself battling for 3rd place with young rookie Owen Graves, the position changing several times over the next few laps! On the final lap, Gerry found himself in 4th place, right on Owens back wheel as they entered the final Woodlands section of the course. Barn Corner is the very last one and Gerry tucked himself in behind the 3rd place bike, coming out of the slipstream just before the line, grabbing 3rd place by 0.05 seconds (about half a wheel)! First time on the podium for Thundersport! The RBR supporters went wild with this superbly timed dash to the line!
At Thundersport events ALL riders in the race MUST attend the podium presentation to applaud their peers and Gerry found himself on the bottom step with camera flashes and applause all around! Wow! Gerry was also very delighted that he had knocked 4 seconds off his qualifying times.
Next up was Richy in the “proper” 500 race. He was very nervous (for him) as he is usually very chilled out.
On the front row – waiting for the lights!
A good start found him in 3rd at the first corner but when they came round to the “mountain” for the first time, he was in a good second, breathing down the neck of leader Carl Smalley, the Championship leader.
These two put a bit of a gap on the 3rd place man and saw the race commentator getting a little excited at the fantastic race between Carl and Richy for the lead. Although not able to pass Carl, Richy showed him his front wheel on several occasions and Carl knew he was in a race!
8 laps were quickly over due to the fast pace of the race with Richy only a few bike lengths down on the winner. A great race which had the crowd and riders in the podium area shaking hands and slapping backs! Trophy number 2 in the bag and many mentions of the Labman bike in the race commentary.
The second “Cup” race saw a much more determined and confident Gerry sat on the grid. Another good start put him in 3rd for the first couple of laps. A determined effort saw him out brake the 2nd place rider to put him in 2nd place, just behind the leader Owen Graves. When asked where he passed for the lead, Gerry couldn’t remember but just kept his head down and tried the best he could to keep his wheels in front! Margin of victory for Gerry was just under 2 seconds which was never challenged throughout the rest of the race.Top step of the podium!
A fine podium for 2nd place in the main race for Richy!
Second race for Richy saw him holding another fine 2nd place, scrapping with the third place rider and the place swapping every lap until the commentator noticed him slowing, out of main view behind the trees on the start/finish straight. Richy thought a fuse had blown as the bike just died but then looked down to find that the connectors holding the ignition switch together had jumped apart and he had to ride no hands at 80 mph to re-attach them! Still came home in 6th place! Amazing!
This amazing day finished with the whole of the Thundersport 500 grid having to strip off header pipes, airboxes, and engine cam covers, for a technical inspection (for any cheaters) after the last race on Sunday, this was done in sunshine whilst drinking beer so it was fine! All engines (including Richys of course), checked out ok with only two riders refusing, leaving them excluded from racing for the rest of the season.
It was 9.30ish before Richy and Gerry finished putting the 156 bike back together leaving little time for a barbeque and a couple of beers before turning in.
Richy pushing it over the “mountain”
Monday morning turned out sunny and warm again, but the two riders feeling bit shattered after a poor night’s sleep in the uncomfortable van. (glamorous motorbike racing??)
Adjustments made to bikes followed by a 10 minute warm up session and then the nervous wait for their respective races. Gerry especially had to keep telling himself that this was all a bit of fun, not to be taken too seriously?
Monday is TV day, so all riders want to do well, especially for their sponsors, and Team RBR were no exception-adding to the pressure everyone feels.
Gerry was first up, getting a good start, determined to have a good race. Adrenalin has the effect of making the rider very lethargic before a race, almost sleepy, but this turns into massive concentration and focus, once those lights go out! As the saying goes, “when the flag drops, the bulls—t stops”!
Gerry was going well, leading the Cup race and lapping in the low 1min 54 secs – enough to keep him ahead of Steve Kain for the run to the flag. Another unchallenged win with Gerry sticking to the motto of “never giving up” by continuing to push hard on the first few laps and holding accurate lines with no mistakes! – although only winning by 0.2 secs over the 2nd placed rider.
Race 3 for Richy turned out to be one of his toughest and closest of his racing career. Another excellent start saw him in second off the line but one or two other bikes seem to have a little more speed once in the higher gears and Richy really had to ride the wheels of the “Pizza” bike to stay in touch with the leader.
An absolutely fantastic race developed for 3rd place between Richy and Alan Naylor, the position changing several times, whilst slowly closing the gap to the leaders to within one second by posting some quick lap times. Richy seemed better in the twisty technical parts of the course where Alan had more speed to pass with slipstreaming down Park Straight. However, when it comes to bravery and late braking, Richy takes some beating!
Richy looking to put a move on the leader!
On the last lap, again going into the final Woodlands section, they came across backmarkers! Richy taking one line past, Alan taking another, swapping paintwork and giving the backmarker the fright of his life as Richy “leant” on him! (remember, no mirrors to check behind you). Richy closed his eyes and went for it – coming onto the final straight, nose in front, using another backmarker to help drag him to the line to take a magnificent 3rd place by just 0.3 secs! Another podium for rider, sponsor Labman – all on the telly!
Final race for Gerry was very frustrating (the old man was getting tired!). He knew he had the measure of the other front runners in the “Cup” race but made a schoolboy error start, pulling a couple of wheelies off the line, closing throttle to control them and being passed by most of the field by the first corner! Head down and getting past people, up to 3rd in his class but being hampered by a “400” from another class. This bike was rapid on the straights but slow on corners making it difficult for Gerry to pass. Very frustrating as he had the leaders in sight!
That’s racing, and not wanting to do anything too silly in the last race of the day, Gerry settled for another safe, well deserved 3rd place.
Final race for Richy again saw him “ragging” the little 500 to within an inch of its life – bringing him home in another fine 6th place, just 6 seconds behind the race winner Carl Smalley, who looks the favourite to take the Championship this season.
Perhaps a slight change of gearing would have given more top speed to Richy, getting him onto the top step, as his riding on the day matched the best the class has to offer. There is always “what ifs” and time for reflection after the event but having said that, the results over the weekend were absolutely amazing! Good preparation and attention to detail, brave and determined riding all gave Team RBRacing/Labman, the best weekend ever!
What more can be asked for! What an amazing weekend of racing for Team RBRacing/Labman!
The haul of 6 trophies included a 2nd and 3rd for Richy in the ultra-competitive main Thundersport 500 main race, and 4 trophies for 2 wins and two 3rd places in the supporting “Thundersport Cup” for elder statesman Gerry.
Thanks again to Andrew and the team at Labman for their support, and looking forward now to a new challenge of a new circuit – Oulton Park!
Gerry, Richy, Jan, Sarah, Ally and Jo (Team RBRacing/Labman)