Brands Hatch Indy – 12th 13th March – Kent

Nick Matthews Apex Racing

The first race meet of 2011, this is what we had been working towards for months and now its here and its Brands Hatch …..

Bikes ready waiting1 Brands Hatch Indy – 12th 13th March – KentWe arrive late Thursday night and as is now tradition there is no space in the paddock, we squeeze the new for 2011 luxury living accommodation (a £ 200 caravan) in behind garage 26 and bed down. Early Friday morning we are up and preparing for the day, bacon butties and black coffee.

The test day is a challenge for us both, Adam sets straight to work destroying his clutch which with some intimacy he spends the day re-acquainting himself with the inner working of his bike, almost before he’s ridden it, whilst I spend a morning fighting the bike through McLaren and through Clarke Curve trying not to fall off a twitchy rear ended ride. In the Lunch Break I enlist the assistance of Andy Pulling 1491, who like all good mentors,  tells it to me straight and readjusts my suspension (thanks Andy you know you love it really). The afternoon is better however with the post lunch session spent tweaking this leaves me the last 15 mins of the day to dial in, still that’s 15 mins more than my race partner Adam.

After a restless night in the luxury accommodation it’s Saturday morning, suspension is now working and the clutch is back in. Early practise for me was difficult; I can’t get my head into the game, I’ve lost my mojo and can’t find it?

Qualifying

Moto Grande, more like wobbling around at the back of the grid, a 1.00 min dead see’s me qualify last ! LAST hold on we were 5th overall last year in the Junior Endurance, LAST!

Adam is having more problems with leaking oil and misses vital track time and qualifying and with my best lap at 58.5 seconds in the Juniors we qualify last for the Endurance Superpole and with Adam now assisted by Rich back in the garage stripping the engine again.

This is a first for Apex Racing, 48 hrs earlier we were confident of a win and two top ten finishes, oh dear….

Endurance Superpole

Adam On Track1 350x232 Brands Hatch Indy – 12th 13th March – KentWe are placed 32nd or 33rd I can’t remember other than it was at the back, a grid start suited Adam and with his bike running again the argy bargy at the start of a race is what we needed to move up the field and within 15 minutes he had moved through enough riders to be placed P 12 overall all and first in class. They line up and in Adams words;

“Revs up, clutch biting, red light on, and 1,2,3 heartbeats later the lights go out and 33 bikes scream towards paddock hill bend.

All that’s going through my mind is that I must force my way through the traffic as soon as possible.

Start 32nd

Lap One               21st

Lap Two               19th

Lap Three            18th

Lap Four              17th

Lap Six                  16th

Lap Seven            12th plus were 1st in class

Lap Fourteen…. Disaster

Turning into paddock hill bend I change down a gear and something gives, I change down again and something breaks.  The gear selector change shaft has broken, with the bike in 4th gear. The same thing happened to me last year at Cadwell Park.  I’ve not been out long enough to have got a significant lead on all those I’ve overtaken but I have no choice but to coast back into the pits.

Rich collects the transponder from me whilst I stand with a stricken bike stuck in 4th gear at the stop box entrance to pit lane”….

A sterling performance by my team mate whilst I supped tea oblivious to the situation outside! Some frantic running around in the garage by the pit crew and I’m out and circulating as best I can playing catch up some 3 laps adrift. I take the chequered flag in erm LAST position AGAIN, can this weekend actually get any worse?

Race 1

This will take some time Brands Hatch Indy – 12th 13th March – KentAdam is out of the Power Cup race, bike is back in bits and Richard is surrounded by cogs and bits of engine, I am called for my first sprint race, big gulp and I’m off. In the holding area I’m told to go to P32, guess that meant there were 32 entry’s? The track is wet, damp greasy and lacking grip, there are no numbers of such that I could see so I just lined up at the back. A quick warm up lap and its head down, the flag goes up, revs up, lights on and ready, steady, GONE. That ‘s what it felt like, I let the clutch out , a fellow competitor up ahead of me crashed on the start line everyone manoeuvred around him and within an instant the field had gone and left me wondering what the heck!

In a nut shell by the time I reached Graham Hill Bend the third corner on the circuit the field had cleared off and left me, a lonely 5 or 6 laps before the leaders caught me at which time I had conceded and taken the decision that I should use the time to try and find my mojo, feel the circuit and bring it home, Nil Points.

Race 2

Sunday morning and its still cold damp, wet, slippery oh joy. In the holding area I’m told P23, now this is not due to me moving up the grid this is the attrition rate of Brands Hatch in the wet, my third visit this year and I would estimate I’ve witnessed over 70 crashes, mad.

Due to the poor start I had yesterday I took some advice from our team manager Skip on how to get a decent start as last year he pulled off demon start after start. The lights go out and this time I pick up the power early and go with the field, I follow the field around the first lap and take my first two scalps into Paddock Hill Bend, a faller at Graham Hill a frantic dash and another scalp coming out of Clark Curve, the laps tick down pretty quickly and a drying line turns the rear end into a mush through the corners, for the last two laps I am convinced there is someone on my tail and I try hard to hold it all together. The chequered flag comes out and I finish 15th a point scoring position (just) and I feel like I’ve just started to get to grips with the circuit.

Back in the paddock Adam breaks the news that the second bike can not be fixed, gear box is terminal and that’s us out of the Endurance Race, round 1 nil points and now the challenge has been laid down, if we are going to take this championship, we need to be better prepared for Mallory Park in 4 weeks and we are going to need a good result.

Race 3

Just before the race the rain falls and the temperature takes a sharp drop, the track again feels slippery and I’m struggling on the Michelin’s to get good feel. The lights go out for the last race of the day and again I get a good start, this time I take a position into the first corner and get straight onto the back of the pack. After this it all feels wrong, I can’t hold a line and am struggling to read what the bike is telling me, I loose touch and within 3 laps am taken back for the last position. The only positive I can take is that yet again there are fallers at almost every corner. I take a steady course and finally take the flag in 14th position.

The weekend is over and not too soon, I struggled with set up, feel and feedback, struggled with confidence and ended up running at the back of the field when I should be running mid field upwards. I did however pick up 3 championship points, so the weekend wasn’t a total wash out unlike our Endurance championship with a broken bike and nil points.

Bones1 350x261 Brands Hatch Indy – 12th 13th March – Kent

After the racing I popped along to the hospital as I’d been suffering from wrist / hand problems and just wanted to get it checked out, turns out I had a fractured Scaphiod from the crash at Brands 10 days earlier, given the results above I doubt it made any difference however its strapped and splinted now, until the next outing that is icon smile Brands Hatch Indy – 12th 13th March – Kent .

It’s a long season and there will be many challenges ahead, we have run at most circuits on the remaining calendar and run well, Adams bike can be fixed and I will get out on circuit again before Mallory, see you there !