Pembrey S.Wales, Motogrande Race ~ September 2010

Words and pictures by G. Levy
Test Day

The first few sessions of the test day were track familiarisation as I have not been to Pembrey before, so it was a slow build up of speed as you get a feel for grip and what gears to be in and braking, turn in & Apex points.  Once I had an idea of what’s going on Adam and I share half a session each (he needs to ride my bike again, due to his engine being is little bits on a bench somewhere) I start for 10-15 laps then trundle down pit lane and hand over the bike to a waiting Adam who completes another 15-20 laps.  Suspension changes soon follow as he needs to stiffen “everything” to cope with his shall we say “different size & technique”.  The next session is same again I start for 10-15 laps then trundle down pit lane and hand over the bike to a waiting Adam who heads out for a few laps then pulls in to check the front forks are OK (not so soft) then he’s back out.  The rest of the day goes along these lines and we end with a fair (not perfect) setup for his race.

Sat Race Day

Another dry day (great!) the No of entries to the motogrande is down on normal I assume this is due to location as Pembrey is a long distance from anywhere. This means there is only 6 people listed and I recognise the names of fast riders high in the championship, so it was going to be interesting starting closer to them.  Qualifying goes as per normal for me, a few laps to build up tyre temp, then try to piece together a clean, smooth, late braking lap, which goes a bit hit and miss and sometimes trying too hard forces errors which end up being slower! In the end I manage a 5th fastest in class and 12 fastest overall.

RACE 1 Saturday

This is a combined class race of 600’s and 1000’s together to I head out on my sighting lap pushing quite hard to get the heat into the tyres and round to the straight looking for the 12 position marker on the grid.  Next it’s our warm up lap so again pushing quite hard to get heat into the tyres and back round for the start which at Pembrey is done via lights (not a flag) so when the 4 red lights go out it’s a mad rush of 4 gears and 15 bikes all braking hard and trying to get round the tight hairpin that is turn 1.  I’m amazed everyone makes it cleanly away and the race isn’t red flagged.  Most of the race is a blur to me, as it’s such an intense little circuit I can only remember a bike going down at the right before the back straight and trying to hold off a couple of 1000’s.  Lee Rawlings on the R1 takes me at the hairpin, but I manage to stuff it back past into the next left, only for him to take me again just before the back straight and them clears off on the power of the 1000.  Next thing I know it the chequered flag, and I bag a 4th in class for another 13 points, and a bike all in one piece which Adam needs for the next race of the day!

Race 2 Sunday

Luckily the forecast for rain doesn’t materialise as I wake to another dry day, and head out for morning warm up with some new tyres to scrub in.  My second race is a very small grid as the motogrande race is for the 600cc only so I get told by the marshal “you’re on P5 second row”.  So it’s down with the clear visor (as it was a bit of a grey day I took off the dark visor) and out for the sighting lap.   Lining up on the small grid I think “This could be interesting starting so close to the fast boy’s” and round we go for the warm up lap closely watching Sam Ludgate’s lines (he’s s smooth and fast with it).  I pull up to start, front wheel bang on the line of P5 and eyes on the red lights, hold steady rev’s and GO!! Feed the clutch out as I add more throttle and it feels a good start I take it to full rev up to 4th gear then HARD on the brakes back to 2nd gear for the hairpin and I overtake 2 guy’s and I’m up to 3rd! So I think “elbows out, keep them behind” and manage to hold them off all the way around a lap till the front straight when Sean Moss on the Honda comes past.  Not long after John Lawrence gets past and pushes me back to 5th and I try to hold onto his tail in vain as he slowly pulls away.  However after a couple of laps I’m braking like mad for the hairpin and find John’s bike lying in the middle of the track and take avoiding action around the left side only to see the red flag come out on the next bend.

Race 2 Re-start

So lining up again with the front wheel bang on the line of P5 I notice the fallen bike is missing (too damaged to make the re-start in time).  The marshal shouts through the helmet and ear plugs “13 lap race re start” so eyes on the red lights again holding steady rev’s and GO!! Feed the clutch out as I add more throttle and it’s another good start and then HARD on the brakes back to 2nd gear for the hairpin and this time I exit the hairpin in 2nd place right behind Sam!!! thinking “the boy’s will be proud of that start!”  This puts the fire in the belly and I try as hard as I can to A) keep the others behind B) go as fast as my brain can keep up.  Unfortunately Sean Moss on the Honda comes past (I can’t remember where or when) in the blur of racing so I focus on trying to punch in as many good laps as I can to avoid being lapped.  Mid race the rear starts to step out from me on the fast right leading to the straight so I have to check the throttle and manage to keep it on the tarmac for the straight, then I notice as I’m braking for the hairpin the yellow Honda and Sean stopped on the run off area.  Following this the marshal’s are showing yellow and oil flags at the last turn and straight , which causes me some panic as it’s a fast corner and one spot you DON’T want to go down.  So I change my lines and hug the inside of the track in this area for the rest of the race.  Sam does manage to lap me before the end but I manage to be a clear 45 seconds ahead of the next guy Luke Joyce and after me giving the “thank you” waves to the marshal’s on the slow down lap I head down pit lane to the sight of a little shiny trophy which is handed to ME for 3rd place! Followed by loads of pats on the back and shacking of hands and shouts of “Well Done” I can just make out through the ear plugs and helmet.  A fellow racer (Froggy) comes running up with the biggest smile on his face congratulating me on a “Podium” which was wonderful and he unzips the front of the leathers and stuffs the trophy under my arm as I still have to ride the bike back to the pit’s.  On arriving back at camp Nick steps out to meet me and I pull out the trophy to his surprise and then have no hands free to use the brake and drift straight past him till I hit the back brake with my foot!

Trophy Pembrey Motogrande

Race 3

This race goes back to a combined race of 600’s and 1000’s together so it’s a start from 12 on the grid, and even if I manage another good start It wont be another 2nd or 3rd here.  So when the red lights go out it’s the same mad rush of 4 gears and 15 bikes all braking hard and trying to get round a tight hairpin which again everyone makes it cleanly away.  This race was quite un-eventful and lonely but another 4th in class, which means I manage to score 42 points over the weekend which will do very nicely for the championship and move me further up the standings.