Set in the beautiful Kent country side close to Swanley, Brands Hatch was once called “the best circuit in the world” by Gerhard Berger who loved the circuit’s unique combination of fearsome corners and hill, dips and chambers, which makes it one of the world’s favorite circuits for racers, but not for me.

It was 2 years ago I fractural my Scaphoid exiting Druids on a wet track only a week before the start of the season and since then the circuit became fondly known to me as “Slippery when Wet”, I’ve seen more people slide off and crash at Brands than anywhere else. Add to this Paddock Hill Bend a fast, challenging, blind, plunge downhill that challenges the very best and you can imagine the idea of an opener in March filled me with delight!
wet 350x235 Round 1 Brands Hatch Kent

 

The Indy circuit is short with 6 turns over just 1.1 miles, its fast and furious and I hustled the R6 round a dry circuit last year in 53.4 seconds and hold a best wet lap time of 1.00.0 minuet dead.

The TSL Yamaha has had a few winter mods, power and handling have been improved and a fresh lick of paint to pretty her up ready for a season in Thundersport GB.

 

Friday Testing

A 4 o’clock start gets me to the track early and by 07.30 I’m in the garage wets on and tucking into a bacon sandwich, the fog is so dense I can’t see the fencing the other side of the track just 12 meters away, so after beating the cockerels up in the morning the start is delayed. Its Brands so it isn’t too long before the fog clears to heavy rain. The test day is a mixed group with 400cc twins trying their best to prevent a clear run and by mid afternoon having with a best lap of 1.07 minutes I call it a day and set off to get scrutineered. Wringing the water out of my gloves I fail scrutineering for the first time in 4 years and on 3 counts! Simple fixes and I’m through, a fresh rear, wet of course, and it’s an early night.

 

Saturday Race 1 and 2

First job of the day is qualifying, the track is wet and it’s cold, too cold to hope it will dry. Out on circuit I get a couple of laps under my belt when Barnes shows me a wheel into Druids, I turn in and cut off his nose and flick down to Graham Hill, on the exit I consider that he could be a rabbit to chase down a faster lap time and signal him through, exiting Clark Curve I wind on the power and induce a tank to tank slapper, so violent I struggle to get off the gas, the bike only settles as I cross the line and I’m 150-200 yards off Barnes, I chase and 1 lap on he out brakes himself into druids and I’m back on him, session over and back in the garage I wind on the damper only to find the bolt into the tank has worked itself out and the damper had  isconnected itself, a new bolt brought control back for the weekend.

Out of 32 entrants only 28 made it through the test day onto the gird and a personal best placed me firmly on the second row in the 7th spot.

Race one was declared wet, off the line I was swamped and lost at least 5 spots into Paddock Hill, I fought back passing 2 into Druids and another 2 before the end of the first lap and then it was head down and chase, towards the end of the race I caught 2 riders Charley and Daisley we tested each other to the line where I finished 8th a mere 0.3 of a second behind Charley and matching my best sprint finish.
Start 350x262 Round 1 Brands Hatch Kent

Race two and the track has a drying line but the temperature feels even colder, tyre choice is impossible, most of the field are still on full wets but I notice a couple of the fast boys in the GP1 series go out in the race ahead of us on full dry tyres, I’m make a decision and stick a dry rear in. Off the line and I get another  mediocre start and by lap two am in 10th position, the bike at this point was letting me know that my choice of a dry rear was a mistake. There may be only 6 corners to the Indy circuit but when the rear spins up in at least 5 of them every lap, then 12 laps become a challenge.

 

Somehow I managed to hang on in and up to the 10th lap I hold position, then 3 bikes on wets pass me in quick succession, they are chasing each other and as I try to get a tow the bike complains vigorously. I cross the line is 13th and settle for a finish and the end of the first race day at “Slippery when Wet”.

 

Sunday Race 3 and 4

Sunday and the forecast is snow (as if wet wasn’t slippery enough?), the luxury accommodation kindly supplied by Andrew Lund was a Vito sized freezer. The racing at Snetterton just 100 miles North was called off with an inch of snow overnight and it was on its way.

Thundersport GB reform the grid on a Sunday with a mega merge, I’m not 100% sure of the rules but find myself relegated to 9th, however this is no disadvantage as those two spots place me on the outside of the track in a better position for a start. The circuit is dry (ish) and there are small flecks of snow in the air, following the grip issues on Saturday I understand the temperature just isn’t high enough to run dry tyres (a fact the GP1 guys confirmed after their race on Saturday) and its back to full wets. I reasonable start and after the medley into the first turn the race settles, I find myself running in 10th again and this time on tyres that offered some grip, harsh acceleration was still being punished as I pressed on. I noticed something was wrong early on, couldn’t figure it out when I noticed it was my hands, actually my fingers, they were burning like they were plunged into boiling water, it wasn’t hot it was the cold. Pressing on I catch P9 and this helps me focus, last lap and I push for a move, I note a backmarker up ahead and we were closing fast perhaps my
opportunity. I miss a chance at Druids and consider Clearways through Clark was the move, I close onto his back wheel into Surtees and run slightly wide into Clearways and come along side, the back marker is now right in front of us, it’s now or never.  I crack open the throttle as we exit Clearways to drive past only to spin up the rear and induce an out of seat experience, I lose two bike lengths and lose the opportunity, crossing the line in 10th the result sheet identified that the back marker was actually P8 and only 0.6 of a second split the 3 of us, so close, the TSL Yamaha had the power but again “Slippery when Wet” added another dimension, “Slippery when Cold”.

 

As the afternoon closed the weather got colder and I decided it was too dangerous to race again.

So with a PB in qualifying and an equal PB finish the weekend ended with anew  wet lap time of 57.9 seconds, bagging 17 points and P11 overall.
Side 350x262 Round 1 Brands Hatch Kent

 

Thanks to TSL Temp Station Limited for the opportunity and assistance from Fix Auto Wellingborough, RJS Superbike and Molokini Marketing, next race Donnington Park Leicestershire, where I’ve only ridden in the WET !

 

Photos:

Glyn Richardson

The Bike Insurer