Located close to Castle Donington in Leicestershire and originally part of the Donington Hall estate, you could have been fooled this weekend into believing it was located much further North, closer to the North Pole in fact. With temperatures barely above zero grip was going to play another big part in this year’s championship.

 

Donington 350x262 Round 2 Donington Park Leicestershire
I haven’t ridden Donington in over 5 years, not since I was a novice and turned up for a wet and windy track day with Adam Woby that I hated (not Adam the track day), there were two track days the week ahead when I planned to get to grips with the undulating curvaceous track, alas the arctic UK weather saw both days cancelled and so I turned up green.

Test day started with a rookie error, after an early start I was unloaded and set up in the garage pre 08.00hrs when I noticed no key ! a gentle phone call home to get the wife out of bed a few extra miles and skipping the first session and I was set.

Tyres were gently warming when Andrew Lund returns from the first session with a rather broken R6, all hands on and it’s patched up just in time for the snow to arrive, session two missed as a wheel change is required.

We were set to run the full GP circuit however due again to the weather conditions this was switched to the national as the Melbourne Loop was frozen.

Out in the (my) first session was traumatic, new circuit, wet, very cold and a packed track didn’t help much in learning a line. Not sure of a lap time the drying circuit in the afternoon didn’t really help and soon the day was over as I contemplated what Sunday would bring ?

Paddock1 350x232 Round 2 Donington Park Leicestershire

 

The paddock was packed.

 

It was a cold start, cold enough for the waste water on the paddock floor to freeze along with the windscreen even with two heaters on in the van all night. After a 7th place at Brands I was hopeful of another good qualifying even though I was still unfamiliar with the circuit, however hopes were dashed with a 26th out of 42.

 

Stuck mid pack this weekend was lining up to be a hard fought fight.

 

Rumble 232x350 Round 2 Donington Park Leicestershire

Race One

 

I get a good start and rattle past a clutch of bikes into Redgate only to run out of track as the corner tightened and lose the advantage, it seemed that for every bike I fought to pass I would lose the position back at the old hairpin, frustration doesn’t help gain places and after what felt like an age I cross the line in 25th, not happy with the finish but with passes in both directions almost every lap the racing was full on and the scene was set for the weekend.

race2 350x262 Round 2 Donington Park Leicestershire

 

 

 

 

 

Race Two

 

A better start and I push hard at the start to steal the places I lost in race 1, this time it sticks, running  down to the Old Hairpin there must have been a queue forming to stuff it under me, the race is frantic like the first, passing and being passed and as the laps tick by, I am passed by an old sparring partner Colin Wilson, I know I can run his pace I just am not confident of where I am, chase and put in a pass on the brakes down the Dunlop straight, it’s a real dog fight as the laps tick by, My fingers are frozen and stinging, Colin puts an identical pass back on me heading into the last lap and throws me out of line where two others Smith and Mace join the fray, in the last two laps I’m shunted back from 21st to 25th to match the lack lustre performance earlier in the day.

 

(after the race Colin comes over to apologise for the late pass, I told him I thought it was a brave move, he then tells me he didnt plan to pass only his fingers were frozen and when he thought he was braking he sailed past me as he couldn’t feel the lever…. gulp)

 

Bike prepped time to warm up and figure out what I’m going to do in the morning.

 

Monday was forecast the best day of the weekend, so much for the forecast as it turned out to be just as cold, cloudy and now with added wind. I set out in morning warm up with the intention of chasing Nick Barnes around who unusually was 3 seconds a lap faster on the Sunday, we only had 10 minutes so an out lap and then head down and chase, I hang with Nick through Craner Curves and lose a little ground but not as much as I expected, at the bottom of the hill I chase hard to try and reel him in, down the Dunlop Straight 4th, 5th, 6th I rocket up to around 140mph, waved yellows, into the braking zone and the track is littered with debris from a fallen rider, picking my way through the bits as marshasl run from all directions, I follow Barnes back into pit lane session stopped and the opportunity lost.

 

Race Three

 

Lining up on the grid for Race 3, with a poor showing on the Sunday I was nudged back to 28th on the grid in the mega laps starting line up, adding to a woeful weekend, now tight on the inside the plan was to head straight across the track at the start. An incident on the warm up lap delays the start and as we sit on the grid I notice the snow piled over a foot high all along pit wall, the wind is cutting and I think of how warm my tyres must be.

Lights out and the plan immediately goes to pot, hemmed in, a change of plan and I take a run up the inside, it’s working as I slip by a handful of bikes, into the turn and I’m reminded why my pre race plan was not to be here. The corner tightens and I’m cut off as the field pours past, charging hard I find less and less are taking the opportunity at the old hairpin and I slowly pick my way forward from deep down the field.  I’m stuck at the back in a battle with two other bikes. Down the Dunlop straight we are evenly matched, Charlesworth is up front and out brakes himself, Hellewell is positioned to pounce and the guys stumble to regain composure, seeing my opportunity I twist the throttle and ride around them both onto the start finish straight as the last lap flag is lofted. I knew I was fast into Redgate and focused on my achilles heal, the old hairpin. Into Craner Curve and the yellow flags are waving, someone was looking down on me, confident I could hold the position to the flag I take 20th, my best finish for the weekend and a PB of 1.23.3.

 

Racer 233x350 Round 2 Donington Park LeicestershireRace Four

 

The last race of the day and another hard fought race in difficult conditions for lowly 25th, it would seem that the lack of track knowledge combined with the cold temperatures was poor prep for a race weekend. Some of it couldn’t be helped, the track days were cancelled ahead of the weekend, it snowed on the test day and a full grid of 42 entrants all hungry for a race pushed me back.

 

group 350x184 Round 2 Donington Park Leicestershire

 

Next outing on the TSL Yamaha will be Cadwell, a circuit I know well and a circuit I will compete at, looking for a PB and to move up the Championship table.

Thanks to TSL Temp Station Limited for the opportunity and assistance from Fix Auto Wellingborough, RJS Superbike and Molokini Marketing.

 

 

Photos:

Glyn Richardson

The Bike Insurer