My mechanic Paul and I worked really hard on my lines throughout the test day on Friday. Most of my fellow competitors have considerably more race experience than me me so it was important that I knew exactly where I needed to be on the circuit if I was to ride my own race. We analysed where I was going wrong, where I was strong and at the end of the test day I had a good idea of how to put a fast lap together. It’s vital to have a plan at a technical track like Donington Park.
I was relaxed for qualifying and, despite struggling with traffic, I notched my fastest lap with 1.34.7 on lap 5. I was 3rd stocker in the strongest field I’ve seen all year and was delighted!
I was a bit nervous for Race 1. I usually qualify poorly so having an advantage into turn 1 is not that familiar despite getting a good start and making a place to 2nd in stock into turn 1. I gave up one position to BSB regular Josh Day at turn 4 which wasn’t a problem as it bridged a slowly increasing gap to the front. Unfortunately on my first flying lap I had only used 4 gears along the pit straight and ended up in 1st gear in a 90mph corner. Not ideal! The problem with your first race lap on new tyres is that things change. In this case I just hung onto a gear longer than I should have which, in hindsight, seemed daft but at the time felt right given the speeds. You live and learn!
Fortunately I managed to control the slide and chucked a gear at the bike but I had lost another position to another BSB regular in John Ingram as a result. I tried to regain composure but, as I tensed up, I carried too much brake into turn 8 and had a big front end slide further knocking my confidence and spoiling the gap I had gained back to the second wave. What followed was basically a cut and dry case of me seeing red mist and completely losing the plot as I pushed way too hard. I finished in 8th place and was very disappointed as I had wasted a brilliant start.
I felt relaxed before race 2 on the Saturday and got off to a great start, ending up 2nd stock into turn 1. I then proceeded to drop a couple of places over lap 1 and was 4th over the line on the first flying lap. No first gear incident this time! I held my position for the first few laps but had to avoid Shane Pearson overtaking me while attempting to out brake me into Melbourne hairpin. That cost me some vital time but fortunately neither him nor his bike hit me. What followed on the next few laps was some of the closest racing I’ve been involved in all year with Stephen Parsons, Adam Shelton and Adam Reavill. I managed to get the better of them all except Parsons over the course of the race and finished 5th. I was slightly miffed though as 4th place was just a bike length away!
I felt as though id dusted off the cobwebs for race 3 and was really looking forward to it! The sun was really low in the sky with fog delaying the proceedings. It created an eerie feeling around the circuit. I was 2nd stocker into turn 1 after another good start and held off Josh Day for a lap and John Ingram for half of the race distance which is an achievement in itself! I pushed as hard as I could for the rest of the race and didn’t use my pit board once as the shadows behind me at Craner Curves and Coppice told me everything I needed to know! I was 3rd stock and on for a podium but unfortunately after a small mistake on the penultimate lap, lost my position to former BSB and Spanish Superbikes rider Craig Neve. I wasn’t too annoyed as Craig is a great lad and very fair and clean racer.
Events at Donington have left me 7th in Thundersport GP1 on 185 points and fourth out of 26 in the overall Superstock 1000 standings on 256 points.
I’m really looking forward to the final round of the year in mid October. I just don’t know where this year has gone but I’ll be glad to end it at Cadwell Park, my favourite track in the country.