Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Another season over

Last weekend I was doing the last round of the NG championship at Thruxton, mostly in those horrible neither-wet-nor-dry that everyone hates.

First practice was rather damp, but Thruxton has an odd (but immensely grippy) surface where the aggregate sits fairly proud of the asphalt, so it can be soaking wet but there's still no spray, making it rather deceptive. Pretty much everyone was on wets and taking it gently, but someone (and there's always one) who'd opted for a dry rear binned it coming out of the chicane at the end of the first lap.

I was out for race one on the R6 triple, so while the other practice sessions were on I was in the paddock, watching the tarmac for hints of dry patches, and seeing what other people were doing. Conditions were still mixed, with those who'd been on wets coming in muttering about grip and ruined tyres, and switching to dry rubber for their first races, while those who'd been out on dry tyres came in with thousand-yard stares and switched to wets. A combination of laziness and caution meant I decided to stick with the wets for race one - they've done three seasons, they're due for replacement anyway, and the afternoon was forecast to be dry, so ripping up a set of old tyres in the qualifier wouldn't be the end of the world.

If I'd known how long it'd take to get through what should have been six back-to-back ten-minute sessions, I'd have done the wheel swap. By the time race one was called the track was officially damp but in reality pretty much dry, if still cold, and with pretty much everyone else also on wets, a lot of tyres would have gone in the bin after six laps. The overall pace was about ten seconds off what it should have been - rain tyres on a dry track are pretty unpleasant once they warm up - but I brought it home ninth in class after a reasonable tussle with a bloke on a steelie.

Come the start of race eleven, which included the pre-injection 700 final, the track was properly dry and I was itching for my only chance for a full thrash round Thruxton this year. I had another cracking scrap with the bloke on the steelie, swapping places a couple of times each lap - his motor was running like crap at the top end, so my power advantage down the back straight stopped him getting away. But mostly it was good, clean passes. If he ran wide out of Church or Segrave, I nipped past on the inside. And if I'm good at anything it's late-braking, so if I couldn't get past on the straight, I sealed the deal into the final chicane.

All of which saw me finish ninth in class again, with big grins and air punches all round on the cool-down lap. I had a chat with the bloke on the steelie on the way back to the paddock, and we'd both had about as much fun as we'd had all year. Ninth isn't exactly my career best at Thruxton, but there were plenty behind me, and any chance to rag a bike round Thruxton is one to be taken - it's fast like no other circuit in the country, and it's not like it's open for trackdays.

So that's it for 2017. Twelfth in the final championship standings, down from seventh the previous two years, but I skipped a couple of rounds I couldn't be arsed to do, and the pace this year was high. I cut four seconds off my lap time at Cadwell, and still finished last in class in three races!

The bike's now tucked up in the garage, where it'll fester til I can be arsed to change the oil after winter. I'm told the average club racing career lasts for three years, and that was my third season. Since I've no intention of hanging up my leathers just yet, I'm finally above average at something! As long as the bike's still running, and I've got the cash, it looks like I'll still be racing.

Now, anyone want to buy some knackered kneesliders?

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