Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Dirttrack National Championship - Round 2 - Coventry

Sunday morning and we head out to Coventry speedway stadium for Round 2 of the DTRA Dirttrack National Championship. Practice starts at 11 and a few years ago, arriving before 10 would have given me loads of time to get a spot in the pits, unloaded, scrootineered etc. Things have changed. I arrive to a packed-out pits, everybody already setup and busying about, so I setup in the parking behind the pits.

Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Pits for the day...

The last time we were at Coventry was for the inaugural Dirtquake and the Shorttrack UK meeting. It rained and the track was a mudbath. A normal race meeting would have been cancelled, because of the huge effort and crowd turn-out, Dirtquake and the racing went ahead. It was so bad that guys were doing 360 spins off the line and crashing. Unlike most, I survived the day without laying down in the mud.

Start-line shenanigans at Coventry 2 years ago

Pretty soon, we're into the racing. Thunderbike heat 1 and I bag a 3rd. Good start :-) Pro heat one and I have a good battle with one of the super-fast youngsters, Aaron Sylvester. I run wide on the last turn, he tries to get up my inside and it's a drag-race for the line. I find the traction and nose in front of him to take something like 6th. As we cross the line, I brake and start to get a slide on so I don't end up in the fence. Then I feel a punt from behind... Whooooah! I control the bike and slow it down in turn 1 to see Aaron picking himself up off the dirt. We're both trying hard.

Looks like Aaron Sylvester's front spindle ripped some new tread for me - it gave me the edge!

Thunderbike heat 2, I make a good start on the front row, hold my place and get 2nd. Sweet! I'm feeling fast and not making many mistakes. The track was tricky though. Everyone was struggling. Inconsistent and patchy. When it was watered, the water wasn't sprayed evenly and you'd get stripes across the racing line - hard, dry packed dirt with loads of grip next to slick, wet mud patches. Even the smoothest riders were sometimes looking a bit on the edge.

Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Next Pro heat and I make good progress against the DTX bikes and make up a few places from the back row. Into the last Thunderbike heat and I make a cracking start from the back row... but get boxed in by slower riders that started on the row in front into turn 1 and through turn 2. I lose my momentum. I try get back at them, but I'm ragged as hell on the just-watered track. I'm not enjoying it and back-off in the last few laps to make sure I stay on and finish the heat with points.

Check out the dark and light stripes of dirt... bad for one's health.
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

The last Pro heat goes alright with another mid-pack finish. I come up 14th on points from the Pro heats. Always finishing 6th in the heats isn't gonna get you in the Grand Final. Disappointed with that... but I think there is a stronger top-12 this year compared with last and I take solace in out-qualifying quite a few DTX bikes. In the Thunderbikes class I qualify 7th for the Final. Happy with that.

Gettin' on the gas.
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Thunderbikes Final. I line up in the middle of the second row. "5 sec" board is shown. Green light and we're racin! I make a good start and slot into 4th coming out of turn 2. Super-smooth and consistent Dave Chadburn is out front with Guy Sutherland and Co-Built Geoff Cain are battling for 2nd spot. Lap 2 and on the drive out I nip up the inside of Geoff as he's off the throttle for a split second during a close battle with Guy.

Some action form one of the heats... more 'stripy' traction.
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

It's tricky out there. Lap 3, turn 2 and I run in deep... I push the front big-time mid turn but hold it up on my foot. Shit! Losing time! I get on the gas a little too quickly to try get the time back and get her all sideeways. Bollocks! I recover and am lucky not to get passed - I could sense Geoff just off my back wheel. Take it steady... there are no heroics to be done on this track. Lap 4 and Guy over-cooks it in an attempt to get back at Dave Chadburn who, as at Leicester, is running away with it. I'm up to 2nd. Sweet! Keep it steady boy!

Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

I feel like I'm going slow... steady, smooth... but most important, not making any mistakes. Dave Chadburn was too far ahead... and too quick - I don't try and catch him. The gap is steady, so my pace is good. The guys behind are close, but I'm not challenged for the remaining laps. I cross the line in 2nd. Geoff is a close 3rd.

Whooooohoooo! Awesome! My second Thunderbike podium... the last one was 2 years ago. Feels good. Real good.

Big smiles and trophy time!
Thanks to Ian Roxburgh for the pic

The Pro 'B' final is cancelled because we were running out of time. The Paramedics were busy through the day and there were quite a few injuries. The inconsistent track preparation made it tricky and caught a lot of us out. Glad I got through without going down. Get well soon to all that did get hurt.

Thanks to friend and fellow ManxGP racer Warren and Rogan for coming along to support. I normally crash when folks come to watch me... you witnessed something special. Thanks DTRA and all that help out to make the events as good as they are.

Aftermath - despite doubling up on the seat fixings, I'm still wearing them out after a day's racing.
Not a bad thing - shows I'm moving my ass forward and backward on the seat...

I'm guessing I've bagged 2 Championship points for qualifying 14th in the Pro... and a whole bunch of points for 2nd in the Thunderbikes. Unfortunately, I'll miss the next round in Scunthorpe. Got an important wedding to attend - my own :-)

An awesome day on the clay!

Thanks Rogan for the pic

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