Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Brands Double - part I

Back at Brands for the second time in two weeks

This last weekend we were back at Brands for hopefully the last two of our qualification meetings for the TT. Up early and head down south on Saturday morning. I had booked a garage and was stung 30 quid by the organisers, Hottrax for 1 space in a garage. There are 4 spaces in a garage… two weekends ago, we paid 30 quid for an entire garage… 7.50 per bike. With 32 garages it looks like Hottrax is profiteering a bit.

The list to things to do on candy over the winter

The Endurance Teams were out there on Saturday, so the small paddock area behind the garages was crammed with winnebagos, huge race trucks and lots of little cars belonging to hangers-oners. They were there since Friday and the organizers 'vehicle pass' system was a farce, as was the organization behind the garages. Everything took twice as long as two weeks before... and was twice as much hassle. Would that make it eight times less value than with ThundersportGB? Ok, maybe not, but I was still a little agitated by the time we were out for Qualifying.

Wreckage from the previous day’s testing in the skroot bay - what not to do on a test day.

It was cold, only 6 degrees, windy, overcast… but at least the drizzle has stopped and track was dry. Only having had the tyre warmers on for 20 minutes, I start out carefully and build up lap by lap. On my 5th lap I get rain splattering my visor. Out on slicks, I back off and within a lap there are 4 separate crashes around the track. Session is red flagged. I pull back into my garage and am finished with Qualifying despite the session starting again within 10 minutes. I’d done enough to Qualify 3rd on the grid. No, really... 3rd.

Shadowing Rob Garland

Race 1 – the clutch grabs and I make a poor getaway. 5th into turn 1. I square it off and get good drive down the hill, getting up to 4th… then outbraking someone on the inside of Druids to knick 3rd. Charge down to Graham Hill and do another on the brakes… easy through there on cool tyres… Surtees, McLean and I line 1st place up through Clearways… pop out the slipstream before the start finish line and make the pass. Was that it? Surprised to be at the front. Clear track ahead of me. I focus on settling into a rhthm – I only need to finish the race to get my 3rd Qualifier for the TT in the bag.

I just keep ticking off the laps, keeping it steady with a good pace. I cross the line 9 laps later – in first place!!! Candy’s maiden victory. 10 years of getting the crap knocked out of her across the country… and she finally brings it home in 1st place. Sweeeeeet! The marshals can hear my victory yeaaahas and whooops on the cool down lap. Fucking A!

Paddock Hill Bend - I thought that I was grinding out my belly-pan around Clearways... this pic shows that Paddock Hill Bend is where I’m getting her too low

Race 2 – I make a better start and get into Paddock Hill Bend in 3rd. I get 2nd on the brakes into Druids. Around, through Clearways and I’m on the six of the leader, Rob Garland on his naked bike. I get him on the brakes into Paddock Hill Bend. Clear track in front again… I settle into a rhythm.

I haven’t got away from the guys behind like I did in race one… but I race my own race… need to finish in 1 piece to be able to race on Sunday and finish my TT Qualifiers. “Steady away, son” I say to myself under my breath… a second later and a Suzuki GSXR SRAD sweeps under me and stands me up through McLean’s. No worries… I’ll get him at Paddock Hill and start lining him up through Clearways.

Paddock Hill Bend... followed by Rob Garland and an overzealous newcomer on a Gixxer

On the gas as early and hard as I dare. The GSXR is trying the same, just three feet in front of me. His rear tyre breaks traction while fully leaned over and he goes into a slow-motion lowside just a few feet in front of me. I pick the bike up mid-turn to avoid him and the bike sliding across my trajectory. I thread through the moving gap and something whacks me on the front right... I'm sure it was his leg. I’m headed for the gravel at a serious rate of knots. Fuck!

I haul the bike over to the right to get her turned. I almost make it, just running off the track onto the 12 inch strip of grass before the gravel trap. I straihten the bike up gingerly across the grass and usher her back onto the track... twist the throttle to the stops as the guy behind me gaps me by 20 yards. Jeeeeee-sus! That was close!

Damage from number 56... twisted and bent brake lever guard - probably saved my ass...
sorry about the paintwork Steve :-(

He even bent my footpeg!

I’ve lost all my drive down the straight and another rider catches me just before tipping in to Paddock Hill. I get on his case. He defends through Druids. I take a wide sweeping line and carve a darkie around his outside as we accelerate down to Graham Hill. Back into 2nd place. I settle down and start looking to hunt down 1st. He’s about 50 yards up the track now. I start to push. The tired old Pirelli slick starts to squirm and slide in protest. I back off, thinking of the next day’s racing – enough close calls for one day. I cruise home in 2nd.

Later, when I pickup a results sheet, I find out that Rob is in a different class… and I’m 1st again! Awesome! 2 wins from 2 starts. Fan-bloody-tastic!!

The Pirelli slicks had done two qualifing sessions and five races. They were moving around  quite a bit. I had an set of new inters knocking about the garage for the last few years - I thought Icd try them out for Sunday. It was dry, but real cold... and would be like that on Sunday. I also didn't like the thought of buying another set of slicks just for a qualifying race - hey, I just needed to finish one more race and needs all the funds I can get for the TT. So I changed the wheels then headed down to my Mom for another post-race scrumptious dinner :-)

An uber-successful day on track.

Oh yes! Candy’s Back!

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