Leon Haslam, Leon Camier, Leon Jeacock...all could be seen racing hard at Donington Park last weekend. No you're not seeing things - the World Superbikes were in town, and Thundersport GB had managed to grab a couple of support races, the Aprillia Superteens and the Superstock 600's. So Leon was out on his R6 to learn the track and mix it with the big boys. Having never raced here before, this was the ideal setting in which to get to grips with a new track and work on the set-up of the bike. I was there to join the fun and take in all the weekends racing action.
So how was it? Well, Friday saw Leon struggling with his brakes but still managing to qualify 15th on the grid for race one on the Saturday. A new set of pads were fitted overnight, but the lack of any practice time meant that Leon would have to bed the brakes in on the warm-up lap. The start to race one was hectic! With Leon starting on the right hand side of the grid, the first corner was always going to be tough. And getting over to the racing line in time for the first corner took some confident moves from Leon. Settling in to the mid-pack after 'Redgate' he then looked to work on the riders in front. However, a near race ending collision at the 'Esses' and an excursion across the grass had left Leon well down the pack in 28th position by the end of the first lap. But not one for quitting, Leon quickly got stuck in, and set about salvaging something from the race. And some performance it was too! In the nine laps remaining he managed to claw his way right back up the field to finish 17th in the race and an amazing 12th in class. He also put in a very credible lap time of 1:42:689. Brilliant!
We then had the night to reflect and work on improving the set-up of the bike for race two the following day. And it was later on that evening, while walking round the paddock, that we got some very useful advice indeed. We were all admiring the italian outfit of 'Team Trasimeno' (a world Superstock team) when all of a sudden they turned up and invited us in to have a look. Mike, Leon and Rod then started talking fluent 'bike' with them. The language differences didn't seem to make any difference...they all seemed to understand each other perfectly. They very kindly offered some crucial gearing knowledge too, which was great of them! We can't thank them enough...passing on experience to smaller teams like us is a true credit to the italian way of working. And they certainly know how to breed great riders over there too!
Armed with the extra piece of knowledge, Sunday arrived and the R6 was given it's refinements. Race two wasn't until the end of the day so we had time to relax and soak up the atmosphere and enjoy both Superbike races. And what a treat it was too. Ben Spies was in a league of his own, Biaggi looked slick on his RSV4 Aprillia (until he dropped it at the 'Melbourne Loop' that is!), and the brits put in a fine display - most notably Leon Haslam who finished a fantastic 2nd place in race two. Awesome!
With the main event over, attention turned to Leon's second Superstock 600 race. I decided to watch from the infield grandstand to get a good view of the start. Again it was hectic off the line with Leon getting off the line well. It got a bit of crowded in to 'Redgate' with Leon briefly colliding with another rider before settling in to 13th place. He then got stuck in and set about catching and passing as many riders as he could. And that's what he did, with the new gearing and Leon's ability to learn more from a track with each passing lap, he slowly started picking them off one by one. His lap times kept getting better and better as Leon eventually clawed his way up the field to an amazing 8th place and chasing hard two riders ahead who were having a good battle. The final lap soon came round and 8th place seemed to be where Leon would finish. That was until the two riders ahead (who he was catching) collided and fell at the very last corner. This left Leon to pick up the pieces and finish the race an amazing 6th overall and 5th in class. And he had brought his lap times right down to an incredible 1:40:919. It was the perfect end to an excellent weekend. Very well done to Leon, yet again proving that he can be very competitive on any track. It's just a matter of learning them all now!
Oh, and if you've ever wondered how to do a burn-out, here's a quick lesson from Michel Fabrizio and Ben Spies:
(A couple of great souvenirs)
(Team Dorey in full support!)
(The pro's talk us through their race)
(One happy racer!)
(One happy dad!)
1 year ago