Last Saturday saw the BMC Racing team in action at Oulton Park in Cheshire...we were there competing in the latest round of the NG Road Racing championships. Leon was looking to retake the top spot in the Formula 400s, and also use the opportunity to gather further data on the R6 ahead of next months BSB trip back here again. Si was also there to join in the fun and I took the opportunity to race on my favourite track.
So how did it all go then? Well, the morning started very mild...the sun kept poking it's head through the clouds, the wind was down to a minimum and everything was set for a fun day. Practice went without a hitch and everyone looked forward to the first set of races.
First up were the 600s and the qualifying heat. Yet again Leon would have to start way down the grid. But, undeterred, Leon made a terrific start and seemed to effortlessly carve his way through the pack to finish a brilliant third place. In fact, the commentator was waxing lyrical about how well Leon and Freddie Russo worked together as a team to pick their way from the back of the grid to take a couple of well deserved podium finishes.
Next up was the qualifying race for the Formula 400s. Leon was starting from the front row and Simon and I started alongside each other on row six. We all got away well, with Leon completely blitzing the 400 field to take a comfortable victory, and in doing so, claiming yet another club lap record. He actually smashed the record by about a second with a time of 1:50:85 - brilliant! Simon managed to work his way through the field well to finish eleventh in class, and I managed to finish fifteenth in class which was one place better than I started on the grid...so not too bad.
The weather then decided to take a turn for the worst over lunchtime. And we were left guessing as to what tyre choices to make. A brief downpour seemed to suggest wets but the paddock was drying and the rain seemed to have stopped falling. Leon was out next in the final of the 600 race...so he went out on dry tyres and was going to see how the track conditions were on the warm-up and decide whether to stay out or not before the race started. As it turned out the conditions were quite wet, with Leon finding out in dramatic fashion as he had the bike sideways on a couple of occasions...so, very wisely, Leon decided to pull in before the race started and concentrate on getting the tyres changed on the 400 which was in a couple of races time.
As it happened, Leon's decision to change to full wets for the 400 race was a stroke of genius. I was convinced that it was going to dry out...but the grey sky, and the fact that Leon had not long been out on track, meant that full wets was the decision of the day. As the race got under way, it began to slowly start raining again...not a lot, but enough to make you think twice about leaning the bike too far over. About three laps in and the rain was now lashing down, making the choice to go for full wets an excellent decision. In fact I remember seeing a few riders pull in early on as they were obviously struggling for grip on dry tyres. About midway through the race I noticed that the yellow flags were being waved furiously round at the hairpin...I then noticed that a bike was on the deck...it was Simon! Oh no! He had been pushing very hard for third place, and was well on target to get this when he lost the front on the exit of the hairpin. The next time round I noticed that the bike was up and that Si was standing next to it with his arms crossed, looking very dejected. Still it was good to him up and ok. My race was steady...I didn't get the best of starts, and at the first corner there was a lot of movement from the tyres. It probably wasn't as bad as it felt, but it felt like it was about to let go on me...luckily it didn't and I managed to get my head down and finish eighth in class. I was happy with that.
Leon's race was another story altogether...he had a belter! He rode an incredible race in very tricky conditions to take a well deserved victory. I should also say that he was up against the likes of Tim Bradley, who we all know is a quality wet weather rider, so the win really was impressive...very well done Leon. And it now puts Leon firmly at the top of the Formula 400 championship.
So there you have it, a tricky day's racing with a mixed bag of fortunes...but it was an enjoyable one all the same.
(Leon putting the RVF through it's paces during practice.)
(Leon carves his way through the 600 pack.)
(And was rightly delighted with the result.)
(The team access the damage to Si's bike.)
(Berrie and Samual came to cheer us on.)
(Leon and Lawson with the winners hat.)
(Top of the pile again.)
1 year ago