And so the national tour begins. First up was the opening round at Brands Hatch last weekend. It was a two day event (as most of North Gloucester events are), and the weather forecast told us to expect rain on Saturday and sunshine on Sunday. Leon was competing in the Co-Ordit 600 event (on a free entry as he had won the EMRA Championship last year), but was also competing in the Formula 400 national series too. I was taking the opportunity to learn a new track and was racing on the Sunday. It was also great to see James Simpson there to join in the fun.
Saturday came, and so did the predicted rainfall, quite a downpour in fact. And rather windy too. Practice went well for Leon and was very quick to dial himself in. The first race was the Co-Ordit 600 qualifying, in fact there were so many entries that they had to split it over two heats. Leon was in heat number two and started on grid position eleven. A good start, in very wet and tricky conditions, followed by some quality lap times saw Leon climb the field to finish a fantastic eighth place. This gave Leon a row four grid position for the points race. It's worth pointing out here that this series is actually an open 600 event, so Formula 600s are racing alongside Superstock 600 machines such as Leon's. Which serves to highlight exactly how well he rode out there.
The rain persisted all day, and conditions were still very tricky by the time the 600 race got under way. Leon seemed to get away well, although it was very difficult to see anyone through all the spray. But we soon noticed that he had gone missing on the opening lap. He had actually lost the front round 'Clearways' and slid on to the grass. Both Leon and the bike survived the crash, but the R6 did come back a little bit scratched and muddy. The team soon got stuck in though, and it wasn't long before it was cleaned, patched up and ready to race again the following day. Not the ideal start to the 600 season, but there's a long way to go yet.
And so to the Formula 400 event. Again both qualifying and points races were very wet, and this event was actually lumped together with a mixture of 400 Two Strokes and GP45 Supersingles...so it was to be a little bit hectic out there. But that didn't stop Leon from shining in the qualifier. Starting from grid position number twenty seven, he calmly sliced his way through the field to finish third overall and second in class...very cool! Even the commentator enjoyed watching this wet weather masterclass as Leon clocked the fastest lap of the race. So that meant Leon would start from the front row for the points race. It had stopped raining by the time the race started, but the track was still very wet indeed...Leon got off the line incredibly well and lead the field down through 'Paddock Hill Bend'. He then found himself in a battle with a couple of the two strokes and fellow 400 rider Ben Cole. It was a hard fought race in very tricky conditions that saw Leon finish fourth overall and second in class behind Cole. A great start to the 400 campaign and we all looked forward to the next day to do it all again, only this time hopefully with the sun shining.
Sunday came, and so did the sun. So it was going to be a different day altogether. I went out for practice early on, the track was still wet from Saturday but it was definitely drying out very quickly. By the time the racing started the track was clear, so dry tyres were the way forward. Again Leon was out first on the R6 for the qualifier. Starting again from grid 11 Leon got away well, and soon climbed up to a very respectable ninth place which is where he finished. There was a problem though...Leon's transponder was still on the RVF! So he didn't record a lap time and would have to start the points race from grid number eighteen. This was a big blow for Leon and the team, but these things happen...we just need to make sure that we learn from them, so as not to repeat the same mistake.
So the points race was going to be tougher than it needed to be, but again Leon got away really well. He was quickly up to about fifteenth place and soon found his rhythm to start picking off the riders in front of him. He managed to pick his way up to thirteenth place by the end of the race, but was actually faster than the three riders immediately ahead of him...if only the race was longer! And who knows, if he had a clear track and started higher up the grid, we may have seen him pushing for some seriously strong championship points. But he rode really well, and showed that he comfortably fits in at 600cc national level.
Now let's turn our attentions to the 400s again. With the sun out and the track dry, Leon had the opportunity to really show the local crowd what he's made of...and he didn't disappoint! Again starting from grid number twenty seven, Leon jumped out of the blocks and carved his way through the pack to finish third overall but first in class. It was a truly great ride, and his lap time of 53.12 secs was over a second and a half faster than nearest rival Ben Cole...teriffic stuff from Leon indeed. James had a good race too and finished sixth in class, while I enjoyed my first ever race at Brands Hatch to finish tenth. And I managed to record lap times in the low 57's...which put a smile on my face.
And so to the points race...Leon (yet again) got off the line really well and was mixing it with the two strokes right at the front. In fact, Leon seemed to be able to ride the RVF like a 125, his smooth, fast and flowing riding technique was a joy to behold. He actually finished third in the race but first in class by a country mile...his lap time of 51.74 secs was over two seconds faster than the nearest Formula 400 of Lee Newitt, who finished way down in tenth place overall even though he was second in class. I had a reasonably good start and managed to hang on to the back of James for a majority of the race, and finished tenth in class. James just pulled ahead on the final few laps to finish in eighth place. But this was another lesson on how to ride a 400cc machine from Leon...well done mate, we're all in awe. Bring on the next round...!
(Some of the great names have raced here.)
(Leon waas on the RVF this time.)
(At least there's two fives in the number.)
(The R6 before the crash.)
(Leon doing the biz out on track.)
(The pit crew very quickly sorted the R6 out.)
(Scarlett and Thomas enjoyed all the action too.)
(Trophies that you can wear.)
(Top of the pile!)
(Thanks once again to all involved.)
1 year ago