Well that’s Ste & Dave’s wet race cherry well and truly popped, at a very, wet & windy Wirral 100 meeting at Oulton Park, sharing the track with the FSRA pre-injection round.
Arriving Friday afternoon, the rain held off enabling the team to establish camp for the weekend, before heading down to get scrutineered, and all signed on ready for the Saturday morning.
The MET office had issued a Yellow weather warning for the Saturday with strong winds and rain, starting in the early hours, and persisting throughout the day. Rumours in the paddock were that there was every chance the meeting may be called off… the morning would reveal all.
Right on cue, the wind and rain started in the early hours… the lads took a walk over to the pit lane to see what condition the track was in, wet as you’d expect but the wind didn’t feel as strong as in the paddock. As the solo’s went out for practice it was clear the meeting would be going ahead, and another wander over to see how the solo’s were running, and see the amount of spray they were kicking up.
In all honesty neither Ste or Dave were looking forward to venturing out, and getting soaking wet and cold. Not helped by the fact the rear wet tyre wasn’t at its optimum, following the visit to Oulton Park in October, where mixed conditions saw the lads choose to run wets, on a drying track.
A team discussion, and it was decided that if the organisers would allow a credit towards the next round, that would be the best option. The conditions out on track weren’t looking too enjoyable, and with Round 2 at Darley Moor the following weekend, was it really worth risking the outfit?
Perhaps we weren’t the first team to ask, a few people had made the decision to go home already, but as the organisers had to pay for the circuit, there was little they could do. The choice was made, head out for practice at least and just see what it was like.
Timed Practice / Qualifying
The lads hastily got geared up, the rear tyre had lost some pressure, so re-inflated that, before heading down to the collection area.
It was cold, wet and windy, soon enough the outfits were directed down pit lane, and out for their practice. Visibility was impeded by the spray coming up off the other outfits, but the boys passed 3 outfits on their outlap getting some clear track ahead of them.
Neither Ste or Dave had ever been out in true wet conditions before, like many of the teams were taking it gingerly around the track. Ste was struggling to get the power down, just as the power came in from the Suzuki engine, the rear wheel would start spinning up, sliding about.
The wind and rain out on track wasn’t as bad as the lads anticipated, the main area of concern was up the top of Clay Hill, which was green with foliage from the over hanging tree’s, combined with the standing water.
The boys got 3 laps in, with a qualifying time of 3:00.074, 1.639 seconds behind the outfit of SUTCLIFFE / BRYANT, with the outfit of A.THOMAS / J.THOMAS 11.726 seconds behind. Returning to the paddock, the lads decided to remain their sodden leathers, and see how Race 1 would unfold. Qualifying 18th of the 29 on the start sheet for Race 1.
Race 1 was called, and the lads made their way out. The rest of the team opted to remain in the awning sheltering from the rain. It now felt as if the rain was now worse than earlier. Looking around the collection area, there were teams doing what they could to get warm, many shaking and shivering.
The outfits were held for what felt like ages, before being sent on their sighting lap, most appeared to just follow the outfit ahead in one steady procession, no heroics, before forming back up, a small wait before the outfits came under starters orders.
The lights came on, as they went out, Ste and Dave got a promising start, keeping with the pack, which seamed to slow for the first corner, with a cloud of spray and plenty of outfits ahead, Ste held back a little, letting the masses sort themselves out, and visibility to improve, Dave throwing himself over the back ready to negotiate the first corner, an outfit that started behind on the grid came storming up the inside, giving Dave’s arm a nudge, before darting between more outfits, and vanishing into the spray and round Cascades.
Not flustered, the lads kept on, and kept in touch with the outfits ahead, finding it frustrating that they couldn’t use all the available power, short shifting through the gearbox in an attempt to prevent the rear wheel spinning up.
By the end of the 1st lap the lads had passed the outfit #120 Thomas/Thomas, who were with the FSRA pre-injection class, where to the lads surprise they remained for the duration of the race.
Next in their sights was the F1 pre-injection outfit #920 of CHADWICK / FAIRCLOUGH, again racing with the FSRA pre-injection. The lads were closing in, and a pass was looking imminent, possibly along the start finish straight, that was until the leading outfit #6 of Ellis/Richardson came past to lap the lads coming up to Lodge Corner.
The lads eased off, facing a cloud of spray that the leading outfit had kicked up, combined with the fact that both Ste & Dave were having trouble with their visors misting up. Once around Lodge, and with Ste resorting to riding with his visor open, the outfit of Chadwick/Fairclough was still in site, and the chase was back on.
Back onto the start/finish straight, and the lads were on the tail of Chadwick/Fairclough, this was their chance, unknown to Ste & Dave they were about to be lapped again by one of the leading outfits, pulling out of the spray, to take the inside line into Old Hall, there was contact between the lads and the quicker leading outfit, both continued unhindered, negotiating Old Hall, and the boys now ahead of Chadwick/Fairclough.
Once past, the lads went on to set their fastest lap of the race, a respectable 2:39.935 some 20seconds off their qualifying time.
Ste and Dave and gelling together on the outfit, and are starting to think similarly. Ste finding places where he could get better drive, and Dave noticing this, keeping his weight over the rear wheel, improving traction. Working together without any communication on the outfit, adapting to the challenging circumstances they worked well to finish the race.
Despite finishing last of the club entries, the boys came away happy, with a huge confidence boost, working well to pass 2 FSRA outfits, and keep them behind for the duration.
The boys decided that whilst they enjoyed the race, they’d dismantle the awning and head home for a warm bath, it appears many of the other clubs lad did too, leaving the FSRA pre-injection championship to have the circuit to themselves in R2.
A big thank you to the Wirral 100, Ian from Lloydia Photography, Chris Swinton from CS2W blind photography, for enduring the atrocious weather and capturing some excellent photos that really captured the conditions.