Round 5 of the British Superbike championship visited Knockhill, Scotland. This being the most northern of tracks I have raced at in in the world! We were greeted with sun on arrival, although it was made very clear by the locals that it was an extremely rare occurrence. Quote of the day was “if you can’t see the closest mountain it’s raining and if you can see the mountain it’s going to rain!”
Knockhill was a track that I was able to get a solid days testing at two weeks prior to the event. Learning the layout of a small circuit was never an issue but this track proved very technical and bumpy.
The main objective on Friday was to get up to speed and start to build my own confidence in the bike at this physically demanding little circuit. The team and I made small changes to the set up over the two sessions but mainly stayed out on track gathering vital data and also learning from the more experienced riders circulating. I managed to complete 88 laps over the two sessions and slightly improved my fastest lap time placing me in 25th position. We were however struggling in the middle sector which contains a tricky little crested chicane.
Incredibly I woke up to hear that during Saturday nights heavy rain the track had been damaged and the morning sessions were cancelled for many of the classes. Superbike however continued after the surface received some much needed surgery to the one metre square damaged area. Our free practice session was mostly dry with patches of damp spots bar a little running water over the track exiting the final hairpin. It was a tricky session where I actually managed to sit in the top ten for a short time. Qualifying session part 1 of 3 contains the top 30 riders times from the three previous practice sessions, the top 20 from this 20 minute session get an added 12 minute session to post another time to determine the grid for the race. Unfortunately it was so competitive that my time of 49.2 which was only .6 of the fastest time of the session set by Shane Byrne was not good enough to go through to the next session qualifying me in 24th place for the first race. This gave me a chance to get trackside to see where I could improve in the middle sector. It was fairly obvious when watching from the side line that most of the other riders had the bike set up to reduce the engine brake effect in the middle of the tricky chicane. So I reported back to the team to make an adjustment to the engine brake for morning warm up!
We made the engine brake strategy change along with a minor geometry change which were positive in the warm up session.
The weather was the biggest worry for the teams as the British superbike class sat on the grid for the first race, but we managed to get the race underway without any precipitation. The first turn at Knockhill is a bumpy down hill right hander that funnels into a flowing left then into a slower right, so naturally when 35 bikes are trying to get through as fast as possible things can be pretty hectic. It proved too tricky for Phillip Bucklund who high sided just in front of me causing me to almost come to a stop to avoid his flipping bike. Once the riders had spread out I managed to regroup just before a safety car was deployed for two short laps. Once I was back into a rhythm i started to improve my lap time as many riders fell around me. I was able to lap with in .8 of a second of the leaders which saw me cross the line in 15th place scoring 1 point for the championship but importantly setting the 18th fastest time improving my grid position for the second race.
Thankfully we were able to make some solid steps forward with the suspension and electronic set up for race two which saw my lap times become consistently faster making us more competitive over race distance. But again the race was interrupted, this time by the rain which started falling on lap 18 of 30. After another crazy restart to the race we managed to move into 16th place with the top ten in sight and my fastest lap of the weekend popping up, I was unable to improve on 16the position in the race but we have managed to show potential to be in the points for the next round.
The PR Racing team and I still have a lot of work ahead of us but the progression is starting to show as we become more competitive. Brands Hatch is in two weeks’ time, a track that I have previously raced at and have come to love! Huge thank you to the PR racing team all my supporters and sponsors!!
Huge thanks to Chris Turley for the orignal shots from around the pits at Knockhill