This last race weekend was one of the toughest I have experienced. My best friend (and one of my racing team mates) tragically passed away last month and we intended to go to this meeting together. The club (in discussion with myself and his family) made the decision to name the trophie/s for our class after the great man as a tribute.
Sunday- warm up, 8min qualifying, 5x 8lap races
I arrived to the track with high expectations, 1st place belonged to me! I got to the track just before lunch on Saturday, it was cold and wet. This track is a favorite of drifters and there are thick layers of rubber in certain areas that provide zero grip in these conditions. I knew there was only one rider that could challenge me in the rain.
First session it was obvious there would only be 2 riders capable of winning in the wet, the next fastest rider would have been 10s+/lap behind. The other rider (Keogh) was faster than me but he'd been riding all morning in these conditions, this was my first session and I was on my backup bike (ninja 300 not set-up how I like it). I was still confident of a win. The rain disappeared and conditions improved, the gap between Keogh and myself shortened but we remained a step in front of everyone else. The day continued without incident as we all looked forward to racing on Sunday. Neither of us we pushing 100% and I'm sure we both expected to win.
Qualifying- I couldn't get a clear lap in without traffic, My lap times were no where near an indication of what I was capable of. I wasn't concerned at all because I was aware that my worst possible qualifying result would be 2nd- that's exactly where I did qualify (0.7s behind Keogh). A surprise was O'Brien on his KTM390 only a few tenths behind me
Race 1- still confident of a win I lined up in grid spot 2. The lights went out, I got a great launch until the front started coming up more than I wanted and instead of feathering the clutch I grabbed a whole handful loosing all of my drive and a few riders came flying past and elbows out! As I accelerated through turn 1 i needed to click from 3rd gear into 4th, instead I changed gears in the wrong direction and selected 2nd. I was now in 5th with a significant gap infront.
I focused on closing this gap and it took me until the end of the 2nd lap before regaining some positions. I eased past all riders until I was in second, unfortunately Keogh had too big of a gap for me to close down in the 2 laps left and I crossed the line in 2nd thanks to my pathetic start
Race 2- I had a much better start this time, I was leading in to the first corner but Keogh came around the outside to take the lead. I sat inches behind his rear for a couple of laps before showing him a wheel. I pulled back on my overtake attempt and decided I'ld just sit behind and wait until the last lap before overtaking because I didn't think I'ld be able to put a significant gap on him. He kept looking over his shoulder every lap making sure I was there. I just needed to decide where I would make the move, I was confident I could overtake at nearly every corner. I assumed he would block on the last corner so I made my move in to the S's before the last corner, he was braking at his limit and I needed to go in hot and missed a gear change but had successfully went past. On the way out of the S's I needed to flick down a gear but flicked up instead (loosing all acceleration). He went flying around the outside and another rider attempted to go up the inside in to the last corner. I aimed my front wheel at the inside of the last corner and parked it on the apex before blocking the exit and crossing the line in 1st! I was stoked I was able to pull off the win with such a significant error and was confident of securing the overall win for the weekend. Keogh was 2nd and we were tied for points.
Race 3- Keogh and O'Brien got a great start and I slotted in to 3rd. I stayed behind and watched them battle before loosing the front end going through a fast corner at the top of 5th a few laps in. I some how managed to save it but ran WAY off track and lost around 10s. Only one rider managed to overtake me and i eventually got that place back to finish 3rd. O'Brien won with Keogh in 2nd.
Race 4- I was extremely fatigued by this point (so was everyone else). O'Brien got a great start with Keogh behind and me slotted in to 3rd again. Keogh passed O'Brien on the 2nd lap and I passed O'Brien on the 3rd lap. I had nothing left to try and close the small gap that Keogh had made and spent the whole race riding defensive and keeping O'Brien behind. I finished 2nd.
Race 5- somehow I was more fatigued than the previous race
the race went much the same as race 4 with me riding defensively in 2nd and keeping O'Brien behind and Keogh winning.
Overall I finished 2nd. I knew I had the pace to win but fatigued and was unable to maintain it throughout the day. I initially blamed my fitness but after testing my fitness throughout the this week I now believe it was the emotion of the weekend that had me battling to stay standing.
Disappointed to finish 2nd but it makes me happy in knowing how much the trophies (in name of my best friend) meant to the other competitors who were lucky enough to have known him and raced with him last year