I’ve always liked Anglesey. The first time I went there I took a third in the 400 Streetstocks, and followed that the next year with a Pole Position, two wins, fastest lap and a lap record. The track is one of those beautiful flowing tracks which rewards accurate lines and corner speed to maintain momentum. As such, I had mixed emotions about going there on the 600. I’ve had a nightmare getting the bike to work, but it’s been going in the right direction since Donington. So my friend James and I set off in an optimistic frame of mind, on the long trip to Wales.
Eventually we got to the track about 6pm on Thursday, just about in enough time to secure a remaining garage space saved for us by my old 400cc sparring partner Shannon, now also contesting 600s. We got set up, and waited for Simon to arrive. He was late, as usual. I got the van mostly emptied, and set up for a bit of sleep thinking about the friday track day to blow off the cobwebs.
Occasionally you make a decision to change the bike and it’s a disaster. Occasionally it’s fantastic. Mine are usually disastrous, so I decided to employ Colin Leeder at 100% Suspension to have a look at the bike set up. Having had a bit of breakthrough with the steering at Donington, suspension was next on the list for attention. After the first session I pulled in to Colin and let him have at the bike. A few twiddles and bounces, and out I went for session 2. The change was incredible. the bike turned in beautifully, and held a line both on a trailing brake and on the throttle. Sensational, the best the bike had ever felt. The next session Colin improvident again, and I felt the most in control I’ve ever felt on the 600. The following session was my last as it was red flagged after 1 lap, and I’d promised Simon the afternoon, as he’d not ridden the track before. but I was absolutely brimming with joy at the transformation in the bike and looking forward to race day.
Saturday race day
During warm up the track had a little less grip than Friday, probably due to the lower temperatures, but I felt good for the race. Race 1 rolled around quickly as we were out 2nd, and I was 9th on the grid, outside of row 3 giving me an ideal line into turn 1. I made a great start, turned in for turn one fairly wide, leaving room for the three riders on the inside. Apparently I didn’t leave enough though, as Mark Hughes on his R6 picked up and ran into the side of me, his footrest tearing through my fairing and sending me wide. I managed to brake and avoid running off the track but I was way down the pack. A bit shaken, I did a couple laps systems check as I was concerned the brake lines may have suffered some trauma, but once it all settled down I passed a few riders to finish a cautious 24th. I was pretty annoyed, and even more so when I saw that the accident had also bent my radiator. A bit of gaffer tape and the bike was patched up and ready for race 2, though I was concerned about the rear slides I’d been getting, and really should have thought more about the tyre than the fairing!
I started the championship race from a lowly 24th on the grid, and again managed to make a great start, positioning myself right behind Anthony Porter, Paul Jeffrey and Sean Montgomery as we turned in for turn 1. It was fantastic to have enough confidence in the bike to do that, and as I marvelled at the handling I was horrified to see a repeat of race 1’s first corner contact happening between Anthony, Sean and Paul, and all 3 of them came down right in front of me, again running me off the track before the heavily banked turn 2. Again I got the bike back on track but was more or less dead last. Head down and angry, I pushed forward through the pack and managed to get up to 14th, but a series of slides from the rear round the daunting Church corner saw me fall to 19th by the flag. Definitely my best championship finish on the 600, but way short of the expectations set by my buoyant mood over the excellent suspension set up. I trudged off to A&R Racing to get a new rear tyre for Sunday, and called B+B’s resident bodywork guru Richard Dry to book in the fairings for repair. I was in determined mood, which was compounded by a decent Thai meal and a few beers that night with the team. Eventually I went to bed.
Sunday race day
I was pleasantly surprised as I crawled out of the van to find Sunday had dawned dry, completely against all forecasts! Excellent. I couldn’t have been more determined. A few laps in practice to run in the brand new rear tyre, and I was focused on making the absolute most of the 9th place start I had for the qualifier race. Sitting on the grid I focused on turn one, and in the practice start I fired the bike past Dave Manley into turn 1. Dave was probably not trying, but in my mind this meant I was definitely on for a good position ;-). As the lights went out for the race start, I fluffed the start badly. The front wheel came up around my shoulders, and I shut off and ran wide round turn one, again letting most of the pack past me as I fumbled for gears. I was fuming! Again i’d have to get my head down and push on. I had a very busy first lap, and got past a lot of bikes with some fairly pushy moves. i was in no mood to be polite, and the new-found confidence in the bike was doing its best to encourage me.
Starting lap 2 I passed a few more bikes, and next ahead of me was Shannon on her red CBR600. She’d started 11th, so i knew I must be about half way through the pack by now. As we drafted up the hill and into Rocket, I heard the scream of Paul Jeffrey’s R6 next to my ear. Paul’s one of the quick guys, and he fired past me as we exited Rocket and braked for Peel. As Paul lined up to pass Shannon down into the Corkscrew, I followed him in wide. I’m very unclear about what happened next. Shannon’s bike hit the floor, and I had a split second to pick the bike up to avoid her stricken body skidding across the track. I remember being hard on the brakes as i steered off the track, and I remember the front folding under me.
Next thing I recall was the noise of a helicopter. I was coming round in the medical centre, a searing pain in my foot and very out of sorts. It turned out I’d been knocked out in the accident, as had Shannon. I’d avoided hitting her but we were both in a pretty bad way. The solid footrest had gone through my boot and into my foot, which explained the pain. The medical crews had already dressed the wound, and apparently I’d been in and out of consciousness talking gibberish, not knowing who or where I was, and to recognising anyone around me. We were then transported to Bangor Hospital, where we were tended to by a great team. The foot was x-rayed and showed no breaks, just a fairly big hole and a lot of tissue and ligament damage round the heel and ankle. nothing that wouldn’t fix. The foot was sewn back up, and I was given a stack of medication for the concussion and pain and allowed on my way. Luckily work were very understanding the following week…
I’m not sure what’s going to happen for the remainder of the season, as there are only two races left and quite a lot of damage to fix, both to myself and the bike, but I’d like to thank everyone for their help and assistance during a rubbish end to the race weekend. James Dashwood for his driving and assistance with the hospital and packing up, Simon and James for the weekend, all the medical teams both at the track and hospital, all the NG staff for their help and concern, and of course Rebecca for looking after me in the aftermath.
I’m hoping to be out again this season, but if I’m not… I’ll see you next season!