Round 1 - Brands Hatch

FlexNet Racing

Round 1 – Brands Hatch (Indy Circuit)

Following a winter of bike preparation and successful Spanish test, the time had finally arrived to head to Brands Hatch for Round 1 of the Michelin Power Cup and National Endurance Championships. With 3 bikes in the team for 2012, and FlexNet now a series sponsor of the Power Cup there was a considerable amount of additional ‘stuff’ to take with us (and we thought last year was bad).

The aim of the weekend was simple, quite how to achieve it was always going to be the tricky part. With Colin & Fergus partnering to compete in the National 600cc Endurance Championship the initial priority was to get both riders down to some decent lap times and happy with their bikes.

Friday morning was spent re-familiarising with the short and bumpy Brands Hatch Indy circuit and using the AIM data logging systems to identify any bike / rider issues (which there were plenty of) and optimise performance. Most critical of which was the fact that Fergus’ rear shock was ‘flat lining’ during its stroke (getting stuck). Following some head scratching and a few phone calls the decision was made to take a quick blast (really, in the van, joking right) round the M25 to Harris Performance and collect a brand new Ohlins TTX shock, to then nip back (3 hours), put the shock in and carry on testing…which is exactly what we did :)

By the end of the test day both Colin & Andy had improved on their 2011 PBs and Fergus (with his new shock) was making steady progress improving every session.

Saturday morning was qualifying time for both Championships. For the Michelin Power Cup Andy went out for his 15minute combined practice / qualifying session and put himself on the front row in P4 which is arguably the best spot on the grid! For the National Endurance each rider is allocated a 20minute session to set their best lap times, these are then amalgamated and used to assign a grid position. Unfortunately qualifying didn’t go all that smoothly for the Endurance team and they were placed 28th out of 32.

With endurance qualifying over, Andy was out for the first Michelin Power Cup race of the year. After qualifying in P4 Andy was keen to make a good start and get away with the front runners…and did just that…the lights went out and Andy shot from P4 to P1 into the first turn and managed to hold onto P1 for the first 3 laps until being relegated back to P4 by the end of the race. With a whole second between Andy’s PB and the winner’s best lap Andy had some work to do.

Next up was the 3hr Endurance race. Colin was to start (with binoculars in hand to see the flag) we had some serious catching up to do. With the drop of the flag the riders ran across the track, jumped on their bikes, started them up and they were off. Colin made an excellent start and pulled back 9 places on the first lap putting FlexNet in 19th place overall. In the first few laps Colin claimed a few more places then broke free of the traffic to set his PB of 51.7. Fergus was still struggling with set up and confidence in the bike so a strategy to optimise Colin’s time on track was devised. The only downside being more pit stops and the fact that despite all the testing and advice from Michelin, Colin still had massive rear tyre wear issues. Ultimately two rear tyres were completely destroyed during the race. Towards the end Fergus got into the groove and put in some respectable laps, resulting in a final position of 6th in the highly competitive ACU National 600 class and 17th overall, well up on the 28th place in qualifying.

Sunday was sprint racing day! The weather was fantastic so Colin opted to do two MotoGrande races and Andy had two Power Cup races left to do. Colin was still frustrated by his tyre wear issues and decided to try Metzler Interacts for these races, a tyre he has not used for three years. With just 15minutes of qualifying, the track still not up to temperature and a mysterious judder (which turned out to be a buckled disc) Colin managed to secure a respectable P10 out of 28. In Sunday’s first MotoGrande race Colin didn’t make the best of starts and was relegated to 15th by the end of the first lap. With the race being a fairly long duration Colin had 15 laps to redeem himself and worked his way back to 10th by the chequered flag, lap times improving all the way as his confidence in the tyres improved. Race 2 however was a different story, Colin seemed to have a point to prove and did just that. Making a better start and finishing the first lap in P10 gave Colin the remainder of the race to improve on his qualifying position, and by the end of lap 4 was up to P7. A race long battle with Nathan Dyke proved interesting and with places being exchanged in the final few laps it was Colin that lost out on a race to the line by 7 hundredths of a second after making a mistake running wide passing a back marker. Colin set his new PB of 51.6 and was well pleased with the day’s events.

Michelin Power Cup Race 2: Andy was determined to make a good start again and improve on Saturday’s performance. Starting in P4 again, the lights went out and again Andy made it into Paddock Hill bend in P1. With the pack close behind Andy did everything he could to defend his position but was forced back to 3rd and after a spirited battle with Lewis O’Regan eventually missed out on a podium finishing 4th again. However with another PB Andy was confident he could make the podium in the next race.

After watching a few other races and Colin’s second race of the day, Andy was back out for the 3rd and final Michelin Power Cup race. Determined to get FlexNet on that elusive podium Andy actually made his worst start of the weekend and arrived at the awesome Paddock Hill bend in second place. Andy pushed hard but dropped back to 3rd by the end of lap 4. Still certain he could achieve his first podium of the season Andy held his nerve and finished less than a second in front of the hard charging Tony Kielty after 15 laps.

In summary, a good solid performance for the team, some decent points on the board for FlexNet in 3 Championships, and a lot learned to carry forward into the rest of the season

Roll on Snetterton 300 21/22 April. See you there :)

MotorsTV footage from Brands Hatch can be viewed here.