My curtains lightly billow in the morning breeze and I am awoken to the elating thought that today will be my first day watching superbikes racing at Brands Hatch (One of my favourite circuits among the ones I have visited) I fumble for the alarm clock and leap out of bed grabbing clothing as I go!
Jumping in the car with flyer in hand reading 'The British Motorcycle Racing Club' and a pre-paid ticket, I set off for the almighty, eye watering, bottom numbing journey tallying an almighty 30 minutes! Yes, I am lucky enough to have one of my favourite circuits, right on the doorstep!
Upon arrival I do not take the pre-determined 'Entrance' sign, instead I drive down the little road that has a sign stating 'Paddock Entrance' because today, I am not just going to watch the super bikes. I am going to possibly irritate a family friend (Andy) and cover his first race, on a brand new season in a brand new series for him! Racing last season as a designated 'Rookie' this was his first race without a bright orange hi-vis, now fully inaugurated with 'The big boys'
Walking down the long slope toward Andy's paddock tent the smell of two stroke was in the air, childhood memories filled my mind, only to be briskly whisked away by the sweet sound of some 'Thunder bikes' warming up. The British Motorcycle Racing events hold multiple classes including, two stroke singles, two stroke twins, 600, 1000 and even sidecars! Catering for all walks of life entering the paddocks at this event is nothing like a GP event, these folks are not high brow multi-billion dollar corporate firms brandishing their blue chip brands. These folks are passionate for the entire event. After all, many are self funded. Including Andy!
Upon entering his paddock tent I am once again hit with glorious smells of fuel, exhaust fumes, hot engine and new tyres! But there also resides a light tension to the air. Andy has just over 15 minutes to get his bike out on the track, give it a couple of test laps, return to do pressure checks and then be back out on the grid ready for the first race of the day. A 10am, 12 lap start preceded by another 3 races of the same amount over the course of the day. The whole family are there to support him, much like the other tents around him even the little ones are chipping in (In their eyes of course) But this does not ease that edge of stress that is captivating this moment. Andy starts up his GSX - R to let it warm up. Giving a loving kiss to his wife and children then donning his lid, gloves and race face he looks composed, ready to scrape those knees on the apex!
Riding out of his paddock with his family and friends watching, I went to take a look around the area before he lined up on the grid. Taking photographs and video as I go (Gallery to come, some shots are dotted throughout this piece) I notice that this event is far more intimate than any other smaller scale racing event I have been to, you can simply walk into people's paddocks and fire up a conversation. Many of them are filled with delight, passion and a whole host of tips and tricks to help improve your very own riding skills. I got caught up talking to one particular sidecar team consisting of just rider and passenger. Yet their story as a cohesive team were second to none! Racing around the TT on one of these things at 180mph while hanging over your best friends back to keep you both on the ground just made me realise how much these fellows trust one another!
Coming in 7th in his first race, Andy is rather happy with the outcome, with the rain now starting to fall and several serious incidents on the circuit, including one sidecar team being taken off in a stretcher. Lunch is called and the tyre change fest begins. Everyone is going crazy putting their wets on for the next race. The tyre crews over in the sales tent are packed with riders waiting to get new sets, or even just to swap the tyres over for those not fortunate enough to have a spare set of wheels.
With lunch over and several more crashes, the days events are being pushed back so much that it is already 2 o'clock and Andy's second race comes with much more calm in the air, this time he is prepared, his semi scrubbed in wets are warmed, and he is confident that his ability in the wet will get him a much better position this time around. With the hopes of attracting a sponsor or two for the rest of the years races this race means alot! Rolling out once again to line up on the grid I head to Druids corner to get some shots of him on that aforementioned knee down apex!
Shots taken, race over... I head into the paddock where Andy and family are now talking quitely over his tyre choice. Unfortunately the wet track had been given a good drying off by the sidecars previously... this has absolutely destroyed Andy's rear wet, leaving him £200 out of pocket and three places down in 10th! At this point I sadly have to leave them due to prior commitments, saying good bye and wishing him goodluck I return to the car with my camera and kit in tow... Hoping the weather changes and he gets to use his newly purchased semi-slick rear whilst improving his position. I later found out he achieved 7th in his third race! Not bad going at all for a large grid and being the 'New kid on the block'!
I should hope that you enjoyed this little write up of what I would consider a cracking day! With round 2 coming up at Cadwell Park on the 1st and 2nd of April, I'd highly recommend going along even just to experience the sights and sounds of an area inaccessible to those of us 'normal individuals' at a large scale GP event. Not to mention however, the more support Andy receives the faster his bike goes!
To finish this article up, my bike was at home so I found a smaller than average motorcycle to practice my technique...
Signing out, Bentley Jay Perkins