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Mallory Park – The Final Push

So it was off to Mallory Park again, for the final round of the season. By now we were pretty familiar with Mallory, having been here more than any other UK circuit. We were here for the pre-season testing, three days for the last Thundersport round here earlier in the year,and twice for the Benjamin Gautrey Foundation events. So we didn’t really have to worry about learning the track! And, for the first time this season, Gideon’s Mum was in attendance!

Luckily Mark “The Saint” Hill was able to be there early, and grabbed us one of the first-come first-served garages, so when we arrived it was a fairly easy job of unloading the bikes into the garage, and parking up behind them, where we could also plug in to the garage electricity supply, which meant heating in the van – a nice luxury for a late October meeting!

It was dampish on Friday morning, but the forecast was good. It was pretty frantic as ever, getting Gideon out of bed, into his kit, and getting the bikes down to scrutineering ready for the practice sessions in the morning. As Thundersport were still running additional races to make up for the cancelled day at Anglesey, we only had the morning for practice, and then the 15 minute qualifying session in the afternoon.

The strategy for the weekend was pretty simple. Gideon was in third place in the Nitro Newcomers championship, 46 points clear of fourth. The plan was to avoid heroics, not worry about podiums, and concentrate on solid performances and finishing races – so basically to stay on the bike! This proved to be more challenging than you might imagine, as one of the things that makes Gideon such an exciting rider, is that he struggles to turn it down from 11 out of 10..ever!

We sent the boy out in the first session on the wet bike, as the track was still damp with dew, although it was drying quite quickly. He looked pretty comfortable as he circulated – not blisteringly fast, but not too slow either. In the second session he went out on the dry bike. He didn’t look quite so happy this time. When he came in he was complaining about gear change problems. I immediately suspected the new rear-sets I had fitted after the last round, and we adjusted the linkage, which did the trick,

In the third session we put the stop-watch on him. Again on the dry bike, and the track temperature was starting to improve. He was circulating with lap times of around 1.04. That’s not bad for Mallory, where the lap record is just under 1.01 for the 125s. We checked the pace of some rivals, and they were all in a similar range, so we seemed to be on course.

After what seemed like a frantic busy morning of checks, fettling and refuelling, the qualifying session was called. “No heroics” I said to him as he left for the collecting area “first or second row of the grid will be perfect”. So we were looking for anything up to 8th place. And even third row would be no disaster, as he seems to have his starts sorted now.

The first lap is never worth looking at, so I waited for him to come past the start-finish. He was head-down with throttle pinned, and it didn’t sound as though he lifted at all for Gerrard’s. It’s amazing to watch the faster riders tipping into the the long right hander at full chat, and holding it, with elbows brushing the kerbing! But I was slightly disappointed to see the place as he went through the trap – 11th. But it would do. I guessed he was doing what he was told, and not taking any chances. As usual I was wrong.

Next time round he was chasing a fast bike some distance ahead. He flew through the trap, under the bridge and tipped in to Gerrards at an impossible angle, going round the outside of several slower bikes. This looked like a quick lap. And it was. 4th – first row of the grid. That looked a bit better! But he wasn’t finished yet!

He seemed to spend another lap composing himself, and then saw his position on the pit board, and I saw him tuck in and pin it for another flying lap. I watched as he catapulted round Gerrards, hanging off the bike, and losing leather from the elbow of his suit. That looked to be on the limits of traction! Then there’s the awful minute waiting for him to reappear on the left-hander onto the start-finish. When he appeared again he’d made a real impression on the bike in front. He was at a ridiculous angle on the downhill left-hander, and used every inch of tarmac to get safely onto the start-finish, where he tucked in and pinned it for glory.

1.00.836! Pole position. And faster than the lap record by a tenth or so, although as it wasn’t in a race it doesn’t stand as a new record. But it’s still pretty quick! No-one would go quicker all weekend!

Saturday morning was wet. It wasn’t raining, but the track was wet. As the sun broke through I was sure it would dry pretty quickly. It didn’t. So it was out for the warm-up on the wet bike, but we were sure we’d be on the dry bike for the first race. But the track just seemed to take for ever to dry, and when the race was called it was till too damp, so he formed up on the grid on the wet bike.

It was a decent start, and as the boys emerged from the cloud of blue smoke, and screamed past the pit wall towards Gerrards he’s kept with the front row boys, going into Gerrards first and emerging fourth, showing that the wet bike doesn’t quite have the oomph of the dry bike. But it was till looking good, although one more bike crept past and between the third and sixth laps he was holding 5th, and 3rd in his class, but matching the pace of the leaders,

Bearing in mind the strategy was to just finish races, we were more than a bit gutted, when he failed to appear on the 7th out of 10 laps. It seems the rear let go on the exit from Gerrards – the fastest part of the circuit, although luckily the well watered grass gave a forgiving run-off and there was little damage to boy and bike.

The second race was again on the wet bike, as the track just didn’t want to dry, despite the sun sand absence of rain. A blistering start shot him into the lead, but something just didn’t seem right, and he slipped gradually down the order. We were grateful that he stayed on the bike, but finishing 11th is not what Gideon is used to. He complained that the bike didn’t seem to be making good power. A trip to the dyno later revealed it was giving 31 BHP which is pretty good, so suspect the earlier high speed crash had shaken him more than he thought.

But we were still holding 3rd place, but now by a much diminished 13 points. We discussed how he would really need to stay on the bike on Sunday…

Sunday was foggy and damp. But this time it did dry quicker. The warm-up was in the clearing fog on the wet bike, but the first race was dry at last – or nearly dry at least. And it was a blinding race, if ultimately tragic. He flew off the line into second place, showing fantastic pace. But had number 58 on his tail. Eventually he got past, pushing Gideon into third, but first in his class, by the penultimate lap. That’s still a great result, and would have sealed the championship. But part of what makes Gideon a good rider, is the hunger for the win, and he went past the rider in third, re-taking second on the the brakes into the hairpin, but was perhaps too eager on the brakes, and both bikes went down, robbing both of podium finishes. It was deeply sad, but you have to remember that it’s that killer instinct that makes him the rider he is.

So for the final race, he was only 8 points clear. He had to stay on, and he had to beat the rider in 4th. So no pressure then!

Another good start saw him circulating with the leaders, but this time it was a mature race, and he knew it was his last chance to deliver. He was concentrating on not taking risks, and sensibly let the leaders go, and after around six laps we were able to signal to him with the pit board that it was in the bag, as the rider in 4th in the championship was off. His relief was palpable, and he eased off further, touring in the last few laps, but still picking up 3rd in his class for a podium on his last 125 race!

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So it was something of a nail-biting finish to the season, with Gideon being Gideon as ever, astonishing us with just how fast he can go, but giving us plenty to worry about as well! But he is starting to mature as a rider, and next season will be a great opportunity for him to work on being quick and consistent!

It’s been a great season’s racing, which we will remember for the rest of our lives. So I just want to take the opportunity to thank a few people who made it possible. Huge thanks go to:

 

  • Mark “The Saint” Hill, the crew-chief, for being there, and basically making it happen,
  • Thundersport GB for the best organised racing you’ll ever encounter,
  • All the Marshals and recovery crew whose services we’ve needed a few times!
  • Dunlop
  • Ian Newton and InCompetition
  • Aprilia
  • Motrac Racing for engine work, race preparation, and help and advice
  • Daytona for the superb boots
  • Shark for the lovely helmets
  • Alison my lovely wife for giving up holidays and just about everything else!
  • Olly Moore for support both temporal and spiritual
  • The Benjamn Gautrey Foundation
  • The folk at therevcounter.com for their kind help and support
  • And all the other Superteens riders and their families and friends who made it all what it was.

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