Snetterton is set in beautiful fenland in the depths of East Anglia. It’s the driest part of the country, so it was with a feeling of some irony that we approached through heavy thundery showers, watching spectacular forks of lightning tearing through the dark and heavy skies. So we thought we’d be running the wet bike. Yes, that’s right – we are now in the happy position of having a wet bike and a dry bike!
We hooked up with Mark”the Saint” Hill who was already plotted up in our garage, with his son Josh awaiting his first outing on his lush R6. The plan was to get the second bike run in, and to get some track time, and finish a few races, building up confidence and pace after the big off at Oulton Park last month.
Snetterton is all about top speed on the straights. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need skill to ride it fast. The bike needs to be set up to get the most out of it, and you need to carry as much corner speed as possible to exploit the drive onto the long straights. And then there’s slip-streaming. At Snetterton a pack of half a dozen bikes can shuffle several times along one length of the straight – which makes for close tactical racing!
Friday dawned. It was difficult to tell that the sun was up through the grey dampness of the soggy East Anglian morning. And it looked like it was going to be a damp day, although we hoped it would brighten up in the afternoon, so that we could run-in the new top end on the dry bike.
So we sent Gideon out in the first session on the wet bike. All seemed to be well, and his pace looked impressive considering it was his first ride since the big crash. The day seemed to flash past – there seemed barely any time between sessions to check the bike and get if fuelled up.
After feedback from Gideon we thought we’d try different gearing, and went for a ratio that should give more top speed. This seemed to work, and we altered the dry bike too. But as sessions came and went it started to look like there wouldn’t be a dry session. So we decided to put the wet tyres on the dry bike, just to get it run in. And by the end of the day we had two bikes ready to go.
It was straight into qualifying on Saturday morning. But contrary to expectations, Saturday morning turned out to be dry! So we were glad we’d got the dry bike run-in and ready to go. Gideon went for it as usual, and was slightly disappointed with 7th position. But we thought it’s job done – its the first time out in anger after a big crash, and first time out after running in on a bike he has never raced before and he has achieved a second row position on the grid. And first or second row is what we were after. His time was 1.33.6 – that’s a decent time, but we think he’s got more in him!
The first race was also dry, and it was a great race. While the first half-dozen broke away slightly, Gideon got into a fabulous entertaining duel with Joe Thompson. The duel held him up a bit, preventing him from taking the race to the leading pack. But it really was a great race! And we, and Gideon learned valuable lessons from it. Gideon got the better of him round the twisties, and came onto the pit straight in the lead on every lap, but then Joe popped out of the slip stream, and got past on the straights. So the final position of 8th 0verall and 4th newcomer didnt really do justice to the quality of the racing.
Gideon was now doing 1.32s – so he’d carved a second and a half off his qualifying time, but it was not quite enough.A look at the data on the on-board computer gave us a clue as to what is going on. The bike was reaching maximum revs right through the box, but not getting there in top. We realised that we’d overdone the change in gearing slightly, so we went up a tooth on the rear. That should help!
And it did.
The second race of the day was a very different matter. Gideon had got used to the bike, and we’d got more suitable gearing. We could barely see the grid as the lights came on and the engines screamed like demented banshees. The wind was drifting the blue haze of two-stroke towards us, and it smelled of oil and testosterone. Heaven. They’re off.
Gideon usually gets a blinding start on the regular bike, but he hasn’t quite mastered it on this one, so after the agonising wait, they screamed through the pit straight, and Gideon was in 9th place. Not bad at all, but he’ll want more than that! When they came around for the second time he’d made up a place, and the times show that he had now got real pace! He was catching the leaders, and his lap times were now just over 1.30 – three and a half seconds faster than qualifying! He was one of the fastest riders on the circuit!
He kept reeling them in, until the race ended with a fabulous duel with Bradley Perry for 5th place, which he missed by 7 thousandths of a second, as the bikes crossed the line side by side!
Sunday greeted us with rain. And plenty of it. But the bikes went out onto the track for the first race on a drying track. Gideon catapulted off the line like a mad thing, and this time he was taking no prisoners. But a couple of laps into the race, the heavens opened, and the race proceeded in monsoon conditions. Olly, doing the pit-board, got totally soaked t the skin! But despite the rain, Gideon stuck with the leading pack and as they flew past the pits on each lap, the slipstream effect became clear. The half-dozen bikes in the leading pack were shuffling like a deck of cards, and came past in a different order every time! And Gideon was every bit as quick as anyone else on the track. Eventually he finished in a fabulous 5th, and 3rd in his class having lost a place to the slipstream on the final bend and straight.
The last race was a similar affair. It was as brilliant as it was tragic. This time the track had dried. Again Gideon got away well, and stuck with the leading pack, his position shuffling from 4th to 6th as they slipstreamed each other, and shuffle the pack. The pace was absolutely blistering, and Gideon broke the 1 and a half-minute barrier, posting 1.29s! But on the last lap tragedy struck. Gideon had got past Ross Simpson into 4th place and all was looking good, but Ross tried to jam it down the inside and the two bikes collided, and both ended up on the grass. It was a disappointing end to a fabulous weekend’s racing. But Gideon had demonstrated that despite his big crash, he has now got the pace to take the race to anyone in the Superteens field!