Team Ixion Race Report

Rider: Roger Ford
Bike: Aprilia 1000 Mille

Track: Brands Hatch
Date: 27th/28th October 2001

(c) Peter Wileman
Druids Hairpin
Woohoo, end of the season. Time for a last spin round the leafy glades of the South East's premier circuit, before retiring to a winter of supping mulled wine in front of a roaring log fire. Or something.

After Lydden, I was feeling more comfortable with the RSV, but Brands sometimes gives me problems. I've had more than my fair share of nasty crashes there - so sometimes I have real problems with the circuit. Last time we were there I cracked my head open without even getting on the track, and the time before was the last time I rode my TZ before deciding I had to sell it.

But after Lydden, I was looking forward to it, and was looking for a top ten finish in the MRO race if possible.

Saturday Bemsee Supertwins Race One

Nasty conditions for this one. A drying track had a thin dry line starting to appear, meaning it was too dry to use full wets. But get slightly off that line and it was slick as anything.

Given that I hate conditions like that, I was reasonably happy to get 8th place. At least I didn't get beaten by any of the TZR boys who were gridded with us!

And I nearly caught up with Daz Jones, which would have been a result.

Result: 8th. Best lap 58.28

Saturday Bemsee Supertwins Race Two

Ah - that's more like it! A fully dry track. Supertwins allows slicks, so I would have put a pair on - only they managed to get our second race out before lunch. So I only had time to fit a rear - an old one fitted backwards since I was damned if I was going to buy a new slick for one race!

And what a good race! I was chasing down Daz Jones for most of the early part of the race, and managed to put in a pass entering Druids hairpin. I wondered for a moment whether this was going to end up like his pass on me at Lydden a couple of weeks ago - where he ended up bouncing off my rear wheel and into the gravel. Fortunately it didn't, but Daz clearly wasn't happy with the revised race order and immediately slid back up the inside at Graham Hill. His line forced him wide, and he had to back off - giving me the chance to power past on the way to Surtees. Yahoo! This is what it's all about...

By this time I was in fourth. I was pushed up to third when Brian Greenfield's bike attempted to kill him - very nearly successfully. As far as we can tell, his engine locked up solid at the end of the straight, causing a 130 mph high-side. He wasn't breathing when the medics got there, but was revived and carted off to hospital with suspected multiple fractures and internal injuries. Unbelievably, they found nothing broken or burst at all, and he was later heard to be complaining loudly when the doctors told him he wasn't allowed to race on the Sunday.

Anyway, regardless of circumstances, I got third place and my second Aprilia trophy.

Result: 3rd. Best lap 52.83. In front of: Daz Jones :-)

Sunday - MRO

Free Practice

Waste of time. It was wet. I thought it was starting to dry, so put on a dry 207GP rear. It wasn't. Never mind, it's not like I needed to learn the circuit.

Qualifying

Now this was tricky. It hadn't rained since early in the morning, and an hour before our session a dry line was just starting to appear. Everyone was trying to decide between wets and dries (no slicks for the Aprilia Challenge, of course, just 207GPs). Wets wouldn't last the full 15 minutes in the damp, but might it be worth going out and putting in a couple of quick laps before calling it a day?

In the end, by the time we were out there was a big dry line and everybody decided for the 207s.

Given these conditions, I wasn't expecting a lot, but I was pretty pleased to clock a 53.8. Just a second slower than yesterday's race time, in iffy conditions? Got to be worth a good place, surely? Not really - these guys are too good - it was worth only a 10th place position - which doesn't sound too bad until you realise there were only 13 of us going for it. Still, the small grid means that I was still on the third row, which isn't bad.

Qualified: 10th. Speed: 53.80

MRO Race

So we're lined up in the collecting area. Everyone's looking rather confused, on the grounds that it hasn't started raining yet. It always starts raining as the RSV's are in the collecting area...

But no, at last we were to be blessed with a dry race.

I got a reasonable start for once, and got straight into the melee. Not really sure who I was scrapping with, but it was a good dice. On the second or third lap, things had calmed down a little, and I found myself following Stuart McLure. He was definitely slower than I wanted to be through Surtees, so the next lap I slipped through neatly on the inside on the way out of Surtees into Clearways.

At least that was the intention.

As it was, I found myself well out of shape, going too fast for the now tighter turn-in to Clearways, and ended up heading for the outside of the track, pushing Stuart with me. Oops! Sorry, dude. Soon after, he came back past me - without using the hand signals common in such a situation.

I was holding the group ahead - including Neil Simpson - for some time, but after a bit they started to pull away somewhat. At this point it's easy to give up and drop the pace, but I was pretty sure Dez Chand was somewhere close behind waiting to take up any slack. Sure enough, a "+0" appeared on my pitboard to warn me I was in danger of being overtaken. I pushed harder, and was soon rewarded by finding the gap between Neil Simpson and myself getting smaller. I eventually got past him on the penultimate lap (doing a better version of the earlier overtake on Stuart McLure) and set to a defensive final lap to hold off Neil and Dez. To my amazement, it worked - in spite of two fluffed gearchanges on the back straight.

I finished in tenth place - just in line with my "top ten" apirations. It would have been rather nice if it had been tenth out of 20 or 30 rather than out of 13, but given the quality of the opposition I'm not disappointed.

If I want to be able to run with the leaders I need to knock my lap times down by about a second and a quarter. I'm now getting much more comfortable with the big old four stroke, and I'm sure that sort of improvement should be more than possible next year.

Result: 10th. Best lap: 51.76.


Roll on next year...