Team Ixion Race Report

Rider: Roger Ford
Bike: Aprilia 1000 Mille

Track: Lydden
Date: 4th May 2002

A two-day meeting at my favourite circuit looked odds-on for a decent result - but would the weather be nice to us, or ruin the weekend?


click to enlarge
Leading Paul Beasley (39) round Chessons

"Second, Rog!" Said Bernie cheerfully as I wandered into the paddock office.

"Second what?" I said, perhaps not on top form mentally.

"Qualifying! You got second!"

"You've got to be kidding..."

Thursday Practice

Lydden aren't allowed to run three days in a row, so the practice was on Thursday. A pain for those coming from a long way away, but not too bad for those of us in the South East who were able to go home for the Friday.

Steady but unspectactular riding had be circulating in the mid 45's. Some fiddling with the suspension showed that we could actually make the tyres last reasonably well, despite Lydden's notoriously abrasive surface. Nevertheless, both the sets of part-worns I had were down to the bone by the end of the day.

Saturday - Free Practice

Not much to do here - I knew my tyres were knackered, so I just cruised round, not attempting to put any power down round Chessons.

Qualifying

The weather was iffy, but it was completely dry when we first went out. I had to scrub in a new set of tyres in the first couple of laps, but then tried to go for it as much as possible. The new rubber certainly made a difference - I could put far more power down round Chessons than I had been able to the day before. After a few quick laps, I found myself caught behind Neil Simpson.

This was a problem as he'd brake early and block me into the corners, but then power out really well, so I couldn't get past. I kept thinking I'd get him soon, but wasted several laps trying. Then it started to spit with rain. I ignored it for a lap or two, but it was clearly getting heavier, and I knew I'd have to slow down. There's little point in that, so I pulled off. But within a couple of minutes the rain had stopped, and the wind and even a bit of sun had the track drying - so I went back out to try to get some quick laps.

It wasn't long, though, before the rain started again. It was heavier than before, but still not too bad. I figured I might be able to ignore it - but there were "slippery surface" flags at both Chessons and the Elbow. I knew I wouldn't be able to go quick with those flags out, even if they were being over-careful. So I pulled off.

I figured that what with getting stuck behind Neil Simpson, and the rain spoiling the later laps, that my qualifying times would be mediocre at best.

So I was astoundeed to find that I'd qualified in second place behind Marshall Neil. Wow - what a result! It seemed I'd managed to sneak in a quick lap at 44.69 early in the session - and this was sufficient to put me in there.

Qualified: 2nd. Time: 44.69

I'd intended to make the same tyre last for the race as well as qualifying, but this put a new complexion on it. I hurled my long suffering credit card at Clive Horton to make sure I had a tyre that would definitely last the full 20 laps without going off.

Sunday Race

I've got to admit, it's a long time since I've been this nervous before a race. Probably not since the 2000 Lord of Lydden, where I qualified on pole. I felt sick in my gut - and the constantly changing weather didn't help me with the confidence factor. I'm generally crap in half-and-half weather conditions. If it's properly wet, I'm fine (at least until the point I fall off, which I tend to do rather frequently in the wet) and in the dry I'm fine. It's those half way conditions that screw up my head.

There was a heavy shower about half an hour before our race. It certainly looked like wets for a while, but the wind was strong, and the track was definitely drying out. With less than ten minutes to go, we made the final decision for 207 dry tyres - as did pretty much the rest of the grid.

The warmup lap showed it was still quite damp into the Bombhole at the end of the straight, and at the braking point for the Elbow. So that's damp conditions on two of the four braking areas of the circuit. Hmm...

A good start would have been nice, but in fact I was no better than about sixth place into the first corner.

Daniel Tarratt got the hole-shot, closely pursued by Marshall Neill, who took the lead after a couple of laps. They were followed closely by John Rhodes and Daz Jones. The four of them were bunched up tight, with a 30 yard or so gap between them and me. For a while it looked like they were going to start pulling away - but the track was drying all the time and I was gaining in confidence.

Daz seemed to be dropping off the back, and I was slowly but surely reeling him in. It looked like I might do it, when Steve Booker gatecrashed the party by slipping up my inside at the Elbow. Before I had a chance to return the favour, he'd got past Daz as well.

The laps were clicking away. Lydden might be short, but since it has no appreciable straights it's hard work. Nonetheless, the last lap flag was soon out. Both Daz and Steve were still in front, and I wasn't having it. Daz was clearly having trouble getting the power down round Chesson's drift, and I stuck close behind him and shot past on the inside into the Elbow - my favourite maneouvre at Lydden.

I really didn't think I had a chance at Steve Booker as well, but a slight mistake at the hairpin had me right behind him on the hill down to Paddock. Then he had another moment of bad luck, as his bike cut out for a second, letting me get the inside line for Paddock. I held the brakes late, and chucked the bike in - ignoring his attempt to cut my nose off. Unfortunately I'd failed to change down in the melee, and had to accelerate for the line in a gear too high. I prayed that he wouldn't be able to power past - and just made it.

At this point I really didn't know how many riders were in front. There had been three - but if one had gone down I'd be on the podium for the first time ever! Sadly, it wasn't to be, but I was well pleased with the fourth place. Especially as I ran the second fastest lap time, at 44.53, just 0.3 seconds off Marshall Neill's time.

Position: 4th. Best Lap: 44.53


Notes:
Gearing: 15/45