RBRacing/Labman Donington Park Thundersport Road Races Sept 27th/28th.

Labman team head to "Duke of Donnington" Road Races for the first time.
Labman culture 35 min read

Katie SimpsonPublished 16th Oct 2014

The team consisting of Gerry, Richy, Ally and Jan set of for the first time this year to Donington Park for the “Duke of Donington” Road Races with Thundersport GB. The National circuit was to be used for this event, which for the majority is the preferred layout over the GP circuit.

Although Gerry attended he was to slip into his old “Chief Mechanic” role following his spill at Rockingham at the previous event, leaving him with no leathers (the medics cut them off) and a badly damaged helmet. These items, for a good set, are not cheap so Gerry decided to cut his season short for this year. So Richy was riding alone and flying the flag for the team.  Arrival at Donington on Friday evening followed by garage set up and successful Technical Inspection, set the team up in good fettle for Saturday morning, especially as the weather forecast was dry and warm for the weekend. Saturday morning came and the qualifying session was early (9.15am), not giving much time for Richy to wake up! He must have been still asleep, as although he felt fast on the bike it was not enough to get him into the top ten, as he would start 11th on the grid from an over subscribed 50 riders.

The Team then went into discussion about where time could be found as the front runners were close to lap record pace. They agreed to change some things for the first race and see what happens. In an attempt to make the bike more streamlined and lighter the team had removed the traditional rev counter from Richy’s bike and replaced it with a small, lightweight plastic unit. This met the rules (as you need a rev counter), but didn’t provide much use as to when to change gear, so it had to be done via the old racing method of listening to the engine!

Richy lined up in the middle of the fourth row, determined to make a good start. That he did and with some late braking into the first corner “Redgate”, (which acts as a bottle neck) allowed Richy to make 4 places heading off down into the very fast Craner Curves. Richy managed to carry his speed into the Old Hairpin (not actually a hairpin but a 4th gear right hander) and sneak another place up the inside, taking him into 6th spot. The pace at the front was frantic and he could just not hang onto the top 5, but in the process shaving 1.3 seconds off his qualifying time. After an early battle to retain 6th Richy settled into a rhythm as he tried to hang on to the leaders. The race ended with Richy finishing 2 seconds back from the winner, whilst also being promoted to 5th due to a yellow flag infringement from one of the riders in front. On return to the pits, Richy was well please with the result and knew if he could make a similar start in the second race and post a fast lap time, it would bump him up the grid for Sunday and get away with the leaders.

After a long wait and fixing an oil leak on the crankcase of the bike, Richy was out again for the final race of the day and it was good to see Team members Sarah and Joe who had arrived from home in Howden, to watch and provide, as always, great support. Another solid start and quick first half of the lap saw Richy take the fight to the front of the race by holding a strong 6th place, this time able to run with top 5 but just couldn’t get into their slip stream to hang on with them down the straights. The Donington National circuit is very fast and flowing, with only two third gear corners. The opportunity never came when Richy could get quite close enough to the top four to make a pass and after running wide onto the mud on the exit of the old hairpin, lost some crucial time on the leading pack. Richy ended the race with a thrilling battle for position, eventually passing his rival into the final chicane on the last lap, to take a hard earned 5th place, this time less than 1.5seconds behind the leader. A great day for the team, with Richy’s best results at this circuit, coupled with some exciting racing!

The team had the luxury of the caravan this weekend, so after some carb filled pasta they wandered off down to the circuit bar to chat to the other racers and to sink a few hard earned beers.

Sunday arrived and it was clear to see the weather would cause no problems, unlike last year, as bright sunshine was forecast. The Thundersport 500 races were again early in the schedule, with warm up at 9am followed by a race in the morning and then the final race in the afternoon. Richy was happy with the bike so little fettling was done before the warm up but agreed with Gerry to shift up a gear and use 6th gear up the hill to Macleans and then try holding 4th around Macleans instead of 3rd. After trying this at racing speed in the warm up it was agreed that 4th gear seemed better so long as corner speed was kept high so he could use the bike’s engine torque on the exit.

As the sun was beating down in the mid morning, it was great to see friends Gary and Jane arrive to watch the racing and provide extra support for the team. The time soon came round for the first race and following the times posted by Richy on Saturday, meant that he moved up the grid to 8th position on the third row, providing a better chance to again get at least into the top 5. The lap times however, from pole to 15th, were very close (within a second). The lights went out and it was the usual frantic dash to the first corner, Richy pulling a small wheelie which loses critical time. Richy continued to push hard on the first lap, but the race was stopped due to an unseen incident on the start line as the lights went out. This resulted in a restart and a 9 lap “dash”. Again in the restart Richy didn’t have the best get away, but after some late braking found himself 7th after the first lap. The pace at the front was searing and now under lap record pace. Richy found himself hanging onto the front group but again unable to get close enough for a move.  After a big moment at the Esses and losing the front end on the brakes time was lost, but a quick look behind saw no one too close so Richy decided to get home for a solid 7th. However some frantic action at the front meant there were two fallers on the last lap promoting him into 5th position again! To Richy’s delight his 3rd of the weekend, and posting a faster lap time than on Saturday!

After the race Richy and Gerry continued to debate about the top end speed of the bike and Gerry suggested swapping the silencer from his bike onto Richy’s, as it’s shorter to give the engine a bit more back pressure. Richy agreed to give it a go.

The final race of the day arrived and subsequently the final race of the 2014 season for RBRacing/Labman. Determined to go out in style, Richy was hoping to make a great start and hang with the front group. As the lights went out Richy got away well and moved into 5th position going into the old hairpin for the first time. As they came down the main straight for the first time, Richy was able to hang in the slipstream of the group this time, allowing him to stay with them as the laps counted down. With a continual swapping of position Richy floated between 4th and 6th all race and held 5th going down to the first corner of the last lap. Richy knew his only chance of an overtake was into the old hairpin as he could carry speed around Craner Curves. With the help of closed eyes, he decided to go for it, and put a move on which would take him up to 3rd place at the old hairpin. The last real overtaking point is at the Esses which is the final corner. Richy decided to keep the bike in the middle of the road on the approach to the Esses and try and take his normal line waiting for the impending attack! With one rider on the inside and the other on the outside, Richy managed to hold the rider on the outside off, whilst the rider on the inside braked slightly too late, overcooking his entry. This allowed Richy to get on the power a bit earlier and undercut the other bike with the drag to the line taking 3rd place by less than a tenth of a second! This result putting him on the podium for the 3rd time this season and increasing the total to 7 podiums for the team this year, and first in this club away from Cadwell Park!!! A great (televised) race that everyone enjoyed watching!

Overall, Gerry and Richy both agree this has been the most fun, frantic and successful season of racing for the team to date. It would not be possible without the help of Labman, family and friends.

Bring on 2015!!!

Richy, Gerry, Jan, Ally, Sarah and Joe.