Racing: Donington Park, NLR Round 8.

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The final round of the No Limits Racing championship took place at Donington Park. This time, on the National layout - which, to be honest, I much prefer. It makes the track much more flowing by cutting out Melbourne and Goddards.

It'd been forecast to rain on the Saturday, and be decent on the Sunday. So I brought both bikes: The CBR as a wet bike, and the ZX for dry. Full factory, yo.

First race day

Fook me was it wet - and donny suuuuuucks when it's wet.

Why do photos never do it justice?

Qualifying 1: Rain.

Qualified: 9th of 32
Lap time: 1:41.177 (lap 2 of 2)

Arriving at the assembly area late meant I exited pit lane last, behind a massive gaggle of bikes.

Without really thinking about it - and by that I mean still reminiscing about the sleep I'd just had just an hour before - I began to steadily just picked my way through the field over the course of a couple of laps.

I got one relatively clear lap in before coming up to another big group of bikes. By the time I got through this group, the bike started feeling a bit loose. Maybe I was losing heat in the tyres. Maybe I'd woken up a bit. Either way, I pulled in early

To my surprise, I qualified 9th. Not bad.

Race 1: Nope.

Started: 9th of 37
Finished: 20th
Best lap time: 1:38.050 (lap 6 of 9)

I made a bit of a mess of this race.

Just before I was about to set off, I realised I'd forgot to set my pressures for qualifying.

Making a bit of a whoopsie, I'd qualified with 45psi in the rear, and 50psi in the font. Basically, they were fuckin' billiard balls. In haste, I quickly dropped the pressures and set off.

Even though it'd stopped raining (but was still piss wet through), I lined up on the grid with the wrong mindset. I didn't really want to race.

I don't know why. I've been enjoying racing in the rain lately - despite my previous attempt.

Knowing full well that riding in the wet is 99% in the head, I talked to myself throughout the warm up lap, in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to convince myself to crack on and enjoy it.

Didn't work.

I went backwards 20th - but, honestly, it felt so shitty I was just happy to just finish.

Second race day

It remained cold all through the night and into the morning - so, when the time came to go out, it was 2°c and still wet-ish.

It did eventually dry up.

Qualifying 2: 50/50.

Qualified: 13th of 36
Lap time: 1:29.105 (lap 2 of 2)

Everyone went with a different tyre strategy. Probably based solely on which part of the track we could see at our respective ends of the paddock.

Erring on the side of caution, I decided to use the wet bike - figuring I'd rather shag a tyre than a bike.

The track turned out to be mostly dry, with a few spots of damp and a wet entry into Roberts. It was freezing cold though, so I think wets were the right choice for me.

Race 2: Juxtaposition.

Follow the red arrow; shit ones self.

Started: 23rd of 37
Finished: 19th
Lap time: 1:21.071 (lap 8 of 10)

I both thoroughly enjoyed, and got really frustrated at this race. Wobbling round in race 1 meant I started towards the back of the grid in this race.

I enjoyed the back and forth of positions that happened throughout the race - but never really settled into a rhythm. I kept getting suckered into following other people with a different style to mine.

A brief excursion onto the grass at the bottom of Craners was a particular highlight. A late lunge around the outside going through the left, combined with the chap running wide left me with nowhere to go.

Brown pants - but still managed to make the pass stick :D

Race 3: PB.

Feeler gague wheelies.

Started: 13th of 39
Finished: 15th
Lap time: 1:18.068 (lap 6 of 10)

Game plan: ride my own lines, do my own thing.

I made a decent start, but got my front wheel on the wrong side of someone running wide into Redgate. That put me on the outside curb with every fucker whizzing past. Damn.

I dropped back to at least 25th, and managed to pick my way past a couple to finish lap 1 in 22nd.

Oh well, never mind. Great time to practice doing my own thing while working through a field.

I really enjoyed myself. Managed to climb back up to 15th, and shave 3 seconds off my time - a 1:18 flat.

One area in particular that stood out in this race was an improvement to Starkey's Bridge - the long, fast double apex left.

I'd been short shifting into 4th and have it just about bouncing off the limiter at the second apex.

After some advice, I tried it again in 5th, with the aim to making the bike feel more planted and less twitchy.

It didn't. Instead, I ended up bouncing it off the limiter in 5th instead - and going a lot faster. I definitely need to play around with gears more moving forward.

Race 4: Consistent.

Still a bit wooden.

Started: 17th of 39
Finished: 13th
Lap time: 1:18.437 (lap 5 of 7)

A good launch meant I could move across to the inside for Redgate - Didn't want to find myself high and dry again!

I settled into a very consistent rhythm (which we'll come back to later) quite quickly, caught and passed one or two bikes before finding myself leading the 'best of the rest' with a sizeable gap to the leading group.

Boring race from a spectators point of view, but I really enjoyed tozzing round to finish 13th.

Conclusion

All year I've struggled with my bikes and fitness - arm pump in particular has been a massive pain. Literally.

Hitting the gym, doing some arm-pump specific exercises at home and small modifications to the bike(s) have all helped.

In the last race, I was really surprised to find I ran close to PB pace (1:18.068) for the entire race:

Lap Lap Time Avg MPH
1 1:25.927 82.91
2 1:18.662 90.57
3 1:19.304 89.83
4 1:18.960 90.23
5 1:18.437 90.83
6 1:18.750 90.47
7 1:18.600 90.64

Disclaimer: I know that Donington National isn't exactly a difficult track to ride, physically, but I do feel like the effort I put in paid off - and will definitely continue training over winter.

Onward to 2019!