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Round Five. Flat out in Norfolk. Snetterton 300.

We were looking forward to regrouping after a difficult weekend in Scotland. Three crashes and a couple of technical stoppages meant the team had to pull together to get on top of everything ready for our trip to Norfolk.

Snetterton 300 is so different from the short and technical Knockhill circuit. The layout is the fastest circuit we visit. Three miles around with two 180mph straights and a number of high-speed corners – with a couple of hairpins thrown in for good measure. It’s a proper challenge for the bikes and riders alike with a 1 minute 47 seconds lap record at an average speed of over 100mph. Our Completely Motorbikes Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RRs usually go well with their balance of power and handling. Certainly, Jason and Max were looking forward to the weekend and we were all hoping for better weather.


Free Practice


Decent afternoon for the two 40-minute free practice sessions. Sunny, not too chilly and little wind – ideal really. The circuit length means that the maximum number of laps is limited so each one counts. Jason and Max both managed 13 laps in FP1 with Jason P6, just 0.6 behind an in-form Bridewell who had tested at the venue a week or so earlier. Max was also off to a good start, P9 a couple of tenths of a second slower than Jason’s best.

Lap times dropped by around 0.7 in FP2 with Jason getting down to 1.48.2 for P9 on the last of his 10 laps. Experimented with a gearing change, but happy enough with the way his bike was working. Max didn’t manage to get a good run together and slipped back to P15, only improving his best lap time by 0.4. It really is that close – Brookes P6 to Jackson P11 covered by 0.1!


Based on free practice times, Max would have to go in the first part of qualifying, aiming for one of the top three times which would promote him through to Q2 to join Jason. The weather for Saturday looked iffy so anything could happen.


Qualifying


Sure enough, heavy overnight rain continued throughout the morning so the bikes were prepared for a wet qualifying hour. 10 minutes warm up followed by a 10 minute gap before the 15 minute Q1 session. After another break, seven minutes this time, into the final 15 minutes Q2. Despite the Snetterton circuit offering a number of overtaking opportunities, as always, a good grid position would be critical for a strong race.


Streaming wet track and heavy spray for the warm up runs. Jason and Max didn’t push for fear of a crash just before qualifying proper. The resulting slower laps caused a drop in tyre temperatures and a consequential drop in grip. Jason reported one slow sector being enough to kill the grip. Max had the advantage of going again almost immediately in Q1. He has always been good in the wet but fell  into the tyre temperature trap on his out lap as initially he took it a bit too carefully. After that he didn’t have any confidence and although he managed to pick up his times it wasn’t enough to move him up the standings and he ended the session a disappointed P8 which would translate to P20 on the grid for race one.


Jason, wise to the tyre temperature issue, knew he had to push from the off when the green light came on for Q2. He spent most of the session in the top three until the final lap. The last lap on a wet track, with no more rain, is usually the best moment to set a time – last rider over the line often the fastest. With a few minutes left, Jason had slowed to give himself space and straight away sensed the grip was dropping. Personal best sector one on his final hot lap when Ryde crashed ahead and brought out a yellow warning flag, meaning Jason had to ease off and abort what would have been his fastest lap. Those half a lap or so behind were able to keep going at full speed and edged ahead, pushing Jason back to P8, half a second from Bridewell in P4 – fine margins again.

Jason would have a reasonable prospect of getting away with the leading group, but Max had a job on his hands. Hopefully the rain would pass and the track dry out for the 16 lap race two hours later.


Race One


With the withdrawal of Billy McConnell due to injury from his qualifying crash, Jason P7 and Max P19 were promoted one place on the grid.

The history books will record a five lap, 10-minute race in very wet conditions. The reality was slightly different. The first attempt at the race started on a wet track but with no more rain. Weak sunshine and a drying wind posed a problem for tyre choice. We went full wet while others opted for a wet front and intermediate rear. Whoever was doing what, Max completed lap one in P6, having made up 13 places! Jason was also on the move and was soon up to P2. As the race settled down it was clear that wet weather tyres were the correct choice, but as the track continued to dry it was heading for a close finish as the crossover to wanting more durable tyres arrived.  We never found out how it ended as the race was red flagged at half distance when Skinner crashed and needed urgent medical attention for what turned out to be a broken leg. Get well soon Rory.


Rather than call it a race at half distance with half points, the organisers decided to run a five-lap restart as the race hadn’t reached two-thirds distance – at which a race result with full points can be declared. In the run up to the restart the rain came back with a vengeance, so everyone was on wets. Grid positions determined by the order when the original race was stopped – Jason P4 Max P6. Then on the formation lap there was a brief pulse of rain so the start of the new, short race was delayed while the Snetterton drainage system was overwhelmed.

Finally underway, almost an hour after the original start, Jason retained his P4 to score welcome points. Max only made it to the turn four hairpin, Agostini’s, where he was clipped by Bridewell cutting back at the exit after running offline. Very little damage to the bike and rider but a rotten outcome for Max after his performance in the aborted first run. Up front, Stacey scored his first BSB win after a brave and spirited ride in awful conditions.


Race Two


10 minutes warm up in perfect conditions early on Sunday morning before the long wait to the 12-lap Sprint race.


Another disrupted race, but at least it was dry. Jason P8 on the grid as he hadn’t pushed for a lap time in the dodgy conditions of the race one restart. As Max was out of race one without registering a lap time - due to the Bridewell incident – he was put back to P12 - six places on top of his original P6 starting position. Sensible rule to avoid over penalising lap one retirements.

Half distance and Valleley’s bike failed on the start straight and crashed in flames bringing out the red flag. Another five lap restart!


Still bright and warm but we were caught out as it was declared a wet race! We think the organisers must have been anticipating rain and wanted to avoid another red flag stoppage. For a race officially declared ‘wet’ there are no restrictions on which tyres teams can use. A number of teams fitted new slicks while we continued on our original tyres which is the requirement for a dry restart. The fact the track was bone dry wrongfooted us. Hey Ho!


Jason P9 and Max P12 this time. The race lasted nine minutes. Jason gained a place, P8 and half a second behind Vickers. Max got boxed in at turn one losing three places and managed to work his way back to P13. All rather frustrating.

Race Three


Fingers crossed that we’d get a flag to flag 16 lap feature race. Jason P9 and Max P14 on the grid. Jason got off with the leading group but they gradually edged away leaving him racing with Vickers again for the second half of the race and crossing the line just 0.1 behind for P9. Max made up a couple of places on the first lap but then spent the race in no man’s land between the leading group and the midfield pack. Jackson just managed to pip him going on to the final lap leaving Max P12 at the line.

Championship Standings


Funny old weekend again, what with weather and five lap races. We didn’t get the time or conditions to fine tune the settings on Jason’s and Max’s bikes. They were left two or three tenths from a fully competitive lap time and as a result suffering the knock-on effect of lower grid positions - never ideal in a very fast field of riders. 


Jason has edged ahead of Haslam for P6 on 108 points. Max’s bad luck has cost him a couple of places in the midfield battle, P14 on 59 points and not a true reflection of his speed.

Next Time


Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit next and of course Max and Jason like it there – all the riders do. It’s a brilliant circuit for spectators too.


We’re just hoping for good weather and uninterrupted races. Be good to pick up a decent points haul too as we near the mid-season point.


Hope to see you there.


Regards. Nigel. Team Principal.


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