Cadwell Park, set in rolling parkland in the Lincolnshire Wolds, certainly has its ups and downs, including the famous mountain section where the bikes clear the ground over the sharp rise. We had ups and downs of our own too, out on the racetrack.
The nature of the circuit requires extra measures to keep everyone safe in the close confines of the layout. Because of this, the organisers take the opportunity of giving the superbike teams and riders an evening test the day before the main action starts. Max won his junior superstock race here last year but it’s a different matter altogether on a superbike. He had a track day run on his practice bike the week before which gave him a feel but the main opportunity to get dialled in would be the evening test.
Coming off the back of his excellent performances at Thruxton, Max had plenty of advice ringing in his ears – basically, take it steady and let the track come to you. Unusually, Max went a bit ‘rookie’ on us for a couple of hours. A little slip off at Barn Corner after a few laps wasn’t ideal. Sat behind the barrier for half an hour. The crew fixed the bike to get Max our for another run towards the end of the two and half hour session. Final lap, green sector one, half a mile to the chequered flag – no Max. Bottom of the mountain, fast in, hard on the brakes and down he went! Bike hanging in the safety fence – good job it was there – and Max thankfully unharmed but very apologetic. It happens.
Bike repaired ready for free practice the following day, but Max wasn’t quite right. Although he didn’t get knocked out in the second crash he definitely took a bump on the helmet. A medical check-up indicated no obvious concussion, so Max was given permission to run a few laps to see how he felt on the bike. Two steady laps and Max was in saying he’d decided he wasn’t 100% and felt he should sit out the rest of the weekend. No problem at all for the team as looking after our riders is the top priority. A big down as Max’s Cadwell Park weekend came to an early end – he’ll he back and firing at Oulton Park.
On the other side of the garage, Lee had a regular evening getting up to speed on his Cheshire Mouldings Kawasaki ZX-10RR and trying a few things at his favourite circuit.
Dry but cloudy with the threat of rain for Saturday morning’s 40-minute session. Lee got in 13 laps recording eighth fastest time and feeling comfortable on his bike. Heavy rain fell ahead of the afternoon session with several front runners electing not to run as the rest of the weekend was forecast to be dry. Lee did go out and was well on the pace in the difficult conditions. The track improved as the rain eased off, so times weren’t particularly important. Really just an opportunity to test in anticipation of iffy weather during the final three rounds as we head into autumn.
The track was ‘green’ after the rain and the FP3 times were slightly down, but Lee was running strong, P8 but only 0.4 off Haslam’s fastest time. The plan was to run the Superpole one-by-one format for qualifying meaning there would be a 10-minute FP4 warm up. Lee set fourth fastest time and was ready to go!
The threat of rain caused the Superpole plan to be replaced with a conventional Q2 session with the 12 fastest from free practice joined by the three fastest runners from Q1. 15 minutes for the 15 riders to establish the grid order for race one.
Lee was straight into Q2 off the back of his P8 free practice time, which became P7 as Buchan was withdrawn due to injuries sustained in a crash the day before. The rain did arrive – heavy drops really – after four or five minutes of the 15-minute session. It caught out the riders who left pit lane a little later or were searching for track position in traffic. Good news was that Lee did get in a ‘banker’ lap which placed him P6 in the final standings. It was actually fully dry again by the end of the session but no one managed to improve – except for Ryde who had the nerve to stay out as the drops of rain fell. His calculated risk netted him P4 on the last of his 10 laps.
12 lap sprint race on Sunday afternoon. Lee dropped a couple of places from his grid position but an ambitious move by Iddon on Bridewell at the hairpin took both wide and gifted Lee two places. Two laps later, Haslam’s BMW failed promoting Lee to P5. A recovering Bridewell repassed Lee on lap five and that was how it stayed for the remaining laps, Lee unable to repass Bridewell who he followed over the line in a tight group, just 1.8 seconds behind winner Irwin.
Quick warm up session on Bank Holiday Monday morning as a huge crowd assembled to follow the action.
Lee set the second fastest time in the sprint race which qualified him to start the 18-lap main event race from the middle of the front row. Perfect! A good grid position and a strong first lap are essential as the narrow track puts overtaking at a premium and leads to ‘brave’ moves for position. Lee completed the first lap P4 behind the fast starting Stacey who he managed to clear after five laps. P4 as Lee set off after the leaders, which became P3 when Vickers crashed out of the lead on lap seven. Lee passed his mate Ryde a lap later with a slick move at Charlie – only Haslam ahead. Lee put a hard but fair move on Haslam at Charlie a lap later. P1 – go on Lee. Four laps later, Ryde was back past and with two laps to go Irwin slipped past Lee. P3 and heading for the podium. However, a desperate last lap style move by O’Halloran at the hairpin didn’t go as well as his effort passing Haslam a lap earlier. Contact with Lee pushed him wide and on to the edge of the grass, costing him three places. With no time to make any further progress, Lee crossed the line P7. Two and a half seconds behind Irwin who took the lead on the last lap. Iddon had a time penalty for missing the chicane and applying that promoted Lee from P7 to P6 – not a fair reward after such a strong podium worthy performance.
Another front row start – P3 – as Vickers withdrew due to the wrist injury sustained in his race two crash. Another 18 lapper. Stacey jumped Lee off the line and as the race developed the two fast Ducatis – Irwin and Bridewell – came past using their superior speed on the short straights. With O’Halloran coming past, Lee had dropped to P7, stuck behind Stacey again, finally getting past at half race distance. The rest of the race was a high-speed train of seven riders. Up front, Bridewell found a way past teammate Irwin with three laps to go and took he win. A couple of seconds back, poetic justice as Lee made an opportunistic and clean move on O’Halloran at the bottom of the mountain to nick P5!
No progress for Max in the points table. He’s still only seven points behind Nesbitt in the rookie standings. Nesbitt suffered three DNFs, including two big crashes. With neither of them scoring points, Perie scored three maximums to close in although he sits far behind Max and Nesbitt in the main championship standings.
Lee has consolidated his overall P6 on 216.5, 14.5 ahead of Brookes. 10.5 points behind Haslam who is his next target now that he’s found the form to compete for the big points.
Oulton Park. Scene of Lee’s two race wins last year. He’ll be raring to go. Max returns with the experience of the earlier round under his belt. He’ll be keen to re-establish the momentum he took away from Thruxton. The points system reverts to the traditional 25 for a win format so there will be more to go for. We’re looking forward to some nice early autumn weather for what is always an exciting round at a fantastic circuit. It’s the home round of our title sponsor – Cheshire Mouldings – so we’ll be aiming to do them proud.
Hope to see you at Oulton Park.
Nigel, Team Principal.