29/04/2013

SorryMate.com Race Team Report: Oulton Park 20th April

So after the total washout at Snetterton the SorryMate.com team of Colin Norris and Warren Verwey were desperate to get out there at Oulton, put their first race behind them, and get some points on the board.

The pair booked a track day at Oulton a few days before the meeting and enlisted the services of friend and professional race coach Mike Dickinson. Warren travelled up the night before with Colin and Mike arriving early the in the morning. Both riders knew they needed to find some time to run at the front of the pack, but the weather was fine and confidence high.

Usual track day procedures, tyre warmers on, sigh on, briefing, noise testing, all accomplished no issues except that the BMW Warren is lending to Mike for the day is right on the limit for noise and we don’t have the baffle. We need to hope he does not get black flagged for excessive noise.

First warm up session over and it’s into the truck for a detailed briefing from Mike and sorting out where both riders can gain time without taking risks and falling. A fantastic day followed, concentrating on specific sections of track in each session and resulting in Colin going almost 3 seconds quicker than his previous best and Warren finding 2 seconds. Game On.

The meeting is held over 2 days, there is almost no racing on Sundays at Oulton Park because of noise restrictions, so testing is Friday morning, with qualifying in the afternoon and racing on Saturday. A very busy schedule for competitors and organisers alike.

Thursday afternoon, Colin has the van loaded and is almost ready to leave when the phone rings, it’s Warren: “My race truck started then just died, I am waiting for the mechanic.” That’s all we need, hopefully not a sign of things to come. Colin sets off to do battle with the traffic on the M6, then meets up with Fergus at the circuit. Despite getting married over the weekend Fergus has found time to bring his bike over on loan just in case we need a spare! Warren finally makes it about 10:00, Colin has done what he can in the garage and put the dinner on. Only one little job to do, sticker up his bike. Warren has yet more great quality stickers from his company XG Group and with new sponsor EBC Brakes on board we need to lay out the bike and get these stickers on. Warren is a perfectionist at this but by 1am jobs done. Time for bed.

Whilst the team’s main focus is the ACU SorryMate.com 600cc National Endurance series, Warren is planning on entering the Manx Grand Prix for the first time later in the year and needs qualifying signatures for his licence, so he has entered the Moto Grande 1000 races and Colin is contesting the Moto Solo Allcomers races “for a bit of fun”

Friday morning goes well, the weather is good and the team are ready for qualifying after lunch. Endurance first, Warren goes out first, Colin follows in the second session. Times are about a second off where the riders wanted to be but 4th in class and 13th overall out of 38 teams puts us in strong position. Warren then qualified 12th for his Moto Grande race and Colin 10th for the Moto Solo. All good, check the bikes, tidy the garage, then a walk round the circuit. The cambers and elevation changes are amazing and both riders are studying lines.  We finally grab some well-earned dinner. Then, oh yes we have to put some stickers on Fergus’ bike just in case we need it.

Saturday morning is dry and bright, spirits are high in the paddock. Friends and helpers arrive, Sarah and Olly on pit wall/timing, Roy and John in the garage and of course Justine and Kim with the food and drink. Endurance riders briefing over and Warren is first out for his Moto Grande 1000 race. Unfortunately there is a 3 bike crash on the warm up lap and eventually the riders are sent back to the garages with the race re-scheduled for later.  There are some seriously quick BSB riders out in the Moto Solo with Colin including Jakub Smrz on the Padgetts Honda starting from the back of the grid. Colin gets a decent start away with the pack then half way round the first lap Smrz comes past, it is a real pleasure to see just how fast, smooth and accurate these guys really are. By the end Colin has taken another second off his lap times and things are looking good. Warren is back out for the Moto Grande 1000, this time without incident, finishing 10th from 37 starters and improving his times as well.

Now for the all important endurance race. Colin is to start so after the warm up lap the riders line up on the other side of the circuit with their partner holding the bike ready for the traditional Le Mans start. Lights go out and the riders dash across to their bikes. Colin is away cleanly and with Mike Dickinson’s words of wisdom ringing in his ears he is soon working his way through the pack. Approaching the 30 minute mark Colin is dicing for the lead in the 600 class with the Power to Connect team of Cunningham and Little. Then disaster, exiting Druids bend no power, the bike coughs and splutters then dies. Colin puts his arm up and rolls towards Lodge, the last corner, watching helplessly as bike after bike goes flying past. He manages to roll almost to the end of the lap, just leaving a short push up Dear’s Leap (which is proper steep). Fortunately Sarah on the pit wall has realised something is wrong, Warren is ready to go out and John runs down pit lane to get the transponder from the stricken bike. In reality this cost just over a minute but at the time it seemed like forever.

Warren puts in a good solid stint and we are back in 4th by the changeover. With bike and rider re-fuelled Colin gets back out for his second stint and is closing down on 3rd place. Warren is back out again and by the 2 hour mark we are in 3rd. Colin eventually took the flag with the team in a safe 3rd place.

Disappointment with the fuel miscalculation is all forgotten when Colin and Warren climb on the podium and pick up their trophies. It’s fantastic to be up there at the first round getting good points on the board. Even better the sure knowledge that the team has the pace to run at the front of this very competitive class

Grateful thanks to all our sponsors, friends and family who turned out to help and without whom this would not be possible

There is just one little thing to do at the end, drive up to Fergus’ and Gerry’s wedding reception. They finally arrived about 10:00. Armed with our trophies we were greeted like heroes. It was a great party. Enjoy your honeymoon guys!

Wow that was a hectic 2 days!

Come and watch us at the next round, Anglesey on the 24/25/26 May (Bank holiday weekend)

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