Entering the final round of the ACU 600 National Endurance Championship the Sorrymate.com team of Colin Norris and Warren Verwey hold a 16 point lead over 2nd place Pit Stop Racing.
The race is scheduled for Mallory Park and has been reduced from the normal 3-day meeting to 1 day because of noise restrictions at the embattled Leicestershire circuit. In addition to this, there are no track days available so Colin and Warren book on the ACU Wednesday test, just an afternoon session to refresh the brain and get dialled in.
The sessions are busy; with many riders from the Hottrax and Thundersport paddocks grabbing the only track time available. There is much talk among riders about the future of this historic circuit, most have a soft spot for the place, nobody wants to see it close. Colin entered his first race there and a few years later took a win in his first ride for Sorrymate.com partnering Richard Dilks as a stand-in for Fergus. Colin was pleased to see his old road riding mate and fellow BAM observer Martin Doran preparing for his first ever race the following weekend. Colin came back from the first session and was surprised to find Warren already back at the van, helmet off, spanners in hand. Warren had made a mistake early in the session and hit the kerbs hard at Lake Esses, badly denting his front wheel and worse his confidence. Fortunately he has a spare wheel and by the close of play both riders are happy with their times
Less than a week to go, everything is prepared and then the bombshell, Mallory Park has gone into administration. The circuit have cancelled the meeting! There is frantic e-mail and Facebook activity. Are we going to get a final round? If not we have won but it does not feel right and we are ready to race. Organisers Hottrax rapidly come up with an alternative. The final round will be held on the same day only at Pembrey, South Wales. Dave at Hottrax has done really well to find a circuit anywhere at such short notice but many teams are not happy. The travelling is a mission for most, especially just for 1 day, there are no garages, and worst of all the circuit staff are notoriously difficult to deal with.
Colin and Warren talk at length, there is no alternative, they have to go to secure the championship but need a pit crew which is going to be tough. Fergus and Adrian agree to travel down, 5 hours in the car (thanks guys). Colin gets a call from James at Hottrax, our clerk of the course for this meeting, it looks like we may be short of marshals, will we have any people spare? Ben, our regular pit wall guy steps up and persuades his family to travel down, he will help us while his Dad and Mum have agreed to marshal if needed, they just need to be at the circuit by 08.30 on Sunday morning, a 3 hour drive means an early start but they are there on time, big thanks to all of them as well. Focused events have a track day there the day before but Warren and Colin decide against going, neither really have the time and because they only raced there 6 weeks before, have all the set up data they need.
Fergus and Adrian arrive first on Saturday evening, Colin is not far behind. They set up the awning and garage. Technical Control is open so Colin’s bike is scrutineered, one job out of the way for the morning. The guys have dinner in the caravan and Warren arrives. All is set for the morning. The pit lane is looking quite empty, clearly some of the teams, especially those not fighting for a championship have not bothered to make the journey. A shame really after all the effort that has been put in at such short notice but understandable all the same.
Sunday morning arrives, there has been rain but the circuit is drying, Warren’s bike goes through Technical Control and both riders plan to go out in the first warm up. Ben and family arrive, to their credit the circuit have found enough marshals to run the day. These guys and girls are the unsung heroes of all motorsport, standing out all day on post in all weathers to ensure the safety of the competitors. So we have some extra bodies in the garage to enjoy the day’s racing. First drama of the day, Colin’s bike won’t start, is this a repeat of the problem he had just 6 weeks ago? The battery is totally flat but the ignition has somehow been left on overnight. A jump start off the van and we are away and having checked the battery is actually charging Colin goes out for a quick warm up. The bike will spend the rest of the day with the Optimate battery charger plugged in to avoid problems later.
Qualifying next, Warren is out first and posts a reasonable time without taking any chances. Colin goes out and is a little quicker than Warren although he is complaining about lack of rear grip. Team Sorrymate.com are 5th in class, not great but we need to finish 7th or higher to win the championship and that must be the focus for today. There is loads of time before the race and Colin insists on making some changes to the suspension knowing he is to start and can’t run with the leading pack with the bike as it is.
After some really good hard fought solo racing it is finally time for the final endurance race. Colin makes a terrible start, caught napping when the flag dropped he is almost last in the run across the track for the traditional “Le-Mans” start. He soon passes a few riders and is back to 5th but the changes he has made have made the bike even worse, he cannot run at at the leaders pace let alone catch them. Remembering the championship Colin settles for a safe pace and completes his first stint in 5th place
A smooth changeover by Fergus and his team and Warren is out. Going well he steadily pulls us up to 4th place. Meanwhile in the garage Colin gets the team to fit a new rear Continental Race Attack slick tyre while he goes to get some suspension advice. Old friend Andy “Boo” Buik comes to the rescue and makes a few changes.
Another great changeover and Colin is out again, the bike feels loads better and he is close to PB times, but why? After the disappointing first stint Colin knows he cannot now improve their position in the race without taking chances so with good pit board signals from Ben he eases off a little to maintain a safe 4th place. The last sessions for both riders have the same focus, take no chances, just hold on to 4th and bring it home
After 3 hours Colin finally takes the flag and the 600 Championship to rapturous applause from the pit wall and then the inevitable “man hugs” from the team any many fellow competitors. A truly fantastic experience
Our thanks go to our sponsors:
|Sorrymate.com||Specialist in motorcycle personal injury claims|
|X.G. Group||Experts in graphics and branding|
|K.C. Precision Ltd||Precision machinists and fabricators|
|Tyres 4 Bikes||Specialist mobile tyre supply and fitting for road and track and other mechanical and suspension services|
|Continental Tyres||Road and race tyres for cars and bikes|
|EBC Brakes||Brake and clutch replacement parts etc|
|Performance Parts||Acropovic, Yoshimura, Gilles, Zero Gravity and many other high quality parts for road and track|
|Flexnetuk.com||AIM Datalogging and computer networking solutions|
|Pro-fibre||Race fairings and bodywork website|
Last but by no means least thanks go to our friends and families, Kim and Justine for catering (and putting up with the demands of a racing lifestyle), John, Ben, Fergus and everyone else who has played their part helping out at the circuit.