the 10th till 13th of august was again bikeweek at the Dundrod Circuit for the Ulster Grand Prix. One of the bigger International Road Races on the calendar, and the fastest as well! Last year I debuted on this truly great event so this year I knew what to expect.
After arriving on tuesday afternoon and setting up camp and meeting up with some familiar friends it was wednesday morning. It greated us with some rain and so we started the usual scrutineering trips with the 2 bikes and helmets and leathers. Everything was found alright and with the approving stickers we could start practice. This was delayed by the rain and some other trackside problems, cows that ran loose, not something you like on a racetrack when you aproach them at speeds of +100 mph.
So finaly the gate at the end of the parc ferme was opened and our first SBK practice session could start. I can tell you that not much in the world can compare to the sensational feeling that you get when for the first time again you are able to ride down the flying kilo. Upshifting through the gears untill you reach 6th and then downshift one time so that with the throttle to the pin you accelerate down deers leap to get that warm funny sensation inside your stomach. In the meantime trying to hold your helmet behind your screen and wrestling the bike to keep the front end down……. UGP 2011 had started.
About the rest off the qualification I can’t tell you all much, since half of it was cancelled because of rain and poor visibility. The Dundrod 150 SBK at the end of thursday was suddenly put forward, and I was still not in my leathers. The bike was still on ‘normal’ tyres and the track was wet. So I opted to change them first and see if we would be on time on the grid. When the first group started we were just finished which meant that I couldn’t start anymore. After 1 lap the race was stopped and the racing abondend for the rest of the day.
picture made by Derek Wilson
For the UGP races on saturday I was qualified for all 5 races I entered in. Meaning 25th position in the Superstock, 40th position in the Superbike and 28th position in on the Supersport grid. Also that only in the SBK races I would start in the 3rd wave, and the rest in the second! Saturday morning started with a wet track but without rain. So we opted for the rain tyres and thus set of for our sighting lap. The track was still wet for 2/3 of the lap so I thought we would be on the right tyres. How wrong was I and how changing the Dundrod circuit tends to be I soon would find out during this day. When we started and I rode my first lap I noticed that the whole track was dry and I made the wrong choice! Still I raced on and was to stubborn (or foolish) to give up so with a very wobbly bike i finished the SST race in 24th place. The rear tyre was complete shredded and now I hoped that the rest of the day it wouldn’t rain anymore because I would have no rain tyre anymore.
Straight after this was the first Supersport race and after the 1st lap of the SST race I had already made the agreed signal to my pitcrew. This to let them know that the FC Moore Honda should be on the Pirelli Supercorsa tyres. When I arrived back at the parc ferme Keith and Colin were already beside it and the waiting for race 2 could begin. I made a good start and settled behind Dave Woolams and Paul Cranston. Soon I noticed that the Honda was still not geared correctly, and that I was running to soon into the red zone in 6th gear. This meant that I did not have the top speed like the others and that I lost touch with the afore mentioned riders. As an result I crossed the line in 29th position.
During the combined 250/supertwins race I had some time to eat/drink/rest and also change wheels of the Kawasaki of course! I opted not to change to slick tyres but to leave the slightly threaded road legal tyres on that are obligatory in the Superstock class. Thsi because sometimes there was a little shower of rain somewhere and then the sun would come out again. Which meant that the track wouldn’t be completely dry everywhere, and that with some grooves on the tyres to drain the water away we still would have some grip. This time I made a better choice as it turned out later during the day.
Both SBK races I had an good dice with german rider Stefan Holz, but because he has a full SBK BMW, I lost some ground when he opened the throttle. My better racing lines meant that I could hang on to his back, but on both occasions he was the better of me. Thus I finished in 32nd and 27th place. In the last SBK race I sadly got lapped by Guy Martin and company, but just at the hairpin, which was at a later time then last year.
The second Supersport race was better because this time it was properly geared and after a good start I had a nice race together with William Cowden. So we ended up in the 28th place at the end of the race.
As an conclusion I can state a few things, one that it was great to be at the start of the worlds fastest road race in the world. And also the fact that I raced there is something that no one ever can take away from me again. We improved not in outright laptimes but surely closed the gap to the other regular road racers. So it was a satisfying journey to Northern Ireland and hopefully next year we can go back again. I have to thank a few persons, Keith Stewart for again helping me out and giving some good advice. And also Malachy Connoly who supplied me with fuel and the childeren with food and drinks. Many thanks for that!!