Round Nine: Brands Hatch Indy Circuit 4/5 October
Mike had a good test day and as he felt happy with the bike decided not to go out on track in the afternoon so he could preserve his tyres.
It was hard to believe that this was the last race weekend of the season and upon reflection it has been a tough year at times, but mainly it has been a frustrating one. Mike had a brilliant run of race wins at the beginning of the season but he was soon being chased down in the Clubman Championship by a competitor with a newer, more powerful bike and who had the budget to use new tyres more often than Mike.
For several rounds Mike has come second to Roger Marsh as his ageing Suzuki GSXR 1000 K9 just doesn’t have the power needed to compete with Marsh’s machinery, so unfortunately the lead he built up at the beginning of the year was lost in the previous round and Mike was pushed into second position in the Clubman Championship.
Although Mike knew he couldn’t be caught by the third placed rider, and that second place was still a fantastic achievement on his limited machinery, power and budget – he still had one eye on the top spot and was prepared to battle Marsh until the last race of the weekend!
From the beginning of the season Mike said he wanted to run with the main Powerbike riders and try to better his fourth place from the season before. So with defending the Clubman Championship looking like an unrealistic achievement, his main focus was maintaining his third place in the overall Powerbike Championship.
Mike got caught in loads of traffic during the qualifying session and struggled to get some clear track – at one point he had a huge high side exiting Druids and he could see his rear wheel when he was thrown up on the fuel tank! Despite this scare Mike regrouped and qualified 1st Clubman, 4th Overall.
The clouds opened after the qualifying session so it was obvious this was going to be a wet race and Mike decided to try some new tyre pressures in the hope of increasing his grip in the slippery conditions. He got away well from his 4th place starting position and, despite getting a little boxed in to begin with he made his way carefully around the first corner in the treacherous conditions, unlike his main rival Marsh who crashed out. It was essential for Mike to just finish this race and score some points to reduce his 17 point deficit in the championship, but sadly he slid off at the end of the lap meaning he was unable to gain anything on Marsh.
Unfortunately the tyre pressures used in this race had the opposite effect – instead of giving more grip in the wet they actually made the bike feel like it was sliding on ice the whole time! Mike had a huge slide on the warm up lap and knew he would have to tip-toe round in the race, but no matter how hard he tried to keep the bike upright, he simply couldn’t hold onto it any longer! It was such a frustrating result!
The team worked frantically to repair the damage to the bike between the races and were done with just enough time to spare! The tyre pressures were put back to the tried and tested ones so Mike could get more grip on the slippery track. Although the rain had stopped the track had not dried out and, to complicate matters, the low autumn sun was shining brightly and the glare from the wet track was blinding for the spectators and riders alike!
Mike had to start from 22nd on the grid as a result of crashing out in the first race – and he really had to make this result count and score as many points as possible as the Clubman Championship leader Marsh wasn’t taking part due to the injuries he sustained in race one.
Mike rode cautiously and made sure to keep himself out of trouble as he was determined to finish with the maximum number of points possible and hopefully retaking the championship lead.
Despite the slippery track conditions and being blinded by the sun for half of every lap, Mike did a fantastic job and managed to finish 1st Clubman, 10th Overall and retook the championship lead by 8 points!
After a day of two extremes on Saturday the news came through during Sunday morning that Roger Marsh was unable to take part in the rest of the race weekend. This meant Mike had successfully defended his title and was officially the Clubman Championship winner for 2014 which is something Honey Racing could never have predicted or dreamed of going into this round – nevertheless everyone was over the moon!
Never one to sit back and relax, Mike’s attention turned to 3rd position in the main Powerbike Class – he wanted to make sure he kept his place and finish the 2014 season on a high!
Mike started this race from 9th on the grid and had made his way up to 6th before even being half way round the first lap! He was on top form and put in consistently fast laps, moving up to 4th place. Unfortunately the leaders quickly caught up with back markers which made the track very busy, and with the tyres going off slightly the bike began to squirm under power. Mike continued to push on and finished 1st Clubman, 4th overall and achieved the fastest Clubman lap!
Mike got away well from 4th on the grid and again put in consistently fast laps getting up to 2nd position. Towards the end of the race Mike and another Powerbike rider caught up with a back marker – they both went to overtake, one either side of the slower bike! Not realising Mike was there the back marker moved over to give the other Powerbike room and pushed Mike further to the outside of the track and almost onto the gravel costing Mike time and a position! Despite this he still finished 1st Clubman, 3rd Overall – once again achieving the fastest Clubman lap. Most importantly, Mike finished the season in 3rd place in the main Powerbike Championship!
What a finish to the 2014 season! Mike has worked so hard all year and truly deserves such fantastic results! Everyone he competed against had a combination of better, newer, faster machinery and bigger budgets – yet he managed to beat all but two of them on his older, slower bike! This really highlights Mike’s riding ability and should not be under-estimated in any way!
Throughout the year he suffered set backs with mechanical issues, crashes and injuries yet he hung in there. Although it was frustrating to finish second to Marsh in so many races, he dug deep and pushed Marsh to the line, one time finishing only 0.1 of a second behind! It was this determination that paid dividends in the last round when Marsh had his own bad luck – Mike was close enough in the points table to take advantage and was rewarded for his perseverance in both the Clubman and Powerbike championships!
Mike and the team would like to say a HUGE thanks to the following sponsors without whose support racing in 2014 would not have been possible:
Climate Group; Digitial Barriers; G&H Technical Services; Lotinga Industrial Doors; R.P. Testing Solutions; Route 1066 Café and finally George, Ron and Ken who are The 3R’s.
Special thanks must also be given to Dave and Perry at HM Racing for all their advice throughout the year.
Thank you to everyone who has come to watch Mike at various rounds – your support is appreciated.
A final “thank you” goes to the family of Mike and the team who stay at home during race weekends. You look after our children, homes and pets so the team has peace of mind and can concentrate on winning races and scoring points! Your support and help is never taken for granted so thanks to you all.
Mike is already thinking ahead to 2015 and, if possible he would love to begin racing at a National level. He has made some inquiries and has begun talking to sponsors – plans are in the early stages so please check back here for more news ……. !
Trophies from 2013 before being handed back!
Our younger supporters:
Such amazing results:
The following photos are courtesy of our sponsor Chrissie at Route 1066 Cafe: