It’s 10.36pm. I’m in the back of my van in Oulton’s paddock, tucked up in
‘bed’ (two sleeping bags and an airbed with a slow puncture). The thin metal
roof stops the rain from actually landing on my face but otherwise repeats
the weather conditions with me verbatim. The temperature outside is
identical to in here. Every individual rain drop reverberates around the
van; a light shower sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies served in a steel
drum; a heavy downpour is like being shut in a wheelie bin while it’s hosed
down with ball bearings. Lurking unseen, the wind is a troublesome gang
kicking bottles around the paddock and rocking the van on its springs.
Summer’s swan song of a week ago is just a memory; Autumn is here and it’s
stamping its authority. Winter’s hollowness awaits, a dark absence of all
this, of the anticipation that warms me, of racing. A motorsport season is
This weekend the task at hand is simple, in essence if not in practice. I
must beat Chris Barnes in order to protect my fifth place in the
championship. Exactly what that entails I will discover tomorrow afternoon,
shortly after qualifying when all the cards are turned over. However, I’m
pretty sure it will come down to riding my motorcycle as fast as I can.
Oulton Park is fun at speed, a true challenge at race pace. It bucks around
Cheshire like a rodeo bull, testing your concentration and reactions. Hard
braking follows flat-out crest, hairpin follows sweeper, patter bumps follow
millpond asphalt. Stability in a bike is essential here and takes precedence
over steering speed and even mid-corner front-end feel. If your bike isn’t
stable you’ll spend most of the lap playing the rodeo rider to the circuit’s
bull, and we all know that some rodeo rides may last longer than others but
they never end well. Far better to be the horse whisperer, to soothe your
bike into thinking you’re not riding it hard whereas in fact your
stabilising flat chassis balance allows you to open the throttle with
Time to sleep and dream of glory.
Posted by John. Last modified: October 6, 2011 at 12:00 am
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