After a very successful start to the Easter weekend the Wilson Craig Honda Team was straight from Bishopscourt to the Kirkistown circuit and round two of the Irish Superbike championships.
Again the weather was cold with dark clouds never far away as I took to the track for qualifying, ending up with pole position in both 600cc Supersport and 1000cc Superbike classes.
Considering the extremely cold track temperatures my lap times were very encouraging and we continued to improve the bikes set up.
I had two starts in each class during the long afternoon and we again took a clean sweep with four from four. This may sounds like it was all a little easy but rest assure there was no time for taking it easy with the weather constantly changing. We had to race in dry, wet and mixed track conditions but the team made the correct tire decisions to make the most of each event.
Overall for an initial shakedown the Easter weekend was a success as it showed what worked and what needs work as we look towards the quickly approaching Northwest 200.
With no time for rest Kaz and myself were straight back to our apartment after racing to pack our bags for round one of the World Endurance Championships the Bol Dor 24hr to be held on the Magny Cours circuit in France.
Arriving in Paris on Tuesday it was in to the heart of the city for a function held by our friends and sponsors Motul oils. This was also the unveiling of the new “TT Legends” CRB1000 that I will race in the WEC series this year.
Wednesday and Thursday were on track with practice to try some different settings and work on a compromise with set up between the four riders. The team had John McGuinness, Simon Andrews, Gary Johnson and myself on hand with the fastest three going through to start the race.
At the end of timed qualifying as a team we had qualified 11th and lower than we wanted to be but in a race that lasts 24hrs where you start is not vitally important.
I was chosen to make the race start and take to the track on Saturday afternoon for the “Le Mans” style start. As the French flag was waved I ran across the wet circuit to jump aboard the Fireblade and begin our first 24hr race for 2012.
From 11th on the grid I completed lap one in 4th place and was comfortable on the damp and slippery Magny Cours track.
Settling into 5th place as the track started to dry out and pitting after my hour long stint on wet treaded tires that were now ripped to shreds from the drying track.
From there we held fifth place until well into Sunday when some small issues costing us a couple of unscheduled pit stops that dropped us into 6th. I took to the track on Sunday around noon with just a few hours to go and got my head down to try and close the growing gap to 5th place. All was going well and at times I was fastest on track in the wet conditions as the gap decreased.
Unfortunately I then hit a slippery patch of wet track as I began braking at the end of the ultra fast back straight and found myself on my ear… Jumping off the bike at near 200kph I slid a long way before coming to a stop but thankfully I had got away with the skid unscathed.
Picking the bike up I could see I would have to push it back, not much chance of riding it now that the fuel tank was missing!
Making it back to the pits the TT Legends team jumped into action and had the bike repaired and back on track in around 20 minutes! Amazing job that kept us in our on track position of 6th.
With around 40min left to go in the race our team boss Russell left it up to John and myself on who would ride to the flag. With both of us well and truly worn out from racing the past 23hrs we flipped a coin to decide who would be putting the leathers back on.
I won the toss but decided that I would ride the last stint… Last year I had the opportunity to both start and finish the Le Mans 24hr and now I can say I have done the same at the Bol Dor 24hr as I rode the bike to the flag in 6th place.
It was an epic race that was ridden on a dry track a wet track and everything in-between but it was always cold and with conditions as low as 4deg overnight it was magic to get an early night in a warm motel bed on Sunday evening.
Returning from France it was over to the Isle of Man for the 2012 TT press launch and some PR duties. This was a fun few days to catch up with riders and friends that I had not seen since last year’s TT.
Now we have returned to our base in Northern Ireland to have a few days rest to catch our breath as the count down to the Northwest 200 begins.