Round Nine. Northamptonshire. Small Margins.

Following the muddle at MotoGP which saw the races cancelled when the re-laid surface led to a waterlogged track, sensible administrative considerations meant the circuit owners pointed the BSB event to their national circuit layout. Just five corners and 55-second lap didn’t find favour in some quarters, but at least the spectators would see a lot more of the racing, and it would make for a close fight.

Lee Jackson. Pirelli National Superstock 1000. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.    

Lee was going to have a busy weekend too as there’d be one of the two-part, 100-mile races on Saturday. 48 laps!

Lee didn’t really click with the changed layout either. Doubly frustrating as he’d had a run on the full circuit the week before on his practice bike. The two free practice sessions went off without any dramas – P7 and P12, working on race set up. The Saturday rain was a factor for qualifying as it really was damp all the way round, but just starting to dry. Difficult conditions but Lee was comfortable and on his final lap banged in a time good enough for P2, middle of the front row.

Although we hadn’t experienced any problems, a note came round from race direction saying teams could use the special ‘Thruxton’ tyre which could withstand the higher forces generated in the two long right-hand corners that follow each other. The superstock class runs on road legal tyres with a limited tread pattern, unlike the slicks used on the superbikes. Driving hard through the corners builds up serious heat in the rear tyre which can start to blister and delaminate. The numbers of front and rear tyres we can use in each class is limited by the regulations – we’re given sidewall stickers, so the officials can check were not using extra tyres. We were given an extra sticker, so we could use the harder tyre, if we wanted.

Part one of Saturday’s 100-miler was hard fought. Lee had a a bit of clutch snatch off the line which rather spoiled his start and lost him a few places. Just like the superbikes, the top riders are so closely matched that even a minor mistake can affect the whole race. Small margins. Tyres did turn out to be an issue, especially for series leader McConnell who went backwards over the final few laps as his tyre became badly worn. Lee had minor tyre issues and brought his Kawasaki into pitlane in P7. The teams have ten minutes to re-fuel the bikes and then change the rear wheel, fitted with a new tyre. Lee reported some braking issues so new pads were fitted – he’d bed them in on the formation laps, ready for the part two grid start. His lap time was only good enough for P7 on the grid this time.

Another hard race with not quite the pace to go with the leaders. P7 again. Strong rides from Olsen and Elliott put his standing in the points table under pressure – but there was another race to come on Sunday. That would be a ‘standard’ flag-to-flag 24 lap affair.

Morning warm up first and Lee was running P7 but showing a decent race pace while trying out the hard tyre. He’d start the race from P8 on the grid. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. After warm-up we’d changed the rear chain wheel sprocket as the one on the bike was showing signs of wear. Lee went to the line, did his two formation laps and set off in to the race. The next thing we saw was a shot on the circuit TV showing him cruising. In to the garage he came, complaining of a bad vibration. The brand-new sprocket looked as if it had done 5,000 miles…. Then the race was red-flaged. We might have been allowed to take the restart from the back of the grid, but as the bike was ridden in to the garage and didn’t stay out in pitlane, it was considered a final retirement.

Investigations showed that the sprocket hadn’t been hardened properly. We run the same sprockets on the superbike and haven’t had any problems. The offending sprocket is going back to the manufacturer for analysis. It caused our first mechanical failure in two years and Lee’s first DNF of the season. Not that that makes any difference to Lee who missed his race and has fallen back to P6 in the championship standings.

We’re sure he’ll be making up for lost ground at Oulton Park, one of his favourite circuits.

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