Saturday 10th April 2004: Race 1 at Oulton Park
Pre-race preparation: Arrival of the new K4
After some delays at the importers, we had finally taken delivery of our brand new Suzuki GSXR750 K4, and after uncrating and assembly, work began immediately to convert it from a road bike to a fully-fledged endurance race machine. However, some important race products were unavailable and it began to become clear that we would not have it ready in time for the first race of the season.
It was time to bring in the back-up plan. Although we do still have our 2003 season Kawasaki (which is incidentally for sale), Colm donated his own race-day GSXR750 K1 to the team and this was hurriedly sprayed with our sponsors' logos and, with thanks to Jebbster Racing for the loan of a front mudguard, hastily altered to ACU race specification.
Although totally stock, the K1 was ready to race.
Practice and Qualifying
Saturday morning came and the track was wet due to the overnight rain. Wet tyres were fitted and Colm took the bike out for free practice. He came back suggesting a few changes and then we were ready for qualifying.
Next up Simon took the bike out and within two laps was setting a blistering pace. At the end of the session he had set the fastest time for our class and was fourth overall in all classes.
The track was drying out and some teams changed for intermediate tyres whilst we persevered with rain tyres. Our pole time was broken but we continued to bring down our times on the drying track. With the last session over, Colm set out fastest time and we had qualified 6th in class on the grid. Not quite what we had wanted but it was purely down to tyre choice.
12noon - 1pm
The flag dropped on the Le Mans start, and Chris held the bike while Simon sprinted across the track.
Simon then got an amazingly good start and by the end of the lap was in 5th place. The track had dried out enough for us to put intermediates on and the lap times came tumbling down to low 1:54's as Simon first passed two teams in our class to eventually take 3rd spot. The next 40mins were spent in great battle for 3rd place with Two-Four Italia's Ducati. He managed to hold them off until the hour mark when he pitted for fuel and a rider change.
1pm to 2pm
The pit stop was as slick as we could make it, bearing in mind that this bike was stock, and Chris mounted the bike for his first ever endurance race. Within five laps he had broken his personal best time. We were sitting in sixth place and Chris managed to take us a place further up the field as other teams pitted.
A crash at the end of the start/finish straight led to the pace car being out and the pack bunched up. Due to the time lost in the pit stop this worked to our advantage. The pace car went back in and Chris continued to better his times.
2pm to 3pm
Our pit stop was smoother this time and Colm set off on pursuit of the other riders as we had slipped to sixth due to the re-fuelling and rider change.
On his second lap coming into the left hander 'Cascades', the front wheel tucked under and dumped him and the bike into the gravel trap. The bike somersaulted and ripped the tank off together with the air box and injectors. The race was over for the team.
Colm was battered and bruised with two broken ribs but was more annoyed at letting everybody down. The bike, although not extensively damaged, would need the head taking off the engine to make sure none of the gravel had gone down the barrels. The only real damage was to the tank, plastics and clocks.
The race now over the team must set its sights on Bishopscourt. The new bike will be ready with all the race equipment on it. We salvaged some points from the 1st race by completing over two hours and we're in the same position that we were in last year. At Bishopscourt last time out we took second in class and there's no reason why we can't repeat that again.