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2002 Season Round Up

4000 Miles +

Initially at the beginning of the year, back in February, I had a 40th birthday surprise of a track day in Cartegena. Together with some friends we had three days in the sun helping out some track day riders with their machines and assisting with their riding techniques.

At this time I had no real plans for the racing season other than helping Phase One with their #2 machine (Junior bike) acting as tutor/team mate to the younger riders.

The first time on the bike was on a test week at Nogaro along with some of the other team members - Russell the team manager was so impressed with my lap times he decided to put me on the #1 bike along with Jason Pridmore.
This was the start of a relaxing and enjoyable years racing I thought - but in fact, from now on, I was focused on winning the World Endurance Championship!

2002 started and finished by my helping people out on a track day!

At the end of the previous year I had an outing on a Yamaha OW01 for the Red Kite team doing the last round of the KRC Endurance Championship. Nigel Brown, team owner asked me to ride in the 2002 Championship, bit of a challenge, I thought on an old bike - lets give it a go.

So my first outing of the year was at Snetterton on the 21st April - we managed to finish 3rd after an oil leak put me on my bum at the Esses.

Next up the first round of the World Championship at Imola. It was brought to my attention, that the last person to win the Imola 200, was British Paul Smart some 25 year before - and what do you know - I won it too!

What a start to the year - leading the world Championship, all I had wanted to do was have a good time enjoying myself, and now I was loaded up with the weight of the potential to be World Champion on my shoulders.

Middle of May and our home round of the World Championship at Silverstone, Jason was on other duties in the US so my team mate was one of the Junior Bike riders, Freddie Moreira.

Lots of hard riding in the cold British air brought us 2nd place, but due to their poor Imola finishing position, the Zong Shen #2 bike was still behind us overall in the Championship.

Round two of the KRC Championship at Pembrey was going so well until, whilst I was having a nice cup of tea after my first stint, John Boy was out on the track, working up a sweat, when the #3 con ron made a break for freedom, straight out the back of the motor!

Retirement number one for Red Kite, Bu**er and similar words were used.

On to Brno for the 6 hour. Brno is one of my favourite tracks so I was looking forward to it, but ultimately it was to turn out to be a nightmare.

Three crashes over the weekend, two of them in the race, meant a poor 10th place finish. Really bad when we were almost 100% cert on for a win!

The next round of the World Championship was in Japan at Suzuka. The deal here was Russell was going to take the fastest two riders, I was dying to do it but even though I was one of the quickest riders, I was ‘technically’ on a yellow card for crashing twice in the race at Brno.

Russell hates you crashing so it was a relief when he said I was on for Japan. The race and the event was one of the hardest things, I can honestly say, I have ever done. The heat and humidity were just too much for humans even the Japanese hated it!

Riding from last place, 5 laps down (See full race report on my web site for details) we had to ride for 5 hours before we even got on to the leader board, was a real test of faith. 10th was the result!

At this point in the season we were still in with a shout of the Championship, but then the team went to Germany without me for the Oschersleben 24hr.

I don’t do that 24hr job anymore got the t-shirt, tasted the champagne, etc so stayed at home. Unfortunately, in a race that will be talked about for years, due to the weather, the Phase One bike crashed out and didn’t finish.

What was even worse, was the fact that the 24hr events carry double championship points, this was ultimately going to dash our Championship hopes.

Back to the KRC Championship for the third round, at Snetterton was next and the OW01 was flying.
We were leading - things were looking good, that is, until whilst going down the Revett straight, I experienced a vibration and dramatic power loss.
Apparently, the reason being, #1 con rod needed some fresh air - but it must have phoned for a taxi, as when it did ‘go’ it took all it’s mates, the water pump, the alternator, gearbox shaft, and the entire bottom half of the crankcase, as well! More Bu**er type words.

Earlier in the year I had tried to get a ride in the BMW Boxer Cup, I had tested one of BMW UK’s old race bikes at Pembrey, after a phone call from Bertie Hauser (BMW Germany) I was on for a ride at the Bol D’or on one of the BMW VIP bikes.

Not wanting to make a tit of myself, I needed to ride steady, but also wanting to impress I needed to ride fast, what a dichotomy! After a few practice tips from ‘Randy’ I impressed them all by qualifying 5th . For the race,l I was lying in 8th place right on the back of the leading group, thinking of - just how I was going to get past all these aging nutters! I was using each lap to learn how to ride these ‘odd bikes’ then, when trying a bit a little bit more, I made a small mistake, leaning over too far. This resulted in the cylinder head touching down, lifting the front wheel off the floor – ultimate result – running off into the gravel! Bu**er and other expletives.

Not actually crashing, but I eventually made my way back on to the track in 28th place, then I rode the rest of the race like a man possessed, moving up to an 18th place finish!

Pembrey the final round of the KRC Championship, Red Kite had decided to not run the OW01 saving their budget for the Vallelunga round of the World Championship on their R7’s instead.

This had initially left me without a ride, but Alf from Alf’s Motor Cycles asked me to ride their ZX9 Kawasaki with Mick Godfrey.

Great bike and a good bunch of guys, we led from the start to the chequered flag. Taking the fastest lap, and new ‘total laps’ race record, it was a good day at the office!

Last round of the World Endurance Championship at Vallelunga. We had nothing to loose here. It was a straightforward race, and as there was no pressure from the overall Championship placings, we could go for it .

However, after qualifying it was apparent it was going to be tough. Being pole in both my sessions amongst top flight company, was nice. We eventually ended up 4th on the grid, when the rider’s times were averaged, it was going to be a competitive race for sure!

A new track for everyone - and a physical one at that, brought out some great riding, and a few near do’s! We kept on the pace though, and finished 4th. My young team mate Damien Cudlin (19) rode really well, so it was good to end the year with a good result and a warm feeling throughout the team.

The season was rounded off with a track session at Donington Park on a freezing cold day. A friend of Miles Hutchins (James, Junior team’s Dad) expressed an interest in ‘having a go’ on a pukka race bike.

Russell brought a couple of bikes up and along with young James we entertained Brian Dickerson with some dazzling coffee drinking, that is, until we got warmed up, and then we took it in turns to have a spin out on the track.

Brian, who we can call a ‘mature student’ certainly knows his way round Donington Park having done a few Ron Haslam Track Days, so we just tried help with some tips, to improve his lap times a little and get his technique refined also. I think Brian enjoyed himself, as it was difficult to get him off the bike!

What a fabulous year!


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