It’s unlikely there’s ever been a more warmly-welcomed leg of the Thundersport GB motorcycle race series than the one held at Derby’s Donington Park on the first weekend of August this year. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, this race represented the first competitive outing of 2020 for the championship, and the riders could not have been keener to get back on track.
Chris Spooner and Carl Vickers of the CV Racing outfit were two of these very riders, both proudly EBC equipped and competing within the ‘Golden Era Supersport’ class of the series.
You can find out how each rider fared in their own words by reading their reports of the weekend below.
Testing: “Some track time on the Thursday evening meant I’d already gone through the ‘shakedown’ process by the time the official test day on Friday came around. Having only ridden Donington Park once previously, and with this being the first time riding the R6 in anger, there was a lot to learn and take away from this first session.”
Qualifying: “Being on a new bike in this super-competitive class, I believed I’d qualify around mid-way through the grid. The session was good for me as, unlike testing, it was only the ‘Golden Era’ 600s out, so I was able to get a better feel for how I was doing. I followed anyone I could latch onto, to try and learn from the faster riders. What I learned very quickly was just how fast some of these guys are! I completed a fastest lap of 1min 20secs, which put me 19th on the grid.”
Race 1: “Having had some heavy rain in the morning, Race 1 was declared a wet race, although the circuit was drying and the whole grid was out on full wets from what I could make out. I can’t deny that I wasn’t nervous about the race: the first time out on the new R6. Following a good start, I made a couple of places up into Redgate and felt confident in the bike in these conditions. Two laps in and the track had a dry line all the way. Pulling places back every lap, I was up to 10th after four laps when I ran into Redgate a little too hot, felt the front start to tuck and in an effort to correct it and ride it out, I lost traction and high-sided myself out of the race. Rider all good… bike not so much! However, I was in 10th place in my first race on the R6, which was a positive.”
Race 2: “Dry conditions for this race, so I was able to use the dry bike fortunately, as at this stage, the wet bike I crashed was in no fit state to race. Race 2 was purely about getting back on the horse. I needed to get a race finish under my belt and lapped a little slower than my qualifying time but continued to learn. I took the flag in 19th overall, so nothing lost or gained and I got my first race finish in the GESS class.”
Race 3: “Sunday was a new day. I’d put the crash firmly behind me and was focused for Race 3. I had actually been pushed back to 21st due to the Mega Laps – meaning I was on the same row but on the inside, which actually suited me better. I was away clean off the line and in a good position for Redgate and going into Craner Curves. After one lap the race was red-flagged and all riders were sent back to the grid. We sat here for a while, and although we were given another warm-up lap, the tyres had cooled. The first couple of laps were horrible, the rear squirming and fighting for grip. Of course, this was the same for all riders, but I think a lack of experience with the bike meant I was a little less confident and lost a place, finishing 22nd overall.”
Race 4: “Disappointed with my finish in Race 3, I gave myself a bit of a talking to and was feeling fired up for the final race of the weekend. There was an incident on the start line which unfortunately put four riders out. After a short delay, we were called back to the grid for two warm-up laps and a seven-lap race. During the delay the tyre warmers were on so I had the confidence to push from the first lap. I gained places and I gave some back through lack of confidence in some areas but finished 17th overall and 14th in class, with my times being consistent to what I was doing in qualifying so I was pleased to finish on a strong note.”
Looking forward: “We head to Mallory Park for Round 2, which is a circuit I am quite familiar with from my Formula 400 days, and whilst we have no data for the bike here, hopefully we can progress quickly during the weekend.”
Testing: “Well, it’s been a long time coming: the first race of 2020 for Thundersport GB was finally here! After getting set up and managing several sessions out on track the evening before, testing was quite possibly the most relaxed test session we have had for a long while. Focus was on the bike setup and gearing, along with getting back to grips with what can be a challenging track to ride fast.”
Qualifying: “A good session, surprisingly I didn’t have any issues with slower riders spoiling my lap. Qualifying just seemed to flow from lap to lap, setting my qualifying lap in the very last lap of the session for a 10th place start in Saturday’s races.”
Race 1: “Rain was the talk of the paddock, and with the race before definitely being a wet race, our first race of 2020 was also declared a wet race. With everyone on wet tyres and most being brand new wets, we were all prepared. However after the first lap, the circuit (not just the racing line) was pretty dry. As the race progressed everyone’s tyres were very quickly starting to suffer. On top of the tyre issues, my wet bike was struggling to stay in gear and not doing my confidence mid-corner any good when trying to keep with the pack. By the end of the race, I was pleased to simply bring it home for a few championship points and what felt like a very disappointing fourth in the first Veteran race finish.”
Race 2: “At last, the first dry race for 2020! Having had a few gearbox issues with the wet bike, I was very upbeat to be finally going out on the newly-rebuilt dry race bike. Not the best start, but slowly and surely worked though the pack to get a first-place finish in the Veteran class, and 12th overall.”
Race 3: “Another great dry race. A poor start, but I quickly settled into my race and had a great battle with Dave Langley towards the end. Liam Vella had a big moment that saw him go wide and then when coming back onto the racing line, get shunted back wide, causing him to go off at Coppice for a rather fast dismount. After the restart, quite possibly the closest race finish of the weekend for Dave and I, as we were 0.013secs apart. I was too close to Dave in fact, that I was almost helping him across the finish line (elbow to elbow racing!). Another first in the Veteran class and 9th overall.”
Race 4: “The final race of the weekend. Not a bad start off the line but the red flags went out as we entered Craner Curves due to a start line crash involving four riders. The restart was not so good; it took a while to get back on pace and I had a good race again with Dave Langley in the later laps. The last lap again saw a very late braking move at the chicane to get eighth just in front of Dave Langley again for some valuable Supersport points and the third win in the Veteran class of the weekend.”
Looking forward: “Quite a few cobwebs have been blown out! I was really happy to get three wins out of four in the new Veterans class and be leading it going into Mallory Park. Also to be in the top 10 of what is now an even quicker class than ever before in TSGB puts it into perspective. Most of the top 10 would have won races outright in previous years. If Donington Park is anything to go by then we are in for a great season of racing, even if it is only four rounds this year. We would also like to wish a safe and speedy recovery to all riders that went down at the weekend and look forward to seeing them back on track when they have recovered.”