Following a productive winter, it was a very promising start to the year for TEA Time Racing’s Ed Watson at the Brands Hatch round of the BMCRC (or ‘Bemsee’) on 7-8 March.
Racing in both the Thunderbike Sport and Thunderbike Extreme classes on his EBC-equipped Yamaha R6, the team explain in their own words how the weekend went down…
“It had been a fantastic winter with the arrival of the first member of the TEA Time Racing Junior Rider Program. However, an eye was still maintained on the 2020 season, this time being tackled alone by Ed who would compete for both the Thunderbike Sport and Thunderbike Extreme championships.
“Having had issues at the opening round for the last two years, Ed decided to shake down the bike at a very wet and cold track day in February. The day went well, thanks in the main part to Andrew who had made sure the bike was in shape and ready to go, along with the support of Andy and Steve at Essex Performance who made sure the engine was at its best and ready to sing around Brands Hatch circuit. And so, with everything in place, it was finally time to go racing again.
“Qualifying went smoothly and saw Ed qualify in 3rd in Thunderbike Sport and 5th in Thunderbike Extreme, setting the team up for a good day at the races.
Thunderbike Extreme – Race 1
“A good start for Ed helped him slide in to 3rd at Paddock Hill and start chasing after Andy Saunders and Jack Sim. With the pair in front on more appropriate bikes for the class and riding superbly, it quickly became clear to Ed that the race would be about holding on to 3rd rather than chasing down the leaders. As Ed started to try and find a rhythm, he was gazumped by a flash of yellow. It was Ritchie Thornton thundering through on his Thunderbike Ultra bike. This took Ed by surprise due to expecting there to be a split start between the two classes. However, despite the grid being laid out as so, both classes started together. Not wanting to get caught up fighting with people in a different class and potentially losing time to actual rivals, Ed sat in behind. This created a nice bit of space to come home comfortably in what he thought was 3rd, though in reality he was 4th. Overall, a good result for Race 1.
Thunderbike Sport – Race 1
“The second race of the day saw the Thunderbike Sport class get underway. This is the main class the team has its sights set on for 2020 and with Ed continuing the progress made at the end of 2019, qualifying suggested he would be right in the mix. As the lights went out Ed fluffed his lines though, bogging down with the revs too low. This set Ed back a few places, but a strong turn 1 had him up in to 4th behind Branco and switched onto the chase. Braking late in to Clearways, Ed got alongside Branco and using the mid-corner camber to drive around the outside, managed the slide of the rear to close the door as they hit the straight with the focus now on Elliot in 2nd place. With Elliot a new rider, Ed decided to follow in behind for a few laps, learn where Elliot was fast and see where there may be an opportunity to make good clean pace. Furthermore, he was sticking on to the back of Jack so there was no urgency on getting the pass done just yet. With the front 3 setting a fast pace there was soon a good gap behind Ed, but with Jack starting to speed things up further it was time to make a move. At this point the trio caught some backmarkers which Ed tried to use to make the move to 2nd, unfortunately though the backmarkers ran wide lines almost as if to leave space for the front runners. This didn’t help Ed who looked to use outside lines to carve through in the hope Elliot would get blocked in on the inside. As this happened gaps kept opening and closing, with Jack now secure in 1st and Elliot keeping Ed at bay. Despite a last lap push Ed didn’t have enough to be able to try a move so had to settle for 3rd place. A good opening race result though and solid points on the board. Further to this, despite the cold circuit conditions Ed was able to match his lap times from the last round of the 2019 season, so a mini personal win to build confidence for the rest of the day.”
Thunderbike Extreme – Race 2
“The second Thunderbike Extreme race was similar to the first; a good start had Ed into 4th and running a rather lonely race. This did though give Ed the chance to test a few lines whilst keeping a good comfortable pace to preserve energy and tyres. With the class running with the Rookie 1000 class, in this race Ed also got some race craft practice in as he worked through backmarkers. With another 4th place it was solid points on the board and more time to keep learning the bike and how it feels between the two different setups for the two classes.
Thunderbike Sport – Race 2
“Confidence was still high from the earlier races, so after bogging out on the start, Ed held it around the outside at Paddock Hill and made some ground back up. At the end of the first lap he found himself in 6th behind Steve Topping. Late on the brakes into Paddock Hill had Ed through as well as positioned nicely to dive up the inside of Branco at Druids. This required a bit more trail braking than Ed fancied in the cold conditions, but the job was done and after a defensive line at Graham Hill the focus was on bridging the gap to Bloch in 3rd place. Over the next few laps the gap stayed stable at just under 1s, the pair of them trading lap times within a tenth of each other pushing faster and faster. On lap 8, a mistake by Ed, caught in behind a backmarker allowed Bloch to open the gap up to 1.7s, a massive gap to climb but luckily for Ed the next backmarker reciprocated, holding Bloch up at Paddock Hill and giving Ed the run on him in to Druids to take 3rd place. Being the penultimate lap Ed pushed as hard as he could before moving to defensive lines on the last lap. He knew a lunge was coming, though he just didn’t expect it would be in to Surtees! The pair ran side-by-side, but Bloch had his nose in front, forcing Ed to yield. A gap appeared to be up the inside in to Clearways, but Block closed this off. To do this he had to release the brakes, running him wide on the drive through the corner. Ed saw this and pushed for that inside line, it didn’t have the camber to get a good drive so as Ed pushed for it he kept alert to the rear stepping out. As the move looked more and more on Ed kept asking for more power, willing the bike forwards, he wanted that 3rd place so much, and right on cue the back end started to give way. Throttle closed and bucking like a bronco Ed got it back under control. The overtaking chance had gone though and Ed had to settle for 4th. It had been a fantastic fight though, Ed was grinning ear to ear as he got back to the pits. More solid points on the board and potentially the first of many fights like this he’d have this season.
Thunderbike Sport – Race 3
“Sunday started very different to Saturday, raining on and off keeping everyone guessing what tyres to go for. With a program shuffle to allow for carried over races it was the Thunderbike Sport race first, and the heavens had opened to make the tyre choice easy! As always Ed started off well in the wet, straight into 2nd place. Ed stuck to his pace, building each lap, even with a hurry-on on lap 2 when Stew May and Alex Robinson came through before Ed retook 2nd place into Paddock Hill. Next along was Bloch who came through and was clearly pushing, this prompted Ed to up his pace a bit but he remained calm and on a pace he could manage, keeping May and Robinson at bay as they pulled away from the rest of the field. On lap 6 though, Robinson decided enough was enough and came through, showing Ed that the grip was there as he took Druids with his knee almost down despite the soggy conditions. With Robinson streaking away Ed took a few more risks, knowing he was down to 4th now and not wanting to drop any further down the field. Despite having to keep backing off for yellow flags as people paid visits to marshalls Ed kept the rhythm going and little did he know was reeling Jack in a second a lap. As the last lap flag came out Ed was now in 3rd with Bloch having thrown it to the scenery, and 5s back off Sim. Both Stew May and Rich Harris were close company though so no time to breathe, taking defensive lines at Paddock and Druids. On the exit of Druids Ed could spot Jack in amongst a big gaggle of backmarkers and this worked better than a carrot to a donkey, pushing hard now. On the entry to Clearways Jack was almost in touching distance, though just out of reach crossing the line 0.6s in front. As much as Ed would have liked 1 more lap to have a go at Jack, he knew 1 more lap would have likely seen May and Harris through too! Unbeknownst to Ed, Robinson had also taken a trip in the kitty litter so was happily surprised to find out he had come home in 2nd place. A great result and a massive confidence booster to take through the day in the conditions.
Thunderbike Extreme – Race 3
“With only one race gap before the Thunderbike Extreme race all hands were on deck to get riders and bikes fuelled up. With it being wet the usual adjustments to remove weight from the bike were not made to help Ed get a consistent feel for bike and conditions. For this race all Ultra class started on the front of the grid followed by Extreme, with Ed sitting in 4th in the class. A good start had Ed following Jack and Andy Saunders through the Ultra class into turn 1, holding an outside line to clear as much of the Ultra class as possible. He wanted to get through as many as quickly as possible to create a buffer to the rest of the Extreme class. With Jack and Andy pushing on Ed was comfortable in 3rd, just in behind a similarly paced Ultra bike and clear of any Extreme threats, time to get a comfortable rhythm going. On lap 4 coming through Surtees as Ed started to stand the bike up ready to brake for Clearways, the back end decided to come around and pay him a visit though. Holding on to the original slide briefly the bike then bucked, flipping him over the top sending him for a flying lesson and sliding towards the barrier with the bike chasing him. Luckily the bike stopped as Ed hit the barrier so no massive damage to the rider, just annoyance and confusion as to what happened, even the marshalls were at a loss as to how it happened. With the second Extreme race not too long after and the bike only just repaired in time the decision was taken to skip this race to give Ed the time to catch his breath and get settled, especially as the Sport class is the focus for the season.
Thunderbike Sport – Race 4
“With bike and rider more or less back in shape it was time for the last race of the weekend. As the weather still looked changeable and track conditions uncertain the decision was taken to remain on wet tyres, though heading out to a very dry grid and spotting many had gone to at least a dry rear Ed knew it would be a long race! On the warm-up lap Ed got a feel for the bike after its repairs and took stock of where the wet patches on the track were in order to cool the tyres. As the race had been shortened to nine laps due to other delays in the day the plan was to go as hard as possible at the start while the tyres worked and there were still damp patches to use, then hold people off when they inevitably got squirrelly. Thankfully. a decent start had Ed right in behind pole man Alex Robinson and not too far off the back of Jack, who had made the right call of both dry tyres. On the second lap Ed took Alex into Paddock Hill and set after Jack in the hope that a tow would pull him clear of the field. The tyres weren’t happy about this though, already sliding out of corners and requiring Ed to adjust his position constantly to get the drive. On lap 4, Bloch made his now-signature move up the inside of Surtees, using his slick rear to drive away. From here on Ed kept pushing as hard as he could, praying for the last lap flag, which luckily came before anyone else could make their way through and he brought it home in 3rd place. A good finish to round up a strong opening weekend, seeing Ed come away in 2nd place in the championship.
“A big shout out to Andy and Steve from Essex Performance for making the bike hit the right numbers in all the right places, they’re based in Basildon and with their dyno facility can make your bike hit the right notes too. Thanks as always go to Gareth at EBC Brakes who has helped us to get the bike stopping this season. Thanks to RST who have helped kit me out in a superb gear which I cannot recommend enough both in terms of comfort and protection; MCT and Maxton for fantastic suspension setup and support, and Halcyon Automotive signs and graphics for the team’s decals.”
With the Covid-19 outbreak postponing Round 2 at Silverstone, hopes are that the fight will resume at Round 3: Oulton Park on May 7th-8th.