Over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed the final rounds of several fiercely-fought motorcycle race series in the UK – a number of which feature EBC-equipped riders within their grids.
Ed Watson – TEA Time Racing
Brands Hatch GP – 3-4 October
“Heading into the final round of the season at Brands Hatch in early October, the team were full of excitement to see what Ed could do with the new bike, though this was soon dampened by the weather. Having not ridden the GP circuit for over two years and never in the wet, this would be a challenge for Ed, especially because now he was on a bike with an extra 70bhp and completely reworked suspension from the Donington Park half-day test.
“With a day held up by oil spills and your usual fill of wet Clearways and Graham Hill bend crashes, it was finally time for the first race of the day, and to some luck the track was drying. Unsure how dry the track really was, the team opted to keep the wet front tyre in with a dry rear to help continue to build Ed’s confidence. On the out-lap Ed could tell the track was very dry for the most part, however with a misty rain in the air and the track being cold, the focus was fixed on keeping things sunny-side-up and staying out of trouble.
“As the lights went out it was a good start, with Ed holding place in the pack, though over-cautiousness in to Paddock Hill had him swamped down the order. After a lap of rejumbling where most Ultra bikes made their way to the front, Ed worked with them to overtake the Extreme bikes in a straight line, understanding more how to get the K5 to stretch its legs whilst adapting to the greater corner entry speeds.
“With Danny Brennan just in front, Ed used him as a marker to learn the bike, though he could feel the wet front tyre was a mistake. Keen to keep things rosy, he settled in to a good rhythm maintaining consistent lap times, taking things carefully in the usual crash zones and seeing how the bike reacted to a bit more throttle pressure elsewhere. Ultimately Ed came home 9th in class with good outputs from the test, though disappointed the lap times were down on what we expect he would have been doing on the R6.
“Race 2 would be the penultimate of the day, with the rain returning and the dark settling in. Another decent start saw Ed having a little play with old Thunderbike Sport and Extreme rival Stew May. However, with visibility decreasing, yellow flags everywhere and grip levels changing lap on lap, Ed unfortunately dropped down the order. Although he was matching his qualifying times, his rivals who knew their bikes better were able to find grip where he wasn’t. With five non-finishers in class and 10 people to finish overall it was a wise decision to ride within himself and bring the bike home. Although the conditions did not allow him to learn a huge amount on the handling on the bike, it was clear Ed was getting his ear tuned in to the revs and gear changes more. An eighth in class and both rider and bike all in one piece was a good result for the day, even despite the frustration of knowing he could go a fair amount faster.
“On Sunday the conditions were wetter and colder, with the early races already filled with people taking visits to the marshalls. However, on the out-lap Ed could feel more grip than the Saturday as the weather had settled into fully wet conditions which helped the wet tyres work better. With a fantastic start from 14th on the grid, Ed charged into turn one on the outside of Stew May, already well within the top 10. As he applied the power on exit the rear end decided to slide out, though quick reactions had Ed catch it and despite legs flailing around things were back under control, until contact with Stacey Kilworth unsettled things.
“As Stacey was also making his way around the outside Ed’s moment left him nowhere to go and the contact sent them both in to the gravel. Where Stacey had more momentum he managed to stay in the shallow gravel and rejoin, though Ed found the front wheel shaking like a paint mixer, taking him in to deep gravel and ultimately down as the front buried itself. Not the way we wanted the race to go, though luckily apart from a bit of gravel rash the only damage was a bent footrest and a battered calf muscle for Ed, both from the contact with Stacey.
“Bike fixed and Ed soldiering on it was time for the last race. Starting last due to the previous DNF, a good start and first lap moved Ed up the field in to 7th in class and with Cripps as a marker in front. With temperatures dropping, the rain still coming down and Ed riding tense and unwilling to take any risks in the conditions, there was little excitement for the team in the race. A consistent pace and more mileage on the bike was good though, and coming home in a safe 7th place was a decent way to wrap up the season, even to Ed’s frustration in his inability to push himself to push on when he pulled back in to the pits.”
Cadwell Park – 23-25 October
“Wet Friday practice: In all sessions on Friday I felt really comfortable on the bike and had lots of confidence in the wet tyres. I was able to beat my dry lap time from the No Limits Ladies Charity Race that I took part in last month by 12 seconds, even though it was wet.
“Saturday: The track was still a little bit damp and cold in the morning so we left the wet tyres on for qualifying and I got 12th in class. In race 1 we switched to dry tyres and finished in 11th, knocking another two seconds off my time from Friday. Race 2 was declared a wet race so we switched back to the wet tyres. Track was damp but on lap five I crashed out at Park corner so unfortunately got a DNF for race 2, luckily did not do too much damage and I was OK.
“Sunday: I woke up to sunshine but the track was still wet for warm-up. We had to check the bike after the crash the previous day and everything felt good. We went with the wet tyres for race 1 and the track started to dry but kept going and I finished in 10th. Another change of tyres for the dry track in race 2 and I finished in 13th.
“I really enjoyed this weekend as Cadwell is becoming one of my favourite tracks. I just wish we had a bit more dry practice time. Every time we come here it seems to be a mix of wet and dry sessions. This weekend was the first time I got a little bit of air under my front wheel as I came over the mountain. Feels like I’m starting to make big steps on the R3 so let’s hope we get full season next year…”
Luke Hedger (CPD Kawasaki)
Bennetts British Superbike Championship – National Superstock
2020 Season Overview
“Having dominated the No Limits Endurance Championship in 2019 and getting on the podium at Oulton Park at BSB, both Luke and team owner Chris Cunnington were keen to see what could be salvaged from a very bleak year in 2020.
“With a massive crash in pre-season testing, the Kawasaki had to be completely rebuilt and fast, so the crew chief put everyone on the job to get the bike back to top form, however there were some teething problems along the way.
Round 1 – Donington Park National
“It was a tough start for Hedger as he started to progress but then pushed too hard in the Friday session coming off at turn six. He made up for it in the first race after qualifying mid pack in 15th and then progressively moving up to 8th place. Hedger was still disappointed in this as he knew that he had more to get from the bike.
“The second race was extremely disjointed, being red flagged twice within a matter of two laps then the race had to be postponed until the end of the day, meaning Hedger was fatigued and lacked momentum. He finally scrambled over the line in 11th place.”
Round 2 – Snetterton 300
“With only one race at Snetterton it was all to play for, however Snetterton was always going to be a bit of a tender subject and a challenge for Hedger after a high-speed crash and the bike spitting him off at testing back in 2019.
“The weather made a massive impact as it was extremely windy for the majority of the weekend. He qualified in 18th place which for Hedger was unfamiliar territory.
“Come the race, he got off to a great start, moving just outside the top 10 by the end of the first lap. Then it all went wrong in a dramatic collision with another rider completely taking him out at the Agostini hairpin. A disappointed weekend for the entire team especially after gaining momentum and confidence throughout the weekend.”
Round 3 – Silverstone National
“CPD Kawasaki had hoped to arrive at Silverstone with some good luck but they found themselves hindered all weekend with various technical issues having not been able to test at the circuit in over a year.
“Luke started race one in 19th place on the grid but he was still only 1.1 seconds off the pole sitter, just showing you how close the National Superstock Championship is. He went like a bat out of hell off the line gaining places at every overtaking opportunity landing himself just outside the top ten in 12th place.
“Race 2 saw the bike’s momentum plummet towards the end of the race and the power was down forcing Hedger to remove himself from the race, retiring on lap 21 of 24. Hedger felt so close yet so far away from another top 10 finish.
Round 4 – Oulton Park
“Oulton Park is one of Hedger’s favourite tracks which he proved in 2019 by getting a podium finish at the circuit, so this time round he was determined to give it all he had.
“This was to be their most successful weekend, one which the entire team thoroughly enjoyed. The bike was running seamlessly and Hedger was in peak physical form. He gained his best grid position all season for the start of race one, this was now make or break for the young rider. He took full advantage of his position moving up into 6th place where he remained for the entirety of the race, pulling away from the group behind him but not quite managing to latch on to the train in front.
“Race 2 got underway and he kept his grid position and was consistent throughout the race despite the first temperature drop of the season. Hedger gained another 6th place, managing to fend off the likes of Ian Hutchinson and Billy McConnell. The team were pleased with the results and went on to the penultimate round knowing they could remain on par with the front runners.”
Round 5 – Donington Park GP
“The penultimate round came around quickly and so did the bad weather with Friday’s session being completely hit and miss and Saturday being brought to an abrupt halt with the organisers calling it for the day, but nothing was going to deter Hedger as he loved the wet weather. Both races were rescheduled for Sunday for it was time to pull out all the stops. “The first race Hedger and the CPD team were slightly caught out with a marginally incorrect setup just due to the changing weather conditions. He had a great race with Davey Todd, it was a drag to the flag and Todd just got the last top ten spot over Hedger by a whisker.”