Pau Arnos – 13/14/15 May 2022 – Part 2
I was up early just as daylight crept over the paddock. The morning air was full of moisture, producing a heavy atmosphere like a thick fog, without the fog. It was quite fresh which was a pleasant change from the previous day.
The forecast was for showers at times during the day but as it turned out they passed and went to another location. The track had damp patches but there was no need to get the wet tyres ready and we were out for first qualifying at 8.40 am. I told Rikki just to go out to enjoy it and find a good rhythm. We had a second, longer qualifier, later in the morning to push for a respectable grid position.
He did exactly that and equalled his best lap time around Pau, reporting no issues apart from a little front end chattering. I strengthened the preload on the forks, cleaned, checked and fuelled the bike ready for qualifying 2. By which time the sun had begun to break through and burn off the hanging cloud causing a dramatic temperature rise, it was going to be a hot afternoon.
The pace was extremely quick at the front of our second qualifying session with a pole time of 1.21 by a guy riding a 1000cc bike, who’s race had been combined with ours as they only had 9 riders in the class. The fastest 600 came in third with 1.22, a full two seconds up on last year’s pole time. We just can’t compete with these new bikes. Rik and 12 year old Trudy managed 19th overall and 14th 600. And that was with Rik taking a full two seconds off of his best ever with a time of 1.25 which would’ve been 2nd row last year.
On the plus side only 1 second separated Rik from the 11th grid position, with experience telling us Rik can run with the top ten qualifiers if he gets a clean start. All is not lost and we can’t complain as rik qualified with his personal best. In fact, I was delighted and so was Rik, so we celebrated by having ‘the breakfast of champions’ a full English, for lunch. Also, I’m delighted to report that entries for The Manx Grand Prix finally opened, so after lunch, Rik sent his online entry in for The Senior Manx Grand Prix on Trudie the Triumph. Happy days and time for a snooze.
Refreshed a little, I set about giving Trudy the once over, just a check of everything. Especially the rain light! A quick clean and she was ready for our mid-afternoon race. By now the sun was blazing making it really rather hot and sultry causing complaints from our rider. He’s never liked anything above 23 degrees and it was pushing 30. I love it though and it was hot enough for me to bring out my shorts.
An hour before the start of our race Rik nipped across the paddock for a freshen up shower and I made some tea. We then had a visit from one of the technical officials saying that our presence was required, with Trudy, in the Technical Bay for another noise test, the third one after being passed on the previous two. I said we’ve already had two tests and passed, knowing full well that the old boy doing the test got it all wrong, but no harm in trying. His response was beyond my level of French and way too fast for any comprehension on my part but I said we’d be down as soon as Rikki came back from his shower. He smiled and nodded in agreement.
There was no point in trying to argue our case so I just put the baffle back in and told Rik the news. He told me he wasn’t surprised as he was tested after 2nd qualifying registering 110db 5db over the limit, which is consistent with last year. The baffle will stay in position for the remainder of the season just to save the aggravation. She passed with a couple of db’s to spare, keeping the Officials happy.
This brought us nicely to the time we needed to be in the collecting area. We were only kept there for five minutes before the whistle blew telling us to get the bikes off of warmers, and stands and get out on the formation lap. I was melting and could imagine how Rik was feeling as he took his position on the grid after the warm-up lap. I couldn’t see the grid from my viewpoint but we were promoted to 18th on the grid out of 29 starters. I have two testimonies as to what happened at the start, Rikki’s and a friend’s eyewitness report, which do concur.
Rik made a blinding start, very nearly getting away with the top 12 when out of nowhere another rider cut straight across Rik’s bow, he had to anchor up rather quickly to avoid a nasty collision. He got going and Rik again had to take avoiding action before getting away cleanly. By which time he was fourth from last when they all came past my position in the stand coming into the first corner. At least he stayed on.
Much can happen in a 17 lap race but Rik had his work cut out to gain some responsibility. He did the best he could and was having front tyre slides telling me he very nearly went down a couple of times. By half distance, he’d clawed his way back to 19th then had ‘the mother of all moments’. I did see this one and had started to turn away saying, ”bloody hell, not again!!!“ When somehow he saved it by good riding and a fair helping of luck.
Rik’s reflexes instinctively shifted his weight to stop the slide, the rest was down to luck. A heart-stopping moment, I can say. He held on for a finish in 15th overall and 9th 600, having a valuable signature for The Isle of Man.
During our post-race debrief the main topic of conversation was these tyre slides. It was the medium compound tyre, I had mistakenly agreed to have put on. I clearly wasn’t concentrating when the Dunlop guy offered it. I always used to have a soft compound. I did notice shortly after and told Rik ”the front end may feel different.“ It sure did in the heat of the afternoon, when it was ok in the morning qualifying. I won’t do that again, sorry Rik.
Once Trudy had cooled down I took off the front wheel and went down to Dunlops and had them fit a new soft compound front tyre. They were very busy. It was gone 7 by the time I’d returned to base camp, feeling uncomfortably warm and very tired. Perfect timing though as just as I’d got back the paddock was treated to a spectacular summer storm. A-Mazing! It certainly freshened everything up for which we were very thankful.
I cooked dinner while Rik refitted the front wheel and fettled with the bike in readiness for our early morning start the next day.