IT doesn’t matter whether there is one day or one year between the old season and the new, there is always something left to do before the new season is upon you.
The lead up to the 2012 season was no exception, with the final tweaks to the bike being carried out just hours before it was time to leave for Snetterton.
The Norfolk circuit is always a good venue for a first meeting with its big open straights and a healthy selection of right and left handed bends. It allows the racers to get back into the swing of things, without too many nasty challenges, after the winter break.
Adorning a brand new livery, on and off circuit, Team AWR consisting of Whitby driver Dave Atkinson and his passenger Phil Knapton from Selby felt fit for the challenge.
With 24 entrants for the first round it was an impressive grid and this sight was only amplified during first warm-up of the season as the British Championship contenders were joined by the club championship racers, meaning nearly 40 bikes were out on circuit at one time.
With the rain falling, the weather was going to play its part over the weekend’s racing – in damp conditions during qualifying the team, trying to set a competitive pace, span several times on the oldr rubber of their wet tyres. Although, even with their ballet moments Team AWR managed to get in a half decent lap and qualified a respectable eighth.
As Saturday progressed, the weather started to worsen and by the time it came round to the first race, a significant amount of water had settled on parts of the circuit and hard fought racing was going to be impossible.
As the lights went out and the bikes left the line it was evident that a far more cautious approach than normal would have to be taken to avoid any collision. Halfway through the race it was red flagged due to an incident between two bikes.
By the time the race was restarted the rain had started to fall once again.
A couple of laps after the restart, Dave battled between head and race heart to make the difficult decision to return back to the garage early and ending the Team’s chances of registering their first points of 2012.
Dave and Phil were relieved to be back and not to be out in what they deemed as unraceable conditions, with visibility on circuit limited to a few metres.
The rules for 2012 have changed and wherever you finish the first race determines your grid position for the second race, the next day. Therefore the team’s early exit for race one meant they would have to start from the back of the grid in Sunday’s race.
As Sunday morning broke, the sky was brighter and fresher and all hoped that the weather would hold for some finer weather racing.
Warm-up on Sunday was used to scrub in some brand new slick tyres and although the bike was a little lively on a cold damp track, the improvement with new rubber was felt immediately.
The bike was stripped and prepared for the second (and last) race of the meeting. To have any chance of clinching a good finish it would mean Team AWR would have to through down the gauntlet as soon as the lights went out.
Sunday’s race was just before lunch and the weather had kept its promise and remained fair, so it was all out racing to stake the claim on the Championship points.
As they took their position at the back of the grid a lot of talented riders were lined up in front of the team, including a three-time world champion and two former British Champions. As the lights went out, the team got a superb start and made up a number of places within the first lap and as they came round to complete their second lap they had already demolished two thirds of the pack.
Sublime skill and sheer determination clawed them up to seventh by half way through the race and by the time the chequered flag came out Team AWR crossed the line in sixth place.
Dave and Phil are looking forward to the next round at Oulton Park on Saturday 28 April, with eyes firmly set on their first Super podium.