WITH the new race season firmly under way, Team AWR’s next outing was round two of the Euro F600 Championship at Donington.
Passenger Phil Knapton and Whitby driver Dave Atkinson had never raced Donington as a combination so the weekend would prove to be a constructive learning curve as they hunted down the championship leaders.
The weather promised to be good and it didn’t disappoint as the Derbyshire circuit basked in glorious spring sunshine for the whole weekend.
First time out on circuit on Saturday was an untimed practice for all riders to reacquaint or learn the circuit, which had undergone some minor modifications the previous season.
For Team AWR it was the first time out on circuit on a full set of new Avon tyres after swapping from another manufacturer.
The team returned happy after practice and made only minor modifications before the all-important qualifying.
As in round one, there was a healthy grid of some of the best riders in the country so the stern challenge of qualifying in a good position was critical. With some excellent laps and Team AWR getting to grips with the circuit, it was a worthy result to qualify in second position, just behind the championship leaders.
Again the bike was inspected and minor modifications were made to try to improve the performance further before the first race of the meeting.
The modifications made before the race had an adverse effect that resulted in the bike becoming unsettled and difficult to ride so it was a scrap from the start between Team AWR and the highly respected teams of Conrad Harrison/Lee Patterson and Gordon Shand/Lee Barrett.
All three teams jostled for positions the entirety of the eight-lap race with Gordon and Lee just getting the better of Team AWR on the closing laps, but the team managed to hold on to the final podium position in front of Conrad/Patterson.
It was an excellent result and Dave and Phil were very happy with the result all things considered.
After returning to the paddock it was time to set to and resolve the new handling problems on the bike.
By the time it came to Sunday warm-up a few minor changes had been made but the team were still not happy so it was a mad dash to try a more radical approach. Suspension settings had been altered, gearing had been changed and tyre pressures tweeked.
Sunday was a different story completely. With new confidence in the bike, Team AWR took the fight to Saturday’s winners Simon and Dipash. With a blistering start Dave and Phil took the lead, it was an excellent battle and masterful driving skills from both teams seeing them swap the lead on several occasions.
But with superior hardware and considerable experience Neary and Chauhan successfully challenged for the lead after a number of laps. As the chequered flag was waved Team AWR crossed the finishing line only a pinch of seconds behind the leaders and also to have been 200ths of a second off the lap record, held by Simon and Dipash.
Race two was of the same calibre and knowing the bike was handling faultlessly once again Team AWR took the lead as the lights went out. It was a monumental battle and in one racing manoeuvre, the bikes actually came together resulting in a damaged nose-come on the AWR bike. Not to be deterred, Dave and Phil raced on but the damage hampered progress somewhat and so the team had to settle for second place again.
It was an excellent set of results with another sweep of podium positions and a full two seconds knocked off their lap times on Sunday compared to those of Saturday.