Race Report from Round 1 – Brands Hatch Indy. March 2020

Not being one to rest on his laurels, Matt, having finished the 2019 season as the Minitwins Rookie champion at the last meeting in October 2019 knew that he could be doing even better, so over the winter, he enlisted the help of renowned motorcycle road racing coach Mike ‘Spike” Edwards who coached Matt in Andalucia, Spain.

credit: JTW Motorsport Photography

Also over the winter, Matt acquired a second bike so he now has a “wet” and “dry” bike to suit race conditions rather than frantic tyre changes and suspension tweaks of last year; the rookie championship-winning bike becoming the wet bike and the newer “new” bike becoming the dry bike.

So on to the racing… Round 1, Brands Hatch “Indy”.

Qualifying
The Minitwins were first out and Matt qualified 4th which put him on the 2nd Row for race 1 behind David Twyford on pole, Paul Witherington 2nd and Dan Harris 3rd Matt was 0.5s down on pole and knew he could make that up easily in race conditions with fewer hold-ups.

Race 1
They went out and Matt got a good start, but not as good as John Reynolds who flew off the into 2nd place behind David Twyford; John was riding his socks off, Dave meanwhile began to put some distance between them. On lap 6 Matt went into Graham Hill block passing John Reynolds who countered by passing on the outside into Surtees, a bold move, but brave and it worked Matt knew he was quicker and would have another opportunity, remembering the valuable coaching he’d had from “Spike” in Spain.

It all got a little hectic on lap 8 as John and Matt were battling for 2nd into Druids and up popped Dan Harris, who went around the outside of Matt and tried to block pass John into Graham Hill, but Dan went wide taking John with him and Dan went a little “agricultural”. Matt took full advantage and slipped into second place, got his head down and pushed on for the next two laps, the chequered flag was out and Matt got his first MRO trophy in the bag for 2nd place.

credit: JTW Motorsport Photography

Race 2
Again, Matt qualified 4th behind Dave Twyford, Dan Harris and Russell Taylor. The lights went out and again Matt got a good start, but two laps in and the race was red-flagged, Alex Mann had “high-sided” and his bike was in the middle of the track. The race was restarted after another warmup lap and was now reduced to 5 laps. Again, Matt got a good start and on lap 2 he took the lead as Dave Twyford made an uncharacteristic mistake and selected the wrong gear into Druids, Matt passed him on the exit and found himself leading a race for the very first time, he knew Dave was stalking him and at some point, his front wheel would appear. The last lap flag came out and Matt pushed into Paddock and then into Druids, driving hard to Graham Hill, not his favourite bend, but was still leading Matt got his head towards Surtees, still no sign of Dave and as he had the tiniest of thoughts begin to develop of, “could this be it”, Dave’s front wheel appeared and Matt knew there and then that he had him, laughing and smiling, Matt tried his hardest into Clearways to get onto the power earlier and try as hard as he could to out-drag Dave to the line but it was not to be.

Overnight, the weather changed and out came the wet bike, fitted with wet tyres on and with its suspension set for wet conditions meant Matt could sit back watching everyone going through the same stress he’d had last year, watching other racers frantically swapping tyres and altering their suspension. The weather was changeable, which makes the wet/dry decisions really difficult, particularly challenging for those without the luxury of 2 bikes.

Race 3
For the first time, Matt was on the front row in 2nd behind Dave Twyford. He got a good start and led into Druids, but nothing could hold Dan Harris back and he just went off like a scalded cat, Dan was untouchable in the wet, he won by 17 seconds. Matt was unchallenged until lap 9 when Paul Witherington came past on the exit of Graham Hill but the red flags came out as they entered clearways and despite Paul passing the line in front of Matt, he knew he had 2nd place on count-back to the last completed lap. On exiting Clearways Matt saw that Craig Henstock had crashed out and that was the reason for the red flag. Three races in and 3-second places! Not a bad haul.

credit: JTW Motorsport Photography

Race 4
Back to 4th place on the grid but this time behind an orange rookie bib in the form of Alex Mann who was 3rd behind Dan Harris on Pole and Paul Witherington. Matt jump-started and he knew it, he stayed with Dan for most of the race, Dan was still noticeably quicker around Clarke Curve and Clearways as it was still a wet track there, but dry everywhere else, Matt needed a little luck with the backmarkers but Dan just carved through them on the last lap (firmly but fairly) nothing Matt could do, getting caught by the backmarkers into Surtees and Clarke, Matt went inside of Daz OLeary and Matt thought he was coming back around his outside, he didn’t panic as he wasn’t technically a concern as he was lapping him, however, it wasn’t Daz, it was actually Paul Witherington, Matt I panicked as he thought he had a good lead on him (From pit board information) but his transponder had stopped working and the 1-second gap had reduced to 0 and Paul directly behind Matt, who had no idea he was there was unable to do anything about it finishing 3rd 0.00.070 behind him. Of course, he’d forgotten about the jump start and received a 10-second penalty and as a result, was pushed back to 5th – that’s racing for you!

After the first round, Matt leads the MRO Minitwins with 71 points by 1 point from Dan Harris on 70 and David Twyford on 69. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the second round (Silverstone) was cancelled with the rest of the season being very much “watch this space”.

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