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The Banana at the Rock

Nick Sanders  Saturday, June 16, 2001  18:05 GMT

Top Team Banana engineer Small Paul Scannell graced us with his presence as The Colonel went to Rockingham Motor Speedway for a track day at the splendid new Northants circuit.
The Colonel had booked a place on the track day in anticipation of the race that was to take place there on the 23rd/24th of this month with the Bemsee club.
Unfortunately,due to a cock-up, the circuit had not been issued with a licence for motorcycle racing in time for the event.
It's a pity that politics and money rear there ugly heads at times like this when,despite the fact that Rockingham's facilities are second to none,motorbike racing is being denied access due to safety issues.
Where the fault lies is a bit of a hot potato but, it seems incredible that a facility that has cost over £50,000,000 to build and was seemingly encouraging bike meetings,should cock-up on the safety front.
The infield National circuit is not in despute,safety wise,it's the International circuit,taking in sections of the oval banking,that is.
The Colonel decided to go ahead with the track day anyway and a spendid time was had.
The circuit that was used was the long International motorcycle one(see a pretty awesome track it is to.
The opening ceremony for the facility took place on 26th May and since then there have been a number of car events but so far no bike races.
The track is still quite "green" with a lot of construction work still going on within the infield causing a bit of dust to settle on the track.
However,the track day proved that the circuit could be a wonderful addition to the British racing seen,and I for one found the whole scene both energising and exciting.
As said before,we used the long bike circuit,which meant that the circuit was along the start/finish straight of the oval circuit that the Nascar and Indy cars will use,but instead of continuing round Turn 1,the track went through a gap in the infield concrete wall and then back out onto the oval circuit for a very quick blast down to a pretty tricky double-apex left hand hairpin onto the infield track.
The infield track reminded me slightly of Donington Park,albeit slower,in that there was a few corners that really flowed together,interupted by a couple of mickey mouse chicanes,to mess up your gearing!
My favourite section was the previously described start/finish,chicane,back onto oval bit,that could,after a while,be taken flat out,cranked right over,knee on the deck style.Boys with their toys,ehh!
But,as previously described,the circuit is terrific and fast as a track day venue,but for racing purposes,with the problems of situating marshals and run off areas,is a wee bit scary.
The Bemsee club is the most safety concious road race club in the country,and the welfare of it's riders and officials, is of paramount importance.
Even though the cancellation of the races, on the 23rd/24th june,has cost the club dear,what price is a life or serious injury worth?
Anyway, on the day,there were surprisingly few crashes for a track day with only one unfortunate punter being carted off to hosy with a broken arm,after binning it on a particularly fast left hander on the infield bit.
While the Colonel enjoyed himself ripping round the track on the dry race Aprilla bike,Small Paul was grappling with the problem of an overheating road/wet machine.After a piston had popped at a previous Brands GP event, the wee beastie (the bike not Paul!)had refused to keep it's cool.
It was eventually traced to the fact that the cooling system hadn't been bled properly and that was down to me,I'm afraid! But don't tell anyone!
Well, I'm the one who crashes 'em,not fixes 'em!
Anyway,while the little chap was fixing one broken bike,I managed to break the other one when all the bolts sheared on the alternator cover,causing the bike to go into serious misfire mode with a noise like a load of bolts being rattled in a tin can!
So Paul had two bikes to fix!
Still, at the end of the day,both bikes were OK,the little chap had a smile on his face and I'd ridden 120+miles around what is probably the best racing facility in the country!
When racing for bikes starts for real it's going to be a treat for fans and competitors alike,no doubt!
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