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2006 Season Review

“Rich Pickings In '06 For Bearcroft ”

2006 saw the NG Road Racing/Fraser’s of Gloucester season once again taking in a wide range of circuits to throw up the best riders, the ones worthy of one of the 18 much coveted class championships. Fourteen rounds at seven different circuits sees fortunes fluctuate and the best rise to the top of the points tables.

We kicked off the year as has been customary, at Pembrey in March followed by Donington Park in April and then Cadwell Park at the front end of May. The Cadwell meeting also saw us play host to rounds of the new ACU Star series. At the end of May we had our mid-season Pembrey, which was closely followed by Brands Hatch. Silverstone and Darley Moor saw us through July and September. The year was then rounded of with two very successful meetings, Pembrey followed by the finale that had us taking one of the very rare motorcycle dates at Thruxton, which also hosted the Phoenix Motorcycles Trophy Day. Thruxton proved to be the venue for a real nail-biter as regards the overall club championship series….. more of which later.

As has been the pattern for the past few seasons NG riders have their first outing of the day setting off in grid order depending on your championship positions, the result of this race determines the order of grid for the longer final….. still with me?. This format has seen a dramatic reduction in red-flagged races, as a good grid position for that final is vital, and mistakes in the qualifier can see you languishing at the back of the grid. Not good for a championship challenge.

Looking at the individual classes the DTR 125 GP series saw three riders chasing this one in the early season with Alistair Ray, Duncan Fitchett and Jack Groves very evenly matched. The teenagers Ray and Groves against Fitchett who has many years experience racing in classic racing. Fitchett clicked with his newly acquired RS125 almost immediately and his smooth style and high corner speed style saw him emerge as series leader as we approached mid season. His season was then cut short after he was caught up in someone else’s Hatchets Hairpin accident at Pembrey. Groves meantime had decided to concentrate on moving up the National 125 ladder. That gave Ray on the ASM Data RS 125 the chance to dominate for the rest of the year despite the arrival of riders such as Jamie Mossey and Lee Costello having one-off rides at the likes of Donington and Thruxton. Ray ran out a convincing winner come season’s end from Aaron Ridewood, the 2005 junior champ and Tom Snow.

Pre season the Dara Brady 400cc class looked as if it would be a head to head with Chay Newton and Steve Jones. As things turned out Newton on his TZ was caught up in a warm up lap incident in the first race of the year, and broke his collarbone. Jones then piled on the points on his RS 250 Honda, building up a huge points advantage. Even when Newton returned mid season he was plagued with a few mechanical DNF’s. By Darley Moor at two-thirds season Jones had an unassailable lead for the class title and Newton decided his season would now be all about racking up race wins, and took the fight to Jones. Although Chay racked up several wins in the final rounds he was unable to stop Jones taking the class win.

Over recent years the toughest class to win has been the George White 600cc, and this year was no different. Although Adam Tempest on the 675 Triumph and Darren Neal on his R6 played a major part the top two were teenagers Leon Morris and Charlie Bishop. Adding more spice to the head to head was the fact that they both worked out of the same garage, both on 2006 R6’s. Morris though in CSC colours and Bishop in Phoenix livery both had the guiding hand of multi-NG champion Barrie Middleton on call. Never more than a handful of points separated them all year….. or for that matter a bike length or two on track. In the end though the deciding final showdown at Thruxton never materialised at Bishop suffered problems in the morning and was never really on full pace for the final. Leon followed BSB star John Crockford home into second at that final meeting to secure the win.

Justin Waite was super consistent in the Phoenix Powerbike series eventually running out the year on the STP R1 80 points clear of nearest rival Gary Teague. Waite never finished outside the top 3 on the big Yamaha….except for one DNF at Pembrey mid season. Teague battled on manfully on his 5 year old GSXR to finish with more race wins than Waite, a record which pays tribute to Teagues engine preparation….a good advert for his own dyno business. Rod Lynn and outgoing champ Joe Symonds certainly played their part with Lynn having to ride his much more standard GSXR right on the limit.

The A and R Racing F400 class was, as the record books will show dominated by one rider. Rich Bearcroft on the Beanspeed ZXR 400 Kawasaki racked up a total of 10 wins, 1 runner up spot and 3 third placing in the 14 rounds. Jodie Duffill challenged early season, but as the year went on the Smokey Joe ZXR let go mechanically too many times to keep his charge alive. Lee Tyack became the emerging star of the class as the season went on grabbing second in the series on his Amity FZR behind runaway winner Bearcroft.

The L and J Mechanical Open final is the one everyone wants to win as it pits TZ’s and RS GP bikes against the big fourstrokes. In the past the little 250’s have had the advantage when in the hands of Gavin Lee or Neil Higgs, but recently the bigger bikes have come on so much that it is tough for the 250’s. Steve Lake lead the way early season and was looking good on his SELEC R1, but an horrific accident at Castle Combe in June put and end to his racing. Although many feared for Lakes injuries, he confounded the medics and was at Thruxton at the end of the year, not riding, but assisting protégé Richard Dobson. After Lakes championship exit Justin Waite and Gary Teague along with Rod Lynn set about fighting for the title. It went right down to the final round but Waite just piped Teague for glory for the second time this year.

Three very different bikes added spice to this years M A Nicholls Sound of Thunder series. The unknown quantity of the 675 Triumph of Adam Tempest, the class favourite for the last couple of years the Aprilia Mille of Mark Compton and the super-quick 999 Hackett Ducati of Chris Richardson. Three very different bikes but across the year at varied tracks, surprisingly evenly matched. Tempest on the Russ Cook / Roy Pond 675 eventually ran out the winner proving that the Triumph really is a class machine, especially when allied to an aggressive rider like Tempest. This class though provided us with some of the best races of the year.

Matt Sherlow was looking dominant in the Front Row Motorcycles Mini Twins series on his SV650 and had built up a commanding 67 point lead by just after mid season. Then disaster struck an accident at work left Matt unable to compete. Jamie Adam saw his chance, and bit by bit closed the gap down at the top of the table to just 17 points with one round to go… with 25 up for grabs. This meant that a very sore Sherlow had to wheel out the SV for the final at Thruxton to protect that lead. Matt did a test mid week at Mallory and found he was fit enough although the chicane was hard work. Once the adrenaline was flowing at Thruxton though Sherlow was in no mood to let the championship slip away, and grabbed the required points to lift the class crown.

The final points table for the Century 2000 400cc Streetstock shows that David Richardson on his RGV had a strong grip on the class. But early season however it was Chris Dancey that set the pace on his 400 Yamaha. By the mid-season Pembrey meeting Richardson had started to eat into Dancey’s lead. Dancey’s problems were then compounded when he parted company from the FZR at Hatchetts hairpin and effectively threw the advantage towards Richardson and the RGV. Towards the end of the year Lee Newitt and Mike Smith were winning races which bodes well for ’07.

The 700cc division of the Century 2000 Streetstock had experienced campaigners Mark Russell and Mike Smith setting the pace but as Smiths focus was on the TT he missed a couple of rounds and Russell had a few DNF’s.. both mechanical and accidental. The advantage swung towards Less Vallender on the True View Ariel ZX6R and novice rider Peter Golden on the PGR CBR600RR. Golden was receiving some assistance from 2005 club champ Brian Wood with Wood doing track walks the night before the meeting. This track knowledge saw Golden knock big chunks of time off his lap times and after Vallender had a no score at Brands, Golden racked up 4 wins and 3 runner up spots in the final 7 rounds to lift the title.

Meanwhile in the big class of the Century 2000 Streetstock 2005 season runner-up, Andy Dunne on the Diggers R1 was not going to settle anything less that the series win in 2006. Dunne a former top runner in the 600 class in the mid-late 90’s came back into the sport a couple of seasons ago and proved that he had lost none of his speed. His relaxed riding style really paid dividends with the stock Yamaha and a 100% finish record allied to never finishing outside the top three made the championship his finishing 60 points clear of his rivals. He always seemed to be in control and was able to respond to his various challengers. The R1 Slipstream Team of Paul Allen and Mark Bargery provided the main challenge to Dunne but neither rider could manage to string the consistency together to match Dunne week in week out. Allen took more wins than any of the opposition over the year with a total of 6 out of 14 but the 5 DNF’s proved too costly over the full series.

Pete Golden on the 600 Honda took the overall Century 2000 Streetstocks crown with Dunne from the 1300 division second just 7 points back and the 250 RGV of Richardson in third.

The CSC Sidecar Open class was one that kept on the edge of our seats all year with the series lead swapping between Dean Henry and Steve Wareham on the Magnam Racing R1 and Richard and Michael Swift on the SFB Suzuki. Henry/Wareham lead early on and looked good for a comfortable ride after the Swifts suffered engine problems early season. When the Swifts mechanical gremlins were thought to have been sorted they took the outfit to the European Sidecar round at Pembrey. Unfortunately the gearbox locked up and destroyed the motor…. and just to add salt in the wounds the now flailing drive chain sliced its way through the LCR Chassis. A repair bill in excess of £8000 was presented to them !!. Now some 31 points adrift of series leaders Henry and Wareham they were having to play catch up. Just as the Swift outfit was starting to fly at Pembrey the gremlins hit the Henry machine and after the warm-up lap the R1 gearbox failed and they were left watching their 12 lead turn into a 12 deficit by the end of the weekend. At Thruxton the LCR Magnam team did all they could but the Swifts knew that as long as they finished just behind Henry the series was theirs, and that’s exactly what they did to take it by 9 points. It really could have gone either way, and both pairs deserved it after all the problems.

Wayne Lockey and Kerry Williams set the early season pace in the NG F2 Sidecar class with defending champions Andy King and Steve Pooley in hot pursuit. However once Craig Hauxwell and David Wynn Williams got into their stride by the time we got to Cadwell Park for the third meeting the all pink 600 CLK Yamaha was taking the wins. After a start line accident at Brands though, when Peter Williams and Lisel Amos rammed the back of the stricken Hauxwell outfit that had stalled on the front row the championship looked like it might drift away from them. However none of their opponents managed to take advantage and after they made their Darley Moor comeback the wins kept on coming to take the series by 25 points at the end of the year.

Curtis Flux on his Team Flux RS 125 Honda emerged as top junior rider taking the Gerry Gardner trophy. His best race of the year was at Pembrey with a second place in the main 125 race. Things could have been much better though for Flux if he had been able to get his Honda off the line. The little RS never seemed to want to pull away cleanly, and before the end of the year Team Flux had already decided that the Curtis who had now in truth physically outgrown the 125 was to go. A new 600 was then purchased in preparation for an attack on the bigger class for the 16-year-old in 2007.

This years novices series was run over 8 rounds taking in the Pembrey and Darley Moor meetings and it was the Neil Parsons on the PARS Racing RVF 400 Honda that took the small capacity division. As the season went on his performances got better and better, and overhauled early pace setter David Richardson. Paul Jeffery also improved as the series progressed and Lee Newitt who joined the season at Darley Moor had a strong end to the year. But by then Parsons was well clear at the top of the point’s table for the Louigi Moto 400 Novice championship.

Richard Dobson, on his On-line services GSXR 600 was the class of the field in the DMV Motorcycles Open Novice class, but a first round crash whilst challenging up front in the main 600 class meant he was playing catch-up all year. Ben Pearce and Richard Doe grasped the opportunity and opened up a lead at the top of the table, but a run of 5 straight wins saw Dobson close down and then overhaul the opposition to lift the crown.

The battle for the overall Fraser’s of Gloucester title which is for the rider who scores the most amount for points over the year saw Steve Lake on his R1 lead early on, until that Castle Combe crash ended his charge. Then Steve Jones took over on his RS250 Honda and he lead into the final round. Meanwhile in the F400 class Rich Bearcroft was stringing a series for 10 wins together and was closing down Jones’s advantage. As we went to the final round at Thruxton there was just 2 points between the top two. So the maths were easy at Thruxton, if Jones won the 400cc race, he was champ…… if he didn’t and Bearcroft won the F400 then it went the way of Bearcroft. As it happened Jones was second, so Rich knew only a race win would secure the £2500 prize win. He was involved in a three-way battle race long with Steve Palmer and outgoing champion Pete Thompson. Bearcroft set the pace for much of the race but Thompson hit the font with one lap to go. Rich pulled out all the stops and set new lap record figures on the last lap to grad the lead…. The race win…. And the overall Fraser’s title for 2006. A few tears flowed at the end of the race ….. and a few bears flowed that night at the traditional end of year Thruxton party.

Russ Gardner