Marine-turned-racer Mark Fincham, who lost a leg after an a horrific accident in 2007, brings us up to date with his exploits throughout his debut track-racing season, sponsored by Bikesure.
Here, he talks us through an eventful, and wet, weekend at Cadwell Park.
Friday, June 23 – practice day
It had been pouring with rain all night and the track was a complete wash-out. Because of this many riders were put off from going out testing. I figured the weekend might be wet so getting some good wet settings in place would be useful. In free practice one, I went out just to re-familiarise myself with the track. Still managing a decent pace, I had left all the other riders behind. At the end of the session I came in, fiddled with my suspension and got ready for FP2, this time on the pace. I was loving the wet, had a couple of scary moments when the front washed but managed to hang on to it. FP3 was different, the track was starting to dry but not enough to go on to dry tyres. I had a small crash going through Hall bends, a little keen with the throttle you could say. Unfortunately I broke my foot hanger and no-one in the paddock had any spares to fit my bike. One of the officials kindly leant me his car so I could rush home to have it repaired by local engineering company Eurotech Precision Engineering.
I have Colin at Eurotech to thank for the weekend, as without his craftsmanship that crash would’ve been my weekend over. Instead it was just my day over, unfortunately missing out on two more sessions on a dry track.
Saturday, June 24 – qualifying
Not having time to test the bike after the crash, I got it back together and went out for my qualifying session. I knew something was wrong straight away as the bike only let me rev to 4000rpm, where normally it goes to 16000rpm in a race. Also the front brake wasn’t working. I let everyone past me on track while I rolled along fiddling with my electronics. I usually ride in a setting called ‘slick’ which gives no electronic help, but even in this mode the bike seemed to be running in safe mode. I manually turned all the electronics off, traction control and ABS, and the bike woke up! We were off, I got my tyres nice and warm and managed to put it on the front row in second place, just behind my demon from Oulton Park.
It was wet. I launched my bike off the start and into turn one. We were three abreast, with me in the middle. I shot past P1 after the back straight going into turn four and that was it – just me and him. The whole race corner to corner we were swapping places, quite literally wheel to wheel. With three laps to go, I decided to sit behind him to conserve my energy and wait. On the last lap, I shot past him on the brakes as I did on the first lap, this time it wasn’t as easy, I could hear his engine singing next to mine. Round the goose neck and down into Mansfield, a sharp left hander at the bottom of a hill. So fast, so late on the brakes we both had our bikes sideways going into the turn, he managed to get the inside line, once again wheel to wheel round the chicane, over the mountain (hearing the crowd love the race), through the trees, I was searching for a gap but I couldn’t find it. He rode perfectly. Round the last corner on to the finishing straight, our bikes were evenly matched and the race was his.
This was pretty much a carbon copy of race one, wheel to wheel, swapping positions. Again finishing second.
Sunday, June 25 – Race 3
The track was even wetter than it was on the Friday practice. All racing was delayed while the track was cleared of standing water and the inside areas of the track were dug up to allow the water to run off! We were out with the premier 1000 boys this time. It felt good to be on the grid with premier guys behind me. Lights out and we were off, an average start this time, we bundled into the first corner, and everyone made it round safely. Once again I beat my rival on the brakes into turn four, this time much more intense, we had to be faster than normal. I was in front, and chipping away at the premier guys – not many of them like the rain. By now I was loving it, until I came down Mansfield again and couldn’t get my bike stopped. I had to run it on to the soaking wet grass, so careful not to drop it I got it back on the tarmac, checked my tyres were clean from grass and mud and got them going again. I’d lost four places though and, with only three laps to go, I had a lot of work to do. I have since been told the commentator had said I was going two seconds a lap faster than the people at the front since I had been off track. This wasn’t enough, I only got back three places, once again settling for second place.
This was the first dry race of the weekend. Lap times were a lot lower, but this race didn’t get much of a chance for anyone really as four laps in it was red flagged as someone had come off and the marshalls couldn’t clear the track well enough. It was flagged while I was in second.
I came away from this meeting with four second place trophies, closing up on second in the championship. I also have learned a lot about my main rival and his riding style, and I can’t wait for Snetterton on July 7 and 8.