For the majority of families across the UK the run up to Easter consists of resisting the temptation to gorge on chocolate, counting down to a long weekend and placing bets on what the Bank Holiday weather will feature, downpours or sunburn. For the Wilks family however, it was somewhat different, for Easter weekend 2015 saw them make their debut as Wilks Racing Kawasaki.
That the team had made it to Donington Park for the season’s curtain-raiser was a success in itself; following the decision to go it alone as a team in their own right, the stress and hard work involved would have seen many pack it in or fail before ever really getting going. On the contrary, Wilks Racing had not only made it to the opening race of the year but their star racer, Kyle Wilks, had qualified 20th in a field of forty-four.
Aboard his 1000cc Superstock Kawasaki, prepared by MSS Performance and looking resplendently intimidating in jet-black with red flashes, Kyle was naturally aiming for first, but for the team’s first race weekend – one that would pass without the presence of a Crew Chief to steer set-up – 20th on the grid was truly a deeply impressive result.
As if the challenge of the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 championship wasn’t strenuous enough, Donington is no easy track to tame; from the sweeping downhill Craner Curves – scene of a sizeable smash last season for Kyle – to the tricky Melbourne Loop and Goddard’s hairpin, challenges lay at ever turn; keeping the ‘bike rubber-side-down is a priority, but never easy.
Come race-day the weather offered no more challenges; Donington was bathed in sunshine for the entire day, the redness of my and many others’ skin can testify to that! Nestled within the circuit’s vast paddock was Wilks Racing‘s modest camp; a motor-home featuring the team’s logo rested alongside a customary team gazebo housing the fearsome number 32 Wilks Racing Kawasaki.
This is national motor racing as it should be; Kyle shaking hands with fellow racers as they pass by, his grandfather, Mike, manning the griddle and supplying bacon rolls – as if I needed more reasons to support the team! – all playing out amongst a genuine community atmosphere…
The morning’s 8-minute warm-up session had allowed Kyle to adapt to an altered set up to that of qualifying and he was quietly confident before the race, but an overly ambitious attempt at turn 1 by John Ingram almost ended Kyle’s race before it had really got going.
With a battle scarred fairing and freshly sliced hole in his leathers, Kyle continued. It was only after the race that Kyle admitted to taking it slightly easy; not wishing to throw the ‘bike at the hedges in its first outing he planned on the over-exuberance of others to be their downfall and his gain.
With a handful of fallers – mainly at the tricky Goddard’s hairpin – Kyle found himself on the fringe of the points paying positions. If he was still taking it easy, it didn’t show, as he flip-flopped through Donington’s Esses with increasing accuracy and supreme pace as the race wore on.
Kyle settled into his rhythm and with just a few laps to go found himself residing in 14th, the two fellow Kawasaki riders of Alex Heaton and Tom Fisher stalking him closely. Occasionally one or both of them would find a way through but Kyle would ease back ahead, confident, it seemed, that he’d be able to hold his position until the finish.
And that he did; 14th at the line was Kyle and Wilks Racing’s reward for all their hard work and dedication. It also matched Kyle’s best of last season, and to do so at the team’s debut event only adds more reason to celebrate. The points that come with the position will give Kyle and the team confidence for the next round at Brands Hatch but, as repeated many times by Mike, Kyle and the team, the experience has a steep learning curve and they’ll be doing their utmost to learn as much as they can in order to improve.
For now, Wilks Racing can look back on a superb debut weekend.
For more information about Wilks Racing check out their website, http://www.wilksracing.co.uk or follow the team on twitter @WilksRacing32