It’s no secret that motorcycle racing is a difficult sport in which to succeed. You can put in more effort than you ever thought possible; you could possess all the talent, determination and passion in the world, but it’s worth nothing if luck isn’t on your side. What’s more, a seemingly innocuous slip at a moist Oulton Park can curtail an entire weekend, undoing all your hard work and leaving spirits as damp as the backside of the fallen rider…
While Wilks Racing‘s Oulton Park experience didn’t begin too promisingly – the brakes on the team transporter seized on before they could enter the circuit’s support paddock – the third race of the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship initially looked to be their best showing yet; Kyle’s pace, culminating in a seventh place position in practice, promised a tantalising result come race-day.
Indeed, that form appeared to continue into the first qualifying session come a damp Saturday afternoon. Lapping consistently throughout the session, Kyle resided in fourteenth as qualifying drew to a close; with enough time for one last effort, Kyle lopped an astonishing 1.7 seconds from his previous best time through the circuit’s first sector alone! A top 5 result beckoned.
…Steve Hislop won the Isle of Man TT a remarkable 11 times, among other things was British Superbike champion twice, in 1995 and 2002, before his premature death in ’03. By way of marking Hislop’s success and honouring his memory, Oulton Park named their new-for-2003 chicane, ‘Hizzy’s’. The man himself was supremely talented, likeable and a fierce competitor; the chicane that shares his name, remains a tricky little bugger!…
In the challenging conditions and pushing hard, Kyle entered Hizzy’s chicane having blitzed much of the lap to that point; when his speed out-weighed the adhesion on offer from the union between the Kawasaki’s Pirelli tyres and the far-from-ideal track conditions, Kyle fell. He wouldn’t be the first to drop his machinery, and nor would he be the last, but for Wilks Racing, damage to their black and red racer proves a financial challenge they could well do without.
At first, damage appeared purely cosmetic; a few scratches, dents and dings to the fairing, bent levers and a broken foot peg seemed to be the price for the learning experience dealt that afternoon. The Kawasaki was patched up with spares supplied by Mike Pearce, new seat and fairing by Steve Ackah and support from the entire racing community before being put to rest for Saturday night, when there was a celebration to be had…Corey Blackmore, Wilks Racing’s budding number 2 mechanic celebrated his 18th birthday at Oulton Park; take-away curry, bottles of bubbly and chocolate cake supplied by Corey’s Nan all flowed as racing became an afterthought and friends, family and celebration became the name of the game.
With Corey another year older, his Mum, Dad and brother in attendance, the team and their growing legion of supporters prepared for second qualifying on Sunday, blissfully unaware at day’s dawn that all was not well with the Kawasaki.
Suspicions were raised regarding the integrity of the ‘bike’s engine following Kyle’s off the previous day and so Nick Morgan of MSS Performance was asked to cast his expert eye over the machine…sadly, it was deemed just too risky to run. For the sake of the safety of Kyle, his competitors, track marshals and spectators, the decision was made not to run the ‘bike in it’s current form…
…but with too little time to perform and engine change before qualifying 2, a session that would be held in dry conditions, Kyle would sit out the session and ultimately qualify an unrepresentative last.
The difficult and painful decision was thus taken to withdraw from the weekend’s event; the engine that could have perhaps been fitted had yet to be tested and so may well have had its own hidden gremlins. Plus, the financial cost of racing from the back of the field simply did not justify the risk Kyle and Wilks Racing would have to take.
A ‘learning experience’ is the natural positive spin on an ultimately disappointing weekend; without failures, one can’t appreciate the successes, and successes, surely, are just around the corner for Wilks Racing, perhaps at Donington Park on May 23rd when Kyle and the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 championship support the British round of this year’s World Superbike calendar.
The team will have three weeks to prepare themselves and the Kawasaki for Donington, a circuit Kyle knows well. Performing on the world stage is a huge opportunity for Kyle and the team – the pace is there, let’s hope the luck that abandoned him at Oulton Park joins Kyle for the next chapter of Wilks Racing’s debut season.