Wednesday 23rd August 2018
Arrived at the circuit, parked up and went for a walk of the track that had been set up specifically for the British Talent Cup selection process.
Riders briefing in the main cafe. Alberto Puig let everyone know what was expected, to have fun, and do their best.
The riders would be on Honda CBR300R nachines with race pattern gear shift, loud pipe and tweaked suspension.
As it always the case at these things ( we’ve experienced the RedBull Rookies process first hand ) Alberto said that lap times were not important.
List of the riders and the groups that they would be riding in for the day was posted on notice board. The riders were simply in alphabetical order by surname. There were to be 8 riders per group, and Lewis ended up in group 7 of 12. With the first set of sessions set to be 15 minutes each that would mean a minimum of 3 hours to run.
The track action started and the first 8 riders made their way on to the circuit for their 15 minute sessions.
We watched the first few sessions and picked out a couple of the visually quicker riders to get an idea of what sort of pace would be acceptable, and based on our initial timing we thought that lap times around 1:12s would not be too far away.
Lewis made his way on the to track for his 15 minute session, with a couple of laps to get used to the machine and learn the basic circuit and then the rest of the session to build momentum.
By the end of the session Lewis was comfortable in the 1:11 bracket, which at the time we thought was an acceptable pace, and quicker than most riders. In our post session debrief Lewis admitted to hitting a lot of cones and not quite getting some sections right so he was confident that there was more pace to come.
After a short lunch break a new list of riders was produced, and 20 riders had been cut to leave 70 still in the process!!!!
This was totally unexpected by us and turned the day upside down. Now it was obvious that they were going to be cutting riders after each session, and you would need to get your speed up and your lap times down.
The next track session was only going to be 10 minutes long, so they were starting to ramp up the pressure.
The second chance for Lewis to get some more track time in the now shorter 10 minute session.
He was the last bike to leave the pits and this meant he spent a lot of the session passing the slower riders in the group which adversely affected his lap times. By the time he got into clear air he only got a couple of laps, finally breaking into the 1:10 bracket. It wasn’t much of an improvement, but it was nevertheless an improvement.
In the debrief after Lewis again knew that there were a couple of areas he could improve, so he was confident that if he made the next cut he would get the lap time down.
Another new list of riders was produced, and a further 20 riders had been cut to leave 50 still in the process.
The new sessions were only going to be 8 minutes long, even less time and even more pressure. They really knew how to get us all wound up!!
In this 8 minute session Lewis managed to get away with the front of the group from the first lap and this immediately helped his lap times being in clear air.
Lewis went faster and faster on each lap and in fact his last two laps were both 1:08.8, very consistent and a decent improvement over session two lap times. It was obvious that Lewis was getting to grips with the bike, and the track knowledge was getting better.
Another cut, another new list, now down to the last 32 and another set of track sessions required.
Again, this session would only be 8 minutes, but there would be two groups of 11 and one group of 10, so more bikes on track, but crucially all the riders left now were capable of good, fast lap times.
The fourth and final session of the day and Lewis pushed on and straight away got his times down to 1:08.0 after just 2 laps, and then on the last couple of laps he dipped below the 1:08 bracket to end the session in the 1:07s.
We are all informed that the track action has ended for the day and the riders can go and get changed if they want. The organisers then let us know that the decision on who would be selected would take at least an hour and to be ready at 18:30.
At this point I was totally knackered, and I’d only be watching and pacing up and down. I decided to go and get a wee kip in my van whilst we waited.
18:30 came and went and we were made to wait until 18:45 before they were ready to make the final announcement.
Alberto Puig thanked everyone involved in running the event and then read out the list.
Lewis had made it!!