After several warm, sunny days, it was always going to happen as the Dilligaf Racing team woke to a grey, damp and murky morning for their penultimate road racing experience of the year before the Manx Grand Prix. Steve was set to compete in the Aberdare Park Challenge, the modern 600cc class, and the blue ribbon event of the weekend, the Welsh Open. With a new set a ContiRaceAttack Rain tyres on board the Dilligaf Triumph, the team set off for their maiden voyage to the road racing capital of Wales, Aberdare, through the rain and road works.
The first Aberdare Park National Road Race took place in 1950 in bad weather, and the 65th was to be no exception as the team arrived in inclement weather, lashings of Welsh rain! This tree lined track set in Aberdare Park in the heart of the small Welsh town is only 0.9 miles long, and is described as technical and challenging by many rider. The lap record on a 600cc bike is 39.17s held by Dan Cooper who would be competing alongside Steve this weekend, along with what has been described by organisers as ‘the best line up ever’ including Daley Mathison, Paul Owen and local racing hero Jay Bellers-Smith. With no newcomers sighting lap, no practice sessions, and a damp slippery tree lined track, Steve’s racing skills would one again be tested to limit.
With Saturday seeing some sporadic sunshine, by the time it was Steve’s first qualifying session for the 600cc race, the track was drying in patches, with damp spots under the trees. Steve impatiently waited in the holding bay behind Daley Mathison, Jay Bellers-Smith and Ryan Dixon with his tyres rapidly cooling. After a lengthy delay, the guys got underway and Steve had his first race experience on this short but technical road racing circuit. After a few shaky maiden laps Steve qualified a respectable 10th with a lap time of 44:407s.
Next was the Welsh Open qualifying session and with his freshly gained circuit knowledge Steve managed a 43:064s lap to qualify in 9th in this session with the 11th fastest overall time. Steve didn’t get much of a rest before it was time for the Welsh Open heats. Steve didn’t get off to a good start, and got caught up in battle in the second group of riders. After a few typical Moody grass tracking moments, one of which almost saw Steve straw baling, Steve managed to find his way to the front of the pack and set off in hot pursuit to chase Paul Owen who was lying in 8th. Despite a gallant effort by Steve and a fastest lap time of 42.965s, Steve was unable to catch the TT racer and crossed the line in 9th. Sadly this meant Steve did not qualify for the Open final as only the top 8 of out heat would go on to race in the final despite Steve having the 11th fastest time between the two heats.
After lunch was the Modern 600 race, otherwise known as the Park Challenge. Steve had qualified 10th on the grid and was determined to get off to a much better start than in the Welsh Open heats. Steve got off to a flying start, gaining positions going into the first corner, but as he had taken the outside line, he was shunted back and ran wide, losing his advantage. Determined to regain his position, Steve commenced race battle with fellow Manx competitor, Ben Rea. On lap five Steve made the overtake and began to chase down 8th placed Justin Collins. Despite his best efforts, Steve ran out of race and as he closed the gap, the chequered flag was waved! Steve finished in 9th with a 42.413s fastest lap time.
The last race of the day was the 2nd modern 600cc race. Again Steve lined up on the grid in 10th and was determined to once again improve his lap time and finishing position. Surrounded by red mist, Steve started to pick off riders one by one and soon moved into 7th position. With his sights firmly fixed on top 6, he tried for one last final overtake on the last lap. Going too hot into the corner, Steve pushed the 675 a little too far, and as he regained his composure, was overtaken by Joseph Newbold on his ZX6r. Steve finished in 8th with a fastest lap time of 42.182s.
The team woke the next morning to the sweet sound of the heavy Welsh rain on the Dilligaf caravan, as the heavy rains predicted converged on the small Welsh town. Thankfully the team had fitted ContiRaceAttack Rain tyres the night before, after checking numerous online weather reports!
A very wet practice started at 9am. Entrance in and out of the paddock was already thick with mud, boggy and treacherous even before the guys made it out on the track. Conditions on track were better than the paddock but very wet and slippery even with full wets.
Steve’s first race of the day took place after the statutory Church break. Steve started in 10th and finished in 8th overtaking Ben Rea in lap 3. As Steve began chase on the front runners, the race was red flagged following the second crash of weekend in the same place.
Steve’s final race of the weekend was race 14 of day 2. The entrance in and out of the paddock had now become a complete quagmire with thick goey mud and was proving treacherous for riders to cross. The ContiRaceAttack Rain tyres were indeed tested to the extreme to get Steve and the bike just to the circuit. Rain was lashing down as the green flag was lowered. Steve managed just one overtake in difficult conditions, and crossed the line in 9th improving his wet lap time from the previous race.
Following the race the team said; “once again the ContiRaceAttack Rain tyres preformed faultlessly in wet race conditions as did the ContiRaceAttack Comp in the dry.”
Now they have just a short time to wait until they head for the Manx GP for the 2nd year in a row, in search of more silverware.
Find out more about our race tyre range here.
Photo credits to Steve Snelling and Vikki Baines.