Damon Smith starts the NG Road Racing Championship season 2023

By Laura Linham

12th Apr 2023 | All Sports

Damon Smith (number 23) in action
Damon Smith (number 23) in action

We arrived for the first round of the NG Road Racing Championships at Brands Hatch fresh from a successful winter training programme including a very chilly test day at Castle Combe and a rider coaching day at Donington Park with Ex-World Superbike rider Dean Ellison Rider Coaching.

This was very positive and I learnt lots of new techniques to hustle the big DS Racing Kawasaki #23 ZX10R around some of the UK's most demanding circuits. This also proved a good test for the bike following a winter engine refresh and modifying the bike to adhere to the new machine rules for the Streetstock 1300c class, which I compete in.

This year our 1300cc Streetstock classes is racing with the most powerful unrestricted bikes of the club, the Powerbike class & the Sound of Thunder class which is a mixture of twin-cylinder machines so the grid would be full and the racing close.

The weekend started with a Friday test day which was dry but cold, and together with the time on the bike during the winter, I was confident we could secure some good results to kick the season off.

The following day dawned dry and sunny and morning practice sessions got underway, allowing the riders to make final preparations to the machines before the qualifying session.

The qualifying session is a 12-minute mad dash session searching for a clear lap to post a quick time to give you the best possible grid position around the fast and furious 1.2 mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent with its unique features 'rollercoaster' corner of Paddock Hill and no chance of rest around 1.2-mile circuit The session ended and I qualified 18th overall and 34 but 3rd in class.

In race 1, I got a good start and stayed in 3rd position going into the first corner and for the first few laps until I was passed and pushed back to 4th place. I stayed on the tail of my rival, keeping the pressure on and forcing him into a mistake and regained my position. I remained in 3rd place in class for the remainder of the race until the final lap where I got held up mid-corner by another slower rider I was lapping, which allowed the rider behind me to close the gap and make a move for 3rd and I was unable to fight back before we crossed the finish line in 4th only 0.3 seconds apart.

The following day dawned very wet after heavy rain overnight, and the forecast was for continued rain until mid-afternoon. Riding in the wet demands smooth riding and a good suspension set up and after some advice from the very experienced Powerbike front runner Michael Blank, a good set-up was dialled in for the first practice session. I lined up on the grid 18th overall but 4th in class following yesterday's race result.

I got another great start and made up several places, including picking off some of the faster Powerbike riders, just keeping it smooth and focused. I secured my first podium finish of the year with a strong 2nd place just over 20 seconds in front of my nearest rival and with the race winner in sight. I was also thrilled to learn I had set the fastest lap of the race in the difficult conditions, something I've never achieved before.

In the weekend's final race, I was elevated to 7th overall on the grid and 2nd in class but on the warm-up lap, I suffered a near crash when the rear tyre lost grip sending me onto the wet grass. Luckily, I managed to stay upright and take my original grid position but by now my confidence was destroyed but still managed to bring it home in 4th place, with damage limitation.

Overall a brilliant solid weekend of a 2nd place, the fastest lap and 2x 4th places leaves me 4th in the championship, just 1 point behind 3rd but its very early days. The bike performed faultlessly and we are now preparing for the second round of the championship, which moves to Castle Combe Circuit near Chippenham, the first of two visits this year to our home round later this month.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my loyal sponsors, for who without them I wouldn't be able to compete at the level I do.


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