Express & Star

Andy has a Whale of a time on the roads as Lloyd also gets to grip with Armoy

It's been a very busy few weeks for Andy Whale, who has dipped his toes in the world of road racing all while maintaining a club championship lead.

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The Cradley Heath racer has spent the last two weekends in different countries, first taking on the Armoy road races in Northern Ireland and then Aberdare Park in Wales.

Whale, who works as an overhead linesman when not racing, is also leading the Darley Moor lightweight championship on his Kawasaki ZXR400 – having previous won the CB500 championship at the same track in 2017.

But now the 34-year-old is getting to grips with world of road racing, which started with an "awesome few days" over in Northern Ireland racing at Armoy road races as a newcomer.

And Whale went on to finish with a 10th place on his ZXR400 in the junior support race but recorded a DNF in the senior support race on his Triumph 675 after the engine management light came on and he made the decision to pull in on the dangerous course.

"It's hard to put into words how I feel about the experience I had at Armoy," he said.

"The track was wild, amazing and scary, all rolled into one, and the people were great – and the Guinness was good.

"However, there was no time to rest as were are back racing again Aberdare Park.

"We're also heading back over to Northern Ireland again in September for Cookstown 100."

Whale also travelled to Wales as a newcomer and, like all the racers, was faced with treacherous conditions as the heavens opened for most of the weekend.

"As soon as we got there I knew the race meeting would be different to any other I had been to before," he said.

"After a couple of days of heavy rainfall in Wales, we were greeted by scenes that looked more like the Somme than a race paddock!"

Whale entered the lightweight class on his ZXR400 and the Sound of Thunder class on his Honda CB500.

After qualifying 10th on his CB500, he ended the Sound of Thunder consolation race in sixth, as the bike struggled against the top riders on the more competitive supertwin machines.

However, he then followed that with with an eighth and fifth on his ZXR400 and even grabbed a second on the CB500.

"It was a good day's racing but I decided not to go back out on the CB500 as I was in back-to-back races and getting the bike down to the holding area in the mud was a nightmare," said Whale.

"On the Sunday, I made the wrong tyre choice for the lightweight race because although it had rained in the morning the track was mostly dry and I destroyed a set of wet tyres, finishing12th.

"During the race I noticed the bike was overheating and later discovered the radiator was completely blocked with mud, which signalled the end of the meeting for me.

"Despite packing up at midday, it was 7pm before we got out of the paddock and out of the mud, but I overall I enjoyed the circuit.

"Thanks to Kimberley Aitchison, Tim Walsh and Cathy Walsh for their help, as well as my sponsors The Motorcycle Wizard, Cradley Kawasaki, Nutters Fasteners, Revs Suspension, Hire link UK, Mercia Tree Surgery, Redline Motorcycles, Putoline and Ginger Hall Hotel.

"In September, I am heading back over to Ireland to compete at the Cookstown 100 and if anyone would like to sponsor me or keep up to date with my progress, they can head to my Andy Whale Racing page on Facebook."

Wednesbury's Neil Lloyd, who has been helping Whale in the Darley and road racing paddocks, was also in action at Armoy back on his classic Honda machine – also as a newcomer to track, despite having vastly more experience racing on the roads.

"We had a newcomers lap in a coach with pointers to help us get to grips with the circuit," he said.

"The roads closed shortly after dinner and us newcomers had five untimed laps, which got rid of the nerves and helped me get a feel for the road circuit.

"We had qualifying late afternoon were 15th overall, but there were two classes out in our race – 500cc classic and 501cc to 1000cc classic.

"Because our 500cc bike is a four-cylinder we had to go in the latter class."

Starting 15th on the grid in second wave of bikes for the opening race, Lloyd got a good start and was running 12th overall.

"With the pace running faster, I was jumping and wheeling off some of the hills and bumps – the circuit is awesome and I felt like I’d had a work out in a gym," he said.

"I lost three places in the last two laps as our bike kept jumping out of gear, but a DNF was the last thing I wanted and I finished 15th overall and eighth in class taking 18 seconds off my practice lap times.

"I'm looking forward to doing this meeting again next year as it was a well organised, brilliant road racing circuit – probably the craziest thing I’ve done on a race bike.

"Now it's time to get bike ready for Cookstown 100. Big thanks to my wife, Sam, for making it all happen, as well as our sponsor Joy Ellis."

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