Neil Lloyd finds one last gear for season finale
Neil Lloyd saved his best for last by bringing his trusted Honda RVF home as the fastest 400cc machine twice.
The Wednesbury rider, who has endured a tough year on his 400 and classic bike, set a personal best at Mallory Park during the East Midlands Racing Association's finale, the Race of the Year.
Lloyd, aged 48, said: "We had a great weekend but we only took the RVF and raced in the lightweight class, which was a mix of 650s, Moto3s, 500s and 400s.
"I qualified 24th on a full grid and finished 18th in the first race but was the first 400cc machine. It was only my second time out at the track and I managed to set a personal best lap.
"The second race was faster and I was running 14th until a bit of argy bargy at the hairpin on the last lap cost me four places. I finished 18th but was still the first 400cc machine out of 26 finishers – and I set another PB.
"My bike clearly struggled on the straights against the other bikes but handled well, so I could make time in the corners and on the brakes."
Lloyd is already planning for the 2019 season but said it looked unlikely he would be returning to the Southern 100 on the Isle of Man due to rule changes.
"That's it for us this year. We've started planning for next year but we're disappointed we won't be competing in the Southern 100," he said.
"They have dropped the 400 class so unless we could get someone to loan us a 650 or 600 to compete on we won't be going.
"Thanks to everyone who's helped us out this year including Lloyds Transport and Warehousing, Lloyds Electrical Design, Brotherton Cycles, the Speake family and AJ Restoration."
Eccleshall's Storm Stacey, who had claimed third place in the British Motostar, Moto3 class, championship the weekend before, also entered Race of the Year as a wildcard. The 15-year-old went on to secure two sixths and a fifth across two classes.
Wolverhampton's Richard Evans left Mallory Park with a 13th in the Open 401cc-600cc class, and a 16th in the Open 600cc.
Two of the region's rider were also completing their final Thundersport GB races of the year, at Snetteron, Norfolk, over the same weekend.
Walsall's Josh Langman, 27, ended his debut campaign in the 500 Freshman class fourth after an early accident ruled him out for the entire round.
"My weekend didn’t really get going as I got hit by someone else’s bike in qualifying going into the hairpin – a bit like a bowling ball hitting a skittle," he said.
"It was a totally freak accident but the resulting damage to my leg meant the doctor wasn’t happy to let me ride. It was for the best as I couldn’t even get my feet on the pegs.
"I’m disappointed as I thought I had a chance at winning the championship but it just wasn’t to be.
"Well done to Martin Bazeley as he rode well all year. Now I'm looking forward to next year and, hopefully, I’ll get a full season in."
Rising star Ben Taylor, who has just turned 13, from Kidderminster, came second in the Aprilia RS125s class of the Superteens following a year's worth of tough racing against racers much older than him.
Ben's father, Jason, said: "After qualifying 13th over all, he was on the back foot all weekend, struggling to get on the pace of the first Aprilia.
"But he still managed to finish first and second in the class on the Saturday. He pushed as hard as he could but struggled to keep the tow from the rider in front, who was on a Kawasaki 300.
"Sunday's race one was much the same with Ben finishing first in class and then he enjoyed a battle with one of the 300cc riders for two laps.
"He had to slow a lap later and come into the pits with a tyre issue, which saw him nearly crash twice, so he ended with a DNF
"Ben would like to thank all his sponsors for their support this year, Geartech gearbox specialists, Bike-n-Sport, DC Speedshop, Spektrum Interiors and Motul Oils."