Cadwell Park, the spectacular 2.2-mile circuit carved into the sides of the Lincolnshire Wolds, is the perfect place to savour world class bike racing. Nicknamed the ‘Mini-Nürburgring’, Cadwell may well be the narrowest track on the BSB calendar, but it’s also the most spectacular – its striking mix of slow and fast corners, cambers, bumps and elevation changes produces some spectacular racing, while the Mountain sees the bikes getting massively airborne (google Johnny Rea or Josh Brookes Cadwell).
And racegoers seem to agree, with tens of thousands of fans flocking to the circuit for the annual ‘Party in the Park’ to watch British Superbikes tackle this technical track.
So what makes BSB at Cadwell so special?
Well, BSB is as far removed from the sterile and corporate worlds of WSBK and MotoGP. Whereas the paddocks for those events are fenced off and inaccessible for normal ticketholders, BSB at Cadwell is very much an open house – you’re welcome anywhere, so long as you don’t try and cross the track, and you’re just as likely to see Lincolnshire’s own Peter Hickman and his RAF Reserves Honda inside an awning as you are the Superstock and Supersport riders.
Yes, the big teams are hidden away at the bottom of the track down by the makeshift garages near the start/finish line, but it’s the track’s layout that dictates this, not the race organiser’s elitist policy, and you’ll often stumble across the riders just milling about, happily signing autographs or posing for pictures while chewing the fat with the fans.
Cadwell’s compact size also means you feel that you’re never too far away from the action, whether that be the racing itself, or the carnival atmosphere in the spectating areas. Wherever you are you always feel connected, that you’re part of the event. Want to watch the racebikes being dyno’d? No problem. Want to see the bike’s front suspension loading up on the way into Mansfield? Of course. Step this way. Want to see Tommy Bridewell attack the Mountain and launch his bike into the air, both wheels feet off the ground? Goes without saying. Want to witness superbikes accelerating hard at full lean for what seems like an eternity? Then head to Chris Curve.
And then there’s Cadwell Park itself. It’s a throwback to tracks of old.
There are no shiny garages, media centre or giant grandstands here – instead there’s a tiny wooden stand by the Mountain, another one by the bridge between the start/finish line and Coppice, and a club house at the top of the Mountain by the start to Hall Bends. And that’s your lot.
Where to watch?
Be Wiser Kawasaki’s Chris Walker is a legend on the racing circuit, and his pedigree speaks for itself – the 43-year-old flyer has more than 230 BSB starts, has 21 BSB wins and 68 podiums under his belt so far and knows Cadwell Park like the back of his hand. We met him at his Kawasaki dealership in Grantham ahead of the BSB’s ‘Party in the Park’ to get his expert advice on where to watch and best savour the spectacle.
Access all areas
‘The hilly terrain on which the circuit is built make Cadwell a natural amphitheatre with excellent vantage points across most of the track– the only part of the track out of bounds are the Old Hairpin section and Barn corner.’
‘Coppice is one of my favourite corners and it’s a good place to see bikes going really quick. It’s very fast through there, and the bikes will be touching 170mph in fifth gear before braking and setting themselves to tip in. The riders will be doing some 140mph before they chuck it in, and this is one of the closest viewing areas in racing, apart from the TT – you can’t get closer to the action at any other circuit else in the UK. I guarantee it will make the hairs on your hands stand on end.’
‘Charlies 1 and 2 are other goods spot to watch from, but you’re not as close to the action as you are at Coppice. You’ll see a huge amount of different styles as the riders set themselves up for for Park – some will be carrying a lot more corner speed than others, while others will be slower through the corners but quicker on the exit. It’s fascinating to compare the different approaches and see whether they change as the race/ weekend progresses.’
‘This long right-hander is taken in third or fourth gear with the bike bouncing off the limiter. The bike just wants to step out pretty much all the way around here and you’ll see a lot of drifting. Keep an eye out for the dark marks on the asphalt as the tyre smears into the ground when the bike puts the power down – those dark marks get longer and longer over the course of the weekend.’
‘You just can’t believe how steep the Mountain is, and there’s nothing else like it in racing. You’re guaranteed to see a few racing incidents here, and let’s be honest, that’s what a lot of the punters want to see. You’ll also see some riders like Josh Brookes proper attacking the track and getting some pretty big air – which always looks spectacular.
‘I tend to hold the left-hand side of the track as long as possible, aiming for the left kerb before pitching the bike right to drive up the Mountain. By holding that left line I know my wheels will be pretty straight – it’s very easy to end up landing wide and finishing up on the grass, and you really don’t want that.
‘The lie of the land means you can also see the start finish line from the Mountain and see the bikes tip into Coppice.’
‘This is a proper old school part of track and I love it. It’s one of the areas where you’re aware of the crowd. The bikes sound really good through the trees, the trees really enhance the sound, and I love watching the crowd react as I ride through – as racers this is the one spot where we can see their excitement rise.’