Cadwell Park: One of the best UK tracks for riding, and racing, motorcycles

As BSB heads to Cadwell Park this Bank Holiday weekend, we look back at some of the best moments the Lincolnshire track has thrown up.

Cadwell Park: One of the best UK tracks for riding, and racing, motorcycles

Cadwell Park. It is not the home of motorcycle racing in the UK, nor is it the most famous track, but it is the most iconic. Its features are unique, and are what make it special. 

This weekend, British Superbikes makes its annual trip to Cadwell Park for what is the eighth round of the 2022 championship. 

When Visordown’s Simon Hancocks went over to Cadwell Park earlier this year with an Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory, he described it as “one of the UK’s best circuits for riding a motorcycle round.” Presumably, if you asked a BSB rider, they would replace ‘riding’ with ‘racing’, and if you asked a BSB spectator they would add ‘watching’ before it. It’s hard to disagree.

Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory Review | Cadwell Park road and track Vlog

If you will allow me to indulge in some personal nostalgia, Cadwell Park was the scene of the second motorcycle race I ever visited, the 2012 BSB race held there. It was where 13-year-old me became a fan of Alex Lowes, who qualified on pole position; was nearly run over by Tommy Hill on his paddock scooter; and overheard a team member use the word ‘shattered’ to describe the condition of Noriyuki Haga’s shoulder after a high side in practice.

Shane Byrne also crashed in practice and damaged his shoulder, but the eventual series champion of that year could afford to miss both Cadwell Park and the next race at Donington, safe in the knowledge he had qualified already for the Showdown. 

Ex-World Championship star Haga, on the other hand, had not qualified, and so raced at Donington just two weeks after the aforementioned ‘shattering’ of his shoulder. But it was not strong enough, Haga was not fast enough, and so he missed the cut. 

Back then, of course, only six riders made the Showdown. In 2022, that is now eight, and although Cadwell is the penultimate round before this year’s ‘chase format’ begins (the final part of the ‘regular season’ will take place at Snetterton), all eight positions are pretty much sorted. 

McAMS Yamaha pretty much bookend the top eight thanks to the impressive recent form of both of their riders, Jason O’Halloran, who leads the points, and Tarran Mackenzie who is seventh. Tommy Bridewell, who endured a difficult Thruxton round as the McAMS riders excelled, is eighth, 12 points behind Mackenzie, but 43 ahead of Peter Hickman.

Both Bridewell and Hickman enjoyed their first ever respective BSB race wins at Cadwell Park, and both on the same weekend. It was miserable at Cadwell in 2014, and rained almost non-stop in the afternoon on race day, to the extent that Josh Brookes - Bridewell’s teammate at Milwaukee Yamaha that year - crashed on the sighting lap for the second race. 

That was after Bridewell had already won the first race, and in the wet second race it was Hickman who came out on top for Lee Hardy’s RAF Regular & Reserves Honda outfit. 

The previous year, there was a first-time winner in the wet at Cadwell in the lower classes, as Cat Green won her first Motostar race, which was also the first British Championship solo motorcycle race victory for a woman. 

That year I distinctly remember watching the Motostar race from the side of the track where the crossing used to be, before they built the bridge over the circuit. I mistimed walking back after exploring the paddock for a while, and was stuck on the concrete steps at the crossing point as a result while the Motostar race was happening. 

From the old crossing point, walking around the track gets you quite quickly to the foot of the famous ‘Mountain’. The Mountain is easily the standout feature among Cadwell’s many other standout features (from its narrowness and undulation, to the super-fast turn one, and just the general flow of the track in the first part before arriving at the ‘artificial’ dead-stop chicane), and the aforementioned Brookes is undoubtedly one of the best at styling it out over the top. 

In 2013, one of the other riders I recall having the ability (or stupidity or bravery, depending on your perspective) to reach particularly notable heights over the Mountain was Tommy Aquino. The American was racing for the WD-40 GR Racing Kawasaki team in National Superstock 1000 that year, and had certainly made his mark as a younger rider in a class more associated with experience. 

I could be totally misremembering it, but watching Superstock practice from behind the Mountain one of my standout memories from watching races trackside (there have been a few) was the exuberance with which Aquino was hitting the Mountain on his ZX-10R that year. 

That 2013 race took place on a Bank Holiday weekend, one of the final races at Cadwell to do so before MotoGP took the end of August slot. That is changed for this year, though, with MotoGP’s British Grand Prix taking place earlier in August, leaving this weekend open for BSB to head to Lincolnshire’s finest strip of asphalt. 

Unlike 2014, the 2013 race day took place under glorious sunshine, and the second BSB race went down to the wire between Alex Lowes and Josh Brookes. Lowes ended taking the win - his second of the day - after Brookes crashed at Mansfield on the final lap. Perhaps if Brookes had the intrusive ABS of the Tuono 660 Factory that day, he’d have taken that race two victory. 

It seems unlikely that the Australian will be winning any races this weekend, though. The two-times champion has endured a dreadful season that hit what he will hope was its trough in Thruxton. But Cadwell Park challenges riders who are unconfident and uncomfortable with their feeling with the motorcycle in a similar way to Thruxton. 

More likely, his compatriot Jason O’Halloran, O’Halloran’s teammate Mackenzie, and their Yamaha stablemate Bradley Ray will be the ones to watch this weekend.

2022 Norton V4SV Ridden on Track | Is This The Ultimate British-built Superbike?

2022 Norton V4SV Ridden on Track | Is This The Ultimate British-built Superbike?