Preparation, Expectation and Trepidation

Late June, 1997. Can’t exactly remember when.

I’ve just had one of my more stupid ideas – I want to go club racing. This is despite at present being sizeably in debt, and having just forked out a good few hundred quid to get my road bike up to MOT standard. Doing a bit of wandering on the internet I find the excellent Magsport page, and some sound advice from Roger Ford. He mentions that a TZR250 is a good way to start, and this seems good to me. I think I’d better talk to Faye about this before I make any firm commitments.

Next day

Somewhat surprisingly, Faye has agreed that this would be a good thing to do, despite me moaning for the past six months that I couldn’t afford a new carpet for the living room. OK, so now I’m sure that I want to start racing, but there’s an awful lot of arranging to do, and I’m completely lost. Send a note to Roger Ford asking for advice, and start thinking seriously about the whole affair. Firstly, I’ll need leathers. No problem, they’re on order from Crowtree at the moment. Next up, I’ll need a license. Shouldn’t be a problem, but I’ll need to join a club. Which one? Then I’ll need a bike. Where from? Do I just use the MCN classifieds and risk being flogged a dog? How do I get the bike to race meetings? What is involved in entering a race and competing? So many questions at the moment. I have a feeling this could turn out to be a bit of an uphill struggle for the first few weeks until I get the basic questions answered.

Friday, 27th June

A reply from Roger has answered the majority of my questions: Which bike? TZR250, as it’s (relatively) cheap, won’t scare the crap out of me, and I used to own one so know the bike inside out. Which club? BMCRC, as they’re close by, and run a large TZR class. So, now I knew what club and class, and it’s time to start talking to people and trying to find a bike. I write a letter to the BMCRC asking for help, and license application forms.

Sunday, 29th June

Spend a nice day at Snetterton watching the Race of Aces, and decide that yes, I really want to do this, and I should start putting some serious effort into actually getting things done. The racing itself was great. I casually mention to Faye that I’d also quite like to do sidecar racing if I could find someone to sit in the chair. At the moment an outfit comes hurtling around Russels, and the passenger misses his handhold and almost gets thrown clean out of the chair. She looked at me with one of those “if you think I’m doing that you’ve got to be bloody joking” looks.

Friday, 4th July

A very detailed reply from Dave Stewart at BMCRC confirms that they will be running the TZR class for a while yet, and it’s a good class to get started in. As well as this, he’s given me a very useful guide to getting started in racing , and the number of Ian Bassett who has a ready to race TZR up for grabs. So far everyone I’ve spoken to has bent over backwards to help me with useful advice, and helpful contacts. I phone the doctor to arrange a medical, and make a mental note to call Ian tomorrow.

Saturday, 5th July

Call Ian, but not in, so I promise to call back later. Also start looking for trailers to stick the bike on when I get one. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the biggest obstacles. I’d like to have a van to get to races, but I’d have nowhere to leave it when I wasn’t racing, and besides which, I could never afford one.

Sunday, 6th July

Ian calls back, and is a really nice bloke, offering me all sorts of advice, ending up with an agreement to go and see him on Saturday to take a look at the bike and talk about the details of going racing, and looking after a race bike. This is good. Everyone so far has been incredibly helpful in putting up with my stupid questions.

Monday, 7th July

Go to the doctors, and get my medical done. Even the doctor is helpful and supportive, giving me a cheery wave and advice to be careful as he doesn’t want to see me in the near future with any broken bones. Once the medical is done I send off the ACU application and BMCRC membership form.
Cost so far:
Medical: £25
ACU license: £21
Novice jacket: £5
BMCRC membership: £15

Tuesday, 8th July

Told Roger of progress so far, and the fact that the only things holding me up really are 1) sorting out a trailer and 2) waiting for my leathers. Lo and behold, within 10 minutes I get a reply offering to loan me leathers and trailer should the need arise. Looks like I’ll need to sort out a towbar on the car sooner than I thought. Ask the lease company about fitting a tow bar to their car, and I’m told it has to be a nice official one. So, I can’t pick up a twenty quid tow bar from Halfords and fit it myself. Phone around for a few quotes, and they are all in the £130 bracket. Looks like there’s no option and I’ll just have to stump up the cash.

Wednesday, 9th July

BMCRC membership turns up, along with entry forms for the remaining races of the season. Here I hit my first major snag. I don’t understand the entry forms. I’m not too worried by this, as I’ve still got a long way to go before actually entering any races.

Friday, 11th July

ACU license, record card, and novice jacket arrive. I was expecting a handbook of sorts as well, but perhaps they realise I’m an incompetent idiot who probably couldn’t understand it anyway.

Saturday, 12th July

Drive over to Thamesmead to meet Ian and his amazing performing TZR. I have to trust him on the mechanical condition of the bike and it’s value, as I’ve never been this close to a race bike before. (Unless you count the time I stroked the seat unit of Schwantz’s Suzuki at the Ally Pally show a few years back). Certainly the bike sounds fit, with a lovely crackle coming from the modified pipes. However, the colour scheme is complete yak. Well executed yak, but complete yak all the same. I agree to the asking price, and then ask if the trailer is thrown in for the price. No, it isn’t, but I can borrow it if I need it. Ian & I then talk about racing in general, and scare the willies out of Faye by mentioning all manner of accidents and various fatalities over the years. End up by agreeing to buy a chest protector to go with the rest of the body armour I’m having built into my leathers. So this is it. No turning back now. I’ve got a race bike, so by definition I have to go out and ride it on a race track. Ooooh Gawd. What have I done?
Cost so far:
Bike: £1500

Sunday, 13th July

Off to Brands Hatch to watch the BMCRC races and meet up with Roger and Ian again. Can’t find either of them. Not to worry though, as the racing’s good, and I get to poke around the paddock and have a look at the rest of the TZRs there. Some of them look frighteningly serious, but at least there’s one guy there who’s got a TZR with a worse colour scheme than Ians (I suppose I should call it mine, but it won’t really be until I’ve ridden it), and ‘Team Henry’ plastered down the side. Number 74, if you ever get to read this, you’ve made me feel a lot better. An announcement then comes over the commentary that Roger crocked himself in the open class yesterday, and was carted off injured. Ooh Blimey. Hope he’s OK. The rest of the day is spent watching the racing from Clarks, and trying to avoid getting sunburned. I fail miserably in this respect, and return home with a bright red nose.

Monday, 14th July

Phoned Crowtree to check on progress of my leathers, and need to call back first week in August, and they should be able to give me a definite date then. Also sent a get well note to Roger. Hope he’s OK.

Tuesday, 15th July

ACU handbook arrived this morning, and as suspected I don’t understand a word of it. Spoke to Ian in afternoon to arrange for a time to come and pick up the bike, and he told me that Roger was in Queen Mary’s with a broken leg. Hope this is not an omen… Anyway, with any luck I’ll be picking up the bike Saturday, so I need to arrange to pick up the cash from my building society and get a tow bar fitted this week. Phone tow bar company – Yup, they can do it tomorrow, no problem. Phone building society – Can’t pick up cash until next Thursday. Somewhat unbelievably this is the first thing that has gone wrong in my efforts to get on the track.
Cost so far:
Tow Bar: £129.95

Wednesday, 16th July

After lengthy and protracted negotiations with my building society I end up getting the cash to pay for the bike today. Chappie comes along to fit my nice new shiny tow bar in the afternoon.

Thursday, 17th July

Call Ian, and arrange to pick the bike up on Saturday. Looks like I’ll need to clear a space in the garage, and arrange a trailer. At least one of these problems is quickly overcome by Ian calling me back and offering me his trailer. Blimey, that’s handy.
Cost so far:
Trailer: £100

Saturday, 19th July

Drive over to Ians and pick up his bike and trailer. He seems pretty sad to see it go, and I can understand why. Spend a good couple of hours talking about how to look after it and race it, and end up with an informal agreement that Ian will be my mechanic for the first race I enter. It’s starting to look like this might be at Lydden on 17th August, so I’d better get an entry form in quick. I also need to get a dog tag, and for this I need to know my blood group. Much to my embarrassment I haven’t got a clue about this. I guess it’s about time I started giving blood seeing as my chances of needing any have probably risen slightly since starting this whole episode.

Monday, 21st July

Sent entry forms off for meeting at Lydden on 17th August. I’ve only entered the three TZR races on the day, as a) I’m not sure how knackered I’ll be and b) I’m not sure how the bike will behave itself and c) It seems pointless forking out the extra money for more races until I’m certain I can do them. Once I get used to these things I might start entering a few more races over the weekend. Also contacted the National Blood Transfusion service to register as a donor and get my blood typed.
Cost so far:
Race entry fee: £65
That’s a whole lot of money spent so far seeing as I haven’t paid for my leathers, or actually ridden the bike yet. However, I guess it could have been done cheaper if I’d opted for a cheaper class to go racing in. MZ250 for instance, could have picked one up for £750 or so. But, I think I’ve done the right thing as the bike is completely race ready, and came with a garage full of spares just in case. All I need to do is put petrol and oil in it. Funnily enough while I’ve been typing this up my bank manager called and politely enquired as to whether I planned to do anything about my overdraft in the near future. Ooops. I think therein lies a moral – It seems to me that racing is more about planning and preparation than actual racing. Unfortunately I’m crap at both planning and preparation. (And quite possibly at racing as well, only time will tell).

Tuesday, 22nd July

Ordered a few spares that I’ll more than likely be needing at the first few meetings. Duct tape, three-bond, fibreglass matting, cable ties etc.
Cost so far:
Repair kit: £70

Wednesday, 23rd July

Finally got to meet Roger over a cup of tea and promptly got sat on by his cat. After a lengthy chat we decided that Rogers leathers would fit me if I needed them, and so I’m all ready to go as soon as my entry comes in for Lydden on 17th August. We also tried to arrange some track time at Cadwell before the race so I can get used to the bike. Good job Roger’s got so many contacts. I was also slightly amazed to learn that he’s planning on returning to the race track on 16th August, despite still being on crutches and having a large pin in his femur. Hard man.

Saturday, 26th July

Went to give blood today. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this anyway, but the nurse took one look at me, realised how hungover I was, and told me to sod off, and come back next week.

Thursday, 31st July

Phoned Linda at Crowtree to see if there was any chance of my leathers being ready for 17th August. No chance of picking them up before 30th August. Sent a begging note to Roger to see if his spare set are still going, and when I can come and pick them up.