Friday, 1st August
Finally got round to becoming a blood donor. I really can’t see what I was so nervous about – it’s all very quick and painless, and I got to eat most of the biscuits thoughtfully provided. Unfortunately they won’t be able to tell me my blood type for 3-6 weeks, so I’ll just have to wait. Bugger.
Saturday, 2nd August
Picked up Rogers spare set of leathers, and they fit just about spot on. They look like they’ve covered more miles on the tarmac than the bike, but that’s by the by. To be honest, it’s quite probably a good thing, as lining up for my first race in a brand new set of leathers is really asking for trouble. Whilst idly chatting about racing, Roger brought up the worrying topic of “Which way up is the gearchange?” I fervently hope it’s the ‘normal’ 1 down shift of the TZR, as I’ve got enough to worry about in my first race already without having to learn a new shift pattern as well. Before I leave Roger makes me promise to tape over the “Ford” written on the back of the leathers on the grounds that “It’ll confuse the commentators”. Secretly I think that it’s because he doesn’t want people thinking that the idiot wobbling round at the back on the field is actually him. Also contacted Mallory Park with a view to taking the bike up there for a Wednesday afternoon for a quick spin to try and get used to it. Just turn up on the day, 27 quid, and no need to pre-book. That’s handy.
Sunday, 3rd August
Tried to take the bike out for a quick play round Sainsburys car park to get a feel for it before going anywhere near a track. Couldn’t get the bloody thing started. Still, looking on the bright side I’m more than happy that this happened in the comfort of my own garage rather than after paying for track time up at Mallory. I’ll whip the plugs out tomorrow, as I’m certain they’re fouled. I’ve also got a new battery to sling in there, as the old one is only really of any practical use as a paperweight.
Tuesday, 5th August
Call Ian to see if he fancies a trip up to Mallory next week to help out if things go wrong, and get me home if I stuff the bike into the wall somewhere around the track.
Thursday, 7th August
Call Dave at BMCRC to see if I have a place at next weekends meeting. Yes, I do, and my race number is 93. This is handy as the bike already has a number 3 on it from last season, so I only need to buy a number 9. Also pick up a dog tag with my name and date of birth on it from a local cobblers. Ideally I should have my blood group too, but I don’t know this, so I’ll have to add it later. I also get to see the video of Rogers big accident at Brands a few weeks back , and start to question why exactly I want to do this.
Cost so far:
Dog tag: £4
Fuel can: £5
Measuring cylinder: £4
Sunday, 10th August
Take the bike out for the first time, around Sainsbury’s car park. While there’s certainly no shortage of grip from the tyres, the engine seems a bit rough, and refused to pull at all below 8000. I put this down to three things: 1) The battery only had about 1 hour of charge in it, so was, to all intents and purposes still flat as a slow hedgehog 2) Inexperience with the bike and 3) I’m a cackhanded cretin with the throttle at the best of times. Hopefully it’s number 1, as that’s the easiest to cure. Having said all that, the bike was still bloody fast when it pulled cleanly.
Monday, 11th August
Spoke to Ian & Roger about yesterdays testing, and both came to the conclusion that it is almost certainly the battery causing the bad running. This immediately made me feel a lot better, and is probably due to the fact that I tried charging a 4A battery with a 4A charger. I didn’t know that you were supposed to use a charger of 10% of the batteries capacity. Roger then came to the rescue with “about 4 spare battery chargers at home” which is odd as the TZ he runs doesn’t have a battery. Then again, I have three empty photo albums despite never having possessed a camera. I make a mental note to order another couple of batteries from M&P tomorrow, so I can have a spare in case I knacker one with another of my displays of woeful ineptitude. I’ve already made plans to ‘borrow’ the battery from Fayes ZX-4 if I ever need to. Just remembered I also need to get a fire extinguisher from somewhere too, and I don’t suppose they’re cheap. I was going to pinch the one from my office, but it has a big label on the side saying “unfit for service”. Don’t think the scrutineers will like that too much. So, a 2kg dry powder fire extinguisher gets added to the shopping list. My neighbour has helpfully found a stopwatch for me, but the way things are going at the moment I have a feeling a calendar may be more appropriate.
Cost so far:
Another two batteries: £30
Spare fuel can: £5
Tuesday, 12th August
In an unparalleled display of enthusiasm I send off applications for the meeting at Pembrey on 7th Sept. As with this Sundays meeting I’ve only entered the three races over the weekend, for broadly the same reasons as before. Hope I don’t stuff the bike at Lydden. I get in touch with Robin Szemeti who promises to send me a circuit diagram for an ingenious battery charger he designed to run off his car battery. In an effort to cure the poor running problems I put a freshly charged new battery in there. Starts first time, but still refuses to run cleanly below 8000, won’t take full throttle at all, and won’t take any load whatsoever after about 5 minutes of running. Bugger. I’m now starting to worry if there’s a) something seriously wrong with the bike, or b) something seriously wrong with me. Push the bloody thing back to the garage, and start stripping it to find what’s causing the poor running. The first thing I notice is that the airbox isn’t properly seated on the carbs. This might cause some problems at full throttle, but wouldn’t explain the inability to take any load when warm. I then notice that one choke cable is rusted solid, and what’s worse, the choke is fully on. In the absence of a spare choke cable to replace it with I just remove the knackered one, and seat the airbox properly on the carbs. While removing the rusty choke cable it conveniently snaps, so I can’t try and lubricate and re- fit it. More expense. Thinking about it, the choke stuck fully on would explain why the bike wouldn’t take full throttle, and why after 5 minutes running it wouldn’t take any load at all. Not sure about the inability to run below 8000. I’ll have to take it for another test run tomorrow to find out. I’ll bet Jamie Whitham never has these problems.
Cost so far:
Race entry fee: £65
Wednesday, 13th August
Call Ian to ask his advice about the knackered choke cable, and he agrees that it would play a major part in the crap running I’d noticed. He also mentioned that the pilot jets occasionally get bunged up with pre-mix, and that they might need a clean out. My sliders arrive from Wil at Wiz Racing, and they look rather funky. Apparently he’s trying out some new ideas, and I’m one of the guinea pigs. Seeing as I’m not paying full retail (Cheers Wil) I can’t complain. Part of the deal is that I get to put some Wiz stickers on the bike, so along with the sliders comes a selection of Wiz stickers in various designs. Strip the bike in the evening to try and clear out the pilot jets, but I can only get to one of them as the screws holding the float bowl on one of the carbs are done up so bloody tightly I can’t get a decent grip on them with the screwdriver. I don’t want to risk chewing up the heads, as then I’ll need to use a set of extractors to get them out, with all the assorted agro that causes. I then remember the spare carbs, and take a look at the float bowl screws on them. They’re all knackered too. I get the feeling that Ian has been through this process before me… Anyway, I clear out the one pilot jet I can get to, and give the bike another blat up and down the road. BIG difference. It now takes full throttle quite happily from 7000 upwards, and is absolutely flying. Needs lots of clutch slip to get away from the line, but that’s a technique I’ll have to learn. I’ve been spoilt riding large four strokes for so long where you can just twat the throttle in any gear at any revs and get away with it. Riding this thing is going to be a steep learning process, but bloody good fun. My testing has to be stopped pretty quickly though, as I’m riding round a heavily built up area, and the TZR is not exactly in the church mouse league when it comes to being quiet.
Cost so far:
Fire extinguisher: £20
Thursday, 14th August
Final preparation for Sundays race:- Strip carbs again and check both pilots and mains. Change gearing to 14/42. (This was an absolute git of a job, as the bike was geared 14/40, and the chain wouldn’t stretch around a 42 tooth rear). Topped up fuel, and filled both spare cans with premix. Recharged battery. Re-lockwired both sump plugs, and the oil filler. (Not strictly necessary, but I’ve been dying to lockwire something). Check caliper bolts are tight. Check plugs. Check coolant. Give everything a final clean.
Cost so far:
20 litres ACU approved unleaded (ho ho): £12
Saturday, 16th August
Trailered bike to Lydden, and camped overnight.
Sunday, 17th August
Well, I finished last, last and last, but I got home without blowing the bike up, and with all limbs the same shape, so that’s a moral victory for me. In the process, I also learned volumes, about the track, the bike, and more importantly, myself.
Scrutineering was a git, as I’d parked at the top of a big hill, and scrutineering was at the bottom. The regulations state that no racing engines are to be started before first practise, so the push back up the hill in full leathers in 29 degree heat was not particularly enjoyable. Anyway, we sailed through without a hitch. First practise was for 12:30, so at 12:20 I climbed into my leathers, and headed off to the assembly area.
I have never, ever been so nervous. The collecting area was like a livestock market. Bikes of all shapes and sizes queued up behind the gate, and the noise, heat and aggression was staggering. We had about five minutes of this before the gate was lifted, and everyone shot out onto the track. This was it, the first chance I’d had to actually open the bike up in anger. Into the first corner, tip it in, and whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, about 15 people went round the outside of me like I was going backwards. No problem, after all, my first corner on an unfamiliar bike is hardly likely to be at a fast pace. Coming out of the corner a chap on an RS250 shot past me staggeringly quickly. Blimey. However, after 5 or 6 laps I’d got the feel of the bike, and noticed a bloody annoying misfire when opening up out of a corner. The motor would die for half a second, then come in full chat. At the time I thought it wouldn’t be a problem, as I’m hardly likely to be going fast enough to worry about little hitches like that. The red flag came out, so I came off the circuit, went through the paddock, and queued up for another session. More of the same ensued.
First race – My demon start and second row grid position saw me fifty yards clear of the pack at the first corner. Unfortunately I was fifty yards clear at the back. Not to worry. I set about chasing the tail enders, and within 4 or 5 laps had caught them, in the process grounding out my fairing, and both pipes. However, I couldn’t pass them. The misfire coming out of the corners was giving them a 5 yard headstart away from me from every corner, and I wasn’t confident enough to go past on the brakes. I got to the second last corner, and noticed the leaders homing in on me pretty bloody quickly, so took a wide line on the last corner and let the eventual winner through on an RS125. Best lap: 51.8 something. (The fastest TZRs were doing 47s).
Second race – More of the same really. My start was even worse this time, and I was chasing like hell when a monster slide at the North Bend sapped my confidence somewhat. I know what caused it – In an effort to ride around the hesitation when opening up from the corner I was trying to open the throttle earlier. I got it too early, and the power came in with a big bang and the back span out. This time I got lapped three corners from the end, and was caught by three riders this time, including one on a TZR who gave me a thumbs up on the cool down lap, which boosted my confidence no end. Best lap: 52.4 something. Why was I going backwards?
Third race – Slightly better start, but still last by a long way into the first corner. Again, I was closing on the back markers, but lost out on drive away from corners. Another slide at the hairpin, but this time I was ready for it, and it didn’t unnerve me so much. Last again, but I didn’t get lapped this time. I was so happy as I crossed the line I thought my head would fall off. One of the marshals (Pete?) left his post and applauded me on the slow down lap, and I felt absolutely elated. Best lap: 51.3 dead.
I’ve learned lots. Hopefully for the next race I’ll have my starts sorted and the misfire cured. Looking at the time sheets if I can knock a second a lap off I’ll be up in 8th-10th place. I also need to get fit. I’m typing this up the day after, and my arms and legs are killing me.
Friday, 22nd August
Ordered a new set of needles and choke cables from my local friendly Yamaha dealer.
Cost so far:
Carb bits: £50 (ouch)
Monday, 25th August
Started preparing the bike for the next outing at Pembrey. Changed the gearing to 14/41 as Pembrey has a nice long straight(ish) bit. Put some mastic on the split link in the chain on the advice of Ian, as “I’ve had one go before, and it wasn’t much fun”. Replaced the screws on the carbs and airbox that had been chewed up before. Whipped the plugs out and cleaned them up. I’ll be replacing them soon anyway, but that will have to wait until funds allow it. Checked brake pads. Checked caliper bolts. Checked coolant. Checked steering damper mounting. Checked head bearings. Checked gearbox oil. The tyres are looking a little worse for wear after the Lydden outing, but they’ll have to do as I’m skint. Hopefully they’ll last for the meeting at Brands on Oct 4th as I think that will be my last for the year.
Friday, 29th August
Sent off entry for the Brands meeting on Oct 4th. This will have to be my last race of the year, as I’ve run out of money now. I’m looking forward to it, as everyone I’ve spoken to loves riding at Brands. Phoned Crowtree to arrange to pick up my leathers, but they won’t be ready until Wednesday. Bum. Oh well, I may use Rogers spare set again for the Pembrey race on Sunday, as mine will probably still be a little stiff and need a bit of breaking in. We’ll wait and see.
Cost so far:
Race entry fee: £75
Saturday, 30th August
Final bike preparation for next weekend – Completely stripped the carbs and rebuilt them with the stock needles. There was a fair amount of gunge in the pilot jets, which probably didn’t really help the part throttle running either. It seems to me that at least 50% of the winning of a race is done before you even get to the track. Anyway, Faye was not too chuffed when I converted the spare room into a workshop for the afternoon to get the carbs done. 24hrs later the place still stinks of petrol and two stroke oil.