Wednesday, 3rd September
Finally picked up my leathers. They’re a work of art, and far too nice to crash in. When I mentioned to Linda that I was wearing Rogers old pair she said “Not the white ones? I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve cleaned and repaired them”.
Cost so far:
Leathers: £750 (and an absolute bargain)
Saturday, 6th September
The journey down the M4 to Pembrey was pretty tedious. Anyway, we finally made it to the track, got the tent up, met up with a few friends, watched the racing and sat in the bar. It started raining…
Sunday, 7th September
Sunday morning was grey, overcast, and it seemed the whole of the track was sitting slap bang in the middle of a cloud. It’s the kind of rain you can’t really feel, but it does a jolly good job of giving the track a thorough soaking. My hopes actually rose slightly at this, as this time round the TZRs were running with the supersport 250s, so any power advantage the supersports machines might have would be tempered slightly by the conditions. I went out for first practise, and immediately noticed that the misfire that plagued me at Lydden had gone, and the bike was pulling a lot more cleanly right through the gears. The wet track was made slightly more interesting by the oil in the braking area for the Hatchets hairpin… I was thoroughly enjoying the long, long Dibeni left-hander, but having problems getting a good drive out of the Brooklands hairpin. The kink at Woodlands was a real botty clencher. It took a couple of laps to work up to, but eventually I was taking it flat in fifth (about 100-105mph on the gearing I was running) with my knee on the deck. In the wet. Exactly the kind of place you think “I hope I don’t have an accident here”.
First race – Had a place on the last row of the grid, and was more than happy about this due to the aforementioned oil slick at the hairpin. (Why on earth do track designers
always contrive to put a hairpin bend straight after the start?) Anyway, I didn’t fancy being in the middle of a pack of supersports machines on a slippery hairpin, so I let everyone lead me round the hairpin while I simply picked the dry line after they’d all been through. First target – No57 on a KR1S. No problems – Took a wide line at Spitfires and held my line all the way through the ensuing left hander. This felt good – The first time I’d actually passed someone! Next target was my mate Robin on his indecently fast 73hp RGV250. Obviously I wasn’t going to pass on the straight on my 50hp TZR, but I could hold his slipstream and it seemed I had a better braking point at the hairpin. Next lap I tucked in behind him, waited until Dibeni, and this time piled around the outside to hold a tight line into the esses. No problem. Next target, No70, a SS400 spec ZXR. Again, I was obviously going to have no joy on the straight, so I tried the same move next lap. Round the outside at Dibeni, and Crikey! She’s changed line! My only option was to run onto the rumble strip, and the grass. Panic panic, get back on the tarmac, what gear am I in? Look at the tacho and it’s reading zero. Bum. My grasstracking had loosened a connection to the battery and I’d lost the tacho. Worse, I’d also lost my powervalves, so I just had to watch the ZXR vanish into the distance. I thought about pulling out at this point, but decided to defend my position, which I did OK.
After the race, I got back to the paddock, and whipped the battery out to make sure the connections wouldn’t come loose again. Put the battery back, and switch on the ignition to check the powervalves. They didn’t want to move. At the time I thought it would be something simple. However, after 5 minutes of head scratching it looked like I might have to have the mechanism out to free it off. To cut a long story short, I’d lost a piston ring, which had buggered off in little bits, smashing the piston, before bouncing up and down in the head a few times, then dropping into the crankcase. No wonder I was down on power on the straight. End of days racing. I put everything back together, strapped the stricken machine to the trailer, and settled down to watch the rest of the days racing. It’s amazing how much more relaxing it is to watch a race when you know you’re not out there next.
I’m philosophical about the mechanical carnage. It was going to happen at some time, and I’d have preferred to have got another couple of races in before having to call it a day. However, I’m glad to have discovered the problems in the comfort of the paddock rather than suffer a seizure at the aforementioned 110mph kink. Wonder how I would have done with a bit more practise? Next meeting, Brands Hatch, Oct 4th. But first the engines off to see Graham File for a rebore and new pistons and head. All donations gratefully accepted…
Wednesday, 10th September
Off to see Graham File with the sick engine. Turns out the failure was due to a piston ring peg falling out, allowing the ring to spin and clout the exhaust port. Should be recoverable easy enough. Also got some sound advice regarding carbs.
Tuesday, 16th September
Call Graham to see about the engine damage, and luckily all it needs is a rebore, new pistons/rings, and a bit of work on the head to match the new barrels. With any luck I should be able to pick it up next Monday. A bit of good news today though… EMAP like my race reports so much that they’ve arranged to pay my race entry at Silverstone! This makes me feel a lot better about the whole thing.
Monday, 22nd September
Called Graham again to see about picking up the engine, and we’ve run into a bit of a problem. Some debris has definately fallen into the crankcase. Do we strip the crank out or just flush it through and hope? We take the decision to strip the crank out while the engine is already in bits. 30 minutes later Graham is back on the phone – Good job we did as the main bearings were about to expire big time. Luckily I’ve got a spare bottom end. I didn’t plan on using it so soon though.
I’ve come to a decision – I’ve now got to sell my road bike to carry on. Bugger.
Tuesday, 23rd September
Took my spare crank over to Graham to have it fitted. At first he thought that the spare might be shagged too, but after a bit of cleaning up everything looked OK. I’m starting to have a few bad feelings as to how much this is all going to cost. Anyway, Graham agrees to work on the engine tomorrow, and I should be able to pick it up then. Also got around to building the battery charger from the circuit diagram supplied by Robin. True to form, it doesn’t work. Bugger.
Wednesday, 24th September
Start preparing the (still engineless) bike for the meeting at Brands. Gone back to 14/42 gearing, changed the main jets, and give everything a damned good clean while the engines out. Drive over to Graham to pick up the engine. It looks fabulous, and hopefully should hang together a bit longer this time. Unfortunately he then presents me with the bill.
Cost so far:
Engine rebuild: OhMyGod£445
Sounds a lot (well, it is a lot) but this rebuild should keep me going through next season with only a change of pistons half way through. It’s good that we stripped the engine when we did and found the dodgy main bearings, else I could have had a much bigger bill when they expired.
Wednesday, 24th September
Pick up some new plugs and gearbox oil. Nothing dramatic, I know, but it all adds up…
Cost so far:
Gearbox oil: £5
Saturday, 27th September
Put the engine back in the bike, and chase around looking for a new temperature sensor and air filter. The air filter is on the advice of Graham, and seeing as he knows more about engines than I ever will I’m prepared to listen to his advice and learn from it. The temperature sensor is because the pillock that built the engine previously glued the thing so tightly into the head that it snapped off when Graham put a spanner on it.
My race entry for Brands next week also arrives today. For some reason, I’m feeling more nervous about this race than I did for Pembrey. Not really sure why, maybe it’s because of all the expense of the past month.
Cost so far:
Sunday, 28th September
Final preparation for next weekend. The bike is in quite a different spec this time, so I’m not 100% sure what to expect. The changes are:
Change to 230 mains – Might lose a bit of top end poke and throttle response, but should be safer for the engine.
Change premix ratio from 33:1 to 25:1 – Broadly the same effects as above. However, if it increases piston life I’m prepared to suffer the slight performance drop. Also means I’ll make more smoke in the holding area.
Reinstatement of air filter – To suit the 230 mains and again, improve the engines chances of lasting more than 4 laps.
Drop rear preload – The ride at Pembrey was a bit choppy, and I want to make it a bit more supple. However, I may lose a bit of stability in fast corners.
Drop front preload – in an attempt to get the thing to turn in faster. I should get more dive on the brakes, which in turn should allow me to turn faster. Might also give the front tyre an easier time. However, I may run out of fork travel.
Change from B10EGV to BR9EV plugs – On the advice of Graham, and because the jetting isn’t so tight now we don’t need to run 10s any more. Whilst rummaging in the garage I find a spare air filter and temp sensor. A little bit of farting around with the trusty multimeter and kettle reveals that the temperature sensor is OK, and as a bonus I get a cup of tea. Looks like yesterdays chase around for spares was largely unnecessary.
Monday, 29th September
Send off entry for Silverstone on 26th Oct.
Cost so far:
Race entry fee: £70 (Paid by EMAP)