Friday, 3rd October
Off to Dynotech to get the bike run in on the dyno and check the carbs. Nothing dramatic really. The bike was making 52bhp with a large hole in the midrange, and the CO readings indicated it was running pretty rich. Swapped the mains from 230s to 200s (I can’t say I was happy about this as I paid for the last rebuild). But, the chappie at Dynotech said it would be OK, and he knows far more about engines than me. We were rewarded with 54bhp, no midrange hole, and a much quicker throttle response. Not bad for a simple jet swap.
Drove to Brands in the evening, and got stuck in a 15 mile tailback on the M25. Great. Arrived some time after 9pm, got the tent up, got a quick barbie going, and had a couple of pints in the bar. It all looked like being a good evening, until the band started up.
Cost so far:
Dyno time and jets: £75
Saturday, 4th October
Well, I’ve just had my best ever days racing, and learnt a whole lot…
Things started off in time honoured tradition with the rigours of scrutineering… This was made somewhat more challenging by the fact that the scrutineering was carried out at the top of a bloody big hill, and we’re not allowed to start any engines until after scrutineering has finished. This racing lark is getting me fit OK, but it’s mainly pushing the bloody bike up and down hills.
Practise – I missed the first practise ‘cos I was still knackered from the push up the hill. Still, second practise was fine by me, so we all queued up and waited for something to happen. Once again, the holding area was a scary place to be – Loads of noise, heat, aggression and two-stroke fumes. After a few minutes we were let out onto the track, into Paddock Hill bend, and, where’s the track gone? I was warned that the first time it felt like riding off the edge of the world, and that just about sums it up. The first lap was spent just getting the edges of the tyres warmed. Second lap, out of Clearways, and nail it hard down the straight. Blimey, this was fast! Much more so than last time out. Just saw 10,000 in top before braking (hard!) for Paddock Hill again. This time I was ready for the drop, but not for the sudden rise into Hailwood Hill. My arms bucked under the strain, and my dog tag was forced painfully into my chest. In 14 years riding on the road I’ve never felt anything like it. A couple of laps further on and we were red flagged after a spill at Surtees. So we all just queued up again, and more of the same ensued. All in all I was feeling pretty good. The bike was handling well, the engine was pulling hard, and I had learned which way the track went, and got some braking markers worked out.
1st race – Whilst queueing up in the holding area another TZR rider shuffled over to me and asked how the engine was going since the rebuild. When I replied that I was now running on 200 mains rather than 220s/230s he just looked at me and laughed. Hmmm, obviously he knew something I didn’t… My seventh row grid position was just about spot on, as I didn’t fancy going round Paddock Hill in the middle of a field of 37 bikes. So, I went round 36th. No worries though, as I set about chasing the group in front. I was gaining yards on the run down from Druids all the way into Surtees, but still didn’t have the bottle to barge past people. Not to worry though, as I could hold a wide line into Clearways, then get a good drive down the straight. Doing this I picked off several, and finished 29th out of 37. Best lap was 59s.
After the first race Ian Basset (the ex-owner of the bike) came over, and we started chatting about the bike. Again, I mentioned the 200 jets, and he basically said that if I went out again with that jetting, I’d blow the bike up. Fair enough. We stripped the carbs and switched from 200s to 220s. When I took one of the plugs out to check, sure enough it was whitened from running too lean. Lesson learned… Experts give crap advice on occasions. Luckily I’d found out before it was too late. (Still a bit miffed about Dynotech charging me four quid for the jets though…)
2nd race – Broadly the same as the first really… 29th out of 37, but no idea what my best lap was as the computer was on the blink. (Yeah right. Heard it all before). The motor was still pulling hard on the richer jetting, and I felt a lot happier about it. One thing I wasn’t entirely happy about was the oil slick left all the way round Paddock, Graham Hill bend and Surtees by a bloody sidecar. The slick at Surtees was particularly entertaining as the sun was now low on the horizon, and I couldn’t see anything much at that point, let alone try to pick out details in the track surface. I only really noticed it when a 250LC in front of me nearly got the back wheel in front, accompanied by a big cloud of cement dust.
3rd race – Best of the day… finished 27th this time, but again I’ve got no idea what my best lap time was. The oil slicks had just about gone now, so I could concentrate on getting my head down and passing people. Which is exacly what I did. I was again last into the first corner (something I obviously need to work on there…) but quickly caught the tail enders, and set about passing them. Again I could get a good drive onto the straight to pass people, but this time I decided to try a few more daring moves… Dived past two going into Paddock Hill bend, and also got a few on the drag from Graham Hill through Surtees into McLaren. By the time I saw the chequered flag I’d opened up a 16 second gap on the last group, and was less than 10 from the group in front. Wonder what it would have been with a better start?
All in all, I’m more than chuffed with the way things went. OK, so 27th doesn’t really sound like I’ve made great strides, but I’ve learned a) That overtaking isn’t as tricky as I first thought b) Smooth riding is far more effective than aggressive ragged riding c) I need to improve my starts (badly) d) Don’t always listen to advice from ‘experts’ e) Don’t go to the bar on a Friday night – The band are crap.
Cost so far:
New plugs (to replace the ones ruined by bad jetting): £12
Pair of donuts: £1 (Got to keep my strength up…)
Friday, 10th October
Started getting a list together of which meetings I’ll be going to next season. So far we have…
|30th May||Oulton Park|
|20th/21st June||Croix (France)|
|12th July||Brands Hatch|
|8th/9th August||Cadwell Park|
|22nd August||Donington Park|
The meetings I won’t be going to are:
|1st March||Brands Hatch|
|6th September||Mallory Park|
The reasons for this are purely financial – If I win the lottery between now and next year I’ll be doing all of them. However, I have to be realistic. The above entry fees are likely to cost me close to £1000. That’s just for the three TZR rounds. I’d like to enter the novice SS400 races too, but that will put another few hundred on top. And this is before I pay for tyres, fuel, etc. Oh well. My road bike is now advertised for sale (cheers Rog) and the money I get from that will go some way to paying off my debts built up so far.
Saturday, 11th October
Started getting things ready for Silverstone on 25th. Check coolant, brake pads, chain, gearbox oil, head bearings, steering damper mounting etc. etc. I’ve kept the suspension settings the same, as the bike felt good at Brands. I’ve gone up a size on the mains to 230s to be safe. Also cleared out the pilots as they were gunged up with premix again. Not sure about the gearing – At the moment I’m leaving it at 14/42, though I have a feeling I may go up to 14/41. I can’t tell until I get there and get some practise. I’ve also patched up my spare seat unit, as I have a nasty feeling that I might come a cropper. Not really sure why – maybe now that I’m getting a bit more confident about passing people I’m worried about getting over confident. We’ll see.
Monday, 13th October
In a fit of enthusiasm I call Dave at bemsee to see about getting a ride in the novice supersport 400 at Silverstone. No problem. So, my final meeting of the year will also be my busiest, with 4 races. Two in the TZR class, and two in the novice SS400 class. There are some frighteningly quick bikes in the SS400, so it will be fun to pit my little TZR against them.
Cost so far:
Entry fee for extra rounds: £30
Sunday, 19th October
Off to Lydden to watch a days racing and cheer on Roger. It was really frustrating being there and not racing – I just wanted to get out there and have a go. Oh well. Next weekend. The racing was good. Rog rode like a man posessed in his final race to take a well deserved 3rd place. Impressive stuff for someone who’s just come back from a nasty injury. The days most exciting spectator moment came when one of the classic sidecars burst into flames whilst negotiating the devils elbow. The driver and passenger got off pretty bloody quickly. (If this was the sidecar that dumped oil all the way around Paddock, Chessons and the North bend earlier in the day then it was a richly deserved fate. Sorry, but I have very little tolerance for this kind of thing).
Tuesday, 21st October
Got my race entry through for Silverstone today. I’m down as a reserve in the novice SS400. Starting to get those pre-race nerves again…
Saturday, 25th October
Sold my ZXR today. I suppose I was a bit sad to see it go, but I’ve had 6 years good fun on it, and I need the money to finance next seasons race entries.
Sunday, 26th October
This was the last race of the season for me, and was also my first entry in the novice supersport 400 round. It also turned out to be a day of highs and lows…
Practise – Time for practise was seriously limited today, due to the large number of entrants, and the short day. I was due out for the first session, and so queued up nice and early. We were only to get about 6 minutes or so, which would equate to 4 or 5 laps, so it was important to get my head down and try and work out where the track went. At least everyone else was in the same boat. First lap, and straight into it – The track was smooth, grippy and fast… Copse corner was a real tester. The track is so wide here that really there is no one line through, so everybody seemed to be flying all over the place. After a couple of laps, it went like this – Cross start finish line flat in 5th, just notching top. Hold top until the 50yd marker for Copse, then sit up, brake hard, and knock it down to 5th. Lay it in hard, feather the throttle then nail it when the track opened up. Hold 5th, and let it over-rev a bit. Over to the right of the track, and just throttle off as the left at the start of Maggotts approached. Down into 4th, and clip the apex as I knock it into 3rd, and start braking hard and leaning right for the rest of the corner. Very late apex here, to get a good drive onto Club Straight. Down behind the screen, 4th, 5th, 6th. Drift right to line up for Brooklands. Brake bloody hard at the marshals post, and down into 4th. Very fast entry into Brooklands, then drift wide on the exit, and down into 3rd as I lean hard into Luffield. This was the grippiest part of the track, and it needed to be. Again, a late apex here to drive out towards Woodcote. 4th, 5th, flat through Woodcote, with the bike going unstable and heading towards the edge of the track… Cross the finish line flat in fith, and do it all again…
1st race – TZRs, Supersports 400s, and RD350s. This was always going to be a test for the little TZR. Some of the supersports machines are putting out over 20bhp more, and weigh a lot less. Oh well. Got a reasonable start from the 6th row, and started chasing people. Passed a couple of RDs, then up ahead noticed Clive Larrett on his TZR. Tucked in behind into Luffield, and passed him through Woodcote as I wobbled towards the tyres. Next up, Nick Wiles on his TZR and number 18 on an RD350. Passed Nick into Copse, and number 18 into Maggots. 3 seconds later he got me back again coming out of Maggots. Tuck in behind him down Club, and re-pass him into Brooklands. Same thing – He passed me on the way out of Luffield. This was fun! Again, tuck in behind, and re-re-pass him going into Copse for the last lap. He got me again at Maggots. This time I stayed behind, through Brooklands, and got a better drive out of Luffield through Woodcote and to the line. Got him by under 0.1s. Brilliant! 6th in class and a 1:14.29 lap.
2nd race – Novice supersports 400s, and singles and twins. I was at an even bigger power disadvantage here… We all queued up on the line, and waited, and waited, and waited. A GSX-R400 next to me overheated and dumped coolant everwhere. Still we waited. Eventually we were told to kill the engines. A few minutes later, we were allowed a practise lap. As we went into Maggots it became clear what the problem was. Oil, and a lot of it. Back to the line, and wait, and wait, and wait. Again, we killed our engines, and again we waited. Another practise lap. Eventually, we got away but the race was reduced from 10 laps to 8. As suspected, I was being blown away down the straights by everything and everybody. Passed a few, but really it was hard work coming so soon after the previous race. Made a bad mistake coming into Luffield on the last lap and got passed by a 500 Honda I’d passed previously. Best lap 1:14.24 but I felt like I’d ridden badly. I think the wait at the start and the sight of a large oil slick at Maggots had taken it’s toll. Also I was getting tired.
3rd race – TZRs, ss400s, RD350s. Best of the day… Again had a good scrap with number 18 all the way round, again pipped him on the line. Finished 4th in class (nearly a trophy!) with a best lap of 1:13.69. The TZR lap record stood at 1:09.97, so still some way to go, but I was more than chuffed.
4th race – Novice ss400s, singles and twins. I was on the front row of the grid for this one, and wasn’t entirely happy about it. However, he who dares wins, fortune favours the brave etc. etc… We all lined up, the starter raised his flag. Visor down, first gear, rev, rev… The guy next to me stalls. His hand shoots up, the starter sees him, and he restarts his engine. In the wait my visor fogs up, but I can’t open it as my hand is on the clutch. Bang, the lights go green, and I give it a big handful to make sure I don’t get torpedoed. Small wheelie off the line, and by the time I hit 3rd the front is down again. At this point I realised that I was heading towards the fastest corner on the track, and I can’t see where I’m going. By the time I hit 4th the faster machines behind me are converging on me like a pack of rabid dogs. I hold my line though Copse, and it’s hectic. Someone nudges my back wheel, and I knock fairings with another. By the time we get onto Club things have sorted themselves out a bit, my visor has cleared, and faster machines have buggered off. Next time into Copse, and I’m chasing an RGV250 and something else in front. The front machine goes down hard, and for a second I thought that the RGV and me would get caught in the melee. Somehow we both miss him, then I realise that the guy on the RGV is furiously wiping his visor, and sliding around a fair bit. We both back off, as I don’t want to get too close to someone with oil on his visor and tyres. Sure enough, as we come around to the start line again the red flags are out. There are seven bikes in the gravel at Copse… We didn’t get to restart, as we were running out of time.
So that’s it – My first season racing. I’ve had to put myself in debt, sell my road bike and give up curry. And it’s been worth it. Absolutely positively 100%. Next season I want to get a bit fitter, and try and improve on that 4th place. I want a trophy… I’d also like to thank everybody who has helped me out this year particularly Roger Ford for his patience and advice.