Wednesday, 5th August
Stripped the motor to see the cause of last weeks mechanical carnage. This was made somewhat easier by the fact that I’ve just moved house, and now have a nice, new, spacious, well equipped, well lit garage, rather than the shed I used to work in. Anyway, I digress. As suspected, when the motor was stripped it revealed that the ring peg on the left piston had failed, causing the ring to spin, clouting the exhaust port with predictable circumstances. The head was scrapped, as was the barrel, powervalve, and piston (obviously). I had a quick look at the crank, and cleared out as much debris as I could.
There was only one course of action – I removed the pistons, barrels and head from the road bike and attached them to the race bike. I was somewhat surprised to find out that it fired up first time, and sounded lovely. However, these are standard, untuned barrels, and therefore I’ll be seriously down on power compared to everyone else.
Whilst stripping the road bike I couldn’t help noticing that the crankcases were full of water. Eh? I’ve got no idea where this came from, as the cooling system was still full. However, this now means that the crank in the roadbike is now effectively scrap too, so my list of damaged engine parts now reads like this: 2 cranks, 3 left barrels, 3 cylinder heads. At some point over the winter I’d like to give this lot to a tuner to build one good race engine, and one good road engine out of, but I simply don’t have the money right now. I know it’s a long shot, but if any tuners reading this want a bit of publicity in return for a rebuild could they get in touch please? Ta. (Well, it’s got to be worth a try…)
Friday, 7th August
Trailered the bike up to Cadwell ready for the weekends fun and games. I wasn’t as well prepared for this as I like to be for several reasons. Firstly the bike was an unknown quantity, as it hadn’t been run in anger in this tune, and had only just been rebuilt after the Brands accident. Secondly, I had no experience of this track on this bike. And thirdly I had no idea where everything was following my recent house move. So, the journey to Cadwell punctuated with regular stops as “Did you pack the matches?”, “Did we bring any food?”, “Have we got any water?” etc. etc.
Anyway, we finally arrived at Cadwell in glorious sunshine, and set about getting the tent up, and getting some food on the go. It looked like there was a good turnout of TZRs for the weekend, with some of the not-so-regular riders turning up to have a go. I was keen to try and get some solid points to try and hold my spot in the championships.
Cost so far:
Saturday, 8th August
Up early, and off to get scrooted. Luckily I’d parked only a few yards away, so this presented no real problem. The temperature was already getting up, and it looked like being a good day for racing. I was still slightly worried at the prospect of racing on a track I was so unfamiliar with, so I queued up nice and early for 1st practise with a view to trying to get two sessions.
1st practise – Cadwell is a glorious track combining fast corners, slow hairpins, ups, downs, straights, and the infamous mountain. Trying to learn a track like this is hard work, but bloody good fun. A flying lap went something like this: Over start line in top. Make ground to the right of the track, and at the club hairpin knock it down into fifth. hold fifth through the unfeasibly fast uphill lefthander of Coppice, apexing just after the mid point of the kerb. Try to get back to about 1/3 of the way out from the left kerb, and knock it down into fourth for Charlies I. Flat in fourth through here, attempting to apex somewhere near the middle of the kerb. (More than once I missed this apex completely after apexing Coppice too early). As you come out of Charlies I, aim straight for the second telegraph pole, and over the brow of the hill. This line feels completely unnatural, and needs a good deal of confidence, as you are aiming straight off the track… However, the track opens up, and you are now on a good line for Charlies II. Apex here on the second kerb, and try and get a good drive onto the Park Straight. Flat along the straight, and over the brow. Begin preparing to brake for Park at the 200yd marker, then at about the 150 point brake hard, and down three for Park. Apex this smack in the middle of the kerb, and drift out to the left of the track ready for the long, long right of Chris. Up into fourth, and aim for the second piece of kerb on the inside. Hit this with your knee, then aim for the repair patch on the left of the track, all the while accelerating hard. Once the kerb of the Gooseneck appears back down into third, and attempt to make ground right again to run down the kerb on the right of the track. The track then doubles back violently into the Gooseneck, with the apex here being bang on the nose of the prominent kerb. Down the hill, holding third and overrevving like crazy into Mansfield. A late apex here helps the drive along into the Mountain. Oh blimey I’m not even half way round yet and already I’m tired of typing this.
Up into fifth along the short straight, then brake hard at the nasty dip in the track, and down into third again. Hard left, even harder right hitting both kerbs with your knees, then accelerate hard up the (f***ing steep) hill, still in third. Stand on the pegs, and get all your weight to the front of the bike, and just throttle back to 3/4 over the first crest. As soon as the front feels vaguely controllable attack the second crest hard, mindful that the track veers very slightly right, and it’s difficult to steer with both wheels in the air… Follow a straight line from left to right into the first part of Hall, then hard left into the second. Immediately the bike has settled from the left it’s back over to the right again, but apexing early and once again aiming directly off the track. Accelerate over the brow, and once everything has settled down, knock down into second and brake hard for the rapidly approaching hairpin. This is not the place to crash, as there as zero run off. None at all. Nothing. If you lose the front here, you go straight into a wall. Scream out of the hairpin in second, mindful not to lose the back end. Up into third, and line up for the blind, off-camber Barn. Another corner with no run-off, and plenty of reasons to crash. Apex late to try and make as straight a line as possible through the right sweep that follows the corner proper, then up through the gears along the straght and over the line.
Just typing that has knackered me. Imagine what it’s like racing on it?
2nd practise – In an attempt to learn a bit more about the track, I got two practise sessions in. This was a good thing without a doubt. After the practise I took a few minutes to check the bike over, and everything appeared OK.
1st race – Off the 2nd row of the grid for this one, and for the weekend we were to be matched with the 250LCs. This provided good entertainment, as while the LCs had the legs on me on the straights, I could normally outcorner them. However, for this race I ended up running by myself – Unable to keep with the faster bikes, but able to hold my own against the slower ones. All in all a bit of a lonely race, but at least it gave me a chance to learn the track a bit more without having to contend with too much traffic. In particular I noticed that my gearing was all wrong – The bike was overrevving too much on the approach to Mansfield, and sometimes needed a bit of clutch to keep in the power up the Mountain.
2nd race – Front row of the grid this time. Gulp. My change in gearing was a definate step in the right direction, as I could now hold fourth through the Gooseneck and down the hill, which made life far easier, and everything a lot smoother. This was a much tighter race, with several LCs getting past me, along with a good quantity of TZRs. I wasn’t desperately unhappy about this, but when my old sparring partner Scott came past on the penultimate lap I decided enough was enough… In a desperate attempt to get my place back I dived under him at Mansfield, and held the place until the start straight, at which point he sailed past me again. I held on longer than usual before slowing for Coppice, and got right up his chuff going into Charlies I, where a slower LC was right in the way. Scott took the outside, I took the inside, and got the line onto Park. However, Scott had the better drive, and we went flying up Park Straight together. At this point my fairing mounts, weakened by the Brands crash, cried ‘enough’ and my left fairing panel fell off, leaving the right one flapping dangerously in the breeze. I had no option but to back off and drop out of the race. Bugger.
3rd race – For this race I’d removed the fairing completely, and had a heap more agression… Off the fifth row of the grid, and for the first time I just stuck my elbows out, and barged my way past everything in sight. Blimey! In an effort to make up for my lack of power I was holding a higher corner speed than ever before, and being far more decisive in my passing. All in all a very positive race.
I’m gutted about having to drop out of the 2nd race whilst having a good scrap with Scott. However, it’s my own fault – If I’d been more thorough in my preperations I would have noticed the cracked fairing mounts and done something about it. My 3rd race was (I think) my most positive, competitive performance to date. Being down on power was far less of a handicap than I thought it would be, and has taught me loads in an effort to compensate.
The post race stripdown revealed that my front tyre was completely shagged, brake pads on the way out, jetting was too rich, and the fairing panel (recovered from the track by the marshals) was repairable. To this end I spent the evening jetting down, and patching up the fairing. Many thanks to Daz’s mechanic, Kevin for his invaluable assistance here.
No meeting at a BHL circuit would be complete with the ritual slagging off of Brands Hatch Leisure, and while it would be churlish and unfair to say the service in the canteen was slow, unhelpful and rude, I have to say I found the service in the canteen to be slow, unhelpful and rude.
Cost so far:
Cable ties: £2
Sunday, 9th August
For today I’d bodged the fairing back on, and was in the mood for a good scrap after yesterdays positive third race. I got a couple of practise laps in to check the new jetting, and all seemed OK.
It’s a sign of my increasing age, but I really can’t remember too many details about any of the days racing. However, in the third race of the day I managed to take 3 seconds off my lap times of the previous day, and got into fifth place, which I am more than chuffed with.
I’ve learned volumes this weekend – In my previous meeting in France I’d noticed my lack of competitiveness. In an effort to compensate for my lack of power this weekend I found myself cornering harder, and passing more decisively than ever before. This is all good experience, and I hope I can build on it for the remaining meetings this season. I’ve decided that the much needed rebuild will have to wait until the winter, so I’ll have to wait until next season to run a competitive bike again. This is a shame, as three of the remaining four rounds this year are at Snett and Silverstone, both tracks that require heaps of power.
Saturday, 15th August
Spent the day in the garage repairing the bodged fairing that fell off at Cadwell. Luckily there was no serious damage, and a few hours spent with the fibreglass kit were all that was required. Also had to order a few bits and bobs to get me through to the end of the season:
Cost so far:
New battery charger: £15
New chain: £30
Spark plugs: £15
Chain lube: £7
New trailer hubs: £25
The chain is a bit on the cheap side, but should do me for the foreseeable future. The way things have been going recently I’ll have either binned the bike or blown another engine long before the chain wears out.