Saturday, 5th September
Had to change the front tyre, as in my attempts to stay on the pace at Cadwell last month I completely screwed the one currently on there. However, due to not having any money at the moment I’ve had to use one of my old, part worn race tyres. I’m slightly worried by this, as Mallory is essentially one big corner with a couple of little twiddly bits to get you back there again. Everything else on the bike looked as well as can be expected at this point in the season. The weather forecast for the weekend was rain and high winds, and if the conditions on the drive up to Mallory were anything to go by, it was going to be an entertaining weekend. In fact, I was hoping that the rain would stay, as it would help even out my power disadvantage to everyone else. In fact, by the time I got to there the weather was so bad that I decided to sleep in the car, rather than risk getting the tent up. This in itself wouldn’t have presented and real problems. In fact, the car was quite comfortable to sleep in. However, I forgot to take the petrol cans out of the back first, and after about 10 minutes of wondering why I was developing a large headache I decided to remove them, and get on with the serious business of sleeping. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Sunday, 6th September
I’d expect the car windows to be somewhat misted up after kipping in there for the night. However, I was somewhat surprised to find that I couldn’t see a bloody thing when I woke up. The mystery was solved though when I fell out of the car door and realised that it was, in fact, rather foggy. The rain had held off for the night, and the ground was pretty dry. In the absence of anything constructive to do I kicked the bike a few times and made some tea. Scrooting was the usual trial, as I’d parked a million miles away from the scrutineering bay. However, the excercise did me good.
Practise – Mallory is essentially one bloody great corner, joined at each end by some other little bits. The MCN track guide decribes this corner (Gerards) as ‘a 200 degree hairpin taken at warp factor speeds’ and while I can’t argue with this description, it neglects to mention the biblically proportioned bumps on the way out. However, a lap goes something like this… Cross the start/finish line just notching top. Hold it, and move over to just left of the centre of the track. As Gerards approaches, knock it down into fifth, and peel in by the surface change on the track. I have a feeling I could have entered the corner a lot faster than I actually was, but as the second part of the corner was punctuated by wheelspin from the back and an alarmingly unstable front I decided not to push my luck too much. Just notch sixth on the way out, then head up into the esses. Down into fourth, and take a wide line in. As soon as the apex is reached by the large kerbing, drive hard. Don’t back off at all for the left of the esses, just throw the bike right to left while still accelerating flat in fourth. This was physically hard work, but felt bloody good on the odd occasion I got it right. Hook up to fifth, then brake hard, and down three for the hairpin. Wobble round here on any old line, and slip the clutch on the way out to stop the motor dropping out of the ‘power’ band. Stay in second, and into the bus stop. Left-right-left in as long as it takes to read this, then up into third, and begin the drive through the elbow. Try and hold a reasonably tight line, and up into fourth as soon as you can get your boot under the gear lever. Fifth, sixth, and we’re back where we came in.
1st race – Off row 4 (as I was to be all day). Got the worst start of my life, and was dead last into Gerards, where there was an almighty traffic jam caused by an LC pilot who thought it should be approached in second gear at 10mph. Spent the entire race playing catch up, but could only get one TZR, that of novice Dick Power (yes, that is his real name). Had a major scrap with an LC, who would outbrake me into every corner, but finally made a clean break by driving round the outside on the second part of the esses.A slightly disappointing race, but my own fault entirely after the dreadful start. Fastest lap 1:02.74 and 11th place.
2nd race – Somewhat better start this time, and had a good scrap all the way round with Charlie Entwhistle. Still nowhere near the pace I’d like to have been, but a definite step in the right direction. Fastest lap 1:01.99 and 8th place this time.
3rd race – At last, I got my race head on and started to string together some consistent laps. A pretty dodgy start meant I was following my old sparring partner Scott Allaway into the hairpin on the first lap, whereupon I noticed his back wheel in the air and smoke coming from the front tyre. Possibly not the quickest way around the hairpin, but top marks for giving the crowd some entertainment. The rest of the race was spent desperately trying to reel in Nick, but he just had the edge on me. Fastest lap 1:01.1 and 7th place.
All in all, it’s been a pretty good day. I’ve taken fifth spot in the TZR tour now, and am grimly hanging on to fourth in the BMCRC TZR championship. I’m expecting this to change at Snett next week though, as it really is a circuit where power counts, and at the moment I’m about 20% down on the fast chaps. Let’s just hope it rains… Aside from the engine, I now desperately need a new front tyre, and I think I may just have to get one fitted and hope I find a small pot of gold somewhere.
Cost so far:
Beer money to the bloke who pumped up my tyre: £2
Saturday, 12th September
Off to Snetterton for the weekends racing I always knew I was going to suffer here with an underpowered bike, but little did I know what lay in store… The weather was, even by Snetterton standards, crap. High winds and heavy rain meant that trying to even stay on the track was a major problem. However, I was there to race, so I got my head down and got on with it.
That is to say, I would have done, had my engine not rolled over and died in the first race. The post race stripdown revealed severe detonation on the right cylinder. Severe enough to melt the piston crown. Phil came to the rescue with a spare head and barrels, so the rebuild began… Predictably I missed the second race, but Darren came to the rescue in the third race by lending me his bike. The difference was amazing. With no trouble at all I held onto fourth place, despite slowing by four seconds a lap towards the end to make sure I didn’t bin it. That evening in the bar I bought him a large drink. Firstly for having the genorousity to lend me his bike, and secondly for helping me realise that my crap results of late have been down to my bike, rather than my riding. Actually, I brought several large drinks, and ended up drinking rather more than was healthy for me…
Cost so far:
Sunday, 13th September
Skipped the first race in the interests of a healthy breakfast, and by dint of the fact that I was still hungover. The weather was truly appalling now, and the second race looked like I might have a good chance, now that I had Phils head and barrels succesfully installed. However, whilst queueing in the collecting area the cover plate for the powervalves fell off, and I had no alternative but to try and get back to the garage and fit it again. Predictably, I missed the start. I was immensely annoyed at myself for not noticing the loose cover plate before the race. However, after 1 lap the red flags came out, the race was restarted, and I made it to the grid on time. The lights went green, and I shot off the line from the seventh row of the grid. I was determined to make up some points, and after two laps I was in fourth place, about 3 inches from the back wheel of Chaz Entwhistle. However, it was not to be. Coming out of Sear on the third lap I felt a slight vibration and the power dropped off, so I hit the kill switch and pulled the clutch in pretty damned quick – I didn’t want to seize another engine. Back in the paddock the damage was negligible. The barrels and pistons were still perfect. The head had a slight pitting on the right cylinder, but Phil wasn’t sure if that wasn’t there already. But, by this time I’d run out of enthusiasm, patience and spare barrels, so I just sat out and watched the rest of the days racing.
On the face of it, finishing one race out of six is pretty abysmal, and a bit of a waste of £120. However, riding Darrens bike taught me just how good a TZR can be. With this in mind I’ve arranged to part company with a large amount of money and give my engine to Martin Taymar for a rebuild before the next round at Silverstone.
I also think I know what caused the seizure – I think the fuel system wasn’t flowing enough. With this in mind I got hold of some larger bore fuel hose, and I’m going to run seperate feeds, one to each carb.
Cost so far:
Fuel hose: £5
Monday, 14th September
Spent the night in the garage getting the engine out of the race bike ready to take to Martin to get rebuilt. In doing so I also measured up the frame and swingarm. In keeping with my current run of luck they are, of course, about 3 inches out of alignment.
Racing is always going to be about highs and lows. The highs are brilliant. My first race without being lapped for example, was one of the best moments of my life. The lows are equally as extreme. Two months ago I was holding third in the TZR championship, and feeling confident. Now it’s midnight, and I’ve just finished stripping a bent bike that has killed two engines in the past month, and I’ve slipped to fifth in the championship. I’m sure that times like this are character building.
I’m just not sure I need this much character.
Thursday, 24th September
At last, something positive… The chaps on the Ixion mailing list have decided to form a race team for next year, and it looks like I’ll be taking part with them… At present, the details are still sketchy and unfinished, but it seems like there’ll be several of us racing in our own individual classes, with the possibility of a ride in an endurance race or two… Woohoo! As soon as I’ve got anymore details I’ll start making concrete plans for next year.