Friday, 2nd October
Spent the night in the garage, getting everything finally ready to take down to Martin Taymar tomorrow for a rebuild before Silverstone. Normally, I’d give the engine to Graham File, as he did such a good job on my engine last time. However, it’ll be good to have a comparison. The list goes like this…
- One complete race bottom end, with standard crank
- One R/H tuned barrel, 1.5mm oversize
- One L/H tuned barrel, 1.5mm oversize, badly scored
- One partial road bottom end
- One crankshaft of uncertain vintage/preperation
- One R/H untuned barrel, standard bore
- One L/H untuned barrel, standard bore
- One L/H untuned barrel, standard bore, badly scored
- Three tuned cylinder heads, badly detonated
- One untuned cylinder head, also badly detonated
- One pair standard pipes
- One pair pipes of unknown preperation. L/H fractured.
The theory is to build up a good race engine from that lot. I’ve still got the bottom end from the road bike, and I think that during the winter I’ll have that built up into another race engine. At least that way if I blow another engine next year, I’ll just be able to slot my spare straight in.
Saturday, 4th October
Drove down to Lydden to watch the Lord of Lydden meeting and catch up with the other TZR tour racers to have the official end of season TZR barbie and piss-up. The weather, when I left the fens, was lovely. By the time I had reached Lydden it had degenerated into driving rain, high winds, and very low visibility. For the first time ever, I was actually glad not to be racing. Met up with Phil and Ben, neither of whom were racing, and watched some of the warm up races. Lee Saunders, a top 250LC rider, was looking very smooth, and very comfortable in the dreadful conditions aboard Roger Fords TZ250. Nick showed his love for wet conditions by gracefully lowsiding at Paddock. Luckily no damage was done to either him or the bike. Eventually, the weather got so bad that we did the only thing we could…
The bar was pretty crowded seeing as it was only 4pm, but at least it was warm. After a couple of beers we went on the lookout for Chas Quartey, who had agreed to do the TZR barbie for the rest of us. We found him OK, but on bringing up the subject of food, he sheepishly mentioned that he had to go to the police station, and would be unable to do the honours. Turns out that someone stuck a kitchen knife in his back three days ago. Eeeek. Glad I don’t live in Kent. Anyway, he was well enough to be lapping Lydden at a fair pace given the grotty conditions.
So it was left up to Daz to get the barbie on the go. Seeing as he was the only one among us with any kind of shelter, we all crammed into his (very small) caravan. At one point we counted 14 of us, surpassing the old record of 12 set at Pembrey earlier in the year. First of all the beer came out, then a couple of bottles of some sparkling stuff, and finally the vodka. Oh dear.
Sunday, 5th October
Uurrrrrrrgh. I hadn’t managed to get the tent up last night, preferring instead to sleep in the car. I was suffering from my own personal hangover of the year, and was parked about a mile from the toilets. There was only one thing for it… I ran behind the nearest hedge, and promptly threw up. Got back to the car, and noticed that Phil had now got up too, so I made a quick cuppa. Drank it, and promptly sprayed most of it straight back up over Phils van (Sorry Phil). At this point I gave up all hope of a quick recovery, so just got back in my car to sleep the worst of the hangover off.
At 12:30 I woke again, and felt a whole lot brighter. The first project of the day was to give all my old engine bits to Martin Taymar for the much needed rebuild. He seemed happy to take the lot off my hands, probably because he will also be taking a large cheque off my hands in the coming weeks too… The rest of the day was spent alternatively watching the racing, and sheltering from the (now persistant) rain. Scotty kept up his Lydden record by binning it at the elbow. That’s 5 crashes from 6 meetings now. Still, he got a big cheer from the crowd when he got up and took a bow from the tyre wall. However, eventually the weather got the better of me, and I drove home before the main event of the day. I was cold, tired, wet, hungover, hungry and skint.
And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Cost so far:
Entry fee for the day: £14
Monday, 6th October
Spent the night out in the garage getting things ready to accept the lovely new rebuilt engine… Managed to get rid of a few items no longer needed (for some reason the bracket for the indicator relay was still attached to the frame!) and also rewired things so I no longer need an ignition key. Instead, the ignition circuit is now energised by the (otherwise redundant) headlight switch. This will save about another pound by the time I’ve removed the ignition barrel.
Tuesday, 7th October
Had a chat with Martin Taymar about what we’ll be doing with the engine:
- Strip crank, rebuild with new big ends, mains, and seals
- Rebore spare L/H barrel to 1.5mm over
- Tune spare barrel to match R/H
- Get head filled with weld, and re-machined
- New powervalve linkage, as old one is sloppy
- Remachine powervalves to match barrels
- Replace all gaskets and seals
- New pistons, rings, little ends
The cost of all this is £555, which I reckon is a good price for the amount of work and parts. On top of this, we’ve decided to:
- Flow the reed blocks
- Remove electrical gubbins from engine
This adds another £75 to the rebuild, but it makes sense to do it while the engine is already stripped. As a favour, Martin will also take a look at the pipes and see if there’s anything that needs doing to them. Nice chap.
So, adding it all up…
Cost so far:
Engine rebuild: £630
Wednesday, 8th October
Finished the rewiring job on the bike by removing the ignition barrel, and connecting the headlight switch to the loom via some dreadful Halfords ‘crimp-on, drop-off’ bullet connectors. Removing the ignition barrel was a test of stamina and patience, armed only with a junior hacksaw. However, eventually it was removed, and the moment of truth arrived… Nothing. Dead as a dodo. Bugger. I checked all my connections, and all seemed well. Hmmm. Out with the trusty multi-meter, and start checking everything else. Nope, the fuses were all OK, all wires appeared to have continuity, and nothing appeared to be running to earth. Double bugger. Replaced the YPVS control unit with a spare. Still nothing. Just in case it would make any difference, I tried replacing the CDI unit as well. Still nothing. By now I was running out of ideas, so I just went to bed in a bad mood. Another biblically proportioned display of ineptitude on the part of yours truly. I wonder when Team Roberts will be ask me to be chief engineer?
Cost so far:
Connectors : £3
Saturday, 10th October
I finally summoned the courage to go and look at the stricken TZR and it’s associated electrical problems. It’s funny how different things look in the cold light of day, ‘cos within 30 minutes I’d found the problem. The fuse box was knackered. For the time being I’ve bodged it with about half a pound of solder, thereby neatly re-adding the weight I saved by removing the ignition barrel in the first place. Grrrr.
I have to say, right at this moment, it seems that I’m taking one step forward and two back with all this racing business.
Thursday, 15th October
Picked up my engine from Martin Taymar. First inspection revealed he’d done a fabulous job, on top of which he’s given me a 30 quid discount, and agreed to weld up my exhaust FOC if I can point out where the cracks are after the race at Silverstone. Top marks. The engine now looks cleaner than my kitchen. Anyway, by the time I got back home I was so keen to crack on with things that I wandered straight out into the garage, and began the process of installing the engine. In a dramatic change of fortune, everything slotted together neatly with no mechanical incompetence on my part. Things are looking up…
Saturday, 17th October
Finished off getting the engine back in the bike and connecting all the electrics, radiator hoses, control cables etc. A further investigation of the engine in daylight revealed what a fabulous job Martin has done. All the cylinder bolts have been replaced with new, everything cleaned to perfection, a new Powervalve cover installed, the oil pump removed (I’d previously disconnected it and removed it’s internals, but removing the unit completely necessitates removing the clutch cover. The fact that Martin noticed this, and finished the job for me, without being asked speaks volumes about the how thorough his engine preperation is), new reed petals installed etc. I’m dead impressed. The moment of truth should come tomorrow when I get around to cleaning the pipes, fitting them, and firing the engine up.
I also cleaned up my bodge job on the fuse box. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a lot nicer. Eventually, I’ll replace the box with two inline fuse holders to finish the job and make everything nice and neat and tidy.
Wednesday, 21st October
Bit of a late installment this one, ‘cos I actually had the engine up and running on Sunday, but have been too busy to update this diary. I ended up using the pipes from the road bike in the end, as the race ones are a tad bent and cracked. The (modified) baffles from the race pipes fitted perfectly, and that was that really. The engine fired up first kick, and a slight knocking noise was soon (Thanks Martin) diagnosed as out of balance carbs. The only problem was a slightly leaky water pump gasket, which took precisely 3 minutes to re-seal with some silicone sealant. The new electrics are holding together perfectly, and even the patched up bodywork seems to fit quite well. Let’s just hope that the current run of joyous happenings extends to this weekend at Silverstone.
Saturday, 24th October
Final preparation for tomorrows fun & games at Silverstone. I’ve done as much with the bike as I can now – I just have to get on it and ride. Over the past couple of months I’ve really learned the value of bike preparation. You cannot just put the bike in the garage at the end of one race and expect to wheel it out for the next one. Everything needs checking, double checking, adjusting, and if necessary, replacing. There are no short cuts (other than paying someone to do this kind of thing for you).
However, for some reason I’m personally woefully under-prepared. I can’t find anything, and am running around in a panic looking for various bits & bobs that I normally take with me. Ah well, it’s only a one day meeting, and I’ve only got two races, so I should just be able to scrape through. We’ll see. Looking out of the window as I type this the weather is quite simply appalling. High winds, driving rain and flooding. I don’t mind racing in the wet (in fact, I quite enjoy it) but camping in this is going to be a real test of stamina. I may just sleep in the car and spend the night in Silverstones well-appointed bar.
Indeed, that is basically what happened… I got to Silverstone at about 6ish, bumped into a few friends, and had a quiet drink before getting my head down nice and early. It has to be said, the conditions were so bad that it would have been futile attempting to get a tent up.
Sunday, 25th October
Well, I got a fourth and a fifth, and ended up in fifth place overall in the BMCRC TZR championships, but that’s only half the story… The combination of the extra hours sleep, and my early night the night before meant that I woke pretty early to blue skies and sunshine. Early mornings are the most perfect time of day for me, so I got up, had a quick wander around, and got the kettle on. There was still several hours to kill before the first practise session, so I busied myself checking and double checking the bike over. Scrooting was, as always, about half a mile away. The first incident of the day occurred as I was pushing the bike back from the scrutineering bay. Simon Tomlinson shuffled over and asked if he could push my bike for a few yards to see if it was any heavier than his. Whilst I had no objections to this, I did feel a bit of a twat when I managed to drop his in front of the entire scrutineering queue. “I’ll take that as sabotage then” quipped Simon. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d probably improved the looks of it.
1st practise – I fired the bike up, only to hear a pronounced knocking noise between 2500 and 3500RPM. Eh? Despite frantic searching I couldn’t find the root of the knocking, so I shot off to see Martin Taymar, who had performed the rebuild. We both listened, looked, scratched our heads, and didn’t find anything obvious. “Tell you what” said Martin “Take it gently, then bring it back at the end of practise and we’ll have another look. Oh, and keep your hand on the clutch just in case”. Hmmm, those were not words to instil confidence before heading out onto a wet racetrack in a 50mph wind. Oh, did I mention that the weather had deteriorated again? Anyway, I got out for first practise, and scooted around for 5 or so laps, keeping the motor below 7000. It was hard to form any impression of the track at all, as the conditions were changing from lap to lap, and I was constantly waiting for the knocking noise to become a full seizure. After the practise, Martin and myself looked over the bike again, and still couldn’t find the cause of the knocking. “Try and get out again” said Martin “and give it a few more revs this time”.
2nd practise – I blagged my way into second practise by simply getting to the front of the queue and promising to wait at the end of the collecting area until everyone else had gone. Of course, I did no such thing and simply got onto the track as soon as possible to maximise running in time. Sorry and all that. Anyway, after a few laps warming up I decided to try and stretch the motor a bit. Out of the Luffield/Brooklands complex in third, and give it a good handful. The motor responded with a glorious rasping noise, and the bike shot forward like a starving mako shark after it’s next meal. 4th, 5th, unstable through Woodcote, then 6th and feather it down the straight into Copse. Take it easy through Copse into Becketts, then try the same trick again. Yup, just as last time the bike responded with a ferocity of acceleration I hadn’t experienced for some time. Woohoo! I didn’t want to push too hard on a new motor though, so left it there, and spent the rest of the session cruising at up to 8000. After the session I got back to the paddock, and set about hunting down the knocking noise. Mark Walford turned up at this point, and within 15 seconds had tracked it down to a vibration in the fuel tank. Sure enough, the exact cause was the fuel tank vibrating, causing one of the fuel hoses to knock against the frame. 30 seconds later I’d re-routed the fuel hose, and that was that. The engine now sounded crisp, and lovely. Phil wandered over at this point and said simply “Aye. Sounds fit alright”
1st race – The start of a race is not the ideal place to run a motor in, so I simply decided to go balls out off the line, then take it easy… We lined up on the grid, and watched the flag man. After only a few seconds he snapped the flag aloft, and pointed at the lights. First gear… Red light… rev, rev, hold the clutch on the biting point… Green… I got a flyer of a start, and must have made up at least 10 places into Copse for the first time. However, I didn’t want to push too hard, so settled for a self imposed rev limit of 8000, and tried to concentrate on being smooth. It worked – I crossed the line in 5th after being passed in the closing stages by a determined and confident Pete Fishwick, who was riding superbly well given the conditions.
2nd race – I was planning to adopt the same tactics here, and again, got a flyer of a start. I was holding 4th spot into Brooklands for the first time, when a touch of over-exuberence on cold tyres sent me sideways, and shook both feet clean off the pegs. Somehow I held the slide, and set about defending my 4th spot. Again, Pete found his way past, and began to steadily pull away from me. However, he had miscalculated his fuel load, and ran out on the penultimate lap leaving me to cross the line in 4th place and wrap up 5th place in the championship.
As far as the days events go, I’m more than happy. The engine rebuild is superb, and should now be nicely run in ready for next season. I was happy with my riding too – Apart from the slide at Brooklands I felt like I was riding smoothly, and consistently.
So that’s that then. My first full season. I’ve had my ups and downs, but all in all, I’ve had a great time, learned loads, and made some good friends. I’m sticking with racing TZRs for at least another year, as the bike is still quicker than me, and capable of far more than I am right now.