Well, next years colour scheme has been decided, so it’s about time I got on and actually painted it. I can’t in any way, shape or form claim to be an expert at design or art, so it was with some trepidation that I embarked on this particular course of action… The first thing to get the treatment was the mudguard. Well, if I’m going to screw something up with my now famed ineptitude it may as well be something small and insignificant. The old paint on there was gently rubbed down to provide a key for the primer, which was duly applied. That was easy. Then several coats of paint over a period of days, and voila – The finished item looks lovely. Flushed with success I progressed to the fuel tank. The same process was started, but once the primer had dried I realised that an awful lot more preparation was needed… The old paint had crazed all over the place, something which only really became apparent once the primer had dried. So I set about sanding all the paint off. The first coat of primer came off quickly and easily. The next layer of pink was about a foot thick, and took hours. Then I got to the white, which was even thicker. Then the black. Then some purple. Then some green. Then some more black. Then some more white. Then some blue. Finally, I got down to the original primer. This process took about three hours, and revealed a patch of primer about 2 inches square. Quite obviously sanding down the whole tank would require either a power sander or an act of God. Sadly I have access to neither. So a plan was hatched, and a bottle of Nitromors was liberally applied, left to do its stuff, and the ensuing gloop scraped off. This seemed to do the trick nicely, and the fuel tank appears to have lost about an inch in most dimensions and several pounds in weight.
I don’t even want to talk about the wheels.
The finished article should look like this:
Blimey. Several things now seem to have happened in short succesion, leaving me precious little time to write these pages, let alone do anything sensible like getting the bike ready for next season…
Firstly, I’ve been offered a ride on a fireblade in next years KRC endurance series. OK, so it’s going to cost an arm and a leg, but I’ve often fancied a go at the Snett 6 hour, and the idea of riding someone elses ‘blade sounds like a whole lot of fun…
Secondly, my season started early this year with a moped endurance race at Lydden on 23rd Jan. The original plan was to drive down on the Friday night, meet up with my team mates Mark and Dave, and have a few beers and a chat. However, the weather was so disgusting that I decided to drive down on the Saturday morning. The downside of this approach became obvious the moment my alarm clock went off at 4am… Welcome to the 1999 season. It was still dark when I reached Lydden, and there was an hour or so to go before scrooting, so I had a quick kip. Mark and Dave then turned up, so we got our kit scrooted and went on a hunt for the bike we were to ride for the day. To cut a long story short, the Team Orange FS1E (fizzy orange) that we were to ride for the day turned up, and we scooted out for practise. The track surface was greasy, but really it made no difference, as we only had about 3.5bhp to play with. The only nasty bit was the newly introduced chicane, built right in the place where a small rivulet flowed across the track.
The format for the day was two heats each of two hours, and a final of one hour for the top 50% of places. We were allocated a place in the second heat, and despite the fizzy being amongst the slowest things in a straight line we were reasonably confident in getting a place in the final. The plan was to run 20 minute sessions each, until we killed the bike or ran out of time. Dave went first, and quickly got into a nice rhythm, posting times in the 1:08 bracket. It was impossible to tell, but I reckon that after twenty minutes we were probably about half way up the field. Mark then took over, and rode like a man posessed. Lap times started in the 1:03 bracket, and culminated in a blistering 1:01.3. Watching Mark attack the hairpin was scary… The bike was tying itself in knots with both ends sliding around alarmingly. 20 mins later it was my turn. I quickly got the hang of things: Don’t throttle off. At all. This was all going rather well until I noticed sparks coming off the brake lever as I negotiated the hairpin. Bugger. I picked the bike up, threw the seat pad away, and carried on. On ending my session I was rather surprised to find I was clocking 1:01.5. Easily enough for a place in the finals.
It was not to be though. A loose chain, and a mechanical problem that saw lap times drop from 1:01 to 1:09 put paid to our ambitions. We gave the bike back to Team Orange, thanked them politely for the loan of it, and went home. I’ve got a whacking great bruise on my bot, but I can’t think of a better way of spending forty quid.
|Looks OK…||Getting the hang of it||Yeehah!||Ooops||How to do it|
Well, after much swearing, cursing and general faffing around the painting is finally finished. This is in no small part due to my decision not to bother with the finer points of surface preperation, and just to prime, and paint over what was already there. I’m sure this plan will backfire on me later in the season when the paint starts flaking off to reveal the previous Bertie Basset colour scheme, but right now I don’t care. The things only going to end up in a gravel trap at some point anyway, so there’s no point in trying to make it perfect. The fuel tank, however, is a work of art. So I’m fully expecting that to be the first thing damaged in this years quest for the softer parts of the gravel traps around the country. I’ve given up on the wheels, and will be sending them away to be blasted and powder coated in the next week.
However, all is not doom and gloom… Whilst doing the f***ing painting, I took the chance to renovate the wiring with the help of the excellent Vehicle Wiring Products catalogue. (No, I’m not sponsored by them, more’s the pity). To this end all of the dreadful little crimp on bullet connectors have been replaced by snap together mini-connectors, and the ‘hopeless water trap’ toggle switch I was using for the ignition has been replaced by a waterproof toggle switch, which comes complete with a rather nifty little condom type device to keep the water out. I cannot, for the life of me remember the phone number for Vehicle Wiring Products, but if anyone out there is doing any re-wiring, get the number from the electronic yellow pages and give them a call. The catalogue is free, and they’re based in Ilkestone, Derbyshire. Highly recommended.
I’ve also come to the decision that I cannot afford to contest the full bemsee series this year, as well as the KRC endurance rounds. (The reason for this is my impending marriage costing enough to pay off the national debt of several Latin American economies). So, my race diary for 1999 now looks like this:
|7th March||Brands Hatch (Indy)||Bemsee championship|
|18th April||Snetterton||KRC endurance|
|15th May||Oulton Park||TZR Tour|
|5th June||Bishopstown, NI||KRC endurance|
|12th/13th June||Brands Hatch (GP) (Woohoo!)||TZR Tour|
|31st July||Oulton Park||KRC endurance|
|7th/8th August||Cadwell Park||TZR Tour|
|4th/5th September||Snetterton||TZR Tour|
|19th September||Mallory Park||TZR Tour|
|2nd Oct||Oulton Park||KRC endurance|
All of the above TZR tour rounds will also count for the bemsee championship too, so at least I’ll make a few appearances there. However, this means that I’ll definately lose my 5th place I gained last year, which is a shame. There will also be two other TZR tour rounds to be wedged in there at some point, but the dates and venues for these have yet to be decided.
Cost so far:
Bemsee membership: £15
KRC membership: £13
ACU license: £22
Brands Hatch entry: About £80 or so.
Lydden entry: £65
Moped race entry: £40
Paints etc.: About £85
Wiring stuff: £25
Wheel coating: £75 (for three)
Race numbers: £1.25
Within a week of writing the above I’ve decided to enter the Lydden round on 20th March as well. I’m just going to have to find the money from somewhere… Anyway, I’ll worry about that when it comes to it. I’ve also started prepping the fireblade ready for its endurance outings. By and large, there’s not much I want to do, for two main reasons:
- The aforementioned financial difficulties
- 120bhp is enough to be getting on with anyway
So, the plans for the ‘blade are:
- Dynojet stage 1 kit for driveability
- Steel braided hoses and SBS RQ pads for stoppability
- Aluminium sprockets
- Lightweight bodywork
- Removal of lights, indicators, stand etc.
- Solid footpegs
Some of this work I’ve already done – I’ve removed the road bodywork, lights, indicators and stuff. The airbox has been removed in readyness for the application of the Dynojet kit. Non-essential electrickery has been removed. In an effort to make this all a bit more financially bearable, I approached my local bike shop, Fast Lane of Bury St. Edmunds with a view to a bit of sponsorship:
“Do you sponsor local riders?”
“Yes, we’re sponsoring ourselves this year”
“Really? What class are you racing in?”
“We’re doing the KRC endurance rounds”
Looks like it will be a popular series. This enthusiasm is in stark contrast to my other local dealer, Bowers, also of Bury St. Edmunds. When I asked them about sponsorship all I got was a grunted “Write a letter and we’ll think about it”. I did so, and they didn’t even bother replying. I don’t expect sponsorship from anyone. What I would like though is the common courtesy to reply to a letter. Anyway, after my last encounter with them (“Have you got any wheel bearings for a 1987 TZR250?” “That’s a Suzuki isn’t it?”) I’m bloody glad that I won’t be dealing with them.
This section of the diary is getting rather full now. Must have been a busy month… Despite all my protestations of financial ruin I’ve now gone and entered for the Snett meeting at the start of April as well. So I think I’ll just shut up and add it to the bill:
Cost so far:
Snetterton entry: £120
Wheel bearings: £36
3Com Palm III: £130
Knee sliders: £25
Brake pads: £30
All of the above are legitimate racing expenses. The oil is in an effort to buy in bulk at a tenner a litre rather than full price of 14 quid, so that’s saved, errrm, 24 quid. The wheel bearings are because I had them out when I sent the wheels to be blasted and coated, so at £4.50 each it makes sense to replace them with new. The palm III is, errrm, well, OK, so it was cheap. I’m trying to justify it’s expense (although at an RRP of 300 quid I got a good deal anyway) and the only way I can do this was to put it on the race budget.
However, more good news! Firstly, Bob Keen of BKVP sport has agreed to video next years TZR Tour and flog the videos. (More details of the embryonic tour can be found here). Secondly, when buying the wheel bearings I broached the topic of sponsorship with a Cambridge based bike shop, and they seem quite receptive to the idea. I’ve got to go and meet the manager this weekend, so I’d best wear a clean shirt.
All the enthusiasm was misplaced. The manager of the shop really couldn’t have been less bothered about even talking to me, let alone taking any kind of interest in what I was doing. I despair. I’ve got to find some kind of sponsorship from somewhere, else I can’t finish this season. Mind you, I see that Niall Mackenzie is having trouble getting sponsorship this year, despite being the British Superbike champion, and the most successful GP 500 rider from Britain for several years. So at least I’m in hallowed company. Anyway, on the bright side, I picked up my wheels from the powder coating place, and they’re gorgeous. They look better than new. Highly recommended.