Friday, 5th March
Well, here we go – I suppose this is the start of the season proper… Due to my being skint and chronically disorganised, I had succesfully managed to avoid all chances of either practising or setting the bike up. I pondered on this as I drove down the M11 towards Lydden for my only chance at getting things sorted out before the first race of the season on Sunday. The drive was more pleasurable than usual due to the fact that for this season I’ve managed to borrow an old Transit van, so I’m no longer reliant on my aged trailer making it around the M25 one last time. I was accompanied on the journey by one James Dening, part of the TeamIxion collective, and owner of the aforementioned van. It was dark, raining, and windy by the time we got to Lydden, so we got the tent up, and had a quick bite to eat and a beer. (It has to be noted here that the term ‘got the tent up’ is a gross simplification of a process that actually involved rather a lot of some fairly impressive bad language). We were to share the tent for tonight, a prospect which I’m sure filled James with absolute terror, although he’s far too polite to mention this.
Saturday, 6th Match
The morning dawned cold, grey, wet and windy. And far too early. The reason for this was that we had forgotten to zip up the tent door the night before, so I was getting a force 9 gale straight down my sleeping bag. An auspicious start to the day… I’d slept reasonably well, so busied myself with getting the kettle on the go for a quick cuppa. However, before I could do this my old mate Scott Allaway turned up, and James had brought us all tea and bacon butties from the wonderful Gails Diner. Top man. The plan for the day was simply to get a few laps under my belt, and see how the bike behaved. On no account was I to get into any races with anyone.
James was out in the first session on his ex-Andy Woolrich CBR600, so I set about getting the bike warmed up while he got into his leathers and psyched himself up. For someone who’d never ridden either the circuit or the bike before, he looked smooth and confident from the track side. At least he did, until the bike cut out at the hairpin. He got the bike back to the paddock where the problem was quickly diagnosed: The bodywork was vibrating against the petrol tap and switching the petrol off. We switched it back on, and took the tap off. Simple.
By the time my session came the weather had detiorated from the rain and wind to snow. errk. First lap on new tyres, on a cold track with snow flurries… I peeled into the elbow ever so gently, and the back just came right round on me. I ended up pointing at roughly ninety degrees to my intended trajectory, but at least I stayed on. Somehow. I did about 10 laps in total before getting too cold to carry on, and riding back to the paddock. The bike appeared to be handling well enough, but it really was impossible to tell given the conditions. I skipped the next session in the interests of avoiding hypothermia. For my second session I found myself out with Charlie Blackmore, who is hotly tipped to be one of the front runners in this years TZR championship. Of course, my intentions not to get into a race with anyone went straight out the window, and we had a hell of a scrap. I was encouraged that I was able to stay with him, and even more impressed when I finished the session and was clocked at 51.something seconds. Not bad at all for the conditions. I did one more session in the afternoon, but by then the weather had got worse again, so I really couldn’t get any useful information about the bike, other than the fact that I needed to tape the radiator up to try and get some heat into the motor. At the end of the day we packed up, and headed off to Brands ready for tomorrows fun…
Sunday, 7th March
Pitter patter pitter patter pitter… Oh great. Another wet day at Brands. One day I hope to spend a sunny day there. I was musing on this as I got the bike ready for the days fun, when Phil and Nick sauntered over to admire my new paint job. “We’re the fashion police, and you’re nicked” quipped Phil, who’s TZR was unanimously voted the scruffiest in the paddock last year. Pot-kettle, kettle-pot. Scrooting was the usual challenge, as we’d parked at the bottom of the hill again. However, while I queued up, James wandered off, and came back 10 minutes later… “When you’re done here get your car and come along to garage 22. It’s empty, and we don’t have to pay”. Things were looking up…
By now, the track was flooded. Simply trying to stay on the track was a problem, particularly at the new Graham Hill bend, where the new tarmac was still leaching oil to the surface. However, the was the least of my problems… I came out of Clearways on the second lap, and nailed the throttle. 4th, 5th, and wobble wobble wobble… F***ing hell. I couldn’t see where I was going, and could barely hold on. I throttled off, and thought it was probably just a bit of instability caused by the greasy track surface. I pottered round Paddock, Druids and Graham Hill and nailed it again along the Cooper not-really-very Straight. Same thing again. Bugger. My front wheel was out of balance, and I didn’t have any balance weights with me. Double bugger. I settled for simply completing the practise session, and getting back to the garage for tea.
A dreadful start saw me mid pack for Paddock, and I just went backwards from there. I couldn’t see where I was going along the straights, due to the wobbly wheel syndrome. This also made peeling in for Paddock a leap of faith rather than any planned tactics. I was losing two or three places a lap here. Eventually I got a bit hot-headed, and peeled in for the left hander at Surtees a little bit early. This threw me onto entirely the wrong line for the right hander, and I hit the white line on the inside of the corner. Both wheels let go at the same time, and my feet got shaken clean off the pegs. After wrestling the thing back to a semblance of control I noticed that another two competitors had dived up the inside.
Front row… And that was the highlight. Again, I just pottered around, unable to make up any places. A big slide at Graham Hill nearly introduced me to the mudbath on the outside. One mildly entertaining moment occured on the first lap as I approached Graham Hill near the front of the pack… I was just about to peel in, when I noticed a seat unit overtaking me on the inside. I had no option but to brake in a straight line, and wait for the errant bodywork to complete it’s overtaking manoevure. I’ve got no idea what happened to the rider, but once again, half the field dived up the inside.
I was queueing up in the collecting area, when Pete Fishwick sidled over…
“Shit, isn’t it?”
“Yup. I just want to go home.”
And that just about summed things up.
I have no idea where I finished in any of my races. 10th maybe? It’s very difficult to pick any positive points from todays performance.
Sunday, 14th March
Spent the day in the garage getting the TZR sorted. The front wheel was, as suspected, chronically out of balance. In the end I had to stick 120g of lead on there to get the thing vaguely near balance. Hopefully that should tame the front end a bit…
I’ve also had to withdraw my entry from next weekends Lydden meeting. I’m skint, and just cannot afford to run there.
Friday, 19th March
Drove down to Lydden in preperation for tomorrows spectating. I’d known that it was to be frustrating having to watch, but as soon as I saw the circuit I knew I’d made a mistake in withdrawing my entry. Arse. Anyway, the lack of an entry in tomorrows racing did have an upside, which became apparent as I finished my fifth pint. Luckily I’d already pitched my tent while still sober, so I could just relax, and enjoy a good evening.
Saturday, 20th March
Up early, as I was looking after team-mate James Dening’s bike for the day. I didn’t even have time for tea before scrooting, as some idiot had decreed that this was to take place at 7:30am. Urrrgh. Luckily though, James brought me a cuppa whilst queueing up. I started to feel human, and noticed the weather, bright sunshine and blue skies. I cursed myself again for not entering the race. We got the bike through scrooting with a promise that we’d modify the footpeg, and proceeded to do absolutely nothing about it.
The racing was brilliant, in all classes. Although I’m a bit biased, I rated the TZRs as the best racing of the day, with any number of riders seemingly up for the race win. Simon Tomlinson, in particular, looked very, very good, and notched up three second places. A solid performance in anyones book. The one outstanding performance of the day though had to be Shane Byrne on his CBR600. Lap after lap he was leaving big black lines both into and out of Paddock, a fearsomely quick, blind, off- camber right hander. If he was Italian or Spanish he’d be World Champion and a millionaire by now.
My fellow TeamIxion members had a day of mixed fortunes… Roger took a 1st, a 2nd and a 4th, which is bloody impressive considering this was his first real race on a new bike since breaking his leg last year. Paul got punted off in race one, but backed this up with a couple of good solid finishes. Jase had more mechanical gremlins rob him of a good finish in the 2nd race, but made up for this with a solid performance in the 3rd. James, in his first ever race, was consistently in the top ten and scorched around in 48 seconds. Very impressive.
Sunday, 21st March
Spent the majority of the day in the garage, getting everything ready for my next race at Snett in two weeks. After my poor showing at Brands recently I’m determined to get back into the swing of things. To this end I’ve checked, and double checked everything. The last thing I want is another daft mechanical failure like last time there when my powervalve cover fell off. Everything seemed in pretty good order, but this is hardly surprising given the fact that I rode so bloody slowly at Brands. I’ve even polished the bike. That should ensure it ends up in the gravel.
Thursday, 24th March
Expensive day… Ordered up the bits & bobs needed to get the ‘blade out at Snett, and entered the KRC and BMCRC Snett rounds… The ‘blade parts were ordered from TeamIxion sponsor Rhencullen and they are being sold to me at trade price. Thank Gawd.
Cost so far:
‘blade bits: £400
KRC Snett entry: £150
BMCRC Snett entry: £120
The KRC Snett entry has been returned, as they are over subscribed… Whilst this is a bit of a shame, in a way I’m quite relieved as it gives me a bit more time to get the thing ready, and saves me a couple of hundred quid.