Monday, 5th July
I deliberately didn’t touch the bike over the weekend, as according to Nostradamus the world was due to end yesterday. I didn’t fancy wasting the whole weekend cleaning spark plugs etc. etc. only for the four horsemen of the apocalypse to spoil things.
Anyway, this means that I spent all night tonight out in the garage getting things ready for Sundays outing at Brands:
- Clean chain, link by link
- Clean, and check spark plugs
- Clean, and examine carbs and jets
- Clean, and check brakes
- Clean, and examine exhausts
- Fabricate some nifty little brackets from aluminium to stop the exhausts fracturing so readily
- Check tyres
- Check suspension
- Replace gearbox oil
- Clean bodywork
- Check wheel bearings
- Check head bearings
- Put battery on charge
- Clean swinging arm
- Check powervalve alignment
- Probably a few other things too
If all this seems a lot of work, it is. But, racing is at least 50% preperation. It’s easier to lose a race in the garage than to lose it on the track I reckon. The one thing that I haven’t done, which I probably should, is to check the piston crowns. I’d like to order up a new set of pistons in the next couple of weeks, but my finances just don’t allow it right now. I know this is a bit of a long shot, but if anyone reading this is stuck for ideas for a wedding present, a pair of 1.75mm oversize pistons would be brilliant, ta.
I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty nervous about this race at Brands. I dunno why really, as I’m riding faster than ever before, and it’s only a matter of time before I break back into the top 5. I think it’s because I lost two places on the last lap there a few weeks ago, and I don’t want it to happen again. To this end, I’ve been feverishly studying lines through Paddock Hill Bend courtesy of the MCN circuit guide.
Wednesday, 7th July
Double checked everything again, and in cleaning the gear lever I discovered that it had fractured, and would not have made another race. I’m glad I discovered this in the garage and not while heading towards Paddock Hill at 120. I replaced it with a spare, which while not being as nice (the old one was an aluminium casting from a VFR1000R – The replacement is the original nasty steel Yamahaha item) will at least hold together and enable me to finish the race.
Thursday, 8th July
Final preparation for the weekends racing, and picked up James’ van.
Cost so far:
Brake pads: £25
Saturday, 10th July
Drove to Brands via Crouch End so I could drop off Scottys ‘blade that has been cluttering up my garage for the past few months. The journey was pretty uneventful really, apart from getting lost (twice) while attempting to locate the paddock entrance. Anyway, I eventually found a spot to park up, and set about getting things ready for tomorrow. There wasn’t really much to do, so in the end I settled for pestering Roger and Rik for the evening and nicking their beer. Cheers.
Sunday, 11th July
Just as I was going out for practise, I noted that the new gear lever was fouling, making it difficult to select 1st gear. Whilst this wouldn’t have been a problem once I was moving, it would have made the start rather entertaining. So, I fiddled around with it until it didn’t foul anything anymore, and went out.
It was horrible. The gear lever was now too high, and all my concentration went on trying to change gear rather than learning anything about the track. I came in after three laps, adjusted it, and went out again. Much better. Still not as nice as my old gear lever, but it’s the best I’ve got right now.
Off row 3 for this one, and made a fairly half-hearted start followed by some rather timid riding resulting in something like 12th place. Not good enough. Must try harder.
Row 7 this time, and actually made a corker of a start, and was 2nd or 3rd TZR into Paddock. Lady luck crapped on me once more though, and the race was red flagged at Druids after Martin Dickens was punted into touch by a TZR. (Good to see an LC coming off 2nd best for once though). The restart was a complete disaster. Bogged down off the line, rode like a woman through the first lap, then set about charging. I could see my mate Nick Wiles ahead, but just couldn’t find the 10 yards I needed. I know where I was losing it – Clearways. Have to work on that one. Made a rather, errm, agressive pass on a 350LC which nearly had him on the grass at Surtees, but he would have done the same to me. I think I got 13th this time after being caught by Simon Tomlinson (riding with a broken collarbone) at Clearways on the last lap. I just couldn’t hold a tight line, and he could. I think I may need a new front tyre. It has been on there all season after all.
Row 3 again, and as if by magic, a TZR sized gap appeared on rows one and two at the start, and I made the most of it. It all got a bit physical, particularly the drop from Druids to Graham Hill with Simon Ffoulkes and myself bouncing off each other several times. He had the inside line though, so I had to give way and let him take the corner. However, he missed a gear coming out, so I nipped past, only to miss a gear myself, and let Paul Ling past both of us. Grrrr. I was determined to hold off Simon this time, and I did just that until Paddock on lap 5, when the yellow flags came out. Sean Rix was touring through the corner with his arm raised, so I backed off. Pat Herron and Simon were having none of this and promptly dived underneath me. Great. Another two places lost under a yellow flag. I think I got 8th or 9th or something. Yes, I complained about losing places under a yellow flag again, and once more, f**k all was done about it. I may as well not bother. In contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the race. It was good to find the agression needed to start banging fairings again, and once more I was only 20s or so behind the winner at the line.
Much as I love racing with bemsee, and think that most of the officials need canonising for the work they put in, I am getting thouroughly pissed off with racing with people who think a yellow flag is either
a) for decorative use
b) an optional request to maybe think about taking things easy.
You can bet that had an oil flag been held out with the yellow, they would have taken notice of it.
All in all, it was a good weekend. I was slow in the first race, but that was purely down to some overly cautious riding. The third race, in contrast, was pretty much wheel-to-wheel all the way with Simon. Good fun, and exactly how TZR racing should be. The whole class has become much more competitive this season, with some much closer finishes.
Tuesday, 20th July
Oh blimey. All sorts of things have been happening in the past few days, but I’ve just not had time to write them up. Here’s the salient points:
- Brought Simon Morleys old trailer off him for the knock down price of 150 quid. This is a complete bargain, and I feel vaguely guilty for buying it so cheaply.
- Agreed to sell my old trailer for 50 quid to offset some of the cost.
- Ordered some new pistons from Graham File, ‘cos the old ones have been in there all season.
- As I won’t have time to fit the new pistons before going to France I thougt I’d better have a quick look and see how the old ones were. The pistons themselves were OK, but the head gasket was dead. It had been blowing for some time. Bum.
- Blagged a head gasket from fellow TeamIxion member Paul Little, and he’ll bring it to France. Top man.
- To get things running with the current gasket and pistons, I picked up a tube of Yamabond gasket sealant from my local Yamaha dealer, PH Allins in Cambridge. At 17quid a tube I was expecting great things. I most definitely was not expecting to be sold a tube that had previously been used in their workshop. However, by the time I noticed it was too late to take it back, as I needed to sort out my gasket problems. Instead I’ll just name them here again for all to see. PH Allins in Cambridge. Sold me second hand part used gear as new. Cowboys.
- Sold a spare set of TZR wheels to another TeamIxion rider, Mike Cater. He wants them for an MZ he’ll be racing next year. Strange chap…
And that’s about that. Everything is just about ready for the coming weekend in France at Croix. I’m feeling kind of OK about it. It’s my least favourite track of the year, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it. Besides, last year I got a 3rd place here. In fact, it was the last trophy I won. It’s about time I got another.
Cost so far:
Pistons & gaskets: £120
Sold spare wheels: £-70
Thursday, 22nd July
Knocked off early from work, and drove the 150 miles to Marks so we could load up my kit into his van and complete the journey to France. If it wasn’t for Mark offering me van space I wouldn’t have gone, as I couldn’t get a crossing in time. Miraculously, Sea Farce completely failed to screw up our journey, so we ended up on the right ferry at the right time and enjoying a cold beer. Spirits were high.
We got to the circuit about 2am or so, and set about pitching tent on what appeared to be a disused angle grinder dump.
Friday, 23rd July
The original plan for the day was to potter around, and generally do very little. However, I managed to get an afternoons practise pass for the knockdown price of £25 (Thanks Bernie) so set about doing just that. Nothing spectacular happened, so once practise was over Scotty, Faye and I went to the local supermarket to stock up on beer & food for the weekend. The evenings barbie was a good one, and I was fervently enjoying life. Sunshine, barbie, the company of good friends, a race track, and a weekend of adrenalin. Who could ask for more? When I’m doddering around in a bath chair (or sidecar, whichever comes sooner) I’ll remember times like these.
Saturday, 24th July
Up early, and into a breakfast of tea and pain au chocolat. Delightfully pan-European, and pretty damned tasty too.
Off row 6 for this one, and actually got a reasonable start. We were gridded behind the LCs for this one, and I managed to barge my way past a few of these. The faster boys in front had already started to clear off by about lap 2, so I tried to get on the back of Ryan Harris, who is riding consistently quickly this year. This plan started to work rather well until he did a good job of getting the back end to overtake the front and was flicked off in a vicious highside. The rest of the race went a bit like this:
Over start line flat in top. Wait until the red cone on the right of the track, then brake like hell for the right hand hairpin. Down 4, and try to take a late apex. The track curves back on itself slightly here, and you need to be careful about getting the power on, as it’s a good place to lose grip and crash. Over the kerb on the way out with the associated wobbles, and up to 4th. Down to 3rd again at the change in track surface for the left hairpin. I loved this corner. Fast, grippy, and cambered, I was scraping my knee, calf, ankle, toe, fairing, exhaust, footpeg and gear lever here. Out of here and make ground left for the double apex right hairpin. The idea here is to take it in one smooth sweep, and to do this, you have to miss the first apex by about two feet, drift out wide, and nail the throttle hard in third to follow the turn through whilst lifting your knee to avoid the bumpy kerb. Good fun, but several people (including Ryan) came to grief here over the weekend. Use the track apron on the way out of here. It’s bumpy, but not so much as to be dangerous. Just a little exciting. Overrev in third up to the blind 90 degree right hander under the bridge, and brake hard when it felt about right. The lack of any marker that I could find was hindering me here, and more than once I missed the apex completely. Shortshift into 4th, whilst simultaeneously hauling the bike hard right to left and negotiating the violently bumpy area where the tarmac has started to subside, and straight into the flat in 4th kink. Up to 5th as soon as you can get your foot under the lever, then almost immediatlely back down to 2nd for the final, and tightest hairpin. This corner has an incredibly late apex, and in fact, you turn in past the geometric apex of the corner. I never once got this right. Tuck everything in, and back down the start finish straight for more.
On about lap 5 of this mayhem Nick came past me on the brakes, which is something he’s doing more and more this season. I think I need to brush up on my braking technique.
Fastest lap: 1:06.82
Off row 2 for this one, and had a corker of a start. Held 4th for the first lap, but things were about to go dramatically wrong:
Flying down the straight on lap 5 I went for the brakes, only to find the lever coming right back to the bar. My initial thought was “Fuck. I’m going to die” closely followed by “geronimo!” as I headed for the gravel at 120mph. I pumped the brakes again, and they came on. Smoke streamed from my front tyre as I tried to stop, and I could feel the back starting to come around. I wrestled the thing to a walking pace with about a foot of tarmac to spare. I’d missed the apex by about 5 feet, but had also missed the rapidly approaching gravel. Of course, during all this excitement half the field dived past.
Fastest lap: 1:06.42
My normal last race performance saw me going more slowly, and being passed hand over fist. I was off row 6 again for this one, and conscious of my episode in the last race, was treating my brakes with loads of respect. Consequently I was passed on the brakes countless times. These thoughts were confirmed by Mark and Scotty, both of whom were watching from the trackside and commented that I was losing 5 yards each corner on the brakes.
Fastest lap: 1:06.51
The evenings activities centred around beer and a barbie of epic proportions. The Ronketti Feast of Sausage will go down in history as possibly the most conspicuous event of over-consumption of red meat in human history. Damn tasty though.
Oh, and Paul – See? Told you I’d update this sooner or later…
Sunday, 25th July
I woke early, and decided to visit the toilet before the queues started. The toilet facilities at Croix are laughable. The worst I have ever had to put up with, bar none. This would normally be bad enough, but I was also suffering an attack of the raving fart-squitters, probably brought on by the 25 sausages I had eaten the night before. Anyhow, I queued up along with everyone else who had the same idea, and eventually took my turn. My current run of luck of things mechanical reared it’s ugly head again, as I was presented with a toilet that wouldn’t flush properly, and the most immense bowel movement of late 20th century history. I tried. I really did. I flushed the bastard thing three times. Eventually I bowed my head and marched out quickly hoping nobody would see me:
“morning Neil” said my mate Duncan as he ventured into my freshly vacated pot, complete with several lurking floaters. I just wanted to crawl away and hide.
Later that day I was walking through the paddock only to be greeted by Dunc with a cheery “I’m never going to the khazi after you again” closely followed by the recounting of the above tale to the entire upper paddock area.
Anyway. On with the days racing…
Row 6 again, and had a brilliant time. For the entire race I was scrapping with Ian Read and Martin Dickens on LCs, and Nick on his TZR. Eventually the race was red flagged after Pat Herron took a tumble at the top hairpin. I was acutely conscious of the fact that I was holding up Ian on the brakes, and getting in the way of his battle with Martin, but at the same time I didn’t want to back off and let them go, as Nick would have followed them through. Whilst we were held on the track after the red flags I spoke to Ian about this, and his reply was basically that it was every man for himself out there, and as long as I didn’t do anything dirty it was OK by him. If you ever get to read this, thanks for being so patient when presented with a mobile chicane. You are a gentleman and I owe you a beer.
Again, I had a complete brake failure in this race, but luckily it was as I was riding off the track after the stoppage. Sadly I was riding straight towards race director Dave Stewart at the time, but managed to pump the lever to get some pressure back before doing something very unpopular.
Fastest lap: 1:06.49
The best race of the year… The first attempt was stopped after 1 lap due to a spill, but on the restart I got a flyer. Up into 5th place from the start, and rode my spuds off in an attempt to keep things that way. By the end of the race I was closing on third place man Ben Swyres, and would dearly have loved another couple of laps to see if I could have passed him. Had a couple of slidey moments, but nothing too dramatic. If anything they only served to gee me up a little bit with the thinking that I was finally started to find the pace. As it happens, I was.
Fastest lap: 1:05.53
It was good to end the weekend on a high note. My brakes need some serious attention now before the next race, as I don’t fancy the Cadwell hairpin with no brakes. I’ve also got some new pistons to lob in there to try and perk the motor up a bit, as it was definitely amongst the slowest TZRs out there.
Cost so far:
(I know I’ve forgotten something large here).
Friday, 30th July
Due to my new PC eating my hard disk, this weeks lovingly crafted, devestatingly witty and painfully incisive commentary on the glamorous world of club racing has all been lost. Instead, the brief synopsis is that I’ve spent all week up to my armpits in grime and snot out in the garage replacing the pistons and rings, and changing the brake fluid. Almost miraculously, everything seems to have gone back together first time, with none of the traditional mechanical shenanigans.
Cost so far:
Head gasket: £10
Brake fluid: £5