Friday, 3rd September
Returned from my honeymoon in time to get my new front tyre fitted ready for tomorrows Snetterton action. The tyre was a wedding present from some friends who’d heard me bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t afford a new one to finish the season on, but it’s still a legitimate racing expense:
Cost so far:
Wedding: £3,500 or so.
Saturday, 4th September
Imitation, as the saying goes, is the sincerest form of flattery. I make no secret of my enormous respect for Roger Ford as a rider, and in my early days as a racer, attempted to model my style on his. However, one facet of his technique I had not mastered was the ability to fall off before even making it to the start line.
And so to this weekend…
“F**k. I forgot to scrub the tyre” I thought to myself as I flew backwards off the circuit at Riches (the first corner on the circuit). Whilst this manoevure is an extraordinarily popular one at race weekends it takes a particular kind of twat to manage it on the first lap of practise. Still, at least I got to be the first rider in the new bemsee recovery van, even if the driver did make me shake the mud off my boots first. Damage was limited to sticky-out bits – Footrest hanger, fairing, brake lever and hand, all of which were patched up with cable ties, duct tape, spare bits and painkillers.
Race one – For this race I had removed my fairing completely, and managed the best wheelie of my life off the start line. (F**kwittedness strikes again – In the heat of battle I’d completely forgotten about the reduction of weight over the front wheel). By the time I could see the horizon again just about everyone had cleared off, so I set about chasing… Found, and passed Simon Ffoulkes by draughting him down the Revett straight and outbraking him into the Esses. Then found Clive Larret, and set about the same thing. He passed me back into Riches, so I passed him back again into the Esses. This process continued for most of the race, and was a whole lot of fun. I just got Clive at the line. Best lap 1:27.01. Not really good enough, as I know I can do 1:25s here.
Race two – I’d refitted the fairing, and got a blinder of a start. Passed loads into Sear, then loads more braking into the Esses. At this point my fairing mounts gave up the ghost, neatly jettisoning my fairing at those foolhardy enough to try and draught me. I pulled off.
Race three – Again, I’d removed the fairing, and again, got a flyer of a start. 2nd into Riches, and 3rd into Sear. The fast boys drifted past me on the straight, and I got in their tow, and hung on. It worked. During the course of the race only two people got past me – Dave Brookes on a 350LC and Charlie Blackmore, currently 2nd in the championship. Finished 6th with a best lap of 1:24.81. My best yet.
My hand is now the size of a small continent, so it’s out with the Nurofen to try and stop the swelling. And I’ve got to fit a new mudguard to the bike, as I broke the old one and it doubles as a fork brace. Trying to brake into Sear on spindly TZR forks with no brace is best described as entertaining.
Sunday, 5th September
Sunday morning I busied myself with bodging my fairing back on by drilling holes in strategic places and cable tying it. I didn’t want a repeat performance of yesterdays DNF.
Race one was an absolute blinder. I got an OKish start, but the two rows of LCs in front of me aimed for exactly the bit of tarmac I wanted, leaving me and Melvin Eke nowhere to go. This, I thought, was a bit of a bonus as Melvin is blisteringly fast round Snett, and I thought I might hang onto his tail for a lap or two. Huh! No chance. We got out of Sear, and he got huge drive onto the straight and vanished into the middle distance. So, I busied myself with chasing down Simon Ffoulkes, which I did. I forget how many times we passed and re-passed each other. He had the edge going into Russels, but every time in doing this would lose the drive on the way out, and allow me to re-pass him on the start finish straight. On about the 6th lap he did the dirty on me and drifted hard left as I was alongside, forcing me off the track. I guess it was a legitimate move, ‘cos his front wheel was definately in front of mine, so it was his line. Still, I just went up the inside next lap instead. Finished in 6th place in the end, under half a second in front of Simon. We both got a good round of applause from the marshals on the cool down lap, so I guess they enjoyed the battle as much as we did. Best lap 1:26.
Race two was a repeat performance, albeit a bit further up the field due to having a row three grid this time. Saw Paul get a pretty good start from Row 1, so tried to tuck in behind and get a tow up the straight. However, his bike was faster than mine, and by the time we got the the Esses I’d lost the tow. No worries, as I got a good line through the bomb-hole, and slingshotted my way onto his tail by Corams, and shot past on the way into Russels. I got my head down, and went for it. After about 7 laps I was feeling a bit knackered, so looked over my shoulder to see if I could take a bit of a breather. Hah! Simon must have been about 2 inches off my back wheel! In my efforts to hold him off I screwed up Sear, and let him through. However, I was running lower gearing, and could get the drive on the straights. I sat behind for a lap, wondering whether to pass on the start straight or the Revett straight, when the two leading LC kamakazis went past. OK, I didn’t want to screw up their battle for the lead, but equally didn’t want to get them between me and Simon, so I made up my mind to go for it there and then. I did so, and managed to get back in front of Simon and stay there for the rest of the race, whilst trying to wave Pat Herron (LC) through on the inside at Sear. It worked. We all crossed the line in about 2 seconds, with the three LCs in front, then me, then Simon. Result was a 5th, again with 1:26 laps.
I dunno why I was slower today than yesterday, but on talking to my mate Phil Rollason, a demon 125 pilot, he said that he needed to go down three jet sizes on the Sunday to compensate for the change in temperature and pressure. Also yesterday I had the benefit of a tow from Charlie Blackmore, which always helps.
All in all, a very good weekend, in spite of the crash. I got good points from every race I finished, and felt good doing so.
Monday, 6th September
Stripped the bike from the weekends activities, and noticed that along with the fairing damage, the battery tray was rubbing on the rear wheel, and the right hand exhaust had come loose at the barrel. This may go some way to explaining why I was running slower on the Sunday than the Saturday, although I’m not sure. I badly need to get my pipes seen to by a good tuner anyway, so over the winter they’ll be going to Martin at Taymars or Graham File for a tune.
Sunday, 12th September
Spent the day in the garage getting things ready for next weekends Mallory meeting.Along with the normal activities of checking oil, bearings, brake pads etc. etc. I also went over everything and cleaned it all up, checking for crash damage in the process. Luckily, it would seem that there was no serious damage (apart from my wrist, which still hurts like hell) so everything should be ready to go next weekend. I’ve jetted down again, as the plug chop at Snett indicated that things were running pretty rich, and Mallory has no real straghts to speak of. A new set of spark plugs and change of gearbox oil completed the process.
I really don’t know what to expect at Mallory, and to be honest, I’m nervous about racing there. Whilst I’m now running well up in the top 10, and as often as not recently in the top 5, Mallory is an odd circuit. I have no knowledge of the place, and I know several people who’ve been seriously hurt there.
Saturday, 18th September
At some point in the week I formed a cunning plot with fellow TeamIxion member and top 600 pilot Simon Morley to travel up to the circuit in convoy. This plan seemed to work remarkably well at first. My old TZR nemesis Scott Allaway joined me in my borrowed van, and we set about following Simon and his unicycling mechanic and navigator Stoo Wakeling. However, after three hours we began to question the navigational abilities of the pair in front as we crossed the A5 for the 4th time. We did, eventually make it to the circuit, but if you asked me which route I took I could not tell you. For the first time in my life I managed to blag a parking spot next to the scrutineering bay, so feeling smug I went to the bar, had a couple of beers in the company of Scott, Nick, Simon, Paul, Pete and probably a few other TZR racers as well. A very nice way to spend an evening in fact.
Sunday, 19th September
fart. giggle. fart. giggle. fart. giggle. fart. giggle… Scotty and I had kipped in the back of the van, and had both woken with a quite spectacular bout of flatulence, which was very funny in a childish way. Scrooting was easier than normal as I just gave the bike to my mate Sol who did the honours for me. Top marks that man. After a leisurely breakfast of a bacon and hash brown sandwich it was time for practise…
It was very, very wet and windy. I’d geared 14/42 this time in the expectation that 14/43 would be too low, but the conditions meant that the lower gearing would probably have been better due to the lower than usual corner speed at Gerards. Anyhow, I set about trying to find a good line, and failed miserably. Si Tomlinson came past on his TZR, and simply vanished. I was feeling a little deflated at the end of the practise session, but resolved to get a good start and just try to hang on.
Red….. Green! I threw the clutch away, and got a reasonable start. Passed a few stragglers, then peeled into Gerards.
Thud went the LC as it hit my leg…
“Oh fuck, not again” I thought as the edge of the tarmac loomed. Miraculously. I kept upright. And I have no idea how this happened. One moment I was completely airborne, about to exit stage left, the next minute I was back on the bike, pointing in the right direction (albeit on entirely the wrong line) and even in the right gear. I started to give chase, then realised that my ankle wasn’t working any more. I pulled off.
The medic diagnosed a fractured ankle, and gave me some top painkillers, so that was the end of the days racing for me. A bit of a shame really.
Monday, 20th September
Went to Addenbrookes hospital to get x-rayed. The good news is that my ankle is OK save a bit of ligament and tendon damage. This is entirely due to my Sidi Vertebrae boots taking the brunt of the impact. The bad news is that my wrist is broken following the Snetterton incident so I’m stuck with a nice splint for the next few weeks to try and get it fixed up. I suppose really I should have got it x-rayed at the time, but it didn’t seem too painful. Besides, I set my personal best at Snetterton with it, so perhaps I should try breaking it more often.
All in all, a bit of a shit month.