Saturday, 1st April
Well, lets get the good news out of the way first: I didn’t crash, come last, or get lapped. I did go faster than my old TZR lap times (marginally) and was not the slowest GP250 out there. However, several things are clear from this weekend:
- I need to get stronger. Much stronger. I didn’t have a stamina problem, I just had big problems physically hanging onto the bike. I once heard GP250 lurve-god Rik Ballerini describe hitting the brakes at the end of the Revett straight as ‘like riding into the side of a truck’. I now believe it.
- There are no mugs in the GP250 class (apart from yours truly).
- Slick tyres were invented by God.
- I *can* ride a GP250. I just need to forget everything I know about racing a TZR.
- Getting a GP250 off the line needs the timing of a swiss watch maker, the finesse of a brain surgeon, and the mechanical sympathy of a combatant in Robot Wars.
At this point, I’ll apologise to everyone that tried to talk to me this weekend for being surly, miserable, un-communicative and obnoxious. I was rather pre-occupied. Anyway, I lined up on row 7, and waited for the little man on the horizon with the flag to saunter off to the side. He did so, and I got the worst start of my life. The 125s on the rows behind all swamped me. However, three years of TZR riding paid off as I elbowed my way back through a few of them at Sear and the Esses. My nemesis, Scotty, was about 100 yds ahead. I got my head down, and by the end of the race, I’d closed that gap to about 97 yds. I was convinced I was dead last, but as it turned out, I’d actually got away from the line before a few 250s and kept it that way. Happy? Yup.
I’d downjetted for this one as I was jetted *very* safe for race one. Again, I buggered the start, and again, was about 100yds behind Scotty. However, he did his usual comedy braking manoevure at Sear, and I closed up to about 10 yds. Not enough for a draught, and our bikes seemed pretty evenly matched on the straights, but he, being used to slicks, was pulling about 10 yds every lap through Corams and 5 through Riches. Again, I was convinced I was last, and again, I wasn’t :o)
Row 1. Ohmygawd. Still, fortune favours the brave etc. I queued up on the left side of the grid, and decided to make the most of things. I did this in typical Ronketti style by making a complete Horlicks of things and again, being swamped by several 125s and the entire 250 pack. Roger provided a distraction on the opening lap with a spot of impromptu break dancing at Russels, but by the time I’d gone past he was already up, and was probably on his third cigarette. Again, finished well down the order, but again, not last, and not lapped.
A good weekend? Yes. Very much so. I’d like to have gone faster, but I didn’t. I’d like to have passed Scotty but didn’t. But I learned more in one day than I did in the whole of last season. It’s going to be a good year.
Tuesday, 4th April
Finally found a temporary source of avgas… My mate Roger has decided to buy a Y2K TZ, which runs on unleaded, so his supply of av is up for grabs. I tried to explain that he’s better off giving the bike to me as I already have a supply of race unleaded, but he wasn’t having any of it. Worth a try though.
Thursday, 6th April
Spent the past couple of nights out in the garage checking the bike over after the weekends activities. In the main it is fine, but there’s a little damage to the bottom piston caused (I think) by the powerjet for that cylinder not functioning correctly. A quick once over with the soldering iron seems to have fixed the loose connection that was causing the problem. I popped the head off to have a look at the barrel, and it’s not marked at all, which I’m remarkably pleased with. I also took the opportunity to re-align the powervalves. There was nothing wrong with them, I just wanted to practise it in my own garage rather than waiting until I’m stuck in a freezing pit garage somewhere wondering how they work.
Saturday, 8th April
Spent a highly enjoyable day in deepest Twickenham in the company of Roger, Scotty, Duncan and Paul Grubb. The majority of the day was spent ogling Rogers new Y2K TZ and getting in the way while he was strengthening his garage security. In return for this I got to buy some cheap avgas and wander off with a handful of spares that won’t fit his Y2K bike, but by a happy coincidence will fit my ’93. The evening was spent in the local curry house drinking beer, chatting and eating some extremely edible food before heading back to Rogers and drinking most of his beer too. All in all, a top day. Rog, you’re a gentleman.
Cost so far:
Sound advice and spares: £free
Monday, 17th April
Booked a days practise at Cadwell prior to my next race. Cadwell is possibly the track I know least, and it’s going to be a bit of a handful trying to get the TZ around there even with an extra days practise. Although having said that, I do have a day booked up there instructing on the TeamIxion track day which will get me some valuable track knowledge.
Cost so far:
Cadwell practise: £70
Wednesday, 19th April
Spoke to the chaps at Tech2000 about my right fork seal weeping. We came to the conclusion that the slight gravel rash on the fork leg isn’t enough to damage the fork seal, which is a good thing. So, to celebrate the fact that I haven’t spent any money for 2 days I ended up asking them to give both fork legs a complete overhaul including new seals. On the TZR I’d have no qualms about doing this work myself. However, on the TZ, the first section in the manual regarding fork maintenance says something along the lines of “fork seal replacement is beyond the scope of incompetent idiots who only posess two large screwdrivers and an assortment of hammers”. I took this as good advice.
More good news though. Scottys RS250 which had previously been dyno’d at a paltry 59bhp is now up to 78 thanks to some careful setup work and a consignment of Avgas. Looks like I’ll have my work cut out to stay with him this season. In fact, I guess I’ll have to go through the same process of getting the bike set up properly to run on avgas rather than the unleaded stuff I’m currently using.
Saturday, 22nd April
Drove down to Brands Hatch in the afternoon, as even though I wasn’t racing, I was helping out as official mechanic for Team Mojo for the weekend. The drive to Brands from Cambridge is normally a leisurely affair, taking at worst about 2 hours if the traffic is particularly terrible. However, just as we crossed the Dartford Bridge a cry for help from top dood and fellow TeamIxion member Martin Hough had us nipping down to Basingstoke as his car had expired there. The drive there was trying to say the least, involving several unmarked junctions, and a disappearing roundabout. I really must get a more up to date road map sometime. Anyway, we made it to Brands at about 9pm, I practised a few wheel changes on the R6 of my mate Simon, then we sat around chatting, eating and drinking. It was going to be a good weekend.
Sunday, 23rd April
Up with the lark after a night spent enduring Simons snoring in the team van, and dragged the bike off to scrooting. Normally at Brands this is a real trial due to the hilly nature of the circuit and the rule that no engines are to be started before first practise. However, the R6 has a very quiet exhaust as long as you keep it below 3000rpm, so I did the lazy thing and rode it to scrooting. No problems were encountered, so I simply rode the bike back, popped the tyre warmers on, topped up the fuel and waited for Simon to do his practise.
In fact, the day was remarkably incident free, with the R6 behaving perfectly, and Simon consistently lowering his lap times and bringing the thing home in one piece. Commiserations, though, to Roger, as he binned his brand new Y2K TZ on it’s first competitive outing. Thankfully there was no serious damage to Rog, but the bike was sufficiently banged up to rule it out of competition for the rest of the weekend. Shame, as Rog was riding brilliantly up until that point, and would easily have picked up a few trophies over the course of the weekend.
Oh, and Sue, I promise not to tell anyone about your problems with small orifices and insufficient lubrication.
Monday, 24th April
A slightly busier day, caused firstly by the arrival of the Team sponsors in the garage and the obligatory photo shoot (which I did my best to avoid by scowling ferociously every time the camera was pointed at me), and secondly by James reversing his CBR into the gravel at Clearways.
Cost so far:
Dial Gauge: £50
Tuesday, 25th April
A long night in the garage… As I’ve now found a supply of avgas to run the bike on I’ve had to retune the engine to run on this, rather than the unleaded stuff (referred to as ‘hyperpants’ by Scotty yesterday) I have been using. First step was to change the base gaskets from .8mm to .5mm in order to get the compression up and get a decent squish band. This was a bit of a trial as it means removing the carbs, airboxes and exhausts before even getting to the barrels. Still, it was a good chance to have my first really good look inside the engine. The first thing I noticed was the unbelievable precision in the machining of the ports. Praise be to Graham File for that, as he tuned the engine last. There was some marking of the piston on cylinder 2 caused by the powerjet failure at Snett a few weeks back, but not enough to worry about. The barrel was unmarked, but there was some scarring on the head. This doesn’t look like detonation, and further examination of the old piston revealed some tell-tale corresponding marks there too. It would seem that at some point in the bikes life some gravel had got into the head, bounced up and down a few times, before being ejected out of the exhaust port. Seeing as the bike spent about half it’s time parked upside down in the stuff in the hands of it’s previous owner I shouldn’t be surpised. The powervalve alignment was also reset, and everything given a nice clean up and polish where I could. Kind of the automotive equivalent of a nice cup of tea after a hard days work.
I also need to reset the ignition from 1.4 BTDC to 1.5 BTDC as the avgas has a higher knock resistance. For this I’ll need to wait until my dial gauge turns up, as it involves some fairly precise measuring. Certainly more precise than my current set up of a bit of string and large hammer is capable of.
Thursday, 27th April
Spent the evening driving up to Cadwell in the company of the Team Mojo chaps. This simple exercise was made significantly more challenging by a) the worst day ever at work making me late, and ferociously bad tempered to start with, and b) Sols insistence that he had to take his CR500, and it had to be on my trailer. Which already had my ZXR on it. So, at the 11th hour we unloaded the ZXR, re-configured the trailer to suit two bikes, re-loaded the ZXR, loaded up the CR500, and finally hit the round, about 1 and a half hours later than we’d originally intended.
The three hour drive was tedious in the extreme. Obviously, once we got to the circuit, I got very, very drunk.
Friday, 28th April
Well, I suppose that there’s all sorts of things I could write about todays events, but I’m a bit pushed for time right now, so I’ll just point out the salient bits:
- I didn’t crash
- Mich Pilot race tyres are pants in the wet
- The ZXR is completely out of it’s element on the track
- Simon’s R6 is possibly the fastest thing I’ve ever ridden. No, actually, there’s no possibly about it. It’s viciously fast.
- James’ R1 is just breathtakingly, astonishingly rapid. Where the R6 was undoubtedly quicker around a track, the R1 has such a monstrous engine. Are these things really road legal?
- Mike’s race tuned TRX850 is quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had on two wheels. Thanks Mike.
- I picked up my forks from the Tech2000 chaps. While they’ve serviced and rebuilt them, it’s not all good news… The fork springs are the wrong length, so I need some new ones. This is a bit of a shock really, as I thought I knew the history of the bike. I might have them apart again in the coming weeks to measure the springs and make sure it’s not a spacer missing or something.
Cost so far:
Fork service: £70
Saturday, 29th April
Drove down to xxxxxxx airfield in the company of Scotty to stock up on avgas. We ended up buying 200 litres of the stuff, which should see the pair of us through a couple of meetings. This is a good thing, as it was a 450 mile round trip for me. I really must try to find a closer source of the stuff. It can’t be that tricky, surely? I know this is a long shot, but if anyone reading this knows of a supply of avgas for non aviation use in the Cambridge area, please drop me a line. There’ll more than likely be beer involved in the favour. Ta.